Rodney Cornett woke up at 4:30 am on Friday, got into his F-150 truck, and drove to Wayne, an industrial city located just west of Detroit, for his usual morning shift.
This morning, Mr. Cornett (56), a union veteran who has been working at Ford for over 28 years, didn’t go to the area of axle assembly where he is a team lead. His work consisted of spending six hours with 12 co-workers on the picket lines at Gate 1 in the plant as part of the United Auto Workers’ strike that was called late Thursday.
“We haven’t received a pay raise in over 15 years,” said Mr. Cornett, while holding a sign reading “Fair Pay Now!” as cars and trucks passed by, constantly honking to support the strikers. “We have been through several contracts and the company always says they are hurting but they make record profits. It cannot be the status-quo.”
The U.A.W. The U.A.W.
U.A.W. The U.A.W. is striking all three companies- General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis – but there is only one plant in each company. Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne has only been able to shut down the factory because 3,300 workers from the assembly and paint shops have left the plant.
- Microsoft: Celebrating a year that saw major gains for organized labor, the tech giant has announced that it will remain neutral if any U.S.-based workers seek to unionize.
- Starbucks. Federal labor regulators accused Starbucks of closing 23 stores illegally in order to suppress organizing activities and tried to force them to reopen.
- Tesla: Weeks after mechanics who worked for Tesla in Sweden in late October walked out of their jobs, other unions in the country, as well as in Scandinavia, have joined in the strike.
- Amazon More than a year after Staten Island workers voted to create the company’s very first union in the United States. Amazon seems to be taking a more aggressive stance toward labor organizations.
The strike, while limited, will still have an impact on automakers. The vehicles affected are some of their most profitable and popular models. Ford’s plant produces the Bronco rugged sport utility vehicle and is about to have a new version of the Ranger pickup. Jeep has its Gladiator, Wrangler, and other models in Toledo. G.M. The G.M.
Shawn Fain said that if talks did not produce a solution, the U.A.W. could expand the strike to other plants. In a Facebook video on Thursday, he said: “This will increase our leverage in negotiations and create confusion for companies.”
After the strike started at midnight, Mr. Fain joined the workers outside the Ford Plant in Wayne. The union halted discussions with the companies but expected them to resume Saturday.
The union demanded a wage increase of 40% over the next four years. This is roughly the same as the pay increases that the C.E.O.s of these three companies saw over the past four years.
The union also wants to change the pay scale so that new hires earn about a third of what veterans earn at $32 per hour. They must work for eight years to reach the top of the scale. The union also wants companies to cover retirees’ health insurance, provide more paid leave, and offer pensions for those who only have 401(k).
The companies offered wage increases of about 20 percent but denied many of the other union demands.
Ford workers on strike said that a wage increase of 30 percent or higher was necessary to compensate for the concessions the union made in the past to help automakers survive the financial crisis.
Jason Vinson, a 42-year-old forklift driver, started in 2007 as a temp worker earning $17 per hour. He worked his way to $25 an hour before he was fired. He said that when he was rehired by the company in 2012, his hourly wage had to be $17.
He said, “I just had to pay for the necessities.” He said that he now earns $32 per hour but believes a raise is justified because of his profits and sacrifices in the past.
Strikers, some wearing red T-shirts and placards, acknowledged the honks from passing motorists. Picketing will be conducted in six-hour blocks; union members are expected to do one block per week.
Diana Osborne is a 42-year-old assembly worker at Ford who has been there for 16 years. Her 18-year-old daughter18-year-oldest joined the National Guard and is a weaker Ford assembly; she offered to loan her money in case things got really tight.
Mr. Cornett is the team leader for axle assembly. He earns $32 per hour, but he said that he was worried about sending his son off to college. If he worked 40 hours a week, he would earn approximately $67,000 per year. He lamented, “There is college, plus the property taxes are increasing, and the price of gasoline is through the roof.”
He wants to end the tiered pay system that pays veterans and newer workers differently. It’s “disappointing” to see colleagues earning $22 or even $24 per hour for the same job.
He said, “We all work hard.” “You only have a certain amount of time on the line to complete your task, while ours is timed down to the second. The line doesn’t stop when we take a break. “A lot of new employees come in with aches and aches, and the same aches that I have. They should be paid the same amount as me.”