The United Auto Workers union, which scored major contract gains after striking Ford, General Motors and Stellantis for over 40 days, is not resting on its laurels. The union has just announced an industry-wide organizing drive aimed at bringing workers in all of the non-union U.S. auto plants into the UAW. This means simultaneously taking on over a dozen Asian, European and U.S.-based companies, who have most of their plants in the U.S. South.
There are about 150,000 organizable autoworkers working in the non-union plants in this country — roughly the same number that the Big Three employ at unionized plants. This organizing drive is the UAW’s largest since the 1930s.
The UAW’s website opens with an appeal: “It’s time for non-union autoworkers to join the UAW and win economic justice.” One click takes workers to a form where they can fill out a virtual union card authorizing the UAW to represent them. Already thousands of unorganized workers have reportedly completed the cards. (uaw.org)
When a sufficient number of cards are received, the UAW will either win recognition through a “card check” or file for an election. The union narrowly lost two representation elections at Volkswagen in Tennessee. But with the big wins after the strike and the new, militant leadership directly elected by the rank and file in the UAW, a new election could have very different results.
Such a monumental organizing initiative will require a significant number of new organizers, both among union staff and rank-and-file volunteers. These companies combined have made close to $1 trillion in profits over the past 10 years, in part by keeping unions out and wages lower. The capitalists will not let the UAW into their plants without a struggle.
Workers, organized and unorganized, are ready to fight. As UAW President Shawn Fain said, “Workers are fed up with scraping to get from paycheck to paycheck, while wealthy people like the Musks of the world just keep taking more and more at the expense of millions of workers.” (Detroit News, Dec. 2)
Martha Grevatt is a retired UAW Stellantis worker.