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Dozens of unions and organizations march together in solidarity in downtown Detroit

Posted at 5:15 PM, Oct 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-19 23:56:18-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The title “strike city” is being thrown around Detroit, and today is a good example of why. About a dozen different unions and organizations are marching together and holding a worker’s rights and economic justice rally.

Before the march, I met up with some Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan workers on the picket line, whose strike has been going the longest of the 3 major strikes in Metro Detroit.

Driving factors behind union activity

In downtown Detroit, UAW (United Auto Workers) healthcare workers for Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Michigan, are holding steady on day 37 of their strike.

“We want to feel like the company appreciates us,” said BCBS striking worker Shelley Allen. “We are the heart of the company. During COVID, we were here. We worked day in and day out. We weren’t allowed to work from home. We had to work in the building,” said Allen.

This strike has been ongoing since September 12, 2023.

The 1000-plus workers joined days later by UAW’s strike against the Big 3. Now more than 33,000 strong and just this week, a third major strike and now, 3,700 casino workers walking off the job!

At issue for Blue Cross workers, benefits those employees like Adante Valentine, have seen diminish in her 19 years with the company.

“Our second-tier employees who came in after 2012 January when they go off on sick, they only get paid 70% when they're off. So, it makes people say, you know what, I'm sick, but I'm going to have to go to work anyway,” said Adante Valentine, BCBSM Worker.

Customer service outsourcing, stronger wages, and cost-of-living adjustments are among other sticking points.

“We talk about cost of living, for me, in order to receive half of my actual pay grade, it'll take me almost 23 years to get to the cap, which is only maybe a $4 difference in where I am now. It should not take you that long to reach anything. If you've been really doing the work and doing what you're supposed to be doing,” said Valentine. “Can we look at cost-of-living that we can actually go and buy a carton of eggs and not have to, you know, try to finance a car to get some eggs? It's very simple things.”

Some of these issues are universal across the strikes.

After talking with healthcare workers, there doesn’t seem to be nearing an end. And that's part of what today's rally is all about.

The strikers coming together, showing solidarity, and showing the companies that rain or shine, these workers aren’t backing down.