the World Socialist Website publishes the text of a letter submitted by an additional employee at the Stellantis Warren Truck plant north of Detroit. Additional workers are a category of casual workers, deprived of most of the rights of full-time workers.
COVID is currently rampant at Warren Truck, as the Omicron variant has spread widely in communities, schools and factories. In order to maintain production, management, working with the United Auto Workers, imposed 12-hour shifts for temporary workers, exacerbating an already intolerable situation. The worker requested that his name not be disclosed to avoid possible retaliation from management / UAW.
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I am an additional employee (“aka TPT”) at the Stellantis Warren Truck Assembly Plant located on Mound Road in Warren, Michigan. I have been a complementary employee for almost a year. During this time, I had a mandatory 6 day / 7 day work schedule, working 10 hours per day, averaging 50 to 70 hours per week. On January 3, 2022, Warren Truck’s production schedule changed from 2 shifts of 10 hours each to 3 shifts of 8 hours. On January 4, 2022, at 5:01 p.m., I was notified by email that I was to work a mandatory 6-day, 12-hour shift effective Wednesday, January 5, 2022.
During the 12-hour shift, I only get two 10-minute breaks and one 20-minute lunch break. At the risk of losing my job, I have attached a copy of the email from the Warren Truck Assembly Plant Business Resources team outlining the new production schedule. Now that the factory is operating 24 hours a day, I am constantly forced to interact with more and more people that I don’t normally see, increasing the likelihood that I will be exposed to COVID-19.
In addition, the company does not grant us any additional time to thoroughly disinfect our workstations. I am required to perform my job using the same tools as the operator from the previous shift, again without the time allocated to clean the tools or the workstation. To date, on January 6, 2022, it is rumored that more than 500 of my union brothers and sisters are sick or quarantined due to their exposure to the COVID-19 virus. When I arrive at work, I am forced to work at different stations several times a day, being forced to work with different people, which increases the likelihood that I too will fall with COVID-19.
Over the past year, I have put my health and my life in extreme danger for the good of the company. Every day before I leave for work, I am mandated to complete a COVID-19 self-screening questionnaire before being allowed to enter the establishment. If I don’t complete the survey, a follow-up email will be sent to me indicating the importance of completing the survey. However, the company doesn’t care if I have symptoms of COVID or if I’m fatally ill, their only concern is for audit purposes.
I am provided with a thin surgical mask for my protection and for my safety at work. I once wore an N95 respirator at work (similar to what nurses currently wear to keep them safe while treating covid patients) and was told that I could not enter the facility with this mask and that I had to wear the mask provided by the company. I followed the orders as usual.
As I walk into the factory and walk to my workstation, I walk over the same garbage on the floor that I’ve seen since before the December vacation. When we get a really big storm with heavy precipitation, the roof lets out an incredible amount of water; often directly on my workstation. Men’s toilets in some production areas have not had hot running water for months. Some would call the plant extremely dirty, but I assure you that is an understatement. I have contracted COVID-19 at least once during my employment with Stellantis, and I am 99% positive to have been infected by my colleagues. As an additional employee, if I don’t show up for work, I don’t get paid. Union officials have said that if an employee tests positive for COVID due to exposure inside the factory, partial compensation will be paid to that employee.
However, as I am moved from job to job on a daily basis, it would be very difficult for me to prove that I contracted the virus inside the factory. If my colleague tests positive for COVID, I am not informed of the situation and I am not told to quarantine myself. How ironic, I know.
The management and our leaders of Local 140 refuse to inform the employees of the seriousness of the situation inside the factory. It’s just business as usual. It is very evident to me and my colleagues that this extreme abuse and neglect of worker health and safety will not end unless something drastic happens that forces their arm to close. Even then, I’m pretty sure that the upper management of Stellantis won’t shut down and cancel production without a fight.
Over the past year, additional employees have also been forced to temporarily relocate to the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and Mack Detroit Assembly Complex to reduce the impact of absenteeism. Both times the company didn’t provide more than a few days’ notice and clearly didn’t care about our health and well-being as they forced us to expose ourselves to new super environments. COVID spreaders while Dr Anthony Fauci and the CDC were strongly recommending that everyone need to distance themselves socially and limit in-person contact.
During this pandemic, Stellantis has clearly forced many workers to their deathbed and should be held responsible for their negligence. A joke that never gets old inside the factory is that “At Warren Truck we don’t make sense, we make trucks.
In the fall of 2021, the company hired additional employees who were assigned to work the third shift coming in January. During this time, my union brothers and sisters were forced to train new employees, which involved doubling each position, eliminating our ability to social distancing. The only real tool we as human beings have to fight the pandemic and ensure our safety is our ability to distance ourselves from social matters. The company offered no additional incentives during the multi-week training period. I had to work within easy reach of another employee while practicing social distancing.
Local 140 (UAW) has been incredibly silent and has not helped or even attempted to help or advocate for the additional employees. In December 2021, when we were forced to work a mandatory 7-day schedule, our union president, Eric Graham, was on the beach in Jamaica taking pictures and posting them on Facebook. Which is not surprising since there are rumors going around the factory that International UAW intends to promote Eric internationally.
It really makes me sick to my stomach. The only person who has argued on behalf of the extra employee is a seniority employee in our paint shop who has started a petition demanding a reasonable limit on the overtime hours and days that can be scheduled and in advance. The petition also recognizes that anything Stellantis does to its employees may in fact comply with the collective agreement. Ask any union official and he will tell you that the contract is the contract and that no one can do anything to stop this madness.
On page 213 of the Union contract, one would find the MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU) according to the supplemental agreement which has been agreed between UAW international and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. All parties agreed that the MOU would govern the employment of these additional employees. The very first paragraph clearly states that additional employees should not be employed to avoid hiring to fill permanent positions.
This Agreement is purported to be administered by the National Attendance Council (“NAC”) which consists of two (2) members of the International Union and two (2) members of the Company. They are supposed to hold quarterly meetings, during which the SCC would monitor the use of additional employees in each plant. From what I understand from this memorandum, the plant can only have a limited number of additional employees per full-time employee population.
It’s pretty clear that the number of additional employees working at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant far exceeds the allowable amount. (Rumor has it that Stellantis is refusing to turn additional employees into full-time employees due to issues with global supply chains, cannot be confirmed as Local 140 will not provide these numbers to union members.)
You would think that during a pandemic where more workers put their lives at risk, union management and leadership would fight to provide workers with better health coverage and higher wages so they no longer need to struggle. to make ends meet. I never imagined that an employee of McDonald’s or Amazon would be offered better incentives than an employee of the world’s third largest automaker. I implore the leadership of Upper Stellantis, the international union and the local union 140 to come together and do the right thing. I have attached a copy of the memorandum of understanding for your convenience.
The UAW has lost its status as a strong union because of all the corruption internationally and the actions of our local union leaders. This negligent behavior by many employers continued across the country and workers in all different industries said enough was enough and voted in favor of the strike. They stand together as all unions should. Maybe it’s time we auto workers took a page from John Deere’s UAW playbook and formed our own “Rank and Rank” committee.
Currently, UAW workers have a no-strike clause. The only way to get around this clause is to quote and refer to the safety issues inside the factory. Well, if over 500 employees are out of work at Warren Truck due to the lack of health and safety protocols currently implemented inside the factory doesn’t justify a potential strike vote, nothing will. and Stellantis will lead us to the grave.
Thank you for listening to my rant. I have to go to sleep now because I have another 12 hour shift ahead of me.