DETROIT—The United Auto Workers struck American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 26 when no deal was reached on a new labor pact. The largest proportion of American Axle parts are for GM’s pickups and SUVs. Affected are 3,600 workers in plants in Michigan and New York.
At American Axle’s Detroit Manufacturing Complex, sitting on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck, it was not the best weather to be forced to walk out in – smack into the middle of a February snowstorm. But workers do what they have to do, weather be damned. That was evident by the crowded local hall full of people signing up for their picket line duties. UAW Local 235 Vice President Bill Alford said everybody is doing their part and many are signing up for multiple shifts.
Alford said the union is charging the company with “unfair labor practices” because they have not provided the union with any information to back up the cuts they are asking workers to take. The union says the company is demanding wage reductions of up to $14 an hour as well as elimination of future retiree health care and defined benefit pensions for active workers.
“We are hard working, working people,” said Alford. Nobody here is a millionaire except the guy in the big chair. We will be out as long as it takes and we’ll fight every step of the way.”
While Alford said the townsfolk have been great, bringing things like hot coffee to the picket line, the specialty of Hamtramck is homemade Polish sausage. “We’re still holding out for that” Alford said.
The same hospitality cannot be said of the local police. They’ve forced the workers to put out the “barrel fires” they were using to stay warm. “I now have to go find propane heaters” he said.