'Give me a week'
So in 2010, when a friend insisted there was no work left in Detroit, Wright, wiry and energetic, applied for a job at Chrysler to prove him wrong.
"Give me a week and I'll be working," Wright told him. "I found their website, applied and had an interview a week later."
On his first day in May 2010, Wright was energized "to see where I fit in. I thought, this is my opportunity to help this company come back."
Before long, though, he came to believe the two-tier system was dividing the factory floor and demoralizing those paid less.
"I'm constantly trying to boost morale," he said. "And that's a difficult and uphill battle."
Chrysler contends it may not have recovered if it hadn't been able to hire new workers at the lower wage. Chrysler said the combined wages and benefits of its UAW workers reached almost $76 an hour in 2007 -- $20 an hour more than Toyota's U.S. workers.
By 2011, Chrysler said its combined wage and benefit costs fell to $49 an hour. Two-tier wages "have been enormously important," said spokeswoman Jodi Tinson. "We've been able to add over 10,000 jobs in the U.S. to support growing demand. Would we have been able to do that under the old contract without tier two? I don't know. It certainly would have been more difficult and much more costly."
Clark had been laid off in 2009 from a good-paying job at a company that transported car parts for Ford. With four children 10 and younger, she was having a hard time making ends meet.
Working part-time in a beauty salon, Clark made "nothing really, but the tips were good."
Clark, 32, received a text from a friend in November 2009, five months after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy. There's a rumor, the text said, that Chrysler is hiring. Clark wasn't buying it.
"I was like, 'They just laid off so many people,'" said Clark, who texted back: "Are you serious?"
She called her mother, who works at Jefferson North. Clark's mom confirmed Chrysler was planning to hire a second shift of workers to build the new Grand Cherokee going into production the following May. To Clark, $14 an hour sounded good.
"It looked a lot better than hairdressing," she said. "A paycheck every week with four children? That's good money."
After she applied online, Clark heard nothing as she struggled through the holidays. To give her kids a Christmas in 2009, she had to seek assistance from a philanthropic agency that "adopted" her family.
In January, she received an e-mail that said: "Congratulations, you are moving to the next step in the hiring process at Chrysler."
Clark, normally quiet, threw up her hands and shouted: "Thank you, Jesus."
On June 1, 2010, Clark entered Jefferson North to work final inspection and check for water leaks on Jeeps rolling off the assembly line. She said she didn't resent working beside others making twice as much.
"That's what I signed up for," she said. "As long as I have a job that can feed my children, that's all that matters to me."