TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Over 100 workers, members of United Auto Workers Local 2083, went on strike Sept. 20 against ZF Chassis Systems here. The workers make axles for German automaker Mercedes-Benz, which has a nearby assembly plant.
“We voted down the company’s proposal four times,” shop steward Kenneth McKay told Militant worker-correspondents who visited the picket tents Sept. 29. “They offered a 50 cents an hour raise each year. But with raising our payments for health insurance, it worked out to be a four-cent raise!”
“That was a slap in the face,” added Demetrius Williams, who has 24 years in the plant. He said another issue was eliminating the tiers, “so everyone doing the same work would be paid the same.”
McKay said, “The median pay for production workers at similar facilities is $23 an hour. Starting pay for new hires here is only $15.50, with a top wage rate of $18.60. And tier-one workers top out at only $20.30 an hour.”
Workers explained they have been working 12-hour shifts, six days a week. “We spend more time working here than with our families,” Williams said.
The Mercedes axle plant is one of the few unionized car parts manufacturers in the region. Workers there won union recognition in 2001.
Members of the United Mine Workers have come to the picket line to express solidarity. “We just wanted to come out and support these guys the best we could,” Larry Spencer, UMW District 20 vice president,” told the media Sept. 27. “They’re going through some stuff that we went through the last few years and we’re still trying to get a contract with Warrior Met.” The UMW went through a hard-fought 23-month strike before returning to work last spring to continue their fight for a contract with the coal mine operator.
Students from the University of Alabama have also come to stand with the UAW workers. The company is trying to run production with nonunion workers.
Messages of solidarity and contributions can be sent to UAW Local 2083, P.O Box 70264, Tuscaloosa, AL 35405.