The following letter was sent to Will Lehman, a Mack Trucks employee running for UAW President, from a surplus employee who works at Jeep Truck in Toledo, Ohio. Published with his permission.
of World Socialist Web Site supports Lehman’s campaign. For more information, visit the website WillforUAWPresident.org.
The preamble to the UAW constitution states that “Within the procedural mechanisms of such government there is the hope of the worker to advance society toward the ultimate goal of social and economic justice” and that “All men and women have created equally”. These principles are considered the basic principles of the union and its members.
Unfortunately, truth does not always reflect faith. UAW leaders have allowed the industries they represent to become a microcosm of American society, and workers are no exception.
I work at a factory in Toledo. We manufacture Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator.
I have been a Support Worker (SE, formerly TPT – Temporary and Temporary) for over three years, but less than seven years. I can’t be more specific, because SEs are part time employees. Criticizing the company and the union is enough to get fired. People have been fired for talking on Jeep’s Facebook page.
There are about 2,000 SEs in our factory. About one third of the total workforce is redundant.
In 2019 they changed the name from temporary to temporary, because it meant that TPT was temporary and it was temporary. Both of these statements are false. Most work in six days. We often work on Sundays, which as an SE you will have to do, whether you work six or three days. More and more, it seems that it will not be temporary either, and that we are in fact permanent.
Recently, we received a call from all about Stellantis’ desire to create a healthy workplace by giving SEs some flexibility in their schedules. If you go to the link they sent us, nothing has changed at all. The choice is to work three days and Sunday or to work six days and Sunday. The same schedule that is still available for SEs.
The sales rate of the new SE is very high. This job is not for everyone, and people come in and are sent to the station for 10 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. I remember the first summer I worked, we went two months without a day off. It is tiring, and there is no balance between work and personal life. I don’t want to give the impression that workers with bosses don’t face these problems, because they do too.
A high turnover rate benefits the UAW facility. Each new employee pays an onboarding fee and monthly contributions from his or her first paycheck. They employ a hundred people, fifty have left. They employ fifty more. The UAW loves it for pay, and Stellantis loves it for cheap labor.
Ses pays dues, and we can vote in elections, but that’s about the extent of our rights as UAW members. We are not allowed to run for any union office. We do not receive unemployment benefits when we are laid off. If we are sick or injured and take medical leave, there is no medical benefit.
Even small things are not available in SE. For example, we are at work up to 10 hours a day. Our shoes are very important to our health and well-being. Plant Safety provides free insoles once a year. This reduces the legs caused by standing. Additional employees cannot benefit from these free insoles. A truck came to the factory once a year to sell work shoes and boots. Employees can get good discounts on these products. But if you are an overtime employee, you don’t get this benefit.
The echelon system has created this inequality in UAW factories. These are the same differences that the constitution of the union itself claims to want to eliminate everywhere. How can they overcome global inequality if they can’t do it in their own industries? Worse, they have placed these differences on the people they are supposed to fight for.
The following agreement is very important to members. We face many problems from car manufacturers. They intend to switch to electric vehicles. They will push to close many factories and reduce the workforce. They will demand austerity, record profits for themselves, while our wages stagnate and are eaten away by inflation. We must be ready to challenge these claims.
But all is not sad. We have the opportunity to vote for a new UAW President in the next global election. That’s why I’m voting for Will Lehman for International President. A vote for anyone else is a vote for more inequality in our workplace, and the way it is now.
For more information on Will Lehman’s campaign for UAW President, go to WillforUAWPresident.org.
(Article published in English on September 6, 2022)