Ford Workers Sit Down, Slow Down Over Late Paycheck

Workers who make underbodies for the Mustang pulled off a mini-strike and work-to-rule last Friday.

At Ford’s Flat Rock, Michigan, plant, workers in the body and paint areas had been canvassed to work the Sunday after Thanksgiving, for double-time. But someone in management messed up. Workers learned they were getting paid for only 10 hours on Friday, their regular payday.

So after their morning break, a couple dozen underbody workers went to their stations but sat down and refused to work, for about 20 minutes. Union reps advised them to work, but to follow all rules and abstain from their usual shortcuts—resulting in a noticeable slowdown in production.

In the afternoon a union rep texted workers that they could pick up a special check that same day. Victory! No one received any punishment. But when they got to the office, workers were told they’d have to wait till the next Tuesday or Wednesday. Today workers found the missing money directly deposited in their bank accounts, in a highly unusual mid-week payout.

These are the sorts of wildcat actions that were frequent in the United Auto Workers’ early days in the 1930s and during World War II. The companies didn’t like it, and the legalized system of “obey now, grieve later, wait months for a solution” was established.

Ten more hours' overtime pay is due this coming Friday. If it's not there, maybe the Flat Rock workers should try “self-help” again.

This article was updated on December 5, 2012.

Jane Slaughter is a former editor of Labor Notes.

Comments

ronlare | 12/13/12

Good for them. Thanks Ron! I recall being in the old [UAW Local 600 D.A.P.] assembly plant in the trim shop flanked by two paint dept ovens in mid August. In 1996 we were on 10 hr shifts 6 days a week Ford was cranking out over 100,000 mustangs a year during that time. The temp was 108' and we got no heat relief or water. 35 of us walked out that day and FoMo lost over 300 cars of production that shift. The next day we were all given a verbal warning, but we were given 6 min extra for every hour we worked and lemonade and ice water during the hot period during the next few weeks. If we didnt organize and stick together we would have recieved nothing. Solidarity forever! Sam Munker, UAW Local 600 member

alexwassell | 12/07/12

Recently a forklift driver at Chrysler Warren Stamping took matters into his own hands. He had been begging and pleading to get more help in his area. For months he had been running himself ragged trying to keep up with the work load. Finally he had enough, and he sat down on a stack of cardboard and refused to drive his forklift. The boss got him help within a half hour. Direct action works, and there should be more of it!