“It’s time for us to get our fair share,” said David Vogelsang, a local leader of the United Auto Workers, as he and about 50 of his fellow striking workers picketed Friday in front of a Chrysler parts distribution center on East 38th Avenue in Denver.
Vogelsang, who’s been with Chrysler for 25 years, says the workers at the Chrysler facility, which stocks and ships parts manufactured by UAW workers in Michigan to Chrysler dealerships in seven states, are on the picket line 24 hours a day and will remain there as long as it takes to secure a contract that gives UAW workers better wages and working conditions.
“I, along with the rest of the workers here, have invested years of our lives into this company,” said Matthew Tomlin, another worker on the picket line and a UAW leader in Denver. “And this company has benefited from all the time we’ve committed to it. And it’s really clear that our compensation hasn’t been commensurate with that. But it’s not simply about the money. It’s about respect. The standard should be that the worker grows with the company — not gets left behind. We want a fair slice of the pie.”
The “Big Three” automakers (Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler) say that they can’t compete with their nonunion competitors (e.g., Honda, Toyota) if they meet the UAW’s demands, including lower-tier wages and benefits for new hires. They say they need funds now to invest heavily in the design, development, and production of electric vehicles.
Research by the Economic Policy Institute reveals that profits at the “Big Three” have climbed by 92% over the past decade, while wages for non-supervisory workers declined.
Nationally, he UAW leadership has spotlighted the 40% pay increase given to CEOs at the three auto companies over the past four years and has asked for an identical raise for workers. The auto company CEOs make 300 times what workers earn.
A steady stream of cars honked in response to a sign along Peoria, which read, “Honk That Horn.” During this reporter’s hour-long visit to the picket line, no passers-by — in cars or on foot — made hostile comments.
The Chrysler workers on strike since Friday have been joined on the picket line in front of the Chrysler Mopar Parts Distribution Center by citizens and workers from other unions, including the local AFL-CIO, I.B.E.W., CWA, and others, according to Vogelsang, adding that anyone is welcome anytime. The parent company of Chrysler is Stellantis.
The Chrysler distribution center is one of two locations in Colorado where UAW workers are striking. The other is Denver’s General Motors Parts Distribution Center on Smith Road. Workers at another parts distribution center in Colorado are also on strike.
Marchers’ chants included, “Hey big three, you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side,” “Get up. Get down. Denver is a union town,” and “Contract now!”
“They gotta be running out of parts to put on the shelves,” said Vogelsang, of the distribution center where he works. Two or three managers are left working at the facility, he said.
President Joe Biden stopped by a picket line in Detrot last week, telling striking workers they “deserve the significant raise you need” and to “stick with it.” The strike began in Detroit Sept. 15.