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Record Profits, Paltry Contracts Fire Up Chicago-Area Autoworkers to Strike

By Maia McDonald - In These Times, September 25, 2023

BOLINGBROOK, ILL. — Mary Greene, a second-generation General Motors worker who’s been at GM’s Chicago Parts Distribution Center since 2013, jumps up to cheer and dance with her ​“UAW — On Strike” sign as cars and freight trucks drive by. Greene tries to say, ​“Thank you!” or lift her hand in acknowledgment to every passing supporter who raises  fist or honks in solidarity.

This Sunday, on a winding stretch of Remington Blvd. opposite  quiet pond surrounded by factories and warehouses, a handful of members of United Auto Workers Local 2114 picketed. Workers at the Bolingbrook warehouse have been on strike since Friday after being among the more than 5,000 United Auto Workers members at 38 parts distribution centers tapped by UAW President Shawn Fain to walk off the job in the union’s fight for a new contract with better pay, increased retiree benefits and other demands.

The UAW’s ​“stand-up strike” strategy involves union leaders selecting small numbers of local unions to strike at a time, as opposed to calling for a nationwide strike as they work toward a new contract with ​“The Big Three” auto manufacturers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.

Greene,  parts technician who also walked out alongside her coworkers in 2019 during the nationwide General Motors strike, when 46,000 GM autoworkers struck for over a month, says that this time around, she’s hoping for a better, quicker outcome.

Ford and GM Agree to End At Least One Tier, Stellantis Still Holding Out

By Jane Slaughter - Labor Notes, September 25, 2023

The Auto Workers announced encouraging progress in their negotiations with Ford and General Motors September 22, including an end to one of the many concessionary tiers in the union’s contract.

In 2015 workers at Chrysler (now Stellantis) voted down a tentative agreement 2 to 1 because it continued an onerous two-tier wage system—and even introduced new tiers. UAW President Dennis Williams (later jailed for corruption) was pissed. At a meeting of local officials called to present that deal, Williams spluttered, “Ending two-tier is bullshit.”

The UAW still has other tiers to address, but it looks like Williams was wrong. Both Ford and GM have agreed to put workers at certain parts plants back on the same wage scale as assembly plant workers.

The UAW rewarded Ford for the bargaining progress by extending its strike at GM and Stellantis but not at Ford. It’s the first time in recent history the union has played the three rivals against each other with its strike strategy; in the past it bargained at one company, usually without a strike or with just a brief one, and then extended that “pattern” to the other two.

Scabs Deployed at GM Parts Distribution Centers

By Luis Feliz Leon - Labor Notes, September 25, 2023

Auto workers at the Big 3 expanded their strike last Friday to a key vulnerability: parts distribution centers that supply dealerships with everything from water pumps to brake drums and spark plugs to replacement bumpers.

On Tuesday morning, General Motors began bringing in temps hired for $14 an hour to attempt to keep some of the parts and accessories flowing.

Parts distribution centers ship after-sales spare parts and accessories to car dealerships on a just-in-time basis. “If there is anything that could possibly break down that you need to get replaced, it probably came from a Customer Care and Aftersales (CCA) facility,” said strike captain Devon McKenzie on the picket line outside a GM parts facility in Burton, Michigan.

Five strikers were hit by a car leaving a GM parts center in Swartz Creek, Michigan, on Tuesday afternoon. Two were treated at the scene, local news reported, and three were taken to the hospital for treatment. Strikers said they believed the driver was a scab, but a General Motors spokesperson said the driver was a housekeeping worker who regularly cleans the facility and is employed by an outside agency.

Autoworkers—And All of Us—Deserve a Much Shorter Workweek

By Alex Han - In These Times, September 25, 2023

May 1886. As part of a national movement to win an eight-hour workday, workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago are on strike. Police attack, killing at least one person and injuring multiple others. The next day, labor leaders organize a peaceful mass rally at Haymarket Square. A bomb goes off and police indiscriminately shoot protesters.

