Thursday, October 11, 2007

I-75 exits near Chrysler HQ to reopen soon

Catherine Jun / The Detroit News

Auburn Hills police confirmed that they plan to reopen blockaded the north- and southbound expressway ramps to Chrysler Drive -- the exits nearest Chrysler LLC's headquarters compound.

Police said at one point this afternoon as many as 800 striking UAW members congregated at the main entrance to the automaker's facility, prompting the shutdown at Exit 78 of Interstate 75.

However, as numerous striking workers head home and others take up their assigned picket duties, police are preparing to reopen the expressway ramps.

At about 2 p.m., in a chilly wind under overcast skies, about 100 workers continued to picket the main entrance from Chrysler Drive, shouting "No contract, no work!"

Bundled up against the crisp fall weather, Bill Rostek, 49, of Harper Woods, said he feared that unlike the GM strike this one could last for weeks.

"Cerberus is here to play hardball," said Rostek, a stock handler for Chrysler's Viper SRT group that works about half a mile a way. "They are talking about getting rid of us."

He believes that Chrysler is in a better financial situation than GM was and that excess inventory could carry the automaker through a prolonged strike.

Deanna Rhineheart of Farmington Hills said she tried not to think about any financial difficulties she'd face in an extended strike. "I can't worry about anything I don't have control over," said the mother of two, who works in shipping and receiving at Chrysler. "But I'm going to stand up for my rights as a UAW member."

Earlier, dozens of pickets marched across access roads to parking areas and other parts of the Chrysler compound.

Marchers brandished signs reading "UAW on Strike" and hollered at foreign cars attempting to enter.

"No Hondas!" screamed one picket, and the group compelled the driver to turn around and drive away from the property.

Syed Rahman, 60, of Commerce Township, said he walked out of his office at 11 a.m. in of a show of support for striking workers.

"Everybody wants job security," said the engineer. "Everybody's at risk."

City police officers have been stationed at each entrance as a precaution.

Officer Scott McGraw said his instructions were to "keep people out of the road, make sure people can get in an out, and make sure nobody gets hit or hurt." McGraw said he was told that officers would be manning the Chrysler property until the strike ends.

Chrysler says 9,646 employees work at the Auburn Hills facility, including 2,931 represented by the UAW.

The United Auto Workers called a strike against numerous of the automaker's plants at 11 a.m. today when bargaining over a labor contract with Chrysler failed to make adequate progress. Workers throughout Metro Detroit are picketing Chrysler factories.

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