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'We are behind them 100%': Claycomo diner talks personal impact of potential UAW strike

Nelle Belle's Diner talks potential strike impact
Posted at 10:15 AM, Sep 19, 2023

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Tuesday marks day five of the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike.

While workers in the Kansas City area have not been called to strike yet, workers and communities are preparing.

Only three locations nationwide — the General Motors site in Wentzville, Missouri, a Stellantis center in Toledo, Ohio, and a Ford assembly location in Wayne, Michigan, have officially gone on strike against the "Big Three." The UAW is calling it a "Stand-Up Strike".

The Ford plant in Claycomo and GM assembly in Fairfaxhave not officially gone on strike but are waiting to be called to.

Nelle Belle’s Diner in Claycomo is just a half mile up the road from the Ford plant.

“Besides the small community we serve, we really do rely a lot on the Ford business,” Amy Jefferies, a waitress there, said. “So we are behind them 100%.”

Jefferies has been a waitress there for about 30 years. She said Ford employees are regulars at the diner.

“Claycomo depends so much on the business of our Ford plant,” Jefferies said. “But of course, these guys put in a lot, they sacrifice their minds and bodies to build our vehicles.”

Jefferies herself has a personal connection to the Ford plant. Her son and daughter-in-law both work there. Plenty of other relatives have, too.

“Pretty much everyone in this room and our employees have family or friends who work at the plant. It is a personal thing,” she said. “I think that is a Kansas City thing, with all the assembly plants, that it goes generation to generation.”

She said she can see the load these employees are carrying in the face of a potential strike.

“You can hear the tension in their voices, and as far as the impact here, it would be devastating,” she said.

UAW stickers and Ford decals alike line the diner walls, representing the community’s support for not just reaching a deal, but the futures of both.

Nelle Belle's diner walls
Ford decals and UAW stickers cover the walls of Nelle Belle's diner.

“If they aren’t paid fair, if they don’t get the things they need, it establishes something throughout the economy in this area,” Jefferies said. “It will have a definite impact on everyone.”

Nelle Belle’s has supported Ford employees for decades. During the pandemic, they changed their hours, so they’d accommodate the changing schedules of Ford employees. They’ve also got a special ‘Ford sandwich’ they make when asked.

“One person gets something on the line and people see it, so it tends to start something. So, we have a Ford sandwich, which is like a buffet on a bun. It’s got eggs, sausage, bacon, hashbrowns, two kinds of cheese, all just piled up on this monstrous thing. It’s great,” Jefferies said.

The UAW is expecting to meet with Ford Wednesday as new negotiation deadline approaches Friday.

And as for Nelle Belle’s, they’ll keep serving any and every Ford employee that walks through their doors.