DETROIT (WXYZ) — Auto workers gathered today in front of the Mack Assembly plant in Detroit to hold a practice picket with just 22 days left in their current contract.
“We don’t want to strike, but if we have to, we will. If we don’t get a fair contract, we’re willing to walk out,” Tiffany Ogletree, a Stellantis employee.
Ogletree says she watched her own economy dwindle in recent times as the Detroit three have made record profits.
Mike Duffy asked her what her reaction had been to contract negotiations.
“Well, it’s scary. It’s nervousness. Because it doesn’t seem like we have a middle ground. We really want to come to a middle place that both the company and the workers are happy,” said Ogletree.
WXYZ’s Mike Duffy asked another practice picketer, “Why are you here today?”
“We’re out here because we want to show the company that we mean business. We want to be treated fairly, we want them to come to the table fairly bargain back all the things they took away over the last 13 years,” said Luigi Gjokaj, who works for Stellantis.
One of those things and a main demand of the UAW is an end of wage tiers.
“The more seniority employees helped save this company when they agreed to have temporary tier 2 workers to help the company when they were suffering. And we took the hit when the company was suffering, and we deserve to be treated fairly and made whole now that they’re making record profits,” said Gjokaj.
He told Duffy unless things change, employees like him will have no path to retirement.
Marick Masters, Wayne State Professor and union expert explained the need for practice pickets.
“They have a lot to prepare for. They want to get the members as energized and excited as possible, over their possibility of getting the best contract they can possibly get,” said Professor Marick Masters, Wayne State University.
He summed up the UAW’s position.
“We’ve been conciliatory, we’ve enabled you to survive, and now the things that we gave you, in return for your survival, we want to get back,” said Masters.
UAW president Shawn Fain also spoke at the practice picket. He says in addition to ending wage tiers, his priorities include increasing wages, retirement security and post-retirement healthcare.
“They talk about quality. They want to talk about absenteeism and fixing those problems if you give people reason to come to work. You give people reason to care. When they have a pension at the end of the road, when they’re too old to work and too young to die, there’s more in it for them. They’ll care about that quality more. They’ll care about showing up to work every day when they have something in it for them. But right now, there’s nothing in this for our workers,” Shawn Fain, UAW President.