UAW–Ford 'No' vote still echoes through plants

October’s national “No” vote on concessions is still ricocheting off shop floors at Ford.

The scene is the UAW Local 600 Ford Rouge DDMP (vehicle frame) Plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Management “creatively” proposes a shift that would hurt family life even without overtime! But workers beat it back.

Workers on day shift and afternoon shift were on four 10-hour shifts per week. Management wanted to make the afternoon shift (5:30 p.m to 4 a.m.) into a split shift and call it “C-crew.” This crew would still work four 10-hour days. But two of them would be on day shift Friday and Saturday, when regular day shift does not work. The C-crew would also work afternoons Sunday and Monday--all without overtime pay. This is because the concessions contract of 2009 mandated overtime pay only after 40 hours’ work, even on weekends.

For afternoon shift production workers who had been on four 10-hour shifts, this would mean losing Saturday and Sunday with their families.

Workers protested: “We don’t want a split shift. We want to keep our steady afternoon shift.” They got together to talk between shifts and all refused to volunteer for the new crew. So management threatened to force low-seniority afternoon workers onto the split shift.

Workers rallied against this, too. Some said if forced to a split shift, they would abandon their classifications and bump to days. This would force management to train replacements and cause other turmoil. About this time, union officials gave some support, but it was the workers who made their own points.

Management next replied that they would drop the split shift plan and move to five 8-hour shifts, days and afternoons. Most afternoon workers preferred that to a split shift. A few did not like it because they have long drives to work and prefer a four-day week regardless. But most enjoyed a victory for weekends off and against management’s split shift and threats. One line leader said, “The workers started fighting back. That drew the union into the battle.”

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And this plant’s workers still had more of the “October spirit” to run on.

In the Tire and Wheel department, management eliminated the stemmer job and added that work to the job lifting the wheel onto the line. But the worker resisted the added work. Management threatened to give him the balance of the shift off.

Some workers used a hoist to lift the wheel. Management pressured them to work faster by manually lifting the wheels. Some temporarily fell for this. They gained a few seconds rest between jobs. But management tried to use that “extra” time to justify added work.

So activists convinced their co-workers to use the hoist on every job. The workers demanded a time study and pressured the time-study person into trying the job. That showed her that even with the hoist, the job is not ergonomically safe.

The mood in Ford plants has changed. Such stories would be unlikely without last October’s national No vote. (At Local 600 the No vote was led by Truck Plant workers--supported by their unit president Nick Kottalis, bargaining committeeperson Gary Walkowicz, and other officers in some units.)

Rank and file resistance continues. Ford workers didn’t “just say no” in October. That vote is an ongoing springboard for fights to defend and improve working lives on the shop floor.


Eric Truss works at the DDMP frame plant and Ron Lare is retired from Local 600’s Tool & Die unit.