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'We are a force to be reckoned with': UAW workers firm on picket lines for Day 1 of strike

Members of the United Auto Workers in Toledo went on strike against the Big Three after contract negotiations failed to reach a deal before the deadline Thursday.

TOLEDO, Ohio — United Auto Workers stood outside of a Chrysler plant in north Toledo Friday, picketing against the Big Three automakers as day one of the union's strike marched on after contract negotiations failed to reach a deal by the deadline Thursday night.

The picketers walked up and down Hagman Road holding signs saying, "UAW ON STRIKE," chanting pro-union slogans and waving to supporters driving by who returned honks of support.

"We are hardworking people and the Jeep plant is the world's largest manufacturer of the Jeep product," Morris China III, a truck driver and dispatcher, said of the Toledo Assembly Complex, owned by Jeep. "We represent Toledo, Ohio, and we want the world to know that we are a force to be reckoned with. And don't take us lightly because we will stand up for one another and what's right."

The group of UAW members locally known as "The Fleet" created a campsite-like staging area in front of the transport building Friday. There was a tent, BBQ, firewood and more, as well as food and drinks to sustain the strikes for as long as it goes.

"I think it's unfair for the two-tier people and temporary people not getting the same wages we are," said Mike Sniadecki, a mechanic who is near retirement after working 47 years. "They should be all matched, at least close to it."

For Sharon DeTray, a truck driver and dispatcher of over 40 years, Thursday is her first strike. 

"I'm union. I want to stand up for what we deserve," she said. "All these local people are behind us. We have other UAWs that are behind us. The line will not break."

Union members were also picketing at the Jeep Assembly Plant in north Toledo. The UAW is negotiating better benefits for members, including an increase in wages and restoration of pensions for new hires. Union leadership is also negotiating a 32-hour work week but getting paid for 40 hours.

Union members told WTOL 11 they are required to work six days a week for 10 hours each day, with Sundays being optional. Many of them agreed with what union membership is asking for, but some had a different opinion.

"They want to have us work 32-hour workweeks but get paid for 40," Brandon Hasselbart, a Jeep employee, said. "That doesn't make sense, I don't know why we're arguing for that."

Hasselbart doesn't think Stellantis will on that ask, but others want UAW to continue fighting for this benefit. Hasselbart said he would be willing to work 50 hours a week with weekends off.

Mondragon said 32-hour work weeks would be ideal for him and his family.

"I like to see my kids and my wife," he said. "I like to be able to have time to relax and do stuff out of work."

Dejuan Battle agrees with Mondragon, saying he feels overworked and that a 32-hour workweek would allow a more flexible schedule.

"Now it's up to us, our discretion, if you want to have overtime or not. Don't make overtime mandatory," Battle said.

He said temporary workers have it worse than him, though. Part of what UAW is asking from the Big Three is more limits on temporary workers.

"There are still temps that don't get the same benefits as full-time (workers) and that's unfair," Battle said. "These guys work hard as us, if not harder."

Hasselbart is a temporary worker and said it isn't fair that he is treated differently than full-time workers.

"I do the same exact job at the same exact quality every single day," he said. "I don't understand the difference in pay. Stellantis has plenty of money to go around. I don't understand why they are being so stingy with it."

He said his wage is currently capped at around $19 an hour. That's $12-15 dollars less than his co-workers, according to him. He also said he gets fewer benefits, such as no health care coverage.

"That's why I'm ready to just walk out, at this point, if nothing changes," Hasselbart said.

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