The UAW is conducting a coordinated strike against the big three.
DETROIT, MI — It’s September 15. I’m stuck in traffic on my way to the UAW rally. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rashida Talib, UAW President Shawn Fain and others will be speaking. There are state police on the road, more than usual. I’m stuck in traffic for 15 minutes–then stuck downtown for another thirty. I miss half of the speakers.
Workers at 3 UAW plants are on strike for a 36 percent four-year pay raise, cost-of-living adjustments, a 32-hour week with 40-hour pay, an end to the tier system, returning their defined-benefit pensions for new hires, and pension increases for workers who have retired. Many of their demands were benefits they previously received before being clawed back by the company and union officials in their 2007 union contract, allegedly due to the recession. The workers are on strike at the GM Plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio. (Stellantis owns Jeep and Chrysler). Their demands track with other strikes occurring around the county, especially for cost-of-living adjustments. It seems that their strategy will be a staggered strike. UAW president Shawn Fain warns that “many more factories may follow.” In total 146,000 workers have walked off the job, and they are feeling fired up.
The UAW is holding the rally outside of the UAW-Ford National Program Center, just under the people mover, Detroit’s raised rail that goes to a few places downtown. It rumbles above, a backdrop to the fiery speeches being delivered.
Many of the workers are afraid of plant closures. As our manufacturing capacity shifts to renewables, many are afraid that without proper retraining programs, these workers will be out of a job. As for the electric manufacturers that do exist, these factories are nonunion, low-wage jobs.
We march down Jefferson to Beaubien St. I’m in a loose formation behind a banner, and there is a crier behind me. She chants “No justice! No jeeps!” We stop at Beaubien to rally and clump together before heading back up towards the program center. This time I’m in a different formation, and whose variation on “No justice! No jeeps! (No fords, no trucks, no nothing!)” encourages the dozen people I’m standing with.
As an IWW I am excited to see the militancy of these workers. Spurred by Shawn Fain’s bravado, these workers are eager. The mode of the strike is particularly interesting. I think we can learn a lot from watching this unfold; this is a patient strategy. In 2019 the UAW went on strike for forty days, and this will likely be longer. The Union targeted three different shops, owned by three different brands, at once. This is reminiscent of our union’s goal, which is that all workers in one industry organize together, not separated by shop. Unfortunately the UAW does not organize all auto workers. Currently engineers are not eligible for membership, for example. This is a fantastic time to be a Wobbly.
I will continue to monitor the strike and help where I can. Fellow Workers, I encourage you to participate as well. To sign up for UAW updates, follow this link. The bosses can’t scare us now. Solidarity!
Note: As of September 22, 2023 38 additional Stellantis and GM plants went on strike. As of October 8, 2023, General Motors has made a 6th offer to the UAW, but it does not include the traditional pensions reinstated, nor the Cost-of-Living Adjustments lost in 2009, nor several other demands. Notably, it would include electric vehicle battery manufacturing workers in the master agreement.