Photo caption: UAW WORKERS VOTED for the first time in the nation’s history to strike the “Big Three” automakers. It is the first strike ever against all three manufacturers at the same time. Workers are demanding fair wages, an end to an unfair two-tier wage system, and pensions for all and not just a few. Representative Jonathan Jackson (D-1st) and his father, Reverend Jesse Jackson, met with workers on Sunday, September 17, and vowed to join them on the picket line at one of the plants by Friday, September 22, according to Bishop Tavis Grant, acting executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. (Photos by Chinta Strausberg)
Vowing to support the striking United Auto Workers (UAW) to the end, Representative Jonathan Jackson (D-1st) and his father, Reverend Jesse Jackson, met with workers Sunday, September 17, with the Congressman saying,” They got a raw deal, but the Big Three got a bailout.”
Uniting forces, the powerful Jacksons vowed to join the UAW Local 551 picket lines and even go to one of the three assembly plants being boycotted by Friday, September 22. Reverend Jackson, a two-time presidential candidate and long-time labor supporter, told the Chicago Crusader, “You have the right to fight for fair wages for workers and benefits. They deserve that.”
Interviewed Saturday, September 16 following the weekly Rainbow PUSH Coalition broadcast, both Jacksons vowed to stand with striking workers.
On Sunday, September 17, both joined the UAW 551 workers at their union hall, 13550 S. Torrence Avenue, where they solidified their support. Bishop Tavis Grant, acting executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said they are organizing to march on one of the three plants by this Friday, September 22.
When the clock struck 12:59 p.m., on Thursday, September 14 and the “Big Three” automakers, General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Stellantis, manufacturer of Jeep and Chrysler, had not made an acceptable offer to UAW workers, in an unprecedented move thousands went on strike at all three assembly plants. It was the first time ever UAW workers took on the “Big Three” at the same time.
“They left us with no options,” Representative Jackson told the Chicago Crusader after the September 17, Rainbow PUSH Coalition broadcast.
“The UAW has been given a bad deal” Representative Jackson said. He also said the workers “negotiated in good faith. They honored their commitment. They made a sacrifice for the nation. Inflation has kicked in. The average American is spending $700 more per month. They have been held back on the cost-of-living adjustment.
“Some McDonald’s workers are making more than UAW workers in Lordstown, Ohio. Those workers make $23.00 an hour but the UAW workers at the same time are making $16.50 an hour.” He said something is wrong with that scenario especially given the huge profits pouring in for the Big Three companies.
“One in 10 manufacturing jobs in the United States is in the automotive sector,” Representative Jackson said. “If we are going to talk about bring back, build back better, it starts with the automotive industry. Before we get the chips and other things, it starts with automotive, and right now, they need to have wage parity.
“There has been $250 billion made in the last 10 years alone between 2013 and 2023,” he said. “The Big Three are on target to make $32 billion this year. They should have raised the wages.”
Representative Jackson referred to the year 2008 when President George W. Bush announced a $17.4 billion bailout to General Motors and Chrysler, extending $13.4 billion immediately. The companies said without an infusion of federal aid, they would have to file for bankruptcy and lose more than one million workers.
At the time Ford, the third company of what is referred to as the “Big Three” automakers didn’t need the money, having already cut costs, but quickly said add its name to the offer so Ford wouldn’t have to compete with the subsidized companies.
While the Big Three is laden with huge profits, Representative Jackson said, “They’ve got a two-tiered system of wages. People who started a day after the bankruptcy are making half on the assembly line of people who were there a day before the bankruptcy.
“This is an apartheid wage system. They should have gone back and rectified it a long time ago. Now, they’ve left us with no other option but to stand up for our dignity,” Representative Jackson told the Chicago Crusader.
Bishop Grant said Reverend Jackson is focused on making sure the UAW workers get their fair share, and remarked, “It’s about time. Auto workers ought to be able to afford the cars they make.”
Alan Coby Millender, the UAW Chairman of the Chicago Assembly Plant, Ford Motor Company, and the first African American in charge of an assembly plant said they are striking to demand fair wages, cost-of-living advances, entry level pay, a two-tier pay system, and retiree pensions.
“Some employees don’t get pensions while others do. I’m mad about that because everybody should get a pension, and the people who do have a pension, their pension is way more.
“The pension that we get right now is almost at poverty level,” Millender told the Chicago Crusader. “How can we survive on what we make to be retired?
Ayanna Dixon, a UAW steward and administrative assistant to Millender and a member of UAW 551, told the Chicago Crusader, “The Big Three, and especially Ford, got the bailout and then they turned around and sold the union workers out, but we will be on the picket lines ready to walk out.”