About 4000 people demanding jobs lined the sidewalk outside GM’s Grand River Assembly Plant yesterday. Carrying signs saying WILL WORK FOR HEALTH INSURANCE, GIVE THE UNEMPLOYED A CHANCE, and I DON’T NEED NO $28 AN HOUR, they claimed to be members of Workers for a Free Labor Market, a recently-formed group of unemployed, part time and minimum wage workers.
Picketer Larry Vickers said the group believes they should be allowed to compete for the unskilled, high-paying manufacturing jobs now being restricted to union workers. Vickers, who said he was laid off from a job installing carpets a year and a half ago, said he’d be happy with half the $28 an hour UAW assemblers get, and GM could use the savings to reduce car prices, or pay back the $50 billion bailout they got from the federal government.
Shirley Eugeste, carrying a sign that said WE ARE ALL FULLY QUALIFIED, said she’d prefer working in a nice, clean factory at minimum wage to scraping the cheese off her shoes each night after she gets out of her job at Taco Bell.
GM spokeswoman Amanda Zapata said the Corporation’s hands were tied, as a provision of the bailout agreement requires GM to pay UAW workers at least three times the market wage. She said she wished the picketers would just become invisible again, because they were making her sad.
UAW president Ron Gettlefinger said he sympathized with the picketers. He suggested they and the other 684,000 unemployed in Michigan form a union so if they ever get a job, they’ll be all ready to demand middle class-type wages. “In the meantime,” he said, “they should be able to get Food Stamps.”
Charles Ballard, an economics professor at Michigan State University, said “You know, whole bunches of people don’t have jobs, just like those picketers. I think it’s because of the recession, which I think was caused by the financial collapse. Wow, we never saw that one coming. Sometime economists just don’t know what causes these recessions, but we think it’s the business cycle. Things get good, then they get bad, then they get good, and so on. We are quite sure about this.”