This vote, achieved in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, is a huge victory over the notoriously anti-labor and anti-worker Roger Penske. The 80-year-old billionaire’s Penske Corporation boasts “revenues in excess of $26 billion, operating in more than 3,300 locations and employing over 50,000 people.” (Penske.com)
Penske has a history of resisting unions. Nevertheless, many successful organizing drives have been held at Penske facilities around the country by the UAW, the Machinists and the Teamsters. In 2015, two dozen customer service representatives in New Jersey had to “overcome a full-blown anti-union campaign carried out by the company’s labor relations department” to win representation by the Machinists union. (njaflcio.org)
The 200 warehouse workers, who now have a voice at work, have been subjected to a ruthless disciplinary process. Workers complain about preferential treatment: Essentially anyone who doesn’t cozy up to the boss ends up in the street. Frequent firings under a hated point system have led to a high turnover rate. Under work rules that are arbitrarily applied and changed without notice, a worker can be given points for any number of infractions, such as refusing to work overtime with as little as 15 minutes notice. Seven points result in automatic discharge.
Now that the facility is organized, workers will be able to challenge these oppressive conditions. While they were voting, dozens of UAW supporters gathered outside the facility at shift change to back them up. The UAW has been organizing warehouse and auto parts workers around Metro Detroit. Local 1248 currently represents Fiat Chrysler Automobiles workers at FCA warehouses in southeast Michigan.