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Unions seek to pick up speed in Florida

Written by on Friday, October 13, 2023

AFL-CIO organizes picket caravan to Orlando, plans local union summit in Manasota.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Oct. 13, 2023

Host: A nationwide strike is mobilizing tens of thousands of auto workers – including in Florida. Most Floridians probably don’t know this, but there is an auto parts plant in Orlando that is organized by the United Auto Workers, and the 77 unionized employees of the Stellantis plant there have been on strike since Sept. 22. Our news team heard that union members and supporters from Manasota might get into the act.

Johannes Werner: Earlier this week, the West Central Florida Labor Council – the regional chapter of the AFL-CIO – called on supporters in the area, which includes Manatee and Sarasota counties, to join the Orlando picket tomorrow, Saturday Oct. 14. The group is organizing an auto caravan of union members and labor activists from Tampa to Orlando.

AFL-CIO field organizer Alec Wilcosky has the details.

Alec Wilcosky: Union members, union activists, and community supporters are showing solidarity with the auto workers on strike in Orlando. We’re going to meet at 8:15 am at IBEW Local 915 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. They’re located at 5621 Harney Road in Tampa. We’ll be leaving from there at 8:30, arriving in Orlando on the picket line at 10 am. We’ll be waving signs, doing chants, and we’ll be talking and connecting with the workers on strike there until around 1 pm, at which point we’ll return back to Tampa. We plan on having four cars, each with three to five people. So that’s up to 20. We’re expecting 20 people from West Central Florida to head there, and we encourage union members and community supporters to join us. The Stellantis plant is at 10300 Boggy Creek Road in Orlando.

JW: Led by the United Auto Workers union, the striking workers are demanding an end to lower-pay tiers for new workers and limits on the use of temporary workers, a shorter work week, and large pay raises.

Surprising many in the industry, the UAW on Wednesday expanded the strike to include 8,700 workers at a Ford truck plant in Kentucky. The union made the move after Ford management, according to the UAW, made an offer that was the same as an offer two weeks ago. The Louisville plant is among the most profitable auto plants anywhere.

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said today that the union will not expand its strike against the Big Three automakers at the moment. However, he added that its members would now walk out of additional facilities without warning.

In other local union news, the Manasota chapter of the West Central Florida Labor Council will host an organizing meeting Oct. 26, to plan for a local union summit in January that brings local representatives of a broad range of unions together. There are an estimated 34,000 union members in Manatee and Sarasota, according to Wilcosky.

AW: We’re planning a meeting of all union members in the Manatee County in Sarasota County areas as a way to see our collective strength, regardless of the industry we work in – whether we’re a union teacher, a construction worker, a nurse, an entertainment worker – and from there to help dictate form and a pro working family agenda, whether that be political or whether that be through organizing. It’ll be up to the advocates who show up to that meeting to determine where we go from there. The organizing meeting will be Oct. 26, 6:30 pm at the Asolo Theater Annex in Sarasota. 

JW: This has been Johannes Werner for WSLR News.

WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.