Detroit auto workers rally in solidarity with temp workers
Cameron Harrison/PW

DETROIT – “TPT workers” temporary part-time, take on the hardest and most exhausting jobs on the factory floor. Outdoors on a cold, windy afternoon at Manz Baseball field on the east side of this city – just down the street from the Detroit Stellantis Assembly Complex – United Auto Workers rallied to show solidarity with the tier of the auto worker force consigned to the lowest pay levels and least job security.

“End Tiers: No 2nd Class Workers,” read picket signs floating on a sea of bright red UAW shirts. The stadium’s bleachers rattled with each cheer from the crowd as temp workers and three Detroit City Council members – City Council President Mary Sheffield, Latisha Johnson, and Mary Waters made their case.

“One day longer, one day stronger” chanted Lynda, a member of UAW Local 7. She was dressed head-to-toe in UAW gear. Her customized varsity jacket and matching bucket hat that sparkled with rhinestones read, “UAW Solidarity,” which was the theme for the rally. Lynda played a key role in organizing this event and led the workers and supporters through the rally as lead speaker. She said that she has been organizing against the hated tiered system and for workplace democracy for a number of years. At the Stellantis Sterling Heights Stamping Plant, it was Lynda who called together a rank-and-file meeting of TPT workers around their specific issues.

“I am here to be a representative for the TPTs who are on the line doing the same jobs, breaking their back, sweating, bleeding, and not getting the respect they deserve from the company,” announced Mubarak Mozeb, a son of Yemeni immigrants in Detroit. “Many of us, like myself, we talk about paycheck to paycheck. But as a temporary worker, we’re talking job to job.” Furthermore, he continued, “Most of us work 10 hours at the factory then head downtown to go bus tables till 1 o’clock in the morning,” just to make ends meet.

Mozeb noted that many of today’s TPTs, especially in the Detroit community, have grandparents and parents who immigrated here in the 1930s to work in the plants. “They came here for the American Dream. Now you see many families just struggling, hopping job to job, no full-time with minimal benefits,” he told the audience. Other TPT auto workers present at the rally described working up to 60 hours a week, working multiple jobs, in order to provide for themselves and their families.

Management shakin’ our hands – We’re shakin’ our heads 

Cameron Harrison/PW

One worker who spoke with People’s World said that at their plant, Stellantis – formerly known as Chrysler – hung a large banner at the entrance: “Congratulations to record profit sharing!” it read. However, if you work in the TPT tier, they noted, you do not benefit from the profit sharing under the current, expired contract. “We were shaking our heads when management was shaking our hands… we didn’t get a dime from that profit sharing,” they said.

Another TPT worker reported working at the plant 10 hours a day, then leaving to pick up a shift at Amazon for another five hours, just to be able to make it. “When you come into a job at the plant, you have this idea that you will financially be okay,” she said. “But when you’re three years in, waiting to rollover [to permanent, full-time status], just for it to be snatched away [by the company].” She emphasized that TPT workers have to perform the most laborious physical jobs in the plants even while making the least amount of money per hour.

“I’m here to speak as a married man who is struggling to make ends meet,” announced Jermaine DeShawn, an older worker at the Stellantis complex. He detailed the injuries he suffered at the plant, injuries that management had told him “would be just fine.” Now, two surgeries later, DeShawn is still struggling to recover while having to continue to work at the plant. “I get maybe $319 a week,” he said somberly. “How am I supposed to feed my family off that?”

DeShawn then gestured towards the Detroit City Council members: “Just know, this fight doesn’t stop. We need your support, not just at rallies. We need y’all to know we’re really struggling. Really struggling. Help us get what we deserve. Fight for us all the time…” not just when it’s politically useful to do so. The Council members in attendance at the rally announced that they would be working on a resolution to support the UAW Stand Up Strike. Details of the resolution have not been released.

Tahj Lewis and Tyrisha Laflora, both full-time workers at the complex, said they are feeling optimistic about the direction of the UAW under its new leadership. Both Lewis and Laflora have worked at the plant for 10 years now. Showing up as this rally was important, the two Local 7 members told People’s World, because the union needs to win this strike against the Big 3 and that requires solidarity from everyone on the shop floor, whether they be a TPT or permanent, full-time workers like them.

The baseball park rally took place in the midst of the Stand Up Strike by the UAW, now entering its fourth week. UAW Local 7 members at the Stellantis Assembly Complex haven’t yet been called on by the union to walk out, but they’re ready. Leaving the rally, one worker made clear: “We’re just waiting for our call to go out. But we gotta give respect to the locals who are currently on the picket line right now fighting for all of us. They’re carrying a heavy load and we need every one of us, everyone in the community, to continue to support them.”

“We gotta be in this together. I do believe in my heart that this new leadership, with Shawn Fain, has made me see unity in everyone,” said LaShawn English, director of UAW Region 1. “And that’s what it is going to take to win our contract. That’s what it’s gonna take to make sure everyone gets the same pay for the same work. Equal pay for equal work!”

>>> READ MORE PEOPLE’S WORLD COVERAGE OF THE UAW STRIKE.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Cameron Harrison
Cameron Harrison

Cameron Harrison is an activist and union worker in Detroit, Michigan.

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