Claiming salary, labor, and insurance demands, and with no agreement able to be reached between the union and the company, the United Auto Workers have initiated what they are calling a “stand up” strike. This strike is against the employers of the three major automobile manufacturers in the US: General Motors, Ford Motors, and Stellantis.
The stand up strike was announced Wednesday evening, on a Facebook Live stream, by UAW president Shawn Fain. On the stream, Fain told workers that the union was creating a “new way to fight,” one which will “keep the company guessing.” Instead of striking all at once, the UAW will strike at a “limited number of targeted locations.” He goes on to say that, based on what is happening in bargaining, they will call on other locals to “stand up” and strike.
The UAW announced yesterday that they will only be striking at three plants: the Stellantis Jeep Wrangler final assembly plant in Toledo; the Ford Assembly plant in Michigan; and the GM plant in Wentzville. These three represent the least economically impactful plants of the “Big Three,” making some of the least popular cars of each manufacturer.
In other words, it is a strike that will cause the least amount of loss to the employer, a result which underscores the class collaboration of the union leaders and exposes their pro-business class role. This tactic by the UAW represents the victory of social dialogue—social cooperation pushed by the bosses’ spokespersons, who try to minimize the impact of the strike. In practice, what they truly show is the rapacious nature of capital.
On the other hand, the strike conflict breaks out as a consequence of the economic crisis in the world that has been accentuated by the issue of the imperialist war and is expressed with the excessive price hikes that we are experiencing in the US. The auto industry makes up 3 percent of the US GDP, carrying great historical significance for everything the strike could represent for the class struggle in our country.
In a period when workers are struggling to make ends meet and, having grown tired of the unfavorable contracts imposed on them by yellow trade unionists, are now ready to engage in resolute struggles, Shawn Fain and his administration are steering the workers towards a losing proposition with this ineffective strategy. Auto workers have the momentum. A union that is class-oriented, with the workers at the forefront, would stand for a nation-wide strike. It is estimated that even just a 10-day full strike of all UAW workers would cost GM, Ford and Stellantis $989 million. The leverage that workers hold right now cannot be underestimated, nor can the harm the union is doing to their cause by squandering it like this.
In only striking three plants, the UAW is condemning workers to work under an expired contract. That is to say, that the majority of workers are now working without a contract. It remains unclear if those working under an expired contract will be protected in the same way. Regardless, to purposefully have workers work under an expired contract instead of joining their brothers and sisters in struggle, on the picket lines, is nothing less than a betrayal.
The union is demanding wage increases of 46% within four years, an increase in benefits and strengthening of pension rights, an improvement in labor relations and working hours with a reduction of weekly working hours from 40 to 32 hours and full wages for all.
The workers’ demands come after years of attacks on their rights, especially after the capitalist crisis of 2008-2009. Since then, they have received crumbs for raises with overtime multiplied without serious pay. Many work seven days a week, often putting in continuous 12-hour shifts to meet production targets. At the same time, the profits of the employers, the fees and the bonuses of the managing directors, have soared.
It remains an open question whether the supposedly “pro-labor” Biden administration will decide to proceed with a new anti-strike ban, as it did against the railroad strike. It is worth noting that the Biden administration has claimed that he is “not worried about the strike.” Certainly, the Biden administration, with its anti-people and anti-worker character, seems unconcerned. This is because the monopolies and the government create their own “gentrified workers,” positioned as leaders in the labor movement through their affiliated unions. The primary goal here is to advance the interests of capital while enabling these same “leaders” to portray themselves as champions of the working class. This situation underscores an inherent contradiction within the capitalist system: due to their opposing class interests, both cannot truly prosper. Instead, it is the capitalists who reap the benefits.
On Thursday night, the all-too-familiar presence of Bernie Sanders alongside the UAW president in the Detroit UAW rally highlights, once more, the attempt at absorbing the labor movement into the plans of the bourgeoisie. It is the reaction of the pendulum of social democracy in the trade union movement which tries to bring workers to class conciliation through negotiations and agreements with employers of a strictly economic nature to continue maintaining the political control of the working masses.
On September 15th, the American Council of Bolsheviks, in New Spark, released an article discussing the strike announcement. In their article, they express support for the stand up strike and believe it will create confusion among the employers. It is disheartening for us to witness “communists” adopting such stances. Watching our comrades align with the yellow trade union leaders and failing to see beyond this tactic is truly disappointing. We remain hopeful that they will recognize this error and rectify it by joining us in this call to action.
All communists must always stand resolutely against the union bureaucrats and their misleadership of the working class. The strike is the main weapon of the workers against the bosses. To the extent that economic conditions worsen, more conflicts will arise, which confirms the need for the organization of workers, for class solidarity with these struggles that will have media pressure from the spokesmen of capital.
To the workers who have been asked to stand down by those who supposedly represent their interest, now is the time for action. Now you must make your voices heard in rejecting this losing strategy by taking to the picket line. Over 97% of the union made their frustration known when they authorized a strike. Now is the time to exercise this right. We call on all our members and supporters to organize strikes en masse of all workers in the “Big Three,” to expose the fact that the union leaders are more concerned with sparing the profits of the bosses than waging an actual struggle and winning real gains.
We communists must be there, at the epicenter of the struggle. The communists, whenever there is an outbreak of strike, will be called to attend the strikes to express our solidarity, the combative class greeting, side-by-side with the workers. We look forward to new forces joining the labor struggle, thereby altering the balance of power in favor of the class-oriented movement.
Central Committee of the Communist Workers’ Platform USA