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UAW President: “Use Auto Profits to Address Inequality and the Climate Crisis”

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 10, 2023

In a September op-ed, UAW President Shawn Fain and Congressman Ro Khanna say record auto profits should be used to address inequality and the climate crisis. 

“The climate crisis and income inequality are the two greatest challenges facing our generation. Both are being determined in the union contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers Union and Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis.”

The electric vehicle transition, they write, “must be as much about workers’ rights as it is about fighting the climate crisis. Forcing workers to decide between good jobs and green jobs is a false choice. We can and must achieve both – and it can start with a fair contract for UAW autoworkers.”

The electric vehicle future must be union made. “We can have both economic and climate justice – and that starts by ensuring that the electric vehicle industry is entirely unionized and that EV jobs come with union standards.”

We will not let corporate greed manipulate the transition to a green economy into a roll back of economic justice. That money must be invested in high-road, green American manufacturing jobs that create broad-based prosperity for working class communities. 

“We’re mobilizing for a new model that puts working people, climate justice and human rights before profit.” 

Exposing Efforts to Divide Climate and Labor Advocates

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 6, 2023

A recent article in In These Times by journalist Sarah Lazare says, “Mainstream media coverage of the UAW strike has implied that workers’ demands stand in conflict with achieving climate goals. That’s BS.”

In HUGE CAPITULATION to the UAW, GM Commits to Fold Battery Plants into the Master Agreement

United Auto Workers on Strike

By Zachary Guerra - Industrial Worker, October 9, 2023

The UAW is conducting a coordinated strike against the big three.

DETROIT, MI — It’s September 15. I’m stuck in traffic on my way to the UAW rally. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rashida Talib, UAW President Shawn Fain and others will be speaking. There are state police on the road, more than usual. I’m stuck in traffic for 15 minutes–then stuck downtown for another thirty. I miss half of the speakers.

Workers at 3 UAW plants are on strike for a 36 percent four-year pay raise, cost-of-living adjustments, a 32-hour week with 40-hour pay, an end to the tier system, returning their defined-benefit pensions for new hires, and pension increases for workers who have retired. Many of their demands were benefits they previously received before being clawed back by the company and union officials in their 2007 union contract, allegedly due to the recession. The workers are on strike at the GM Plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio. (Stellantis owns Jeep and Chrysler). Their demands track with other strikes occurring around the county, especially for cost-of-living adjustments. It seems that their strategy will be a staggered strike. UAW president Shawn Fain warns that “many more factories may follow.” In total 146,000 workers have walked off the job, and they are feeling fired up.

The UAW is holding the rally outside of the UAW-Ford National Program Center, just under the people mover, Detroit’s raised rail that goes to a few places downtown. It rumbles above, a backdrop to the fiery speeches being delivered.

Many of the workers are afraid of plant closures. As our manufacturing capacity shifts to renewables, many are afraid that without proper retraining programs, these workers will be out of a job. As for the electric manufacturers that do exist, these factories are nonunion, low-wage jobs. 

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.

Sierra Club Statement on Major UAW Progress with General Motors

By Larisa Manescu - Common Dreams, October 6, 2023

WASHINGTON - Today, the United Auto Workers announced progress in their contract negotiations with one of the “Big Three” Automakers – General Motors – stating that the automaker has agreed to include battery production workers in the UAW contract, one of the key demands of the union.

Over 25,000 UAW workers have been on strike since the UAW contract expired on September 16. The Sierra Club, alongside many in the environment movement, has been echoing the demand of auto workers to ensure that the clean energy transition is a just transition.

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous released the following statement:

“Today we celebrate alongside the United Auto Workers this major advancement in building a more just transition to a clean energy future. Tomorrow, we will participate in a Day of Action to keep the pressure up on the ‘Big Three’ automakers to deliver on all of the union’s demands. Ensuring battery production workers are represented in the UAW contract is critical to ensuring America’s transition to electric vehicles puts workers front and center. We are glad to see GM begin to deliver on a just transition, marking a significant momentum in negotiations. Now all eyes are on Ford and Stellantis to listen to their workers. It’s clear that the public pressure is working – onward!”

