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UAW members explain what they are fighting for in contract negotiations

Workers rally in Kokomo, Indiana, on eve of expiring UAW contract with automakers, from News 8 at 11 p.m.

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) — United Automotive Workers members say now is the time to fight for fair compensation at a Union Rally in Kokomo.

The union is fighting for pay increases, the return of Cost-of-Living adjustments, the removal of the tiered pay scales, pensions, and retiree medical benefits, the right to strike over plant closures and other additional “Members Demands.”

“I have no healthcare. When I retire, I don’t have any pension, so I don’t have any security after my 30 years,” explained Michele Steward, the recording secretary for Local 1302.

Steward says removing the tier pay system is a key part of these negotiations.

“It’s divided the union. If I’m standing right beside you doing the same work, shouldn’t we make the same pay?” questioned Steward.

Workers said they made concessions during the recession and now that profits have rebounded at the Big Three, they want better compensation for their work.

“We’re fighting for concessions that we’ve given up to keep the companies profitable,” said Perry Hovermale, a Local 685 skilled trades member. “Now, it’s time to swing the pendulum the other way. They made record profits. It’s time to give back what we’ve already conceded. We’re just trying to catch back up to where we should be.”

Hovermale says it is important to remember what elected officials are showing up for the unions. Some in the crowd noted Governor Holcomb did not.

“I think some people need to pay attention to that, and then remember that November’s coming up too,” said Hovermale.

The union launched a “Stand Up Strike,” which only asks certain local unions to strike at once while all others are asked to work under an expired contract.

“As time goes on, more locals may be called on to “stand up” and join the strike. This gives us maximum leverage and maximum flexibility in our fight to win a fair contract at each of the Big Three automakers,” said UAW Leadership in an explainer on the union website. “Locals that are NOT called on to join the Stand Up Strike will keep working. We will NOT extend the contracts, so you will be working without an agreement.”

So far, only three locations have been called to strike, and no Indiana locations are affected.

The affected locations are General Motors Wentzville Assembly Local 2250, in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex Local 12, in Ohio and Ford Michigan Assembly, final assembly and paint workers only, Local 900 in Wayne, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

David Green, The Region 2B director, encourages others to not “listen to the lies” when it comes to this strike.

“We want to get a fair and equitable contract for our members, but by doing it this way, on a slow scale, I believe it’s gonna give our bargaining team the turbo charge, the extra power, and support they need at the bargaining table to get the contract that we’re looking for,” said Green.

Indiana has the second-largest automotive manufacturing industry in the country making 1.3 million cars a year.

UAW members in Kokomo predominantly work for Stellantis. Members of their communications team did not respond to New 8’s request for comment about the rally.

Readers can learn more about the “Stand Up Strike” on the UAW International website.