The confrontation became an international rallying cry for labor advocates, but it would be 54 more years before the 40-hour workweek became enshrined by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. A year later, the rapidly growing United Auto Workers brought to heel the Ford Motor Company— perhaps the most anti-union of the Big Three automakers at the time— by securing workers’ first collective bargaining agreement with the company. 

The growth of the industrial economy, along with a militant and newly organized working class, would force meaningful concessions from capital. But the eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek would require a global crisis — in this case, capital’s need for labor peace during World War II — to become a reality. 

We now have the great opportunity of existing not in the midst of a single global crisis, but a ​“polycrisis.”

HUGE Progress Made at Ford, They Get Spared From STRIKE EXPANSION by UAW at GM and Stellantis

UAW members strike in suburban Philadelphia

By John Leslie - Workers Voice, September 24, 2023

On Sept. 11, members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 644 at Dometic in Montgomery County, Pa., went on strike to demand fair wages and benefits. In negotiations, the company offered a 10.1% wage increase over the life of a three-year contract, with workers’ health-care costs increasing by 5% over the same period. This is not enough to keep pace with inflation. At the outset of the strike, Jim Hutchinson, the president of Local 644, said, “We have a decent portion of this workforce that, quite frankly, is below the living wage.”

In a video shared on Twitter, Dave Richards, a 22-year veteran of the Dometic plant, said that with “food, gas, and everything going up … our wages are nowhere near what we need to survive and have a good living.” Dometic, which manufactures appliances and accessories for boats and recreational vehicles, made $4 billion in profits last year while their workers struggle to make ends meet.

On Friday, Sept. 22, a rally called by the UAW gathered more than 100 strikers and supporters to demand a fair contract now. The rally included local politicians, UAW officials, striking UAW members from New Jersey, and representatives of other unions like the regional AFL-CIO and the Teamsters. Members of SAG-AFTRA, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Teamsters were visible in the crowd.

During the rally, one UAW member spoke, saying, “There is no more middle ground. We are no longer asking for our right to the American Dream, we are demanding that dream, and if you don’t give it to us, we’re coming to fucking take it.”

While the strike at Dometic is not part of the larger Big Three auto strike, this is a crucial fight for all workers. As the wealthiest segment of society has reaped billions in profits, the workers who create that wealth have fallen further behind. Many of these workers were deemed “essential” during the pandemic and worked long hours while putting their health and the health of their families at risk. Dometic workers deserve a fair contract, not one that leaves them behind.

The UAW Strike with Jane Slaughter

Striking UAW Workers CELEBRATE Announcement of Expanded Strike

GOP, Corporate Media Attempt to Manufacture Conflict Between Autoworkers and Climate

Auto Workers Strike Spreads to 38 Parts Depots

By Luis Feliz Leon and Lisa Xu - Labor Notes, September 22, 2023

The clock has ticked and tocked for two of the Big 3 automakers. At noon 5,000 more members of the Auto Workers (UAW) at 38 parts distribution centers for Stellantis and General Motors walked off the job. The facilities are spread across 20 states.

They join 13,000 workers at assembly plants in Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri who have been out for a week—for a total of 18,000 Big 3 auto workers on picket lines nationwide. (See a map of all struck facilities here.)

The escalation adds a new type of facility to the mix. Parts distribution centers (PDCs) supply after-sales spare parts and accessories to dealerships, a very profitable part of the companies’ business.

Most facilities have between 50 and 150 workers, but some are much larger. According to GM, the Davison Road Processing Center in Burton, Michigan, has more than 1,200 employees and processes 9.9 million pieces per month, filling orders for domestic and international customers. GM has invested $168.5 million in the million-square-foot facility.

Why strike the parts distribution centers? “There are several reasons,” Fain told Labor Notes. “One of our issues is ending tiers. They’re a big example of that. Their wages were capped at $25 some years back, during the greatest times in the history of these companies, and that’s gotta change.


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