A clean energy just transition for autoworkers

By Jonathan Lee - Climate Solutions, October 6, 2023

Autoworker strike underscores the need for a just transition

In addition to race, the clean energy transition is playing a central role, albeit unspoken, in the ongoing UAW strike against the “Big Three” automakers. While focusing especially on CEO-to-worker pay, the strike is not just about wages and benefits but also about the auto industry's future. As climate policies and investments help move the market and consumers’ desires shift toward electric-powered transportation, technology is changing, and workers need support in that transition. They are demanding that manufacturers commit to a just transition for workers. Given how EV production has already affected some auto industry jobs, workers want manufacturers to bring more development work in-house and commit to long-term competitiveness against non-union EV manufacturers, including union contracts covering future factories. 

While many industry executives have claimed that it comes down to either paying workers more or meeting the moment of producing more electric vehicles, unions have countered the misperception that such a trade-off is inevitable. “The UAW supports and is ready for the transition to a clean auto industry,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a prepared statement. “But the EV transition must be a just transition that ensures auto workers have a place in the new economy.”

'Unbreakable Solidarity Is Working': UAW Wins Protections for GM Battery Plant Workers

By Julia Conley - Common Dreams, October 6, 2023

Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, "Eat the Rich" in his latest online broadcast Friday afternoon, United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain told the union's 145,000 members that brand-new progress made in contract negotiations with the Big Three automakers made one thing clear: "We are winning."

Fain addressed the union as thousands of its members concluded the third week of a "stand-up" strike, in which autoworkers have been gradually called to join the work stoppage to build pressure on the companies—Ford, General Motors (GM), and Stellantis—to provide a fair contract commensurate with their record-breaking profits and including a just transition to renewable energy.

Just minutes before Fain was planning to announce that workers at GM's assembly plant in Arlington, Texas were being called on to join the strike, the automaker told UAW negotiators it would include workers at its electric vehicle factories to be covered under the union's national agreement.

Auto Workers Spare Big 3, Win Landmark Just Transition at General Motors

By Luis Feliz Leon - Labor Notes, October 6, 2023

On Facebook Live Friday afternoon, Auto Workers President Shawn Fain symbolically awarded roses to automakers General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford based on progress at the negotiating table, a reference to the reality show “The Bachelor.” The only thing missing was teary-eyed CEOs breathing a sigh of relief as the UAW agreed not to widen its strike to more factories for now.

The UAW was poised to tap 5,000 members at GM’s assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, as part of its latest stand-up strike escalation. These workers would have joined 25,000 already on strike at five assembly plants and 38 parts distribution centers nationwide.

But in the eleventh hour, GM agreed to put battery manufacturing facilities for electric vehicles into its national union contract.

“We were about to shut down GM’s largest money maker, in Arlington Texas,” said Fain on Facebook Live. “Today, under threat of a major financial hit, they leapfrogged the pack in terms of a just transition. And here’s the punchline: Our strike is working. But we’re not there yet.”

The companies have argued that the union can’t legally negotiate over EV battery plants, but apparently the threat of a widening strike changed GM’s horizons.

GM’s Arlington plant is considered by some analysts to be the most profitable manufacturing facility in the world, which is why the union chose it as a target.

The significance of GM’s concession is even greater when you consider that the Arlington plant plans to reduce production of SUVs at the facility in favor of all-electric alternatives.

Just Transition for Auto Workers: The Answer to Auto’s Race to the Bottom

By Jeremey Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 6, 2023

Organized labor and the climate movement, often portrayed as opponents, have made an auspicious start toward cooperation in the autoworkers strike. The UAW, eschewing Trumpian blandishments to attack the transition to electrical vehicles (EVs), have instead endorsed the transition to climate-safe cars and trucks. One hundred climate organizations, rejecting the blandishments of auto industry allies that low wages in the non-union South will make EVs cheaper and therefore help fight global warming, have instead signed a letter of solidarity with UAW workers and are organizing to support union picket lines.[1] The purpose of this Commentary is to explain the context of this convergence and to indicate the elements of a “just transition” for the auto industry that can provide a joint program for the labor and climate movements.


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