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Detroit Chassis workers in Ohio win their union

(Pictured above: Workers at Ford supplier Detroit Chassis celebrate their victory.)

The word “temporary” is one of those words workers at Detroit Chassis in Avon, Ohio, came to know as meaning “permanent” — as in, if you are an employee here you will permanently be a temporary employee.

So the 60 temporary workers decided to try to change their standing at the plant on the shore of Lake Erie. They believed the best way to do that was to join the UAW and to take direct action. The plant supplies parts to the nearby Ford Motor Co., Avon Lake, Ohio, truck plant.

They told the company that they would go on strike unless it recognized the UAW as their bargaining agent.

On April 19, when they were ready to carry through  on their plans, the company agreed to their request to join a union.

Never doubt the power of people sticking together to accomplish a common goal.

“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 an hour. “I’ve worked at the plant since Day One, 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 workers — all of them temps — make between $9.50 and $11.50 an hour. They want permanent full- time employment and better wages and benefits. Their duties include assembling axles for the Ford F-650

and F-750 trucks. Auto parts workers 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 1 in 4 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.

Ken Lortz, director of UAW Region 2B, which includes Ohio, said the effort by Detroit Chassis’ workers to secure representation was nothing short of courageous. “They basically said, ‘Enough is enough,’” Lortz said. “They decided that the chance to be treated like valued full-time permanent employees was worth fighting for. We are proud to welcome them into our union.”

The workers won a commitment from Detroit Chassis that sets in motion a process that will allow workers to achieve their goals — forming a union with the UAW, making them solely employees of Detroit Chassis rather than contracted temporary workers, and the chance to bargain a contract that will transform their lives. Lortz said the UAW will immediately begin working with the company to bring about these changes.

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.


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