Below is a copy of a viewpoint that was in the Lansing State Journal from Alejandro Albarez, a member of the recently organized Kirchhoff Van-Rob facility. The facility won their election for UAW representation on 8/25 and will be members of UAW Local 724:
Last month, I did something with my co-workers that changes the relationship we have with our employer for the better. We decided to join together to have a voice on the job, voting 60-to-43 at the Kirchhoff Group/Van-Rob plant in Lansing, to join the UAW.
Our facility makes welded metal assemblies for the Camaro, which is assembled just up the road at General Motors’ Lansing Grand River plant. When I started at Van-Rob in March 2016, I felt good about starting a new job in the auto industry. After all, jobs in the automotive industry have long been a path for workers like me to build a better life for themselves, one that allows us to balance work and family.
And I was ready to work hard. I know how to work hard – before I started at Van-Rob, I worked in the concrete industry. But for co-workers and I, the work at Van-Rob simply never let up. As the auto industry sets records for the number of vehicles built, my co-workers and I were required, month after month, to work seven days a week. There was simply no end in sight.
Sure, we made a lot in overtime pay with all that extra work, but we had no time to be with our families. How can you when you are at work every single day? I have a wife, Karla, and two small children, ages seven and three. I don’t see them as much as I’d like. I’m missing out on family time and experiences like taking family vacations together. No amount of money can make up for that.
Many of my co-workers feel the same way. We decided to do something about it.
It wasn’t easy. In the two months from when we first reached out to the UAW to the day of the election, management tried hard to divide us and discourage us from joining together. But we took care of each other and made that vote work for all of us.
I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I see now what workers can do when we stick together. I hope that workers at Van-Rob’s other nonunion facilities in Ohio, Tennessee and Texas see what we have been able to accomplish and take the first step at their plants, too.
Now, we begin the next phase – forming a bargaining committee and negotiating our first contract. At my last job, people started at the bottom and worked their way up. You earned your stripes and didn’t cut ahead in line because you were friends with the boss. Why? Because we had a contract.
We know that we probably won’t win every change that we want at Van-Rob. But we also know that the first time we sit down with management across that negotiating table, my co-workers and I will finally be treated as equals.
This is a new path for us, and we’re enthusiastically looking forward to practicing our right as workers to form a union and then negotiate with management. It’s up to Van-Rob workers to make fairness a reality as we take an active role in our futures, in our union. With our vote, we took our first step toward that goal. Now I can say I am a proud union member. Solidarity.