Members of United Auto Workers Local 2164 voted on Tuesday in favor of a strike authorization at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant. Workers voted in favor of the strike for numerous reasons, including a wage increase, safety issues at the plant and the elimination of certain quality control jobs. But local union President, Eldon Renaud, says the auto workers aren’t looking to strike any more than the company is.
“Taking a strike vote doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to strike,” Renaud told Bowling Green Daily News. “When you have strike authorization, you have the right to bargain.”
Renaud said there are about 25 items the union wants addressed throughout strike negotiations. Among them, an increase in pay is near the top. Renaud said the workers aren’t seeking a wage increase for their personal gain, but rather to encourage wage increases everywhere and “boost the economy”.
“We want all the boats to rise, and we can’t do that if only one boat is rising,” Renaud said.
There are about 800 union workers at the Bowling Green plant, 93.1 percent of which voted in favor of the strike. Renaud said representatives from the international union were on their way to the plant to help the local union through negotiations.
The plant also believes the issues can be resolved and a strike can be avoided through negotiations.
“We pride ourselves in working with our UAW Local 2164 partners to achieve success and build award-winning vehicles,” Andrea Hales, communications manager at the plant, said in an emailed statement to BGDN. “We’re confident that we can work together and have a strong track record of creative problem solving. We’ve built a world-class product at the Bowling Green facility for more than 30 years, with the safety of our employees and quality of the car at the forefront of every decision. We are committed to continue that tradition.”
Safety issues at the plant started some time ago, according to Renaud, and apparently crossed over into the production of the Corvette Stingray. He said some of the issues include equipment repairs in dangerous areas, such as “in a pit,” where it may be dimly lit and claustrophobic for workers.
Renaud said the workers are also concerned over the overall quality of the vehicles. The union claims quality may not be as good as it could be because some in management have overridden the work of quality control inspectors. Also, in light of the recent recalls, Renaud noted quality control should be the plant’s top priority.
Several different quality control jobs at the plant have been eliminated, including jobs in ergonomics and communications. Renaud said some workers have also been working for months straight with no days off, though he recognizes that because of the Stingray’s popularity, overtime shifts could go on for as long as five years.