The dynamic auto strike — the first time in the UAW’s history that workers at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are on strike at the same time — is now in its third week. On Sept. 29, UAW President Shawn Fain announced on Facebook that workers at two assembly plants, Ford’s Chicago Assembly and GM’s Lansing Delta Township, would join the strike that day at noon.
Now about 25,000 workers are on strike at five assembly plants of the three companies and all of the parts warehouses at GM and Stellantis. Stellantis, the fourth biggest auto company in the world, was formed by a merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Peugeot.
The union has made progress on some of its 10 core demands, which have included a sizable pay increase, elimination of pay and benefit tiers, restoration of the cost-of-living allowance (given up in the 2009 bankruptcy), a raise in pensions, pensions for all future retirees and a shorter work week (32 hours for 40 hours pay).
Workers not yet on strike are engaged in the contract struggle in a variety of ways, from collectively refusing voluntary overtime to solidarity rallies and car caravans to red shirt days in the plant. Many of these activities have been initiated by rank-and-file activists, local union leaders or the grass roots caucus Unite All Workers for Democracy.
UAWD led the campaign for a new, militant leadership — the Members United slate — which gave reformers a majority on the UAW’s International Executive Board. This includes President Fain, the first president elected directly by the rank and file. Members wanted a change from the class collaborationist leadership of the past who had been giving up concessions to the companies going back to the first government bailout of Chrysler in 1979.
New York City activists held a solidarity picket line and rally on Sept. 30 outside the GM building in Manhattan. The action was sponsored by the December 12 Movement, Workers World Party, Teamsters Local 808, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and others. Speakers included UAW Local 3309 President Jeff Purcell, whose local is on strike at a Stellantis parts warehouse in Tappan, New York; CBTU New York City Chapter President Charles Jenkins; and Workers World Party First Secretary Larry Holmes.
Solidarity messages are pouring in from U.S.-based and international unions. Mexican autoworkers have said they will not accept overtime if any of the auto companies shift work to Mexico to break the strike. The working class around the world is in solidarity with this historic struggle to win back gains that workers have lost over the past few decades.
Martha Grevatt is a UAW retiree.
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