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Live updates on the Big Three contract fight: Lear auto parts workers overwhelmingly reject 3rd UAW sellout contract, while UAW president desperately seeks to maintain credibility

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Lear auto parts workers in Indiana massively defeat 3rd UAW-backed concessions deal Friday

Workers at the Lear Seating plant in Hammond, Indiana, overwhelmingly rejected a third United Auto Workers-endorsed concessionary agreement Friday, exposing the complete fraud of UAW President Shawn Fain’s claims to be leading a fight against concessions at the Big Three auto plants.

Workers voted “no” by a margin of 72 percent in a ratification held inside Lear’s plant in northwest Indiana, in a remarkable display of workers’ resolve to put an end to the tier system and poverty wages, and win major improvements.

Results showing the rejection of a third UAW tentative agreement at Lear

The contract rejection is all the more significant given that it took place in the face of repeated threats to jobs by UAW International officials. Union officials have arrogantly insisted that their deals with Lear are “good,” that workers cannot strike, and that workers should be careful “not to bid themselves out of a job,” workers have said.

Workers told the WSWS that there was a mood of satisfaction and defiance among the rank and file following the announcement of the results. “We’re happy as hell,” one worker said. The worker said that the UAW officials “thought by having us vote in the plant, they’d get their yes vote. We showed them.”

The announcement of the vote results at Lear came at virtually the same time Friday as UAW President Shawn Fain was delivering his weekly livestream “update” on the Big Three contract talks. During the video, Fain again postured as leading a militant struggle against the companies and preparing for strike action, desperately seeking to maintain credibility among workers and prevent them from taking independent action.

But Fain and the UAW national headquarters have not uttered a single word about Lear workers repeatedly rejecting the UAW’s concessionary deals, exploding Fain’s claims to be fighting for workers at the Big Three and revealing them to be an utter fraud.

Workers throughout the auto industry should take warning: The UAW bureaucracy’s anti-democratic, pro-company actions at Lear are a dress rehearsal for the betrayal Fain & Co. are preparing at the Big Three.

In the lead-up to the third vote, there was substantial anger among Lear workers over the UAW’s efforts to ram through a deal virtually unchanged from the first two pro-company agreements, which were voted down by 95 percent and 75 percent respectively. “They didn’t add anything to wages,” the worker said about the third agreement. “Just added some to the 401k and are giving 35 buyouts.”

The UAW’s tentative agreements with Lear would have raised starting wages from $15.50 to just $17 an hour, a poverty wage, and maintained them at that level through 2028. The deals would have also kept raises for the top pay rate to just above 10 percent over four years, well below inflation, and substantially increased healthcare costs, which were set to rise 20-25 percent in the first tentative agreement.

The UAW apparatus has done everything it can to prevent a strike at Lear Hammond, which would rapidly shut down production at the nearby Ford Chicago Assembly plant. Lear workers assemble seats for the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, delivered to the Chicago Assembly Plant on the “just-in-time” system of production.

Lear in Hammond, Indiana

The UAW has repeatedly agreed to two-week contract extensions at Lear, defying an overwhelming 94 percent vote in favor of a strike nearly a month ago. The most recent two-week extension is due to expire tonight at midnight.

Lear workers have repeatedly demonstrated enormous courage and a determination to fight for their rights.

But the UAW apparatus, from the International to the local level, has shown that it will not take “no” for an answer.

The isolation of Lear workers by the UAW apparatus and the cycle of endless contract extensions and pro-company deals must be stopped! To carry out a real fight for their demands, it is necessary for workers to take matters into their own hands. Committees of rank-and-file workers should be organized immediately, in order to link up with workers at Ford, Stellantis and GM, and prepare to enforce a strike deadline when workers see fit.

In livestream update, UAW President Shawn Fain says, “We are ready for a deal”

In a video livestream address on Friday evening, UAW President Shawn Fain continued to posture as an opponent of the Big Three auto companies, while signaling that the union apparatus is working feverishly to negotiate a sellout agreement and prevent a strike by autoworkers from breaking out on September 14.

During the opening of the 20-minute broadcast, Fain said the union has been “standing up and that’s what we’re going to continue to do up to and beyond September 14,” adding the caveat “if the occasion calls for it.” But despite Fain’s bluster, there have been growing signs over the past week that the UAW apparatus, the White House and the companies are conspiring together to prevent a strike.

On Monday, Biden—whose top administration officials have been in regular discussion with the UAW leadership—told the press he did not think a strike by autoworkers was going to happen. On Wednesday, Fain began to publicly backtrack on a strike being necessary and the UAW’s ability to meet workers demands.

During the livestream Friday, Fain tried to portray the intransigent posture of the auto companies—including another concessionary proposal put forward by Ford Thursday—as if it represented “movement” in the negotiations. Later, he emphasized, “We want a deal,” and “we are ready for a deal.”

But while purporting to provide an “update” on the contract talks, Fain provided virtually no detail on what the companies are demanding, especially in relation to job cuts and plant closures, nor what the UAW apparatus itself is offering.

