Photo: Members of UAW Local 12 getting ready to strike. Credit: @UAW
Thirteen thousand members of the United Autoworkers at three major facilities have courageously gone out on strike. Each of the facilities is owned by one of the “Big 3” major automakers – GM, Ford and Stellantis. This constitutes the first time the UAW has gone on strike simultaneously against all the major companies. This move comes as the Big 3 missed the midnight deadline to agree to a fair contract with the union. The Party for Socialism and Liberation is committed to mobilizing support for these brave workers who are taking a stand against corporate greed and exploitation.
This is a fight years in the making. During the Great Recession, the major auto companies teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. The corporate giants were bailed out by the government using taxpayer dollars, but autoworkers ended up having to accept huge roll backs in pay, benefits and working conditions. This included the creation of the hated “two-tier” pay scale that results in workers who perform the same job making vastly different amounts of money, intentionally eroding solidarity and setting the stage for a race to the bottom. Ending two-tier is a core demand of the strike. The workers are also demanding a long-overdue pay raise, including the reinstitution of an automatic cost of living adjustment — essential under the current conditions of high inflation. Protection from layoffs and plant closures is another key issue.
The Big 3 and their friends in the corporate media are outrageously trying to portray the autoworkers as greedy and unreasonable. This turns reality upside down. The auto companies are the ones that are raking in record profits, totaling $21 billion in the first half of this year alone. And corporate executives certainly haven’t been stingy about their own pay. For instance, the CEO of Ford, Jim Farley, made $21 million last year and Mary Barra at GM made $29 million.
The future shape of the entire industry could very well be determined by this strike. A main issue is the transition to electric vehicle production. The world needs to move to EVs and take many other steps to avoid the worst of climate catastrophe. But the Big 3 want to use this as an excuse to fire huge numbers of workers, because less labor is needed to produce an EV than a fossil fuel car. But instead of destroying jobs, people could simply work shorter hours with no loss of pay, and this new technology could improve working families’ lives rather than destroy them. The UAW is showing the way for millions of workers threatened by automation by demanding a four-day work week.
The UAW has made the decision to strike at a relatively small number of strategically-chosen facilities that produce certain critical, essential parts. The rationale for this approach, which will see fewer workers strike, is that it allows the union to have an outsized effect without rapidly depleting its strike fund, which helps members make ends meet in the absence of their regular paycheck.
PSL members spent the weeks leading up to the strike showing support for autoworkers in their areas and building community support. The PSL also dispatched a media team to Kokomo, Indiana, to highlight the injustices faced by autoworkers and their determination to fight back. They told us about the extreme, grueling work schedules they are subjected to. Union members explained how plant closings have uprooted countless lives. Executive pay has skyrocketed while workers are left behind.
This is the story not only of UAW autoworkers, but so many millions of working people across the country. These conditions will never change without a fight. This is a fundamental truth also understood by UPS workers, actors and writers, nurses, hotel workers, academic workers and so many others who have taken a stand in recent months. Now UAW members are taking center stage in the ongoing upsurge of labor against Corporate America.
By going on strike, the autoworkers are sending a clear signal that the working class all across the country is sick and tired of being kicked around by the millionaires and billionaires — and refuses to take it any longer.