Left: Delphi headquarters in Troy, MI
(Toledo, OH) An unauthorized auto worker protest will take place outside the North American International Auto Show in Detroit tomorrow from 12:00 to 4:00 PM. The protesters hope to highlight the plight of Delphi workers, who face massive wage and benefit cuts as a result of corporate restructuring.
A local source with whom I spoke believes that the turnout "will be in the thousands," and that this may be the largest show of force by discontented union members in recent memory. There will be quite a few Local 12 and Local 14 UAW members making the trip from Toledo.
I plan to cover Sunday's event; depending on the significance, my coverage will be anything from blog posts to an article in a national periodical (historymike is working the phone and email at the moment to get national media outlets to bite). There is the potential for conflict between protesters and attendees who choose to cross the picket line in front of the Cobo Covention Center.
Many people view the Delphi situation as a pivotal moment for American labor, and believe that the future of organized labor hangs in the balance. If, the theory goes, auto workers give in to Delphi's demands, a precedent will be set for every other UAW contract. In addition, management at Delphi hopes that the restructuring will terminate corporate pension obligations, leaving its aging workforce with an empty sack upon retirement.
It is not inconceivable that GM and Ford may also follow Delphi's lead and choose the route of bankruptcy in order to improve their respective profitability. December sales were disappointing for the three major domestic automakers, with GM reporting a 10% drop in vehicle sales; sales of Ford vehicles fell 9%, and DaimlerChrysler posting a decline of 5%.
As someone who grew up in the Motor City in a blue collar neighborhood, I was raised in an environment in which the UAW was revered by most of the rank and file workers. The hard-won labor gains of the 1930s, in my opinion, are at risk, and tomorrow's protest may be a real shift in direction by an American labor movement that has suffered significant losses in a protracted battle that extends back several decades.
Thanks to jr of ToledoTalk for the heads-up on the protest.