Rally for locked-out workers

DETROIT – On April 24, 29 Detroit-Windsor Tunnel workers were locked out of their jobs after refusing to accept a 3.5 percent wage reduction, a two-tier wage plan to drive wages down further and a $40 co-payment on prescriptions.

The Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO called a support rally on May 9, at the tunnel entrance, which is the second largest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. Locked-out workers include skilled trades, traffic coordinators and toll takers, trained and cleared in national security to ensure the safety of U.S. and Canadian citizens.

Macquarie Global Infrastructure Trust, an Australian financial institution, manages the tunnel for a huge profit. Their website boasts that operating costs (less than 15 percent) make up only a “small portion” of the overall costs that are offset by toll income that is expected to be increased. The trust fund suggests that the way they will make more profits is by stripping the tunnel of its financial assets and then selling it.

Representing several unions, including the United Auto Workers (UAW), United Steelworkers of America and the Teamsters, 150 workers attended the rally to show support for the tunnel workers, who are represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1564. Jobs with Justice and the Gray Panthers also supported the demonstration.

During the rally, 500 workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were picketing across the street, in front of the city municipal building, protesting a wage freeze. These workers, in a show of solidarity, crossed the street and joined the tunnel workers’ demonstration.

Donald Boggs, the president of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, told the workers, “We will last one day longer than the Australian Trust Fund.” Other speakers included Local 1564 President Don Mathis, Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Saundra Williams and UAW Local 22 President Craig Nothnagel.

Since this rally, tunnel management has agreed to meet with the union for more collective bargaining.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org