97% of U.S. autoworkers vote to authorize strike, expressing overwhelming determination to reverse UAW-backed concessions

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Workers at Detroit’s three automakers have voted 97% in favor of authorizing the strike, in an overwhelming expression of workers’ determination to win major gains in wages, benefits and working conditions. The result was announced by the United Auto Workers on Friday, with just three weeks left before contracts covering 150,000 workers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis expire.

This near-unanimous vote is part of an international context of class struggle, from the strike of tens of thousands of writers and actors in the United States, which has been going on for several months now, to strikes in the airline and transportation sectors in several European countries. Struggles are looming among auto workers on several continents, including the 150,000 Detroit Three workers in the U.S.; another 18,000 auto workers in Canada whose contracts expire on September 18; tens of thousands of VW workers in Germany and other countries fighting massive job cuts; and 150,000 auto and metal workers in Turkey, whose contracts also expire in September.

In the U.S., autoworkers are determined to reverse decades of UAW-imposed concessions, seeking the elimination of tiered and part-time work, a massive wage increase and the restoration of pensions, under conditions where auto companies are making fabulous profits on the backs of their labor. The auto companies are no less determined to impose massive job cuts and devastating concessions in their transition to electric vehicle production, and are again relying on the pro-business UAW apparatus to contain and demobilize the intense opposition built up in the working class.

In this regard, the UAW apparatus has organized a series of ‘practice pickets’ in front of the auto plants led by Fain and other top UAW bureaucrats, accompanied by militant-sounding rhetoric criticizing excessive corporate profits and bloated executive salaries. At the same time, the UAW is parading Democratic Party politicians from big business as allies of labor, in one of the surest signs that the union bureaucracy is preparing a betrayal.

At the Mack Assembly in Detroit, a few dozen bureaucrats, Democratic Party operatives, including Democratic Congresswoman and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member Rashida Tlaib, and a small number of workers marched around a nearly empty mall parking lot for about 20 minutes.

Last Sunday, at a rally held at the UAW’s Region 1 headquarters, the union invited Democratic Congresswoman Haley Stevens as a keynote speaker. Stevens was a member of the Obama-Biden administration’s Auto Industry Task Force in 2009, which oversaw a brutal restructuring of the auto industry, destroying thousands of jobs, cutting new hires’ wages in half and eliminating cost-of-living raises, among other major concessions.

The Teamsters bureaucracy at UPS conducted a similar ‘strike prep’ campaign, including various maneuvers such as rallies and practice pickets, in the run-up to a vote earlier this month on a sale agreement that met none of the workers’ basic demands. The Teamsters claimed credit for a lopsided vote in favor of ratification under a cloud of suspicion among rank-and-file workers.

The reality is that nothing can be won without an all-out fight and a direct confrontation with the Biden administration, but that’s the last thing Fain and the UAW bureaucracy want. Instead, Fain, with the help of pseudo-left groups like DSA, is trying to lull workers to sleep, telling them to put their trust in a UAW leadership that has betrayed them time and again.

To prevent the imposition of another sellout deal, workers must prepare now by building a network of rank-and-file committees at all auto plants. Workers looking for a way to fight back should participate in Sunday’s online meeting, ‘How Autoworkers Can Win Their Demands in the UAW Contract 2023 Fight.

Fain: Biden not involved in contracts.

In a livestream announcing the strike authorization Friday morning, UAW President Fain again tried to portray the union bureaucracy as leading the fight against the companies.

Fain criticized the poverty wages of new employees and temporary workers, as well as the elimination of pensions. He also lamented, hypocritically, the terrible impact on family life of the seven-day, 12-hour forced work schedule now in place at many Stellantis plants under the ‘critical status’ provisions of the UAW contract.

In fact, when Stellantis announced that it would impose a ” critical status ” on Warren Truck, Jefferson Assembly and several other Detroit-area plants, Fain said and did nothing. All of the evils denounced by the UAW president (poverty wage levels, forced overtime and elimination of pensions) were contained in contracts negotiated or supported by Fain and virtually all of the UAW’s current leadership.

