Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
GE Adds Jobs, Faces Protestors: General Electric said Tuesday it is adding 300 jobs in Van Buren Township, Mich., at an advanced engineering center that it announced in 2009. That’s on top of 850 jobs for which the company is still hiring. But GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt faced protests at a meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers in Detroit. Members of the 99% Spring movement are planning to protest Immelt’s pay and other issues at GE’s annual shareholders meeting, which will be held in Detroit on Wednesday. Read our coverage of the 99% Spring here.
Nobel Laureates In Chicago: Former presidents, activists and actors are in Chicago for a three day meeting of the world’s Nobel Laureates. It’s one of the high-profile efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to stake Chicago’s claim as a world-class city. On Monday, students in a Chicago classroom got a visit from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, one of many visits paid by the laureates to Chicago schools.
Obama Campaign Blankets Ohio: The president was just at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio last week, talking about job retraining. Now, Barack Obama’s campaign plans to blanket the state in coming weeks, with the auto bailout as a main topic. Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, says the number of auto workers in Ohio has increased from 105,000 to 120,000 since the administration rescued General Motors and Chrysler. However, Ohio’s biggest automotive employer is Honda, which has announced a series of new investments in the state.
Changing Gears Live Tomorrow: Make sure to mark your calendars tomorrow for a Changing Gears live call-in show and chat. It’s at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT. Read more here.
Earlier this year, we told you about The 99% Spring, the protest movement sponsored by a variety of political and labor groups including MoveOn.org, the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters Union.
It’s part of a fresh wave of protests that are taking place across the country, in the wake of the Occupy movement.
The 99% Spring Protest Movement Gets Organized
Starting next week, 99% Spring events will be kicking off across the United States, and especially in the Midwest.
Supporters are vowing to train 100,000 people to “to tell the story of what happened to our economy, learn the history of non-violent direct action, and use that knowledge to take action on our own campaigns to win change.”
Over the weekend, the UAW sent an email to its members, encouraging them to take part. “We are at a crucial point in America where if we continue to ignore the opportunity to rebuild this great country, then we risk losing the very essence of what has made this country great,” the email said. Continue reading →
Earlier this month, Indiana became the latest state to go right-to-work. That means unions can’t force non-members to pay dues. It was a different story seventy-five years ago. The United Auto Workers was in its infancy, with little power. Then, workers at a Fisher body plant in Flint sat down on the job. After 44 days, the UAW became the official bargaining agent for auto factory workers. Many credit the protest with ushering in an era of strong unions and a better standard of living for workers.
Union workers celebrate the anniversary this week at their annual White Shirt Day. MLive reports 500 people attended the event at Flint’s UAW Local 651 Friday. UAW President Bob King used the occasion to call for new protests and action from his members. Faced with a possible spread of right-to-work legislation to states like Ohio, and what he sees as right-wing Republicans attacking workers’ rights, King said the union will soon train its members to take part in nonviolent, but possibly illegal demonstrations across the nation, according to the Detroit News. No word on whether those protests will involve sitting down on the job, like their forbearers in the 1930s.
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Lansing-area Local 602 could authorize strike. Members of UAW Local 602 are voting today and tomorrow on whether to authorize a strike. The union, which represents approximately 3,430 employees at the General Motors assembly plant in Delta Township, Michigan, has failed to reach an agreement on a local contract with plant management. According to the Lansing State Journal, a strike authorization gives union leaders the authority to call a strike, but does not necessarily mean one is imminent. Changing Gears profiled Local 602, one of the three locals that defeated the GM-UAW contract, in September.
2. Illinois lawmakers regroup. Lawmakers will give a second effort to keeping CME Group and Sears in Illinois. After rejecting two bills that would have provided the Chicago-based companies with $250 million in tax incentives last week, they announced the House would hold a special session Monday in hopes of trying again. House members have now raised the prospect of splitting the bill into several pieces of legislation and holding multiple votes, our partner station WBEZ reported. The two companies have threatened to relocate elsewhere in the Midwest if a deal isn’t done by the end of the year. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Ohio offered Sears $400 million in incentives to relocate to Columbus.
3. Milwaukee capitalizes on workspace-sharing trend. A Milwaukee developer is bringing a West Coast trend of small businesses sharing office space to the Midwest. Soon, William Waldren will open the Hudson Business Lounge, where 180 small-business owners have already signed up to share work space, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “There’s definitely been a pickup in people wanting to do this,” said James Carlson, who runs Bucketworks, another Milwaukee-based shared workspace building. Hudson offers various levels, starting at $55 per month for part-time access to group work tables to a $795 per month package that includes private office space. Across the U.S., 450 to 500 co-working sites exist, according to the newspaper, but most cater to tech people. Walden wants to broaden the appeal to other businesses.
UAW President Bob King has followed through on his vow to win a raise for entry level auto workers. Details of the new contract between the union and General Motors, released today, show some of them will be earning nearly $20 an hour by the end of the contract.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a story that includes both the summary sheet of the contract, and the actual contract language.
Workers begin voting on the new four-year contract this weekend. The union will now negotiate deals with Ford and Chrysler. Continue reading →