“No Justice, No Jeeps!” and “No More Tiers!” were popular chants as fed-up United Auto Workers (UAW) members shut down three major assembly plants in Missouri, Michigan and Ohio on September 15. Never before had the union struck the Big Three automakers – General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) – all at once. A week later, workers at 38 additional GM and Stellantis sites walked out, bringing the total number of strikers to over 18,000. If the workers succeed in winning their bold demands, it will be a precedent-setting victory for labor across the country as well as the world.
Auto workers are joining writers and actors in challenging corporate greed and demanding a fair share of the profits their labor creates. All working people — both organized and unorganized — stand to gain from these battles against the bosses. And this willingness to fight knows no borders — just one year ago, Mexican auto parts workers threw out corrupt union leaders and formed a new, independent union.
New UAW leadership, elected by the membership following the success of a rank and file “One Member, One Vote” organizing campaign within the union, has the potential to see the strike through to monumental contract gains. They seek wage increases that match those received by the CEO, and they are out to dump the hated wage tiers. Even workers in the higher wage tiers see their fellow carmakers toiling away at break-neck speed on the assembly line for just half the wages, and they know it is just not right.
Demands related to part-time workers, COLA, pensions and retiree medical benefits are also central. The union has called for a four-day workweek with no cut in pay, a demand made by auto workers in the early 1930’s and long called for by socialists.
Everyone stands to gain and solidarity can be built if UAW leadership stands firm and true to the needs of the most vulnerable and lowest paid workers who are largely African American, Latinx, and women of color.
Solidarity is job one. Over recent years, with shifts in the nature of the auto industry, the UAW has turned to organizing in other industries, such as graduate students on campuses and legal workers in many cities. The victory of the auto workers depends on the mutual support of other UAW members as well as of other unions and the community.
The labor movement is on fire, with militant rank and filers at the forefront. The number of strikes has more than quadrupled since before the pandemic. A solidarity picket being planned in collaboration between the UAW, WGA, SAG-AFTRA and Central Labor Council in New York City can be a national model for mobilizing everyone to join the fight.
Labor power is being strengthened by not only cross-union solidarity but by tying the fight for bread-and-butter issues to the fight for social justice issues like reproductive rights and an end to racism.
Ultimately, in order to permanently achieve just contracts and conditions the auto industry needs to be nationalized under workers’ control. Those who keep the factories humming should be in charge of making the decisions about how they are run. Until then, we must do what we can to make the bosses pay workers their fair share. The Freedom Socialist Party stands in solidarity with all of the UAW’s demands and additionally calls for:
- Reverse all the concessions of the past!
- Push the U.S. government to require electric vehicle jobs be union in order to get the subsidies! No job losses for UAW members! Make all green jobs union jobs!
- National solidarity days and mass rallies across the country – organized by the UAW and AFL-CIO!
- Solidarity with Mexican auto workers!
- Nationalize the auto industry!