August 20, 2014

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UAW leader found hanged in park

SHEFFIELD — The longtime president of United Auto Workers Local 2000 is dead of an apparent suicide.

Donovan

Donovan

Avon Lake resident Tim Donovan, 56, was found hanging from a tree in French Creek Reservation on French Creek Road about 6:50 p.m. Thursday, according to Police Chief Larry Bliss. Donovan, of the 200 block of Jaycox Road, left a suicide note and was found in woods about 50 yards from where his car was parked, Bliss said.

Donovan began work at the former Ford plant in Lorain around 1970 before transferring to the plant in Avon Lake when it opened in 1973, said Mayor John Hunter, Local 2000 president from 1970 to 1984 and from 1986 to 1987. Hunter said he knew Donovan for 40 years and they were close friends.

Donovan had apparently been depressed in recent months. On Jan. 30, Donovan attempted suicide by hanging in his home, according to Avon Lake police. Hunter said he last spoke with Donovan on Wednesday but wouldn’t say what they spoke of or whether Donovan was depressed.

Donovan had been Local 2000 president since 1998 and was re-elected in May, said Hunter, who is president of the Local 2000 retirees chapter. In 1990, the union created a chairman position, which had previously been held by the president, Hunter said.

The chairman handles contract negotiations and grievances with the president’s duties including chairing union meetings, appointing committee members and serving on all committees.

“We always say the president handles everything outside the fence of the plant and the chairman handles everything inside the fence,” Hunter said.

Donovan presided over a tumultuous period as president. In 2005, then-Avon Lake Mayor Rob Berner said the Avon Lake plant had a 25 percent absenteeism rate, which Donovan said was inaccurate. Factions of the union battled in federal court over whether to adopt more flexible work rules after Ford closed its Lorain plant in 2005 and moved all production of the Econoline van to Avon Lake. The suit was settled in 2005.

Chrysler, Ford and General Motors demanded UAW concessions because of slumping American sales due to foreign competition. Donovan said in 2007 it was a “misconception” that foreign cars are superior to American-made cars.

The UAW in 2007 reluctantly agreed to a two-tiered wage system in which new employees make $14 per hour, about half of what those hired before 2007 earn. The companies also sought buyouts of veteran employees to cut costs. Donovan was supportive of the move.

“There are a lot of people without jobs right now, and this will help at least some of them get back into good-paying jobs,” he said in a 2008 interview. “If 300 people take the buyout, we’d get 300 people to replace them. We’re not going to be losing jobs.”

Hunter said he’ll miss Donovan, whom he said was dedicated to representing rank-and-file workers.

“Tim was hard-working (and) honest. A very loving father and a very kind person,” Hunter said. “It’ll be a loss for me, Tim not being here.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.