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Lansing UAW members walk off the job

UAW workers from the Lansing Redistribution Center, represented by UAW Local 1753, walk out on strike at noon, September 22, 2023
Wali Khan
UAW workers from the Lansing Redistribution Center, represented by UAW Local 1753, walk out on strike at noon, September 22, 2023

Workers at a General Motors facility in the capital area joined the United Auto Workers’ nationwide strike at noon Friday. The Lansing Redistribution Center, home to UAW Local 1753, represents more than 200 workers.

The Michigan autoworkers join 38 other distribution centers across the country in an expanded strike against Stellantis and GM. The work stoppage added another 5,600 workers to the 13,000 already on strike.

“Now it's time to hit the picket lines across the country,” said UAW President Shawn Fain during the strike’s announcement. “We are united and we are fired up and we are ready for a record contract.”

Fain also announced President Joe Biden would join workers at the picket line in Michigan.

The strikes only extend to Stellantis and GM facilities. Fain said Ford had been the only company to not reject the union’s demands outright as the other two firms have.

The work stoppage came after the first shift ended at 12 PM. Striking workers who start work at 3 PM were expected to head to the picket line instead of going into the factory.

Amid supportive car honks, Dwight Jackson, president of UAW Local 1753, told WKAR he is prepared to strike for as long as he can for better working conditions and the end of tiered pay.

“We want fair wages. We've got people in there making half what we're making, and they're working harder than we work. It's time to pay them people's time and get those tiers out of here. It's time to start moving forward, like they promised we'd do back in '09,” Jackson said.

The tiered wage system originated as a concession the union made to the Big Three as part of an effort to save jobs during the 2008 financial crisis. To keep the companies from crashing, the UAW agreed to reduced benefits and lower waged workers.

Jackson, a nine-year GM employee and current battery attendant, did not comment on the union’s next moves but described the current tiered system as a “probation.” Other workers point to “corporate greed” as reason to strike.

“The working-class people are fed up. We are what drives this economy,” said Jacob Tomek who took a pay cut to join GM less than a year ago. “We are all out here struggling to live paycheck to paycheck.”

Spirits ran high as union workers distributed bottles of water in the 80-degree heat. Heather Wilder, a union worker, joked with her co-workers as she moved her car out of the parking lot on security’s orders.

“GM is greedy with their money. They give us a $500 Christmas bonus and then taxes it so we only get $250,” she said, as she stepped on the gas pedal.

Charles Amabo, a 58-year-old GM employee, has spent more than a decade at the plant.

“We started planning this thing more than two years ago, we started stocking food,” said Amabo. “We knew that this day was going to come for us to make a vote to strike.”

“We are ready to go for as long as we can to make sure that they listen to what we tell them,” he added.

WDET’s Russ McNamara contributed to this report.

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