On the Picket Line

Ohio auto-parts workers fight for union, against bosses’ disdain

By Malcolm Jarrett
February 22, 2021

NORWALK, Ohio — Auto-parts workers at the Borgers plant here carried out a 10-day strike beginning Jan. 21, part of a fight to win a union and improve wages and conditions. The strike was a response to the bosses’ refusal to recognize their union, the Chicago and Regional Midwest Joint Board of Workers United. Some 170 workers have signed union cards.

When this Militant worker-correspondent showed up on the picket line Jan. 30, I was greeted with smiles, handshakes and a tour of the strikers’ picket tent. “This fight is about more than the poverty wages we face,” 27-year-old forklift operator Jacob Gonzales told me. “It is also about the discrimination, sexism, unsafe working conditions and favoritism we face in the plant.”

Gonzales described the disdain workers get from management. When one of his co-workers had the tip of his finger cut off in the plant, he said, “The bosses stood there cracking jokes while we waited for the ambulance. They said things like ‘he’ll never pick his nose with that finger again.’” Gonzales said bosses told him and his fiancé they were going to be fired for striking.

Strikers said they got widespread community support with a constant stream of donations of water, food and wood to keep the burn barrels going. Support came from United Auto Workers members, Cement Masons, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, they said. Norwalk Mayor David Light and other area politicians also visited them. Borgers makes parts for General Motors.

The workers ended their strike and took their fight back into the plant Feb. 1. They intend to file with the National Labor Relations Board to order a union-authorization election.

“We all became true brothers and sisters out on that picket line in the January cold,” striker Larry Peeples said in a statement issued by the union.