Over 100 union workers at ZF Chassis Systems in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, went on strike on Wednesday, September 20, demanding the end of a tier wage system and lower healthcare costs.
The striking workers, UAW Local 2083 members, recently rejected a fourth contract proposal by the company which again failed to address workers’ core demands.
“Every contract since the Great Recession, this company keeps taking and taking and they never want to give back to the workers,” says Tammy Slayton, who has worked at ZF for nine years. “We’re trying to get rid of the tier system. That’s our number one issue. We want everyone making the same wages.”
Starting pay for new hires at ZF is only $15.50 an hour, with a top wage rate of $18.80. Tier one workers top out at $20.30 an hour.
Slayton says she works with someone who has eighteen years seniority at the company who started at the company making $18.05. “He makes $20.30 today,” she says. “After eighteen years!”
“Inflation is hammering these workers,” Local 2083 President Ronnie Mills says. “It’s time for ZF to do right the right thing. Our members just want what is fair. They don’t want the whole pie. They just want a piece of the pie.”
ZF Chassis Systems produces axles for a nearby Mercedes-Benz factory. “We make 425 axles per shift, 850 per day, six days a week.” Mills says. “We’ve made this company so much money and the company still refuses to treat us right.”
The Tuscaloosa ZF facility runs two shifts, and implements an alternate work schedule, which allows the company to avoid paying overtime even though workers are putting in well over 40 hours a week, working 10-to-12-hour shifts.
New worker turnover is a major problem at the facility as well, due to the low wages being paid by ZF and the physical nature of the jobs being performed. “Have you ever picked up an axle?” Slayton asks.
“There’s absolutely no reason why this company can’t afford to give Local 2083 members what they deserve,” Region 8 Director, Tim Smith, says. “ZF is making billions of dollars. It’s more of the same corporate greed we’re seeing all over our economy.”
Despite the challenges facing Local 2083 members, Slayton said workers at ZF feel empowered by the union’s more aggressive approach as of late. “This company hasn’t seen a union team that isn’t going to back down,” Slayton says. “But that’s exactly what they are seeing now. Our Region 8 leadership has our back in this fight against ZF and we know they’ll support us until we’ve won the contract we deserve.”
“The morale on the picket line has been great,” Mills says. “I’m proud of these workers for standing up to the company and holding the line. Very proud.”
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