DETROIT – “Don’t use the tunnel,” a locked-out tunnel worker pleaded to an audience of over 200 demonstrators May 2 in downtown Detroit.

The 29 Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1564 members who work in the Detroit-Windsor International Tunnel connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, have been locked out since April 24 by the Detroit Tunnel Corporation. Detroit Tunnel was recently purchased by Macquarie Global Infrastructure Trust. This Australian firm, to cover costs of the purchase and renovations, has since illegally demanded renegotiation of union workers’ contracts.

The renegotiations demand concessions from union workers amounting to as much as 16 percent pay cuts for current employees, as much as 51 percent pay cuts for new hires and increased out-of-pocket expenses for health care.

When the ATU workers refused these onerous concessions, the company refused further negotiations, locked them out and hired non-union workers.

Because this is an international tunnel, security has become an important issue, especially since Sept. 11. The tunnel workers asked, “Who’s doing these jobs now?”

The answer is, of course, untrained, inexperienced workers. The locked out transit workers are asking commuters between Detroit and Windsor to use the Ambassador Bridge for safety and as a show of solidarity.

The crowd that met in downtown Detroit at Hart Plaza originally met to protest the G-8 meetings being held this weekend in Detroit. They demanded more energy-conscious transportation systems, less dependence on petroleum, an end to Bush’s increasingly threatening and dangerous war, freedom for Palestine and a host of other issues.

Protesters also complained that the city government spent millions to mobilize 4,000 police officers for this peaceful demonstration. Some protestors pointed out that the money obviously would have been better spent on waning city services.

Soon, however, as the demonstration took place only two blocks from the tunnel, it turned into a solidarity march with the tunnel workers.

World readers can call Gordon Jarvis, the Detroit Tunnel Corporation president, and demand that he negotiate fair wages and benefits for experienced and safety-conscious union workers, at (313) 567-4422.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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