Former GM employee shares dark experiences

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mruaw
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Former GM employee shares dark experiences

Post by mruaw » Mon Jan 28, 2019 12:52 pm

For the first time in his life, 59-year-old Darren Fish is struggling to support himself and his family.
The longtime General Motors employee was let go from his position at the auto manufacture’s Spring Hill Plant on March 27, 2018. He was let go from the international car manufacturer after more than 39 years of working for the company in facilities from New Jersey to Texas and struggling with health issues he says were caused by working at the plant.
Now, months after losing his job, the ongoing battle has taken a toll.
“I am in a hole,” Fish told The Daily Herald. “I have never had to pawn anything before.”
The longtime worker is struggling to make rent. In recent days he was handed an eviction notice. Before the start of the new year, his black Chevrolet Suburban was towed away from his Spring Hill condominium after missing a car payment.
Fish says he has used up all his savings to stay in Spring Hill and oppose the termination while simultaneously taking care of his family in North Carolina.
It was the prospect of living closer to his loved ones that originally brought the longtime GM employee to Tennessee.
“I am in a situation where I have no more resources for anything,” Fish said. “I am going through emotional stress right now. I know I am a strong man, but this is seeping in. My family is taking it hard and I am a family man.”
Fish says his termination at the plant is the result of the facility’s inability to cope with his heath issues — a compressed spine — and claims there is a systemic prejudice toward aging employees at the plant.
“Detroit needs to get down here and see what is going on,” he said. “How can you destroy a man who has put in 20-plus years? This is a wrongful termination.”
Fish, a native of New Jersey, moved to the Spring Hill plant in December of 2016, after working in Texas, Georgia and his home state.
The former autoworker first began feeling pain in his back while working at the Georgia plant in the mid 2000s, installing jack plates on GM minivans. His bosses at the plant then sent him to a doctor who diagnosed him with spinal cord compression, which has since hindered his ability to walk, bend over and lift heavy objects.
He then moved to a plant in Texas in January of 2007 and underwent surgery. After the procedure, he took on multiple jobs and then found a position that did not hinder his health.
At the Spring Hill plant, employees rotate positions, many Fish says he could not take on in his condition.
“Every job they put me on, I was trying,” Fish said. “I was trying hard and they kept calling it. They knew the job they were putting me on were things that I was not supposed to be doing.”
He says that despite being aware of his condition, and having previous recommendations from physicians on file, those at the plant still required him do tasks on the assembly line that doctors recommended he not do.
After being discharged from the plant, Fish says he was offered a last chance deal to surrender his grievances and return to a position he previously held at the Texas plant.
The former employee says he declined the offer with the intention of making a change in the way the local plant operates and works with its employees.
“I would like for General Motors to investigate this and other wrongful activities at the plant,” Fish explained. “I think it is wrong how this plant has treated me and others,” he said.
The former GM employee says he has filed complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission along with grievances at the local chapter of United Auto Workers Union which are being reviewed in Detroit.
Local UAW Chairman Mike Herron said the union could not comment on the case as it remains under deliberation.
GM has also declined to comment on the matter.
Fish says he plans to file a lawsuit against GM after recently learning the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission upheld his case.
The autoworker with more than 30 years of experience with the company says he is not the only one who has had similar experiences with the plant.
Diamond Harris, a 15-year employee of GM who transferred into the Spring Hill plant in late 2017, stands by his former co-worker.
“I have worked five different facilities and Tennessee, by far, is one of the most interesting places I have worked.”
Harris, a second generation GM employee from Michigan, says he has witnessed and personally experienced acts of racism at the plant and has watched aging employees systematically removed from their positions.
“It is just a really sad situation,” Harris said. “They are targeting people. That is literally what is happening. There are people here who are frustrated.”
He says those workers from out-of-state appear to be targeted most, after expansion at the plant in 2017 and 2018 gave job priorities to Tennessee workers with leadership positions going to younger local workers.
Harris says he was fired from the plant after receiving a single write up after weeks of requesting a transfer to the night shift to take care of his newborn son and three other children during the day.
After a year of fighting the dismissal with a complaint and union grievances, he was again working in the plant with a last chance offer from GM.
Harris says the ongoing issues have inhibited the plant’s productivity in the time he has worked at the site.
“I don’t have a problem talking about General Motors if it can help General Motors,” Harris said. “I have worked at a lot of facilities and maybe this will help them see what is going on.”

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