Fain, former co-director of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, went on to take an oppositional stance to the policy of union-management cooperation that he and his fellow UAW bureaucrats have pursued for decades, with disastrous results for the lives and livelihoods. standards of autoworkers. Joint training programs were the conduit for both illegal kickbacks to union leaders and “legal” transfers of huge sums of corporate money to the union apparatus.

In response to a comment during the live broadcast objecting to Biden’s intervention in the contract talks, Fain lied that the president was not involved. In fact, just over a week earlier, Fain had issued a groveling letter thanking Biden for his supposed “support” in the contract process.

On Friday afternoon, Biden told reporters he was speaking with UAW leaders and added, “I think there should be a circumstance where workers are displaced and replaced with new jobs, the first choice should be for UAW members and the wages should be commensurate.”

This is in line with Fain’s demand that the UAW be installed as a bargaining agent in the new battery plants being built by Detroit automakers. As evidenced by the “tentative” poverty level agreement at Ultium Cells, the UAW is willing to drop its demand for “proportional wages” as long as it can continue to collect union dues from the workforce.

Fain went on to call on the Biden administration not to allow “workers to be left out of the equation,” insisting that “workers must have a seat at the table.”

Indeed, every action by Fain’s leadership is coordinated with the Biden administration. Both sides are equally determined to strangle worker militancy and impose a management-dictated contract as the U.S. prepares for war against Russia and China.

Fain’s promotion of the Biden administration, which outlawed a rail workers’ strike and imposed a hated contract on them behind their backs, is the clearest demonstration of the anti-worker character of the entire UAW apparatus and its plans to impose a traitorous contract.

Biden’s Department of Labor (DOL) has tried to cover up the fraudulent UAW election that installed Shawn Fain in office, which involved the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of autoworkers by the UAW apparatus, as documented in a series of official protests by socialist autoworker Will Lehman. Lehman has sued the DOL to demand a re-run of the election.

During the live broadcast, Fain refused to answer a question from Lehman about worker protests at the Flint General Motors plant after management kept assembly lines running Thursday night amid a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service, with the acquiescence of the UAW.

The nervousness and fear of the UAW apparatus in the face of the anger of the autoworkers, of which the massive strike vote is just one indication, is demonstrated by the fact that the UAW has gone public with a series of popular proposals, including a 40 percent wage increase, abolition of tiers, COLAs, pensions and a shorter workweek with no loss of pay.

A series of recent UAW actions belie the claim that the UAW will actually fight for any of the workers’ demands.

In opening his remarks, Fain boasted of the “interim” agreement just reached with Ultium Cells, a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions to manufacture batteries in Lordstown, Ohio, the site of a now-closed GM factory. Far from the UAW negotiating wage parity with the UAW’s national auto contract, the agreement raises the pay of Ultium workers, who recently joined the UAW, to the still-poverty level of just over $20 an hour. The agreement is yet another indication that the UAW is abandoning its promise that Ultium workers would be covered by national auto contracts and instead will be set up as a new tier of workers with substandard wages and benefits.

To further expose Fain’s bluster, last Sunday workers at the Lear Seating plant in Hammond, Indiana, voted against a second treasonous contract negotiated by the UAW that would leave their wages at the poverty level and significantly increase health care costs. Fain and UAW International have been completely silent on the Lear workers’ rebellion, seeking to isolate the workers and subject them to repeated contract extensions.

Earlier this year, the UAW betrayed a powerful strike by 500 Clarios battery workers in Holland, Ohio, by ordering UAW members from the Big Three to install scab batteries produced by strikebreakers hired by management.

To prevent a betrayal of their struggle, autoworkers should take immediate action.

Workers must demand and fight for the right to monitor contract negotiations and receive daily updates on all information exchanged by the UAW and management. Strike wages should be raised to $750 per week and prepare for the Big Three strike.

The struggle must be extended to Canada, Mexico and beyond. Workers must expose and denounce all attempts to pit U.S. workers against their brothers and sisters workers in other countries.

To coordinate and lead this struggle, rank-and-file committees must be established in every plant and warehouse, linking with the Autoworkers Rank and File Committee Network and the International Workers Alliance of Rank and File Committees.

The Rank and File Committee Network will be co-hosting a meeting this Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern on how autoworkers can win their demands in the 2023 contract fight.Register here to attend.

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