American Axle workers vote to end strike
Town of Tonawanda is MY HOME folks. [I also feel bad for Detroit despite that they are 10 times large that we are.] I do not know what to say. I literally saw these guys every day on the lines. They were within walking distance from my house. I am stymied for words right now, and have confused thoughts and feelings. It does not matter much to me that these guys made more than me, what matters is what are they going to do now?
My wife works at a convenience store and one of her regular customers from American Axle the day of the “settlement” came in to ask her for a job. Sadly, the store is not hiring. I am sure that there will be more of this to go around. When she conveyed this story my empathy overwhelmed me, I only can imagine how he felt. What is my town going to do now?
I fear this is the start of going the way of Lackawanna. Where, you say? That is the point. The only thing that many younger than forty-five or from outside WNY may now know about Lackawanna, NY is the Lackawanna 6 terror cell. Once a boom town made famous by Bethlehem Steel a giant among giants, a city in its own right, until foreign imported steel. There she sits, a ghost town, the smell of success ironically still hangs in the air twenty-five years later.
Sure pollution and success go hand in hand in a working class town but it still was a sweet smell in its day. Once proud, productive, and prosperous for its people, now in shambles, ashamed to even say its own name, “Lackawanna.” “Lackawanna”, “Tonawanda” coincidence? More than likely, but one still has to wonder if there was more that our local government, people, “the company”, and the employees could have done to prevent this tragic loss. I feel Tonawanda’s presence and voice ebbing into nothingness as I write this and . . .
Here is the rest of the article that sadly put us into the national spot light.
American Axle workers vote to end strike
Contract includes steep pay cuts; walkout forced thousands of GM layoffs
From fun to family friendly, Consumer Reports picks the best vehicles for 2008.
By TOM KRISHER
AP Auto Writer
updated 10:24 p.m. ET, Thurs., May. 22, 2008
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – Workers at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. have voted to end their nearly three-month-old strike, overwhelmingly ratifying a new contract with the company despite steep pay cuts and other concessions.
The vote, finalized Thursday, means workers likely will return to their jobs next week, ending a walkout that has crippled General Motors Corp.’s production of large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
Workers at five American Axle sites in Michigan and New York voted 78 percent in favor of the four-year deal, while 22 percent voted against, the United Auto Workers said in a statement late Thursday. The union does not release vote totals.
UAW members at four sites voted overwhelmingly in favor of the contract Monday and were awaiting Thursday’s vote by Local 235 in Hamtramck, which is by far the largest local in the company, with 1,983 members.
Erik Webb, election committee co-chairman for Local 235, said 1,172 workers at the local voted for the pact out of more than 1,500 who voted. A contract governing local work rules and other items at the company’s Detroit manufacturing plant also was approved by a narrower margin, Webb said.
Getting the plants reopened
Workers on Thursday night expected the company to call in electricians and other skilled trades workers over the Memorial Day holiday weekend to prepare the plants to reopen, with production restarting early next week.
Company spokeswoman Renee Rogers said American Axle must wait for written vote confirmation from the UAW before deciding when to restart the factories. That could come Friday, she said.
About 3,650 UAW members have been on strike since Feb. 26 over the company’s demand for lower wages to match its U.S. competitors.
American Axle has said it needs a wage structure that is competitive with other U.S. auto parts makers so it can earn new business.
Local 235 Shop Chairman Dana Edwards said union members didn’t have much choice but to accept the deal.
“I think with the economy the way it is, with the truck sales the way it is, I feel that’s what people thought they had to do,” Edwards said.
Strike hurt GM workers
American Axle makes axles, drive shafts and stabilizer bars, mainly for GM’s pickup and large SUVs. GM accounts for about 80 percent of its business.
The strike forced GM to cut production at or temporarily close more than 30 factories. It also caused thousands of layoffs at GM and other auto parts suppliers.
GM said it lost $800 million in the first quarter and produced 230,000 fewer vehicles due to the strike. But the strike also helped GM control its inventory, coming at a time when high gas prices and a slow economy reduced demand for trucks and SUVs.
GM spokesman Chris Lee said the automaker has a plan to bring its idled factories back on line, but he would not reveal details Thursday night.
Vote for, against the pact
American Axle worker Bill Johnson, 39, voted in favor of the pact, even though it cuts wages by about one-third, freezes pensions and takes away other benefits.
He said workers have to be smart and spend wisely up to $105,000 the company will pay them over three years to ease the transition to lower pay.
Other workers said they voted against it.
Council Bellomy, 32, was resentful that the company has made millions yet expects production workers to take pay cuts from around $28 per hour to $18.50.
“Freeze pension, wages, health care — you name it. They took everything our fathers fought for,” Bellomy said.
Workers also have the choice of taking a $55,000 early retirement incentive or up to $140,000 to leave the company.
Under the deal, American Axle will close its Detroit and Tonawanda, N.Y., forge operations.