In particular, the UAW bureaucracy is concealing plans by the automakers to implement massive job cuts in relation to EVs in the coming decade. Significantly, during the livestream the UAW showed a slide indicating Ford was demanding the ability to have “unlimited outsourcing,” but did not spell out what this meant in terms of how many job cuts are being considered and what plants are being targeted for shutdown.

To the extent Fain referred to any specifics of the companies’ proposals, it revealed that they remain intransigent in their insistence on concessions, including maintaining the multi-tier wages system, rejection of the restoration of pensions and retiree health care, an insulting 10-14.5 percent wage increase with limited lump sum bonuses over four years, “COLA” that would produce zero or near-zero raises, and ongoing abuse of temporary workers.

The UAW bureaucracy is contending with, and seeking to hold back, enormous opposition among workers to the disastrous conditions they confront. “Many workers think the strike is going to happen,” a worker at the Michigan Ford Rouge plant told the WSWS. “People are very angry. They are broke. They can’t survive. Some TPTs [temporary part-time workers] take home $200 a week and they don’t know when that is going to end.”

With contract deadline looming, growing signs Ford and UAW are preparing to announce a deal and attempt to block strike

Ford world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan

With just six days remaining to the September 14, 11:59 p.m. expiration of contracts covering 150,000 autoworkers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in the US, there are increasingly clear indications that United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain and his administration are preparing to block a strike at one or more of the companies and announce a pro-company deal.

Autoworkers are overwhelmingly determined to launch an all-out fight to reverse decades of UAW-backed concessions, voting by 98 percent to authorize a strike last month. The UAW bureaucracy, for its part, is seeking to overcome this opposition and impose massive attacks on jobs and wages, as the companies transition to electric vehicle production.

How the UAW can overcome workers’ anger most effectively has been the subject of daily discussions between the UAW’s leadership, management, President Biden, and top Democratic Party officials. These discussions largely comprise what is officially and misleadingly presented as “contract negotiations.”

In recent days, unnamed UAW officials have leaked reports to the corporate media that Fain is focused on reaching a deal with Ford Motor Company in particular, seeking to lay the groundwork for announcing an agreement prior to the strike deadline.

Late Friday morning, the Detroit Free Press published an article headlined “Ford sweetens UAW contract proposal in attempt to avoid strike,” presenting Ford and the UAW as accelerating their efforts to reach a deal.

According to the report, Fain was present at Ford’s headquarters for discussions Thursday, during which Ford presented a new contract proposal. The article stated that talks centered on wages, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and signing bonuses, with no mention made of the many demands workers have been raising: the restoration of pensions and retiree health benefits, the conversion of all temps to full-time status, the abolition of wage and benefit tiers, the reinstatement of the eight-hour day, and, centrally, the prevention of any layoffs and plant closings.

An unnamed UAW official told the Detroit Free Press that the situation is “obviously very fluid.”

The reference to COLA in the article is significant, given that the UAW vice president in charge of Ford, Chuck Browning, also oversaw the sellout of the 2021 John Deere strike. While the 2021 Deere-UAW contract contained the nominal reinstatement of COLA, Deere workers later reported that the actual formula was far below what was needed to have their wages keep up with inflation.

While Fain has claimed to have implemented a new era of reform and “transparency” in the UAW, holding weekly livestream “updates,” his administration has been concealing the actual details of the contract terms it is discussing with management, particularly the scale of the attacks on jobs it is agreeing to.

Over the past few months, Fain and the UAW communications department have adopted a “militant” posture, seeking to get ahead of and prevent a rebellion by rank-and-file workers, who are deeply suspicious of and hostile to the UAW bureaucracy after a years-long corruption scandal.

The UAW apparatus has claimed that it is pursuing popular “members’ demands” for 40 percent wage increases, COLA, pensions, retiree health benefits and improved working hours.

But over the past week, Fain has begun to publicly backtrack, floating the possibility of reaching deals with the companies before a strike, and stating that the UAW apparatus will not be able to meet all of the demands it said it was pursuing, provoking a swift outcry from workers. Fain’s comments came just two days after Biden told reporters “I don’t think a strike is going to happen,” blurting out what the UAW leadership has no doubt assured him in their regular meetings with White House officials.

The UAW bureaucracy has no strategy or intention to achieve any of the things it claims to be pursuing. On the contrary, it is once again preparing a total betrayal of workers’ demands.

The increasing signs of the UAW-management-White House conspiracy to prevent a strike make all the more urgent the necessity for workers to take the struggle into their own hands through the expansion of the network of autoworker rank-and-file committees. Whether the UAW apparatus announces a “last-minute deal” or instead seeks to contain and dissipate opposition through limited strikes targeting only a few plants, its efforts will be solely directed at securing the companies’ profit interests, as well as the privileged interests of the union bureaucracy, at workers’ expense.

Workers must prepare now to oppose and overcome this sellout, by forging connections with each other across shifts, plants and companies, and building up support for the rank and file to seize the initiative and assert its interests.

