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UAW Strike Sign of Increasing Class Struggle in US

Organized labor is on the rise once again as the nation is currently witnessing over 45,000 members of United Auto Workers take to the streets with serious grievances and a determination to have their demands met. The concessions they are seeking from their employers at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis potentially ring alarm bells across the entire workforce of the country and, if they are victorious, could set an example to workers everywhere in all sectors as their grievances far too often reflect the needs and wishes of workers everywhere. Among their demands are an abolishment of the two-tier wage system, cost-of-living adjustments in the face of inflation such as raises of more than 40% over a 4 year period,  improved pensions for retirees, improved healthcare, and a reduction of the workweek. Although these hopes may seem high to some, with proper organization, mainly a robust rank-and-file movement, great achievements can be made by the workers against their wealthy and powerful employers.  

After failing to reach a negotiated agreement this summer between the union and the companies, on September 15, 2023 the UAW initiated a simultaneous strike at one assembly plant at each company of the Big Three Detroit automakers. As negotiations over a contract have dragged on, the union has been picking up traction and extending the strike to further locations around the country. The UAW has since taken the fight to the Big Three’s most profitable facilities. First hitting Ford’s truck plant in Louisville KY and then moving on to Stellantis’ assembly plant in Sterling Heights MI. Then, in response to GM announcing record profits for its third quarter earnings, the union moved to also shut down GM’s assembly plant in Arlington TX.  

According to the consulting firm Anderson Economic Group, the strike’s fifth week has roughly cost the U.S. auto industry a collective $9.3 billion, or, as reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal, $30 million per day, a stark reminder to workers and shareholders everywhere as to who the credit behind a company’s profits can rightly be attributed. In response to the ongoing strike the Big Three have initiated layoffs totaling around 7,000 workers, an ironic turn of events for companies who envision themselves to be “job creators”. As usual, the companies’ statements to the press on the matter have been claiming they presented the union with a fair deal and that the strike is “unnecessary and irresponsible”. Unfortunately for them tens of thousands of their own employees clearly seem to disagree. UAW’s president Shawn Fain recently announced that the strike will continue because there is “more to be won”.  

Then, suddenly, to many peoples surprise, on October 25th UAW reached a tentative agreement and won a major contract with Ford, the company which employs the most UAW members. The agreement includes an 11% immediate raise with a 25% raise over the life of the 4-year contract, reinstated COLAs, an elimination of the two-tier-pay system, a reduction of progression to top pay from 8 years to 3 years, increased funding of workers’ pension plans, and, hugely, the right to strike over plant closures. The contract won is a momentous achievement for the employees, namely due to it featuring more raises than the workers received for the last 22 years combined. In the week that followed, UAW reached similar agreements with both General Motors and Stellantis, only time will tell if the membership will accept these agreements. This turn of events constitutes a great victory for not only UAW workers, but for labor everywhere. Valuable lessons have been learned through this struggle, through bitter experience, to which labor will have to learn from in order to prepare for the battles that lay ahead. For, although this battle has been won, the war carries on. 

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