American Axle workers keep up the fight

DETROIT — No one at American Axle expected to be out for three months, but workers continue to keep the dozen or so gates of the sprawling American Axle complex in Detroit fully staffed. While there have been different proposals to end the strike it seems like every time a possible solution is at hand, American Axle steps back to ask for more concessions. While American Axle has previously demanded the closing of forge plants in Detroit and New York, its latest demand was to add yet another third plant (in New York ) to the hit list.

Forge workers are members of UAW local 262 and almost 300 of them are on the chopping block. Picketers talked about the tough times facing all working people. “It’s Bushonomics,” said Mark a picketer outside the forge, “they’re trying to get rid of the middle class. You got the rich and the poor with not much in between.”

He pointed to the foreclosure crisis as an example of the crisis hitting working people and asked, “How are you going to refinance your house when it’s worth 150,000 but you owe 165,000?” Jokingly he added, “It’s getting so we’re going to have to move in the woods and live off the deer and fish.”

The word from picketers is that some work is being done for $10.50 an hour at a non-union American Axle plant in Oxford, some 40 miles away. If so, one doesn’t have to travel outside the country to find cheap labor.

That must be exactly what another striker from local 235 Tim Langan meant when he said if things keep going like they are “we’ll be the cheapest workers in the world.” Half jokingly he added, “The only thing we export is jobs.” Earlier in the strike, CEO Dick Dauch had warned that he had the flexibility to export jobs all over the world and the right to do so.

Picketers said they’re still getting good help from UAW locals, different unions and others from the community. A long strike needs a well-organized Community Services Committee and the UAW has one of the best. Eric Webb, Community Services member of Local 235 at American Axle showed off the well-stocked food pantry committee members work to keep full. A couple of times every week members go out and bring in contributions from area grocery stores, churches, unions and other organizations. Insuring the strikers have enough to eat isn’t the only problem the committee works on. After three months, financial problems grow. The committee is also there to give help and advice on mortgage payments and other pressing bills. In addition there are the labor liaisons from the United Way (all labor appointed) who also organize assistance to help the strikers survive all the problems associated with the lack of a weekly paycheck.

Most people, including the union, thought the strike would be over long before this. After GM’s offer of $200 million to help with buyouts and buy-downs (money up front to compensate for the lower-wage American Axle was offering) didn’t produce movement by American Axle toward a settlement, you see why as one worker put it “corporate greed is killing us.”

Checks, messages and resolutions of support can be sent to:

UAW Local 235
Attn: Adrian King, President
2140 Holbrook Ave.
Hamtramck, MI 48212
phone: 313-871-1190