HAMTRAMCK, Mich. (WXYZ) — Will Norona is a longtime United Auto Workers member who currently works for General Motors at their Hamtramck Factory Zero.
He also worked for the company four years ago when he and his coworkers went on strike for roughly two months. Now, he’s preparing to do it again — this time alongside UAW members working for Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis.
“Definitely a lot of emotions. I've been through this before, unfortunately,” Norona said.
Norona has a shirt from last strike with names signed in marker by fellow union members who stood with him on the picket lines. The times were tough, but the message then remains the same.
“It's about equality,” Norona said. “We’re not asking for a million dollars or a 30-dollar pay bump or a 20-dollar pay bump… They (Big 3) have just made incredible money and it’s great but also, share that.”
At that time, Norona says strike pay was just $250 a week. Ahead of this potential strike, the UAW has $825 million in it’s strike fund, enough to pay 150,000 UAW members $500 a week for 11 weeks.
“Living on $500 a week is just two words: not fair,” Norona said. “For us to just go on the street and live off $500 a week, that’s really tough.”
Members must apply for the strike benefits and participate in strike assignments such as picketing. Norona already picked up his picket sign that says “Saving the American Dream.”
“A lot of our people in ‘07, ‘08 took a lot of concessions. Our COLA was gone, our pension was gone,” Norona said. “A lot of our people have been displaced, a lot of our retirees were never made whole — the time is now.”
As he prepares for more tough days, weeks or even months ahead, Norona says he’s ready to stand with his fellow union members. While maybe painful short term, he’s fighting for a better future in the years to come.
“Me and my brothers and sisters, we want to build. We’re there to do the job,” Norona said. “We’re not greedy, we’re not lazy. There's profit-sharing but there's profit-sharing across the board for GM and their managers and their leadership, and they get a lot more than we do.”
In most cases, workers on strike are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Members who find other work during the strike won't get strike pay if making more than $500 a week. Strike benefits do cover health care, but do not cover vision, hearing, dental, sick or accident benefits.