UAW workers at Local 816 in Roanoke, Texas join the strike (Photo: Dawn Le via Twitter)
“We’re not gonna wait around forever for a fair contract at the Big Three,” said United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain in an update today on the ongoing strike of auto workers against the “Big Three” largest automakers in the country. As of noon Eastern Time, 5,000 more workers walked off the job at 38 parts distribution centers spanning the nation and joined the 13,000 workers already on the picket line. The rest of the 146,000 total “Big Three” auto workers organized by the UAW are instructed to be on standby in case they are called out on strike, a strategy the UAW is employing as part of their “Stand Up Strike” model.
This latest escalation targets all of the parts distribution centers (PDCs) at Big Three corporations Stellantis and General Motors. PDCs are highly profitable for the Big Three. Ford, the other Big Three car company, has agreed to five of the central UAW demands. As a result, the union has decided to play the companies off of each other and ramp up the pressure against Stellantis and GM.
“We will shut down parts distribution until those companies come to their senses, and come to the table with a serious offer,” said Fain.
Fain described how Stellantis and General Motors are refusing to acquiesce to worker demands around eliminating tiers in the workplace. “At Stellantis and GM, under the current MOPAR and CCA structures, workers at parts distribution centers are permanently stuck on a lower wage scale. For workers hired after 2015, top pay maxes out at just $25 an hour. And it takes eight years to get there. GM has offered to bring those workers into an assembly wage scale but without cost of living and job security, like we’ve won at Ford, those members are still at serious risk. This week, the President of GM wrote an op-ed talking about how supposedly great the wages are for 85% of their workers. We fight for 100% of our members. And we are committed to ending tiers across the board.”
The UAW has won back the cost of living allowance (COLA) at Ford, an enormous accomplishment that will tie workers’ wage increases to inflation. COLA was a historic demand and a legacy of the most militant era in UAW history, a victory won following the 1946 General Motors strike, enshrined in the “Treaty of Detroit,” by celebrated UAW President Walter Ruether. COLA was surrendered by the UAW, which had become far more concessionary in the subsequent decades, following the 2008-2009 recession, when there was a crisis in the automotive industry. The regain of COLA at Ford signals the beginning of a new era in UAW leadership and militant unionism in the United States.
“Many people said this couldn’t be done,” Fain said. “And we just did it.”
General Motors and Stellantis are still offering what the UAW called “deficient COLA,” meaning that their proposed adjustment “will provide an estimated zero percent wage protection over the life of the agreement.”
At Ford, UAW has won, for the first time in its history, the right to strike over plant closures. This is a significant victory, as auto manufacturers’ profit-squeezing methods of moving plants out of the United States and into Global South nations where labor is cheaper has led to deindustrialization which has for decades decimated the US working class, destroying the employment ecosystems of entire communities. In this way, the UAW has taken on a battle for the entire working population of the country against the entire neoliberal economic model.
The UAW has also won additional job security at Ford. All workers with at least 90 days of service, including temporary workers, will now have income security for up to two years with healthcare. General Motors and Stellantis have rejected all job security proposals.
The UAW has won profit sharing at Ford that would have resulted in a 13.3% increase for the average employee in payouts last year, and has managed to extend profit sharing to temporary workers. General Motors and Stellantis have rejected enhanced profit sharing proposals.
As part of the union’s efforts to unite all workers under the same protections and resist all company attempts to divide and undermine stable employment, the UAW has won the immediate conversion of all temporary workers to permanent employees at Ford. General Motors and Stellantis have rejected all proposals on temp workers.
The stand up strike is now spread across 20 states, from California to Colorado to Missouri to Pennsylvania to New York.
For the UAW members who are still working, Fain has reiterated that it is the right of all employers working under an expired contract to refuse voluntary overtime. Members across the country are encouraging one another to “Eight and Skate,” meaning, clocking in the required eight hours, then leaving management to fend for themselves instead of risking their well-being.