In 2007, during the UAW’s six-hour strike against Chrysler, I went to interview workers on the picket lines outside one of the company’s plants.
One man turned the tables and started interrogating me. He demanded to know what kind of car I drive, and when I told him a Mini Cooper, he began yelling at other workers to come harass the reporter who owned a non-union car.
A short time later, the same man came up to me and apologized. “I’m sorry, this is my first strike and I got a little worked up,” he told me. “I thought I was supposed to give you a hard time.”
For the rest of that round of contract talks, I drove my wife’s (union-made) Pontiac Vibe, if only to avoid any more confrontations that could make it harder to do my job.
I was reminded of this when looking at some employment numbers for the Detroit 3 this morning, after negotiators at the bargaining table extended the previous contracts past last night’s expiration and shifted the talks into overtime.
Here’s what I noticed: 28 percent of hourly workers at Ford Motor Co. -- 15,029 out of 52,871 -- were hired after Oct. 19, 2011, the date the previous deal was ratified. In other words, nearly three out of every 10 workers currently waiting for either a new deal or an order to go out on strike have never been through a round of UAW talks before.
The percentage is even higher at Fiat Chrysler, though the UAW gives out less detailed data than it does for Ford. Almost 45 percent of FCA’s 37,000 hourly workers are earning Tier 2 wages, with virtually all of those hired in 2010 or later. So figure about 13,000 people there who are new to the negotiation process, plus probably 8,000 at General Motors.