Unprecedented walkout threat by temp workers paid as little as $9.50 an hour leads to victory
Avon, OHIO– Workers who had planned to walk off their jobs Tuesday at an Ohio auto parts plant called off the strike after their employer, Detroit Chassis, agreed to their demand to join the UAW.
The workers, who were fed up with low pay, lack of benefits, and permanent temp status, had voted unanimously Sunday to strike. The vote followed a march Thursday during which the workers delivered a letter to management outlining their demand for union recognition. A walkout could have halted production within a day at Ford Motor Co.’s nearby Ohio Assembly Plant, where F-650 and F-750 trucks are made.
Since beginning operations last year about a mile from Ford’s Avon Lake plant, the Detroit Chassis plant has not hired a single worker on a permanent basis, instead forcing 100 percent of its production line to remain stuck in temp positions that pay as little as $9.50 an hour. In addition to low wages, workers struggle with inconsistent hours and do not get vacation days, paid holidays, or sick leave.
“Winning this union is a huge relief for us, and will help bring good jobs that are sorely needed in our community,” said David Perrier, 51, a production worker at Detroit Chassis who is paid $11/hour. “I’ve worked at the plant since Day 1, and I could see the only way we were going to get a decent paycheck and fair treatment on the job is by coming together in a union and demanding it. This victory proves that by speaking out, we can win real change.”
The organizing victory comes as workers at auto parts plants – which now employ three-fourths of all autoworkers in the country – are increasingly rejecting the low pay and unsafe conditions found throughout the industry. In neighboring Lorain, Ohio, workers at an auto parts factory operated by Camaco are organizing for good jobs at a plant where one-in-four of the jobs are temp positions that pay as low as $10 an hour. Late last year, workers at a parts plant in Piedmont, Alabama, voted by a 2-1 margin to join the UAW.
“The courageous actions by the workers at Detroit Chassis should be an inspiration for workers everywhere,” said Ken Lortz, director of UAW Region 2B, which includes Ohio. “Many companies use long-term ‘temporary’ workers, employed through a staffing agency like they were at Detroit Chassis, as yet another tool to discourage workers from organizing for better jobs. What happened here in Avon is the first time I remember seeing temporary workers stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ Their actions are proof that when workers stick together, they can win, regardless of the obstacles that employers put in their way.”
Jobs at the Detroit Chassis plant in Avon are a microcosm of the broader trend of wage cuts and widespread use of temp positions that has unfolded across America’s manufacturing and auto industry over the past decade: One in four manufacturing jobs in the U.S. now pays less than $11.91 an hour, and wages in the auto parts sector have fallen nine times faster than the rate for all other jobs over the past decade, according to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project.
As wages have declined for manufacturing and autoworkers, temporary work has increased significantly in the industry. In the auto parts sector, about 14 percent of workers are now employed by staffing agencies, and wages for these workers are substantially lower than for direct-hire parts workers: auto parts workers placed by staffing agencies make, on average, 29 percent less than those employed directly by auto parts manufacturers, according to estimates based on U.S. Census Bureau data.
The decision by Detroit Chassis workers to join together in the UAW comes amid an upswing in support for unions nationwide. Workers all across the economy – from pharmacists at Target, to writers at digital news outlets including Gawker and Salon, to cooks and cashiers at McDonald’s – are demanding a voice on the job. A recent Gallup poll found that nearly six in 10 Americans now support unions.
Photo by: Susie Reed
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