In February of 1995, I took my place among Detroit’s many autoworkers. It was like a rite of passage. My Father and Uncles put in 30+ years at Chevrolet Gear and Axle, now American Axle had taken over but the work was still the same. It was time for me, my brother, and cousins to make up the next generation of autoworkers.
We worked hard and played harder. A new extended family took form as we bonded with our fellow co-workers. We spent more time with our UAW family than our own. Fifty hour work-weeks and overtime on the weekends. Work became our households. Home became an occasional getaway. We didn’t mind, the checks were nice and we bought whatever we wanted or needed. Commerce in Detroit was at an all time high. Taking trips during the 2 week shutdown in July was common place.
On February 25, 2012, American Axle closed all operations on 1840 Holbrook in Detroit, MI. Everybody who hasn’t already taken buy-outs will
lose their jobs. American Axle however, will live on. American Axle was born on Holbrook. It grew from the hard work of its employees. Now, it has become big enough to branch out in Brazil, Mexico, and Europe. These facilities will now take over what we started on Holbrook. The only difference is the employees will be paid much less with no benefits. American Axle never operated in the red at anytime on Holbrook. Not once did American Axle fail to turn a profit each year they operated on Holbrook and I-75. Corporate greed won out over American jobs and the city of Detroit is left to pay the price.
However, my former co-workers and I reaped a long-term benefit…Each other.
Some of us knew each other before having stepped foot in the building. Our parents were co-workers for 30+ years at the same location under Chevrolet Gear and Axle. We played together as children and picked up where we left off once we punched the clock. Some took it further and got married. Many found their future spouses among the grease and steel. The lunch breaks, the parties, and occasional arguments provided many fond memories etched in our minds. Catching up with my old AAM family will never be boring. Some I talk to regularly and reunite with often. Whenever the news of someone’s passing reaches our ears, we all grieve as if we lost a cousin. We were all angry at the way American Axle treated us. However we go into the future proud of the work we done. The men and women I worked with side by side turned American Axle into 32 plants worldwide and a billion dollar business. This Labor Day, I raise my glass to them. They deserve it more than anybody! Holla if you hear me!
– K Greene