Determination of autoworkers grows as confrontation against UAW bureaucracy and auto companies intensifies

Expressing their determination to both win back past concessions and make new gains, autoworkers are responding with increasing opposition to statements by Fain that he wants to “avoid a strike” and that the expectations of the rank and file need to be lowered because “you don’t always get everything you demand.”

Autoworkers on shift change in Warren, Michigan

As a temporary part-time (TPT) worker at a Detroit Stellantis plant told the WSWS, “People want to go on strike to show them we mean business. It should be all of us on strike at one time. That would definitely have more impact. These companies are literally working us into the ground. They don’t look at us as people. They utilize us for profit and that’s it. So, unless we stand up, it’s always going to be like that.”

The TPT worker continued, “We want to get things back like decent insurance, and no more tiers. We also want back all the other things that the UAW gave up. What a lot of people who are not involved with the automotive industry don’t understand is we used to have these things in the past. We’re essentially fighting for the bare minimum back. These are trillion-dollar companies, and they can more than afford it. All these companies want is profit, profit, profit and to take it all at our expense. But it’s not theirs, it’s ours.

“We want to strike but people don’t want to make this big sacrifice if they’re going to be sold out like the Clarios battery workers in Toledo. If we strike, we want to win.”

A veteran worker at the GM Components Holdings (GMCH) plant in western Michigan told the WSWS, “When we fight for the young workers to make top wages, we are fighting for ourselves. The temporary workers don’t get the pay, profit-sharing or benefits of full-time workers, but they are contributing to the profits the company gets.

“Right now, management can’t even get enough workers because you can get higher pay at a McDonald’s. They hire groups of 25-30 workers at a time and after 30 days, end up with five workers.”

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Will Lehman, rank-and-file candidate in 2022 UAW elections, issues call-to-action to autoworkers: “The UAW bureaucrats aren’t putting forward a strategy, but the rank and file must”

On Thursday, Will Lehman—a rank-and-file worker at Mack Trucks in Pennsylvania and candidate for UAW president—released a statement calling on autoworkers to take control of their struggle.

In a video, Lehman stated,

UAW President Shawn Fain and his administration have said they’re “back in the fight” and are different from the corrupt bureaucrats who came before them. They claim that they are asking the companies for the “members demands” to restore COLA and pensions, get a 40 percent wage increase, and shorten the workday.

But Fain and the UAW leadership have said nothing about their strategy to win these demands. This is because they have no intention of fighting for anything we need. Instead, Fain is promoting the Democratic Party because they’re conspiring with them to force the company’s demands onto workers.

Saying that workers themselves must put forward a strategy to win their demands, Lehman called for the expansion of rank-and-file committees at each plant, in order to fight for the following measures:

“1. Raise strike pay to $750 a week. The strike fund has more than $800 million from our dues. Raising strike pay will send a message to the companies that we are serious about a real battle. Workers cannot be strung out on poverty pay until they are compelled to accept a contract on management’s terms.

2. Make sure there is rank-and-file oversight of all the contract talks. The rank-and-file must have real control of all negotiations. Fain claims the UAW is being transparent, but all their talks with management and the White House are happening behind closed doors. That has to end. The full list of plants the companies are planning to close must be released, as well as all documents exchanged between the UAW, management, and Biden in the contract talks.

3. Prepare for an all-out nationwide strike on September 14. To be effective, any strike must hit all locations at all three companies, and not isolated to only a few plants. We must forge connections with our brothers and sisters at the parts plants, who are also seeking to reverse concessions previously imposed by the UAW.

“4. Launch an internationally coordinated fight back! The attacks on workers’ jobs related to EVs are happening globally. Ford workers in Germany, Spain, and India have already been targeted for either plant closures or mass job cuts.

“The contracts for US and Canadian autoworkers are expiring within days of each other. Autoworkers in Mexico, Germany, Turkey, and elsewhere are also in a fight against job cuts and concessions.

“A strike by US autoworkers will immediately attract the attention and support of workers all over the world. We must fight consciously to unify all autoworkers and other sections of the working class internationally, based on the understanding that we are fighting the same companies and the same ruling class strategy.”

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“I build Dodge trucks selling for $70,000 and can’t afford to fix my own car”: Detroit temporary part-time worker speaks out

Hannah: When I first started at the plant, I thought this was going to be great opportunity to obtain benefits and create a better life for my child and myself. I thought if I could just make it to full-time, it would be better. I knew I would have my struggles and it wouldn’t be perfect, but I didn’t know it would be like this.

The full-time workers are being screwed over too and have lost a lot. After 30 years, they’re afraid to retire because they don’t know if they’ll be able to survive. I see older workers hobbling in the plant whose bodies are so beat up they can hardly walk. I know a worker who has maxed out at top pay and has worked eight additional years for this company without receiving any pay increase.

But TPTs are treated even worse.

I take pride in perfect attendance with Stellantis and have never missed a day. But I haven’t been rolled over to full-time and I have not received any information on when that may occur.

There are workers who have been part-timers for years. A TPT maxes out at top pay after four years and it’s under $20 an hour. Why does it even have to be like that? Why can’t we all just get rolled over?

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