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UAW revs up historic strike; Rally in Rancho Cucamonga

By Héctor Rivera - Tempest, October 17, 2023

As the UAW strike against the big three automakers entered week four, the labor upsurge shows no signs of slowing down. On Monday, October 9 the strike expanded to the Volvo-owned Mack Trucks after 73 percent of workers voted to reject a tentative agreement and brought out 4,000 workers on strike. On Wednesday, October 11, the UAW announced a strike at Ford’s biggest plant globally, bringing out 8,700 union members in Kentucky. At the end of week the UAW organized rallies in several key sites across the country including in Chicago and outside of Los Angeles in Rancho Cucamonga.

The rallies were bolstered by news from Shawn Fain that General Motors (GM) had agreed to bring battery production for electric vehicles under the UAW’s national master agreement with the company. Fain announced this shift as a victory and a sign that the strike is bringing results at the bargaining table since GM had previously refused to move EV production under the UAW contract. Given this concession the union did not strike at GM’s assembly plant in Arlington, Texas. Thus far, the strike has expanded to six assembly plants of the Big Three and 38 parts depots operated by GM and Stellantis.

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UAW’s Electric Vehicle Win at GM Is a Huge Step Forward for a Pro-Worker Green Transition

By Dana Cloud - Jacobin, October 12, 2023

Under pressure from the striking United Auto Workers, General Motors agreed last week to include EV battery plants in its master agreement with the union. It’s a huge victory for the UAW — and a crucial step in ensuring the transition to EVs benefits workers.

On October 5, faced with a strike at its most profitable assembly plant, General Motors came to the negotiating table with a remarkable offer. It agreed to include electric battery manufacturing in the GM–United Auto Workers (UAW) master agreement.

With this move, having been the most sluggish of the Big Three automakers in trying to meet UAW demands, GM leapt ahead of Ford and Stellantis. After constructing joint ventures in the crucial sector of the industry just coming online, GM blinked and apparently gave up on its dream of a nonunionized, low-wage workforce.

GM is investing $35 billion to produce a million electric vehicles (EV) by the end of 2025. Approximately $20 million is dedicated to research, the remainder being plowed into building or renovating plants that will manufacture and assemble the next generation of EVs. This not only includes expensive changeovers at its assembly plants, but joint-venture battery production. GM CEO Mary Barra explained:

The heart of the strategy is a battery pack design that GM has engineered over the last five years. Its packs, marketed under the name Ultium, are made up of Lego-like battery modules that can be combined in different sizes and used in any GM vehicle, from a compact car to a full-size pickup. Since the modules all use the same parts, GM believes it will reap great economies of scale that will drive down its costs and give it an advantage over other automakers.

Although behind in rolling out the plans, Barra maintains GM will meet its goal. She predicts that by the middle of 2024 GM will produce four hundred thousand EVs. Given that they have made only fifty-six thousand in the first three quarters of 2023, that’s a tall order.

GM is putting all of its vehicles in the EV bucket. So far it is the only one of the Big Three to be so definitive in moving to all-electric production by 2035, and it has been aggressive in developing a research team and partnering with other corporations to gain even further technical expertise. But to meet those goals GM needs flawless execution.

GM has developed a portfolio of electric vehicles across a broader range than its competitors. Starting with a small SUV selling for around $30,000, the line includes a luxury SUV, pickup trucks, and Hummer SUVs that cost $90,000. Autonomous vehicle production is also part of the plan. By building a US-based supply chain, the company will minimize bottlenecks and maximize the tax credits consumers will be able to receive.

In various interviews, Barra has outlined the GM strategy of a no-holds-barred transition. She believes that the combination of superior technology and control over battery production, with a flexible modular platform that allows for a number of different EVs at different price ranges, will result in GM becoming number one.

She envisions that this will win consumer loyalty — but rarely mentions the actual workforce.

'We're Not Gonna Wait Around Forever': UAW Expands Strike to Ford's Most Profitable Plant

By Jake Johnson - Common Dreams, October 12, 2023

The United Auto Workers launched a surprise strike at Ford's most profitable plant on Wednesday evening, calling on nearly 9,000 members in Kentucky to walk off the job after the company did not come to the bargaining table with a new contract proposal.

Speaking outside of Ford's Dearborn, Michigan headquarters, UAW president Shawn Fain said that "we came here today to get another offer from Ford."

"Unfortunately, this offer was the exact same offer they gave us two weeks ago," said Fain. "They're not taking us serious. We've been very patient working with the company on this. At the end of the day, they have not met expectations, they're not even coming to the table on it. So at this point, we had to take action."

The walkout at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville brings the total number of UAW members on strike at the Big Three U.S. car manufacturers to roughly 33,000. The companies have laid off thousands of non-striking workers since the UAW's walkouts began last month.

Citing an unnamed source inside Ford's Kentucky facility, the Detroit Free Pressreported that "with little warning, thousands of workers left their jobs at 6:30 pm, just minutes after union officials walked through the plant, shut off the line, and told workers to walk out peacefully."

"We're not gonna wait around forever," Fain wrote in a social media post late Wednesday. "If Ford can't get that after four weeks on strike, these 8,700 workers shutting down their biggest plant will help them understand it."

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Auto Workers Escalate: Surprise Strike at Massive Kentucky Ford Truck Plant

By Keith Brower Brown - Labor Notes, October 11, 2023

Every Friday for the past four weeks, Big 3 CEOs have waited fearfully for Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain to announce which plants will strike next.

But without warning on Wednesday afternoon, the union threw a haymaker: within 10 minutes the UAW would be shutting down the vast Kentucky Truck Plant.

This plant, on 500 acres outside Louisville, is one of Ford’s most profitable—cranking out full-size SUVs and the Superduty line of commercial trucks.

“We make almost half of Ford’s U.S. revenue right here,” says James White, who has worked in the plant for a decade.

These 8,700 strikers join the 25,000 already walking the lines at assembly plants and parts distribution centers across the country in the union’s escalating Stand-Up Strike.

Auto Workers Charge Up the Power to Fight for an Electric Future

By Keith Brower Brown - Labor Notes, October 16, 2023

By the time the Stand-Up Strike began in September, White says many of his co-workers were raring to go, feeling like “we’re ready to walk out of here right now.”

Lowball offers from Ford management infuriated them. “Stop giving us one crumb at a time,” White said. “We know you can afford giving us the whole thing. It’s what you owe us. Your 40 percent raise came from us; you can give us a 40 percent raise.”

During the first few weeks of the strike, Kentucky Truck Plant members heeded the union’s call to organize to refuse voluntary overtime.

White, a full-timer who works a second job in security to support his family, says some members have struggled to give up the extra pay. Already, the exploding local housing costs had turned some members homeless, and forced others to live an hour and a half away.

Despite that tough context, White says, members stayed ready to strike. An hour before they got called to walk out, workers at the plant were already feeling primed to go.

“They just want to tip it over for real,” says White. “They want it to be like the Boston Tea Party. They feel like it’d be the final move on the chessboard to make the CEO fold.”


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