Faurecia Workers Say Union Leader's Early Transfer is 'Chilling'
Some UAW workers at Saline's Faurecia plant say it's no coincidence that their union leader was transferred days after a picket.
The former president of United Auto Workers Local 892 in Saline said his early transfer from the Faurecia plant was meant to stifle the voices of workers upset about certain practices at auto components plant.
Mark Caruso was scheduled to transfer to the Michigan Assembly Plant Ford plant Aug. 13. The transfer was pushed up three weeks, coming days after Caruso and the UAW held an informational picket in front of Faurecia.
“Officially, they say it is due to operational needs,” Caruso said. “But I was told the company wasn’t happy with last week’s informational picket.”
Last week, in 102-degree weather, union members marched in front of the plant to bring attention to several workplace issues, including mandatory overtime, being forced to wear white shirts on the job, lack of ice in break rooms and inability to have beverages on the line.
Faurecia took control of operations June 1 after buying the Automotive Components Holdings business from Ford Motor Company.
Several Faurecia workers contacted Saline Patch to complain that Caruso was being transferred early to stifle dissent. Caruso, who began training at his new job this week, said he can see why workers are concerned.
“I think this sends the message that if workers speak out, the company will retaliate,” Caruso said.
A Faurecia spokesperson declined to comment on the transfer, saying the matter was between the UAW and Ford.
New UAW Local 892 President Malana Hubbard said she understands why workers might feel that they’re being silenced but said Caruso’s departure is not reason for alarm.
“Mark was scheduled to leave in three weeks anyway,” Hubbard said.
One employee, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, however, said the timing of Caruso’s transfer was “chilling.”
“This sends a chilling effect to us regular workers. If they can do that to the (union president), what can they do to us?” the worker asked. “All we did was try and have a peaceful rally and inform people of the change in working conditions. Now there will be a culture of fear.”
Faurecia employees have also said employees involved in the picket were disciplined for participating in last week’s picket.
A Faurecia spokesperson addressed the allegation.
“While we recognize employees' right to picket, we also expect them to respect their work schedules,” said Stacie Tong, director of communications for Faurecia North America.
Caruso said last week that UAW members picketed on their own time.
Tong said there are challenges with the changes in ownership and corporate culture.
“While some of the policies and procedures may be different from those of the past, we are confident that our implementation of the Faurecia Excellence System and a number of facility upgrades will generate a more welcoming environment for all of Faurecia’s associates at the plant and contribute to continuous improvement in safety, quality and delivery,” Tong said.
Hubbard said she was unaware of any discipline as a result of Thursday’s picket.
Caruso, like many higher paid employees at what used to be a Ford plant, transferred out to preserve his Ford Motor Company wage. Top tier Ford workers make $28 an hour. New hires at Ford wiil be starting at an hourly wage of $19, by the end of the new contract. Faurecia assembly employees start at an hourly wage of $11 and max out at $15.50 after 36 months, according to the contract the union ratified earlier this year.
The 2,000-strong workforce at the Saline plant is expected to be halved as the transition continues over the next four years.