Recently, a couple of team members from the Toyota Motor Manufac-turing plant have written letters and guest columns about the union organizing drive. They wrote how "we" do not need nor want the UAW at TMMK.
I want to know: Who is this "we" they keep talking about? It certainly is not me, nor the other couple of thousand of my coworkers who have signed a union card.
These people do not speak for me. I am solid pro-union all the way, and I feel that unless TMMK goes union soon, we (meaning all TMMK workers) will be the big losers.
Toyota holds itself up to the public as a family-oriented company that is concerned for the health and well-being of its workers and their families. Yet many people who started work at TMMK have been injured and kicked to the curb by this unfeeling, uncaring company. I have personally witnessed several injured people kicked out with little or no help.
I feel that if the company causes you injury, they should find suitable work with like pay. You sacrificed your body for them; it is the least they can do.
I do not like the way injured workers are treated at TMMK. If that were the only thing, it would be enough to form a union. But it's not the only thing.
In my opinion, our retirement is one of the worst in the industry. In order to have enough to retire on, we must contribute to a 401k program. True, Toyota has a company match for it. And they provide a small pension fund. But when you compare benefits with NUMMI (a Toyota joint venture with General Motors), TMMK lags way behind.
NUMMI has a defined benefit pension, which provides for the workers with a specified monthly amount of pension dollars. They also provide a company match for their 401k programs. At TMMK, the pension and 401k is totally dependent upon the stock market. If the market falls, so does our pension and 401k. The market drop after 9/11 was devastating to some of us. I don't know if I can stand another.
Then there is the temporary worker situation. At TMMK, there are hundreds of temporary workers. The only way to get a full-time job at Toyota is to go through a temp service and hope. There are "temporary" workers who have been there for more than five years. These workers make a lot less for doing the same job, with no benefits.
I want to know: Would you want your son, daughter or spouse to work just as hard for much less money and no benefits? Not me. If TMMK needs temps for that much time, they need to hire full-timers.
TMMK says the temps provide job security for us full-timers by allowing for a flexible work force. In other words, if they make a business decision to not have temps show up for work, they just call the agency and say, "Don't send us anyone."
To me, that seems like a layoff. Think about it: You have a job at TMMK, been working there for a couple of years, albeit "temporarily," then suddenly, no job. It doesn't matter what you call it, it's a layoff. So this company that has "never had a layoff" lays people off.
On top of all this, the wage base at TMMK is eroding due to the number of temps. This could lead to fewer services to the community due to a lower tax base.
Next, there is a vice-president of human resources telling the Lexington Herald-Leader last year that Toyota is absorbing all increases in health care for its workers. Yet a few short weeks later, our cost for insurance and co-payments were raised. I am sure he will say the standard TMMK spokesperson response: "I was misquoted …"
The truth is, the UAW did not come after TMMK. We, the workers of TMMK, asked the UAW to come help us organize. The UAW doesn't just come around and start saying, "We are going to organize you." We, a large number of TMMK workers, made a business decision to invite the UAW to help us organize.
This is not the UAW causing discord among the workers. This is us, the concerned workers of TMMK, trying to make it a better place to work for everyone.
I wear my union shirt proudly. It has made me a target of criticism by management. My name has been put in a category with Charles Manson and Jimmy Hoffa.
People at TMMK have been told by management to stay away from me because I am a troublemaker. I am just trying to bring us together, to unite with my fellow coworkers.
We, the union supporters, are not a "third party" as some would have you believe. We are simply workers who made a business decision, just as TMMK makes business decisions every day.
Leonard Habermehl, a TMMK team member, is a resident of Frankfort.