“Will wants to abolish the level system. I say yes!”: Broad support for Will Lehman’s campaign for UAW president at Michigan’s Ford Assembly

The WSWS supported Will Lehman’s campaign for UAW President. For more information, visit WillforUAWPresident.org.

Will Lehman’s campaign volunteers for United Auto Workers union presidency found strong support among autoworkers during the afternoon shift change at Ford Michigan Assembly in Wayne, Michigan, just west of Detroit on Friday.

Lehman, a second-tier worker at Mack Trucks in Pennsylvania, calls for building a mass movement of rank-and-file workers to abolish the corrupt bureaucracy that has dominated the union for decades.

To lead a fight for what workers need – including ending the tier system, converting all temps to full-time status, a 50% pay rise, COLA increases to keep up with inflation , and more – Lehman advocates for the organization of rank-and-file committees in every factory and workplace, connecting workers in an international network.

Michigan Assembly employs approximately 4,600 hourly workers and produces the successful Bronco and Ranger light trucks. Many shift change workers said they had heard of the campaign before and supported it. “I get the text messages and plan to vote for him,” was a common refrain.

Rahim [Photo: WSWS]

Activists informed workers of the upcoming UAW presidential candidates debate is scheduled to take place on Thursday, September 22, hosted by the court-appointed UAW monitor. The UAW apparatus has essentially sought to conceal from workers that the debate is even taking place, without doing anything to make it public, with incumbent President Ray Curry and the bureaucracy he leads undoubtedly fearful of being challenged by a rank and file worker in front of a large audience.

Many workers spoke angrily about the series of dealership contracts dating back to Chrysler’s bankruptcy in 1979, when UAW President Douglas Frazier joined the company’s board of directors, marking the start of the integration of the trade union into the company’s management.

Workers angrily asked about the long list of concessions given to companies by the UAW: “Why did they take away our pension? » and « What about COLA? Dozens of people who spoke to the campaign team welcomed the campaign’s call for an offensive to reverse decades of frozen wages, restitutions, forced overtime, factory closures, bankruptcies, destruction of jobs and the general impoverishment of large sections of the working class.

Those who spoke were particularly hostile to the wage and benefits system that was introduced in 2007 and then spread throughout the industry during restructuring led by Obama, Biden and the Democrats two years later, when the salaries of all new recruits were cut in half.

“It took me eight years to reach the top salary,” Trina said. “Will wants to abolish the level system. I say yes! I will vote for him. Give me back my COLA.

Flo said, “We’re all in this and doing the same job. Why do we have levels?

They sold us out on the river in 2007 when they took those claims.

“I don’t like the tier system,” said Gene, who has worked at the plant for 23 years. “I don’t think that’s fair. New recruits come here doing the same thing they earn at McDonald’s. How is this true? »

He expressed deep distrust of the entire upper echelon of the union bureaucracy. “For the last two contracts, nobody voted for them,” he said. “Yet somehow they seemed to have passed.” In 2015, the national Ford-UAW contract seemed headed for defeat, before the vote was deferred to Local 600, which includes the giant Ford Rouge complex. Rouge workers photographed and documented obvious voting irregularities and challenged the vote with the UAW, to no avail.

Gene went on to discuss the struggle now raging on the railroads. “I was wondering what happened with this contract. Biden is trying to force it on them,” he said. “This must stop.” On reading a resolution adopted on September 14 by rank-and-file railway workers, which stipulates: “We will not accept any act of Congress that violates our democratic right to strike and imposes on us a contract that we do not accept and that does not ‘was not ratified by the grassroots,’ he said, ‘I agree with that.

Lisa [Photo: WSWS]

Lisa transferred to MAP from Rawsonville and expressed dissatisfaction with the local representation provided by the UAW. “Our trade unionists are not fighting for us,” she said.

With the UAW working with corporations to drive wages down to near-poverty levels, more workers have been forced to rely on overtime to make ends meet. Chaos in supply chains and parts shortages – ultimately a product of the ruling class’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic – have left workers to alternate between grueling levels of overtime or not enough hours to pay their bills.

“They don’t allow you to work overtime whenever you want,” she said. To make matters worse, there are times when workers are forced to work 50 hours a week and be paid the normal rate. When workers ask for an explanation, the shop steward will say they don’t know, she said. Instead of finding an answer, they will fire workers and say, “I can’t handle this. She concluded: “They are meant to be for us. They really don’t fight for us.

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