Kentucky Toyota-Workers Air Grievances

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (AP) - Current and former workers at Toyota's Kentucky plant shared stories Sunday about low wages and poor working conditions - rallying points many in the assembly line are hoping will ultimately lead to unionization.

A crowd of about 200 people - many of them workers at the Georgetown plant that produces the Camry - attended the meeting of the Kentucky Workers' Rights Board, a panel of religious and civic leaders pushing for better labor conditions.

Like foreign-owned auto companies across the South, Toyota is nonunion, but the leaders on the board sympathize with the workers and many contend that should change.

"We are people of community, and part of our community has said to us that things are not exactly the way they need to be in the work situation at Toyota," said Father John Rausch, coordinator of peace and justice at the Catholic Diocese in Lexington. "We are not trying to tear Toyota down. We are trying to make it better and have a better partner in community."

Two current employees and two fired ones described what they said were extraordinary steps taken by the company to prevent union organization.

A major focus of the hearing, which lasted nearly two hours, was the company's use of temporary workers, who some of the employees said were doing the same amount of work as the full-timers for half the pay.

"They're trying to get a job there," said Cornelia James, who has worked at Toyota for 19 years. "Full-time employment is dangled in front of them like a carrot, and they're told, any missteps and you're out."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
AP-NY-06-10-07 1656EDT

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