BY David Moberg
With their day-long strike a week ago and ratification of a new union contract on Sunday, workers at a Hammond, Indiana, auto parts plant may have dealt a blow to a divisive concession that has proven a scourge to many unions in recent years—“two-tier” wage systems.
Under these two-tier systems, new workers start at hourly rates far below longtime workers and have scheduled pay progressions that will never match the veterans’ pay (nor usually their benefits, especially pensions). For example, under the old contract at the Hammond plant, Lear paid new workers as little as $11 an hour, rising to a maximum of $16 an hour, while veterans made $19.97 an hour doing the same work.
By the end of their four-year contract with Lear Corp., local union president Jaime Luna said, the 760 United Auto Workers members who make seats for the Ford Taurus and Explorer models will all converge at the contract’s increased wage rate for experienced workers (now numbering about 200): $21.58 an hour.
But later on Monday, Automotive News reported that a Lear senior vice-president of human resources, Tom DiDonato, said that in order to eliminate the two-tier system for about 450 workers, the UAW agreed to accept a new job title for 310 positions—sub-assembly workers—with even lower wages. At the end of the contract, starting pay for subassembly workers would be $12 an hour (compared to $16.50 for assembly workers) and the maximum would be $15.25 (below the top pay of $16 an hour in the previous contract for assembly workers).
Aug 15 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers, which lost a controversial organizing vote in February at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has nearly enough members in its newly formed local for the automaker to recognize it as exclusive bargaining agent for the plant, a top union official said on Friday.
If the union is able to prove to Volkswagen that it has support from a majority of the plant's approximately 1,500 hourly workers, VW can select it as the exclusive bargaining agent for all of them, despite the loss to UAW foes in the vote.
|"As tier two workers we can scarcely afford to buy the vehicles we build!" writes GM worker Sean Crawford in a letter to new UAW President Dennis Williams. "We are ready to stand up and be counted as the 2015 contract approaches." Co-workers signed a "NO MORE TIERS!" T-shirt to show they agree. You can order a shirt here. Photo: Sean Crawford.|
Sean Crawford, a second-tier auto worker at GM’s Lake Orion Assembly Plant north of Detroit, sells T-shirts that say “NO MORE TIERS!”
Members of the United Auto Workers are encouraged to wear red union T-shirts every Wednesday to show a general spirit of union solidarity. The “NO MORE TIERS!” shirts, Crawford says, are a way of making that activity “more relevant to second-tier workers who are new to the labor movement.” (You can order one at the Rust Belt Rising Facebook page.)
He took a shirt around during his recent campaign for alternate union committee person, getting co-workers to sign it. Once it was filled with signatures, he told them, he would send it to the president of the UAW with a letter explaining second-tier workers’ situation.
Crawford works in “probably the lowest-seniority district in my plant,” he says, “so it was well received.” He ran for alternate committee person because “I wanted to show folks that a second-tier guy, who cares about their issues, could be elected.”
He won. “In fact, every Alternate Committee Person on second shift (the low-seniority shift) is now second-tier,” Crawford says. “Change has to start somewhere—it may as well start at the bottom.”
And the T-shirt? “As we have a newly elected president, I thought it would be an opportune time to send it off, so I did last week.” Here’s the letter; we’ll keep you posted as to how new UAW President Dennis Williams responds. –eds.
Estrada, 45, is a veteran member of the union’s board, working from her vice president role to organize union efforts at supplier plants and in the public sector. She has been appointed as the union’s top negotiator and as the leader of the UAW’s General Motors Department, which pits her against GM’s CEO Mary Barra. She is the first appointement coming from the new UAW president Dennis Williams, elected last week during the union’s triennial convention.
MARION, Ind. -
A formal investigation into a Tuesday chemical explosion at the General Motors Stamping Plant in Grant County begins at 7 a.m. today.
The incident killed one worker and injured eight others.
GM workers say they felt the danger first - a shaking boom, from an explosion in the northwest corner of Marion's 2.7 million square-foot stamping plant.
"I didn't think nothing of it and then the sirens went off, which usually means someone got hurt," said GM employee Rhonda Colburn. "But when they told us to evacuate the building, we were all like something's going on."
Emergency crews say the explosion and subsequent chemical spill involved chlorine dioxide, which can be dangerous to the skin or if inhaled.
"Those are really the main precautions - eyes, skin, mucus membranes or inhalation," explained Marion Fire Chief Paul David.
Plant Information number