After successful negotiations with the Detroit Three, UAW sets sights on non-union automakers ⋆
Fresh off winning tentative new contracts with the Detroit Three automakers, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain said Wednesday that workers’ most powerful weapon was the ability to strike and take on the billionaire class, which he called the “most powerful opponents of economic justice.”
Fain, who spoke during an online update live-streamed from the Chicago Teachers Union hall, marveled at how far the union had come.
“If you told me we could take on all three of the Big Three at one time and win more in one contract than we have in decades, I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” he said. “If you told me we would kill wage tiers, and end the permanent temp situation that’s kept our union divided and weak for years, I probably wouldn’t have believed that.
“If you told me we’d be reopening Belvidere [Assembly Plant in Illinois] and secure a just transition with a pathway for thousands of electric vehicle and battery jobs under our master agreement. I might not have believed you. And if you told me that the vast majority of the American public, from my next door neighbors to the president of the United States [Joe Biden] would stand with us, I might not have believed you.”
And in fact, Biden will stand with Fain on Thursday in Belvidere to celebrate the decision by Stellantis to invest $4.8 billion to not only reopen the existing facility as a parts distribution center, but also build a $3.2 billion battery production facility that would launch in 2028, with plans to invest another $1.5 billion to build a second facility in Belvidere that would manufacture up to as 100,000 mid-size trucks by 2027.
President Joe Biden walks along the UAW picket line and engages with union members at the GM Willow Run Distribution Center, Tuesday, September 26, 2023, in Belleville, Michigan. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
Biden’s trip to Illinois follows one he made to Michigan in September, where he may have been the first sitting president to visit a picket line, joining striking workers at a GM facility in Belleville.
Fain said the UAW’s strategy in the negotiations had been vindicated by the contracts that were negotiated. Union members will have to give final approval to the agreements.
“There were many in the media and in the corporate class who were saying we didn’t know what we were doing, and they thought we’d never get a deal,” he said. “But then we got all three. We weren’t going to stop short of pounding everything we could out of these companies.”
Fain noted the strike was the longest against the Detroit Three since 1973 and the first time in UAW history that they targeted all three companies at once. He added that it was historic in one other aspect, as well.
“As part of our strike settlement, we forced Ford, Stellantis and GM to pay an extra amount to each member who went on strike or was laid off during the strike on top of their ratification bonus,” said Fain. “For the first time in UAW history, the Big Three had to pay us back for striking them.”
UAW striking workers at the Stellantis Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Sterling Heights | Ken Coleman
Fain said the contracts are a reflection of their strength as a united working class, and should serve as an example for non-union auto workers.
“We don’t just win when we get a raise,” he said. “We win when working people everywhere start to understand our shared interest and our shared fight. We win when workers at Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Hyundai and other companies see what we’ve achieved and get ready to stand up for themselves. We win when the corporate media, the billionaire class and their political allies start taking us seriously as a force to be reckoned with.”
Looking toward the future, Fain said the concessions earned in this round, as well as the lessons learned, are just a first step.
“There are too many non-union auto workers and too much power behind the forces of corporate greed for us to win everything we deserve in one go,” he said. “That’s why we’re building our strike muscle, to go even further in 2028. The Big Three, Wall Street and the federal government are officially on notice.”
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authored by Jon King
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