(Toledo, OH) Several dozen UAW members held a protest outside the Toledo Jeep assembly facility this morning to protest corporate actions that have resulted in a net decrease in employment.
The protest was timed to coincide with the arrival of DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche, better known as "Dr. Z," who is in town to celebrate the rollout of the new Dodge Nitro.
George Windau, a body shop millwright, said that laid-off skilled trades workers have been passed up during the rollout.
"The company is using outside contractors to do work that, under contract, should be performed by union tradesmen," he said. "Dieter Zetsche's appearance is a slap in the face to unemployed and under-employed Jeep workers."
Bill Pearsall, a machine repairman at Jeep, took issue with the overall job cuts at the facility since hundreds of millions of dollars in tax abatements were given to DaimlerChrysler.
"There were once 3500 Jeep employees here who built the Cherokee," he said, shaking his head. "Now, with all the outsourcing to the supplier park, it looks like there will be only 350 Jeep workers to do the same work."
My calls and emails to Daimler Chrylser have not been returned.
Many union employees have been hard hit by the outsourcing, said electrician Cal Buckmaster.
"Some of these folks have been without paychecks for a long time," he said. "Meanwhile, we have people from the old Jeep Parkway plant who are competing for work here."
Absent from the protest was UAW Local 12 president Dan Henneman, although he roared past the group in his pickup truck at a high rate of speed.
"There goes our fearless leader," quipped Buckmaster.
Most of the passersby were supportive, honking horns and waving. One Jeep production worker, however, expressed irritation at the group for the unauthorized protest.
Windau said that any new Nitro vehicles that Dr. Z views today will be "created for show."
"We have major problems with the robotic assembly units, and there still hasn't been a Nitro that was built entirely by the line," he said, adding that the rollout vehicles have largely been built by hand. "Instead of laying off Jeep workers, maybe they should fire the robots."