UAW rank-and-file workers have eaten concessions over the past three years with mostly quiet resignation.
Now they are angry.
The flashpoint was the revelation this month that 40 percent of the work force at General Motors Co.'s Orion Township Assembly Plant in Michigan would be paid a Tier 2, entry-level wage of $14 an hour once the plant reopens and laid-off employees come back to work next year.
That's half the $28 an hour earned by legacy workers, a concession made so that GM can have an opportunity finally to make a profit by building a small car in the United States. In this case, it's the 2012 Chevrolet Aveo subcompact.
So why has Orion hit a nerve that the many other concessions did not?
Because, for the first time in a generation, the concessions call for assembly line workers to take an actual pay cut. And workers are concerned that the Detroit 3 will try to put similar concessions in next year's master UAW contracts.
A friend, a retired UAW International executive, says "Harry Hubcap" will suffer many indignities, but don't mess with the net box on his paycheck.
It's an unwritten rule that the Detroit 3 and UAW have honored, even through the bankruptcies, VEBAs, work rule changes, COLA freezes, Jobs Bank elimination, etc.
The Orion Township contract is different. Only 800 of the 1,200 laid-off workers can return at full pay. The rest will have to transfer or retire by production day to avoid the scalping.
The pay cut is compounded by the fact that UAW workers have not had a raise in five years.
Are they angry? You bet. And they feel betrayed that they ended up with a massive pay cut at Orion Township because of an ambiguous provision in the 2009 UAW-GM concession modifications that called for an "innovative labor agreement" to bring small-car production to America.
They won't get fooled again.