Missouri Toyota Plant Workers Initiate Campaign to Join UAW

The plant, which makes cylinder heads for every Toyota engine made in North America, is unsafe, employees say.

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Workers at a critical Toyota plant in Troy, MO, have launched a public campaign to join the UAW after more than 30% signed union authorization cards. It is the first Toyota plant and the fourth non-union plant nationwide where workers have gone public with their campaign to win their union.

In a new video, “We Keep Toyota Running,” workers at the plant -- which makes the cylinder heads for every Toyota engine made in North America -- describe the toll of the work on their bodies.

Dawn Ellis, a worker featured in the video, tore her rotator cuff on the job, a common injury at the plant. She had surgery on a Friday and, in a common practice at the plant, was ordered to report to work the following Monday. In a separate injury, Ellis suffered a fractured skull and has struggled with migraine headaches ever since.

“The plant is not safe,” said Jaye Hochuli, a team leader at the plant. “They had me crawl under a deck to clean out the sand and silica dust and chemicals that come out of the machines. It was a confined space. I should’ve been in a respirator and a hazmat suit. All they gave me was a KN-95 mask. I came home and that dust was in my hair, on my clothes, in my underwear. How can the richest car company in the world not follow basic safety practices? We’re organizing to fix what’s wrong and win the protection we need.”

Wages at the plant are far below the rate that UAW members make in equivalent Big Three facilities. Even after Toyota increased pay in response to last year’s record UAW contracts -- the “UAW Bump” -- production workers in Troy make over $4 an hour less than their UAW counterparts.

“Seeing the new contracts with the Big Three, that’s when I realized we needed a union,” said Charles Lashley, a team member in support. “It was incredible that UAW members could bargain for those benefits and that pay. I don’t see why we should be paid differently. Toyota makes more money than all the Big Three. So, there’s no reason why we should be so far behind. The company can’t run without us. We should get paid like it. We can by organizing our union.”

“When I was hired two and a half years ago, I came in with 24 people. I’m the last one left,” said Jessica Clay, a team member in die changes. “The overtime we worked was too much. Overtime now isn’t the problem it was, but there’s still no sick time. We still have to use PTO [paid time off] during shutdowns. I came from Ford; I came from UAW. The union was a better fit for your life. In our union, we have more control. We have a better life.”

“The company has a slogan they like to use: One Toyota,” said Jarred Wehde, a production team member. “We’ve got the Toyota sign out front, just like they do in Kentucky and Indiana. But our pay is nowhere near what theirs is. We know what the company makes. We know they can afford to pay us. By organizing our union, we can win our fair share.”

The announcement marks the latest major breakthrough in the national movement of non-union autoworkers organizing to join the UAW in the wake of the historic Stand Up Strike victory at the Big Three auto companies. More than 10,000 non-union autoworkers have signed union cards in recent months, with public campaigns launched at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, TN, Mercedes-Benz in Vance, AL, and Hyundai in Montgomery, AL, while workers at more than two dozen other facilities continue to organize.

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