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Why UAW workers say they are on strike

(Valaurian Waller for The Washington Post)

More than 12,000 workers are on strike at the big three automakers in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.

UAW Ford workers say they are striking because they don’t make enough money to support their families or their future.

“We have our limits too,” said Kevin Ewald, a Ford employee who has worked at the company for nearly three decades. He wants his new colleagues to be paid more for doing “broken” jobs.

UAW workers began striking shortly after midnight Friday morning after failing to reach an agreement with the big three auto workers, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.

See where UAW workers are striking

The union has demanded 36 percent pay increases for workers over four years, saying wages have not kept pace with inflation. Full-time workers earn between $18 and $32 an hour, while the CEOs of the big three companies each earn. earned more than $20 million in general compensation last year, figures the union used to justify its demands for higher wages for workers. The UAW too wants to end the staggered employment system, meaning newer workers receive lower wages and worse benefits. The companies responded that they are offering higher pay increases than they have in years, but that they cannot meet all of the union’s demands and remain viable.

The auto industry has been an important backbone for Detroit and the surrounding area for decades, and many striking workers come from families where several members have worked in the auto industry. Several workers have worked for automakers for almost their entire careers and have a deep appreciation for cars; everyone remembers when they had their first one.

On Friday we asked those workers why they are on strike. This is what some of them said:

Romulus, Michigan | assembly line worker

  • Weather at Ford: 3.5 years
  • Pay: $24/hour
  • First car: puma mercury

Robbins, who has a three-year-old son, said she thought she might be fired rather than participate in a historic strike. “I’m just trying to take care of my family,” she said. “I thought the only story I would have made was making ventilators during the pandemic (at Ford).”

She wants this job to help her build her future. Robbins said she has to take side jobs to make ends meet. Before Covid, she was about to get my hands on a Ranger,” she said. “But we work at Ford and we can’t even afford to drive the cars we make.”

Ypsilanti, Michigan | ford driver

  • Weather at Ford: 28 years
  • Salary: $32/hour
  • First car: Ford Gran Torino

Ewald said it’s surprising for the new generation of auto workers facing the tiered pay system.

“Now people are hired for $16.70 an hour and the jobs we are doing there are very hard and that is not right,” he said. “It’s not really about me.”

After 28 years with the company, he feels prepared for the future. But she is worried about his new colleagues.

“(Ford CEO) Jim Farley came out the other day and said there are limits and I hope he realizes it goes both ways,” he said. “We have our limits too.”

Jackson, Michigan | Member of the Ford production team.

UAW employee Lee Maybanks picketed outside an auto manufacturing plant in Detroit on September 15. (Video: Rich Matthews/TWP)

  • Years at Ford: 1 year and 9 months
  • Salary: $19.10/hour
  • First car: old 98

Dearborn, Michigan | Ford assembly line worker

  • Weather at Ford: 1 month
  • Salary: $16.67 /hour
  • First car: Ford Taurus

Jomaa said she works a second job as a beautician, but worries that her colleagues don’t have other jobs to help support their families. He works from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ford, then heads to his other job from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“It’s a lot, but Ford doesn’t help me. They pay me 16 dollars an hour. It’s nothing, especially when you have kids,” she said.

Westland, Michigan | Ford Repairman

  • Weather at Ford: 29 years
  • Salary: $32/hour
  • First car: Ford Escort

Williams comes from a family of auto workers: both his mom and dad retired from Chrysler. But he says he believes wages have not been enough to keep up with inflation.

“We’re not making enough money,” he said. “People should be able to buy their own homes, but right now it’s not possible.”

He also wants to make sure the company takes care of retirees. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here,” she said.

Detroit | Ford assembly line worker

  • Weather at Ford: 4 months
  • Salary: $16.67/hour
  • First car: chevy cruze

Thompson hopes the strike will not be prolonged, but is excited to fight for cost-of-living pay increases as bill payments and food costs rise.

“I barely make enough to survive,” he said. “What worries me the most is the salary. “I’m only here for the money.”

Livonia, Michigan | Ford bodywork and stamping work.

  • Weather at Ford: 49.5 years
  • Salary: $32.56/hour (started $4.35 in 1974)
  • First car: 1969 Pontiac LeMans

Kanowski has spent much of his life working for Ford, starting with the company in 1974, when he was just 18 years old.

He said he’s not sure if he and his colleagues will be fired. But he believes newer colleagues deserve the same opportunities he had.

“In the ’70s, when I started, after 90 days, I got the same as the legacy guy. Now it takes people 4 to 6 years to get the same thing,” he said. “It’s not fair.”

He said that the workers had to do concessions in 2007 and 2008, when automakers were suffering during the Great Recession, but now that they are profitable “they never gave us any of that back.”

Redford, Michigan | classified inspector ford

UAW employee Shaniell Davis picketed outside an auto manufacturing plant in Detroit on September 15. (Video: Rich Matthews/The Washington Post)

  • Weather at Ford: 12 years
  • Salary: $32 per hour
  • First car: GM Saturn

Edited by Karly Domb Sadof, Haley Hamblin, and John Farrell.

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