General Motors Arlington Assembly

By: Russell Stites

Type: General Entry

Published: April 28, 2021

Updated: April 28, 2021


General Motors (GM) opened its Arlington facility in January 1954 as part of GM’s Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac Assembly Division. In addition to commercial automobiles, the “dual purpose” plant produced Grumman aircraft for the United States Navy. The $35 million factory was built along U.S. Highway 80 (now part of U.S. Highway 180) and the Texas and Pacific Railway line (now owned by Union Pacific). Arlington mayor Tom Vandergriff, along with other local businessmen, convinced GM to locate the plant in Arlington. Vandergriff was not the only promoter responsible for bringing the plant to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Fort Worth booster Amon Carter, Sr., had attempted to persuade GM to establish a new factory in his city since 1935. GM opened a Chevrolet factory in Fort Worth in 1917, but, following the 1922 flooding of the Trinity River and the imposition of flood-control taxes, the company closed the factory in 1924. Although GM ultimately rejected the locations within and around Fort Worth promoted by Carter in favor of the Arlington site, Carter was locally credited for bringing GM back to Tarrant County. At the plant’s groundbreaking on May 27, 1952, Vandergriff served as the master of ceremonies, and Carter turned the first shovel of dirt. From 1950 to 1960, the population of Arlington grew from 7,692 to 44,775. By 1990 that number had risen to 261,721. In 1991 Vandergriff credited the GM plant with the city’s explosive growth.

Local 267 of the United Auto Workers was chartered on March 11, 1954, to represent employees at the plant. On September 15, 1970, all of the roughly 3,400 members of Local 267 went on strike. The strike against General Motors was initially part of a nationwide UAW strike, which began following the lapsing of the three-year labor contract before another could be negotiated and finalized. The primary issues on the national level concerned first-year pay increases, the cost-of-living escalator clause, and deductions to retirement benefits for retirees under the age of fifty-eight. However, local grievances, which included issues with overtime payments and disciplinary actions, led to plans for striking regardless of the calling of a strike by national leadership. After an agreement was reached between the UAW and GM in mid-November, Local 276 voted to continue their strike locally. A settlement was quickly agreed to, and union members at the Arlington Assembly returned to work on November 24, 1970.

In December 1991 GM announced that it would be consolidating production of full-size, rear-wheel-drive cars at either Arlington Assembly or Willow Run Assembly near Ypsilanti, Michigan, with the other facility being closed. Around 3,800 employees at the plant had to wait until late February to learn which plant would be shut down. Willow Run Assembly was ultimately selected for closure, and Arlington avoided a devastating blow to its economy. In the late 1990s the Arlington factory was reoriented around production of full-sized sports utility vehicles. As of January 2021 the facility produced the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade. The Arlington Assembly remained an integral part of Arlington’s economy. In 2019 GM employed nearly 4,500 people in Arlington, more than 2 percent of the city’s workers.

Evelyn Barker and Lea Worcester, Arlington (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2011). Brian A. Cervantez, Amon Carter: A Lone Star Life (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 2019). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 23, 1952; November 20, 24, 1970; December 18, 1991; February 24, 1992. David Hopkins, “The Tracks of Progress,” UTArlington, Fall 2013 (https://www.uta.edu/utamagazine/archive-issues/2010-13/2013/11/the-tracks-of-progress/index.html), accessed January 26, 2021. Mike Nichols, Lost Fort Worth (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2014).

Categories:

  • Transportation and Railroads

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century

Places:

  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Russell Stites, “General Motors Arlington Assembly,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 05, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/general-motors-arlington-assembly.

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April 28, 2021
April 28, 2021

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