On the Picket Line

‘Striking for the contract we need,’ say Ohio battery workers

By Jacquie Henderson
June 5, 2023

HOLLAND, Ohio — More than 400 members of United Auto Workers Local 12 at the Clarios battery plant here, near Toledo, went on strike May 8 after voting overwhelmingly to reject the company’s proposed contract. The factory produces 150,000 batteries a week for Ford, General Motors and other auto companies and stores like Autozone.

Strikers set up lively picket lines 24/7 at all four of the gates. Clarios immediately went to court, complaining that pickets were causing trucks to slow down and got a judge to issue an injunction. It restricts strikers to no more than five within 100 feet of an entrance and orders them to stay at least five feet from vehicles entering or exiting the facility.

“The injunction hasn’t intimidated us one bit,” Earl Hopings, who has worked there for 37 years, told this Militant reporter when I joined him on the picket line May 14. The company wants to pay straight time for up to 12 hours a day, in reality a pay cut. That offer, he said, “was an insult! We are here to stay until we get the contract we need.”

At another gate, Viva Leyva and her husband, Jacob Leyva, were joined by their daughter, Jasmine. “When your mother and father both work here you don’t get to see them very much,” Jasmine said. “The company doesn’t care about their lives.”

“And they don’t care about our safety!” Viva Leyva said. “We have to buy protective equipment ourselves because the company doesn’t care about the holes made in workers’ clothes when the battery acid bubbles over. And they don’t care about Mother’s Days or Sundays or anything. They just want you to work more and more so they make more and more money!”

“That’s the biggest problem we have with their contract,” Jacob Leyva said. “We’re expected to work until we’re hurt or worse.”

Robert Vasquez, a fellow UAW Local 12 member at the Toledo Jeep plant, showed up with fried chicken for the pickets at another gate. “Clarios is trying to do what Jeep would like to do,” he said. “We have to stand together.”

Everyone is welcome to join the pickets. Get your union to send a message of solidarity to UAW Local 12 at uawlocal12info@gmail.com.