Auto worker: Want to be able to afford the vehicles we build

United Auto Workers striking along Michigan Avenue outside the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne since midnight want to be able to afford the vehicles they assemble.

The UAW went on strike against Ford, Stellantis and General Motors at select factories around midnight. Brandon Bell, who’s worked at the Ford plant for three years, said workers need boosted pay and benefits.

“We just want to be able to afford the vehicles we build,” Bell told The Center Square in an interview along Michigan Avenue on Friday morning. “The average price of base model for the vehicle we build is about $60,000, and there’s no way we could afford that – maybe a lease, but we couldn’t buy one.”

Bell said many employees have worked at the plant for 25-40 years and gave up pensions and wages to keep Ford’s doors open during the 2008 recession.

“And it’s time for them to give back,” Bell said.

During the pandemic, profits and executive pay soared for the Big Three but the UAW says typical workers still face benefit cuts from the 2008 recession.

“General Motors CEO Mary Barra made $29 million last year, yet a newly-hired factory worker factory at Lordstown, Ohio is making $16.50 an hour,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook live event last month.

Fain wants UAW members to receive a 40% raise over four years and a 32-hour work week with the same wage as a five-day workweek.

Bell said Ford starts hiring at $16.60 an hour, paying wages similar to McDonald's despite an increased cost of living and inflation.

“We’re not asking a lot,” Bell said. “We just want to be able to afford to feed our family, not live paycheck to paycheck, and be able to afford a vehicle we’ve built.”

The Wall Street Journal reported the strike is affecting factories in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

Michigan Sen. John Cherry, D-Flint, backed the strike.

“In Flint, we know the great work that UAW members do to make our community a better place, whether it is building ramps for the elderly to be able to access their house, or ensuring kids have a gift at Christmas, or restoring our McFarlan Veteran’s Park,” Cherry said in a statement. “They fight for our communities and working people across the country. I stand with the members of the UAW in their fight for a fair wage and fair working conditions.”

U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, said American auto workers “have gotten the short end of the stick.”

Vance supported the UAW’s demand for higher wages but blamed the “premature” transition to electric vehicles as a major problem for the industry.

“While most Americans want to drive a gas-powered car, the Biden Administration pursues a policy explicitly designed to increase the cost of gas,” Vance said in a statement. “They do this in the name of the environment, but all they’re doing is enriching the dirtiest economy in the world at the expense of auto workers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.”

 

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