Autoworkers rally: Union in, scabs out

LIVONIA, Mich. — “Union in, scabs out,” shouted 600 UAW members from Ford, GM, Daimler-Chrysler and auto parts supplier plants as they marched to the Hercules Drawn Steel plant in this Detroit suburb July 28.

Jimmy Settles, UAW Region 1A director, led the march to protest the three-month lockout of 55 Hercules workers. Just eight hours earlier, 500 UAW members had rallied at 6 a.m. at the plant’s gate.

Hercules is trying to break the union by calling back a few skilled workers and hiring scabs. The Bush-appointed National Labor Relations Board has permitted this selective lockout.

“Hercules offered us a contract that would make us worse off than Wal-Mart workers,” said Lawrence Lewis, a bargaining committee member who has 27 years’ seniority. More than 30 cameras have been installed in the plant to spy on the workers, he said.

The final offer from Hercules includes work rule changes that would allow the company to fire a worker for a single minor violation such as sitting on the job. It would eliminate the standard progressive disciplinary process, which includes provisions like a warning or a day off.

Hercules offered a “wage increase” by diverting 35 cents an hour the workers now contribute to their own retirement health plan. This proposal would leave the workers without a retirement health plan.

The first staging area for the march was at UAW Local 182, which represents Ford transmission workers. There, Settles and Doug Grim, president of UAW Local 174, which represents the Hercules workers, introduced a Livonia police sergeant. “I used to work at this plant, so I know how you feel,” he said. Then he explained how the police would block off the road to allow marchers to car pool to Local 262 where UAW members were gathering to march to the Hercules plant.

Bob Ficano, Wayne County executive, expressed his full support for the march. “I know the overwhelming majority of Wayne County residents are with you in this effort,” he said. One worker commented that if unions had this much influence in every county we wouldn’t have Bush in the White House.