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Big 3 Buckled as Stand-Up Strike Spread

By Dan DiMaggio - Labor Notes, October 31, 2023

All three dominoes fell in a few days.

The Auto Workers (UAW) now have agreements with each of the Big 3 automakers. The new contracts are a sharp about-face from decades of concessions.

The tentative agreements go further than many thought possible on issues that the companies insisted were off the table. Stellantis agreed to reopen its idled Belvidere assembly plant. GM and Stellantis will include new battery plant workers in their master agreements.

While the contracts don’t abolish benefit tiers, they get rid of the many wage tiers the Big 3 had created to drive down pay. Some workers will see their pay more than double as a result.

The gains are a testament to the UAW’s bold, aggressive strategy under its new leadership, which ramped up the strikes, at first slowly and then faster until the companies caved one by one. It was a master class in worker power.

On Monday, the UAW announced it had reached a tentative agreement with General Motors, the last holdout. Workers at GM’s Spring Hill, Tennessee, Cadillac factory had joined the strike Saturday night.

The union announced tentative agreements with Ford and Stellantis last week. The agreements came after UAW members struck at each company’s most profitable truck plant, the latest escalation in the union’s six-week Stand-Up Strike.

The 146,000 UAW members at all three automakers will vote on the contracts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, 50,000 strikers are headed back to work.

Auto Union Moves Forward

By Chris Townsend - Marxist-Leninism Today, October 30, 2023

Any knowledgeable observer of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) over the past 50 years would have inevitably been forced to note that over recent decades the union’s membership had been dramatically slashed by hostile employers and politicians, that both union activity levels and influence had declined massively, and in many quarters the auto union had been transformed into a particularly virulent company union.

So addled and company-captured was the UAW top leadership that by 2014 a series of federal government criminal investigations and prosecutions grew, expanded, and eventually led to the removal of more than 30 national UAW leaders. The resulting U.S. government-ordered union election which produced Shawn Fain as new President of the UAW in March of this year was an earthquake both inside and outside the union.

Auto union old guarders and employers alike both feared the election of Fain. But by the narrowest margins Fain was elected to the top spot, and in just several months the union is already well into an expanding process of renewal. It is still early, and only time will tell, but the current strike struggle is clearly solid evidence of the new leadership’s intention to restore the union to a serious trade union path.

GM Makes Key Concession To Striking UAW Members

By Steve Hanley - Clean Technica, October 8, 2023

The strike by the UAW against General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis is three weeks old. Until now, little progress has been made toward a resolution, and the union has been relentlessly ratcheting up the pressure on the companies in order to get them to agree to its demands. Shawn Fain, the head of the UAW, doesn’t look like he could win a cage-fighting match with anyone under the age of 70, but his tactics are beginning to bear fruit for the 145,000 United Auto Workers members.

At the very heart of the labor dispute is a fear by union members that the transition to electric cars will greatly reduce the number of workers needed to build the cars and trucks of the future. An engine and transmission have up to 10,000 parts whirring around inside. An electric vehicle drivetrain has a dozen or less.

It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that machines that are less complex might need fewer people to put them together. That may be a flawed analysis, however. Most of those engines and transmissions are put together by robots.

The days of people with torque wrenches assembling engines by hand are long gone — although boutique manufacturers like Porsche and McLaren still use such tried and true methods for their premium automobiles. So the fears the workers have about fewer jobs in the future as the EV revolution moves forward may be overblown.

US autoworkers may wage a historic strike against Detroit’s 3 biggest automakers; with wages at EV battery plants a key roadblock to agreement

By Marick Masters - The Conversation, August 7, 2023

The United Auto Workers union, which represents nearly 150,000 employees of companies that manufacture U.S.-made vehicles, has been engaged since July 2023 in the labor negotiations it undergoes every four years with the three main unionized automakers.

By late August, it still wasn’t clear that the UAW would agree to a new contract with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis – the automaker that manufactures Chrysler and 13 other vehicle brands – by their impending deadline. The contracts expire at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14.

The union’s leaders skipped the traditional handshake ceremonies it usually holds with these automakers, which are often called the Big Three or Detroit Three. The union instead held grassroots photo-ops: UAW leaders greeted rank-and-file members at one Ford, one GM and one Stellantis factory. On Aug. 25, the UAW announced that 97% of its members had authorized a strike “if the Big Three refuse to reach a fair deal.” It’s a major milestone.

I’m a labor scholar who has studied the history of UAW collective bargaining with the Detroit Three. Given that the UAW is making major demands at a time of rising union assertiveness and ambition, I believe it’s reasonable to wonder whether U.S. automakers will be the next industry to face a strike.

In 2023, there have been strikes by screenwriters, actors, health care workers and hotel staff, as well as vigorous organizing by workers for warehouse and delivery services at Amazon, UPS and FedEx.

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