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UAW members remain optimistic as strike, negotiations continue

The United Auto Workers and Detroit's Big Three carmakers have until Thursday at midnight to reach a labor agreement before the strike expands.
Posted at 3:53 PM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-19 15:53:34-04

Tiffanie Simmons spends most of her time at United Auto Workers Local 900 these days.

Last week, she and other UAW members who work at Ford’s Michigan Assembly in the final assembly and paint units walked off the job after the union called on them to strike against the automaker. Simmons works as a production team leader at the plant.

“We’re ready to go back to work whenever we can get a fair deal,” said Simmons. “Nobody wanted to do this, nobody wanted to strike, but this is something that we felt we had to do.”

It’s her first strike since she started at the plant in 2012. Simmons says that most days, she shuttles members to and from their posts, and helps pass out food.

“When we heard Michigan Assembly’s name, it was a one, unison battle cry throughout the entire facility,” said Simmons. “We started to prep. Everyone started to get their belongings together. Our union leadership came into the plant. They explained to us ... we are to walk out peacefully, quietly.”

Auto suppliers, workers likely to see impacts in looming UAW strike
United Auto Workers members walk in a Labor Day parade.

Auto suppliers, workers likely to see impacts in looming UAW strike

While the "Big Three" automakers have returned counteroffers to the union's demands, none have been accepted.

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Personally, she wants pensions brought back and an end to wage tiers for people like her brothers. Two of them and their father work at Michigan Assembly too and while they remained employed, Simmons says its nerve wracking to think they could get laid off.

Ford temporarily let go about 600 people at the plant on Friday because of the strike.

“They are anxious, they're anticipating,” said Simmons. “Everyone's waiting for their turn, everyone is ready to jump in and fight the good fight.”

Members on strike receive $500 per week, and do not receive insurance benefits besides medical and prescription drug coverage.

Simmons thinks the work stoppage will be worth it.

“If it means that we can get a victory for all of our brothers and sisters, we are willing to hold that line as long as we have to,” she said.

Simmons added, “We asked nicely, that didn't work. We asked not so nicely, that didn't work. Now we're at a point where we're done asking, we're demanding.”

This story was originally published by Marisa Oberle at Scripps News West Detroit.