The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Dodge Truck cafeteria workers win contract

Oct 8, 2001

After one month on strike, UFCW Local 1064 workers got their first contract on October 3. They work for Crank’s Catering, which runs the cafeterias at Chrysler’s Dodge Truck plant in Warren, Michigan.

The strike started when Jeff Crank, the owner, fired his negotiator who had agreed on a tentative contract. Then Crank himself refused to sign.

The biggest issue for the strikers was simply, “Equal pay for equal work.”

Now, Jeff Crank has signed that contract.

Right from the start, the strikers asked Dodge Truck workers to boycott the cafeterias in support.

Workers responded. They boycotted the cafeteria and the vending machines owned by Crank’s. They brought their lunches from home or called for take-out. Strikers leafleted with phone numbers of area businesses offering take-out and delivery.

Crank’s had a history of getting a lot of catering contracts in UAW buildings and offices. A strikers’ leaflet stated: “It’s amazing that so many unions would use this caterer. No employer should be allowed to get away with treating anyone this way.”

While the leadership of UAW Local 140 at the plant took a neutral stance during the strike, ordinary truck workers showed that the true power of unions is when the different rank and file can pull together to defend their common interests.

By being brave enough to risk everything in a strike, the cafeteria workers gained a lot. Their new contract specifies equal pay for equal work. It has healthcare for all eligible employees. It provides more uniforms, and holiday pay.

But they gained other things equally important. Confidence in themselves, first of all. They learned how to depend on themselves and each other. And, they discovered that workers’ unity goes beyond a single company or single union.

The unity developed between cafeteria and truck workers strengthens them both, for whatever their bosses try next.