BEDFORD – UAW Local 440 members at GM Bedford Casting Operations are still working but without a contract. They are ready to hit the picket lines when called to.
They held a Solidarity Rally on Sunday, September 24th at Harp Commons in Bedford from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. There was food, speakers, and solidarity.
“We are ready to stand up and fight when called upon,” said Local UAW Local 440 President Derek Cronin.
“Right now this fight is about not getting the dignity and respect we deserve,” added Cronin. “For the long hours and work we put in. We work seven days a week 12 hours a day. That work needs to be dignified. This is about the working class the ones that work for a living.
There are 550 union members of the Bedford GM Powertrain plant and approximately 703 employees in total. The Bedford plant is served by two unions the United Auto Workers which represent the production workers and the International Brother Electrical Workers which represent the skill trades.
A worker at GM Powertrain for more than 45 years was at the rally and shared some personal thoughts.
“45 years ago GM was the place to work if you were coming right out of high school,” he said. “That is not the case today. Since 2009 we have given and given and the Big Three made record profits but they have forgotten those who got them there. They have not lived up to their promises. The executives got their raises but they have forgotten who put that money in their pockets. They made promises and put it on paper but then went back on their word and closed plants.”
Many hire as temporary workers but they stay that way for years.
“It’s unfair and just not right,” some said. “If you are hired in as a GM worker you should be a GM worker, not a temporary employee.”
The workers all shared the same sentiment – We are here to help everyone, every worker.
Union representatives are asking the three Detroit-based companies for a 46% wage increase, cost of living raises, a 32-hour workweek for 40 hours of pay, the end of “tiered wages,” or a system where some workers receive automatically lower pay if they start after a certain date, and a return to pensions. Stellantis, Ford, and made a combined $20 billion in profits and UAW members argue that “record profits should mean record wages.”
“These are my people,” said David Green, UAW Region 2B Director. “This fight is not just about us but the working class. We are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. Eliminating the tiers is a big one for us and an increase in the cost of living. We are making some movement with Ford and they are passing stuff across the negotiation table. We want to regain what we lost 15 years ago.
“We are not trying to be millionaires but to make the income we deserve to put back into the communities we live in,” added Green. “Happy workers produce more.”
Corporate keeps beating us up about the 30-hour work weeks a lot of our workers are forced into working mandatory overtime hours.
“Corporate wants to make this about us asking about a 30-hour work week and a 40 percent pay increase. We recognize this is an open conversation and it opens up the discussion about mandatory overtime and worker’s work life. We have workers working six to seven days a week – it is not right, not smart, and not fair and they need to have some work-life balance.”
Attending the rally were State Senator Shelli Yoder, Senator J.D. Ford, City of Bedford District 3 Councilman Brad Bough, and Mitchell City Council District 3 candidate Joey Slone.
“We are standing for workers’ rights,” said Senator Yoder. Those whose blood sweat and tears are doing the work deserve their fair share. We are standing in solidarity and united shoulder to shoulder to make sure workers are getting their fair and livable wages.”
“We are saying yes these workers matter,” she added. “This is for every worker who has experienced those feelings of being beaten down and discouraged that their work and their purpose don’t matter what we are doing is saying you do matter and you are a part of the American dream. We have something, we are powerful, we have solidarity and the power to invoke change. This is a fight for generations to come. We stand united together.”
Senator JD Ford rallied the workers.
“I know what it is like to fight,” he said. “I am not afraid to fight, are you? You have poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your jobs and we stand here in solidarity with you. It’s time to stand up and fight back against the greedy executives. It’s time to stand up and demand record contracts.”