Hundreds of workers walked off their jobs at the Lear Corp. seat factory in Hammond, Indiana Saturday morning after negotiations over a new factory contract failed to find a compromise by the 6 a.m. deadline.
The more than 750 members of the United Auto Workers Local 2335 say they’ve been without a contract for more than a month after a contract signed in 2009 expired.
Several workers blame the Michigan-based auto part supplier’s two-tier work system where workers hired in recent years, the second tier, can only make up to $16 per hour, while veteran employees can make almost $20 per hour. Second tier workers also do not get vision insurance.
Last month, union members voted 96 percent to 4 percent to authorize a strike, but continued working in hopes that an agreement would be reached, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.
Union representatives said no workers were in the plant on 165th Street Saturday morning as picketers protested outside.
“We want our two tier to go up to one tier,” said worker Sherry Franciski. “We all want to be equal and continue to work for our families and our children and our husbands and wives.”
On Friday, UAW Local 2335 posted to Facebook that "negotiations took a turn for the worst."
"The Company is pushing and proposing demands on the Union, and not substantiating those demands with the proper information. Your bargaining committee has outstanding information requests to the company that have not been fulfilled yet," the post read. With these outstanding information requests coupled with the company’s outlandish and unrealistic demands, they have put our membership in an unfortunate position...It is not our desire or wish for this to happen, but there comes a time when we need to stand up and take a position; positions that are important to all of us, our families and our futures."
Earlier reports indicated the company has offered workers essentially the same terms as it did in the past, but the union was concerned with rumored layoffs and said the two-tier system allows workers to get paid less for doing the exact same job.
The factory has recently been thriving, producing nearly 70 seats an hour for Ford vehicles and others produced at the nearby Chicago Assembly Plant.
A spokesperson for Lear Corp. could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.