Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA students visit picket line to support United Auto Workers strike

CW / Ethan Henry
Strikers hold signs on the picket line across from ZF Chassis Systems in Tuscaloosa.

Sheila Smith has been a production worker at ZF Chassis Systems in Tuscaloosa for 18 years, but she can’t afford the cars built from the parts she makes for a living. 

On Monday, UA College Democrats made a trip out to the picket line to support Smith and her fellow members of United Auto Workers Local 2083 in Tuscaloosa, which went on strike Sept. 20 after initial negotiations for a new contract failed to reach an agreement. 

“I mean, I’m looking for better benefits and better wages,” Smith said. 

The students joined the workers, who were carrying signs and chanting slogans such as “better wages, better benefits” across the street from the plant. 

“We just think it’s really important to support labor organizing,” said Paige Edwards, a senior majoring in economics and the vice president of UACD, said. “You know, they’re not getting paid very much and they’re giving their lives for this job.” 

Several contracts were proposed during the initial negotiations, the last of which would increase hourly wages for Tier 1 employees those hired prior to Aug. 23, 2009 by $0.50 each year through 2026, including a raise in Sept. 2023. Tier 1 employees would receive a $0.70 increase in August 2027.  

Under this contract, other employees would receive incremental raises totaling an additional $4.20 an hour by the end of Aug. 2027. 

However, the proposed contract also contained increases in medical plan payments, which would cut into the pay increases. 

“They upped our responsibility on our health insurance, also,” Kenneth McKay, one of the strike captains and a production worker at the plant, said. “So my brothers and sisters that have a family plan, after the increase in our amount we have to pay, their $0.50 cent raise is $0.04.” 

This strike is not directly related to the ongoing national UAW strike. 

ZF Chassis Systems provided an email statement regarding the bargaining process. 

“ZF has remained ready and willing to meet with the union representing our employees at ZF Chassis Systems Tuscaloosa, LLC,” Tony Sapienza, the head of communications for ZF North America, wrote in an email statement. “We have [been] bargaining in good faith and will continue to do so.” 

Braden Vick, a junior majoring in political science and the communications director for UACD, said that the decision to support the workers was a “pretty simple choice.” 

This may not be the only trip UACD makes to the picket line, according to Edwards. 

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we should support workers because we’ll all be workers one day,” Edwards said. “So, it’s in their best interest. It’s in our best interest.” 

Ronnie Mills, the president of Local 2083, said the striking workers have received support from members of the United Mine Workers.  

According to Mills, the union plans to continue the strike until it reaches an agreement. 

“We won’t stop, and we ain’t quitting,” Smith said. “We’re not quitting. We can go on, we can go on.” 

More to Discover