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“It’s time we stand up”: Ford Chicago workers speak from pickets
Ford Chicago workers who spoke from the picket lines on the city’s Far South Side Saturday voiced their determination to win major improvements to wages, end the tier system, and secure COLA, pensions, shorter working hours, and more. Many also expressed their support for the call by the Autoworkers Rank-and-File Committee Network to expand the struggle to an all-out strike across the auto industry.
UAW announces tentative agreement at Mack Trucks minutes before strike deadline, provoking outcry by workers
Minutes before a midnight contract expiration Sunday, the United Auto Workers announced it had reached a tentative agreement with Mack Trucks, the heavy-duty truck manufacturer owned by the Volvo Group. The decision to block a strike and announce a “last minute” deal was made in defiance of a 98 percent strike authorization vote in September, expressing the overwhelming sentiment among Mack workers for a fight to reverse previous UAW concessions, end the tier system, and win wage increases big enough to overcome years of eroding living standards.
In a two-sentence post on X (formerly Twitter) at 11:50 p.m., the UAW wrote: “BREAKING: Nearly 4,000 UAW members at Mack Truck in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Florida (UAW Region 8 & Region 9) have a tentative agreement! More details to come as members review the TA.”
“The UAW bureaucracy has kept workers in the dark for weeks on the details of its discussions with management,” Will Lehman, a worker at Mack Trucks and candidate for UAW president in last year’s elections, told the WSWS. “The rank and file have to resist efforts by the union apparatus to stampede us into accepting the agreement on the basis of limited ‘highlights.’
“Mack workers are already demanding the distribution of the full contract, an important indication that workers are on guard against a sellout,” Lehman continued. “Every worker should demand that the full contract be released online, as well as all ‘letters of understanding,’ and that we be given adequate time to study it and discuss its terms at mass membership meetings.
“The UAW bureaucrats have the contract now and they should release it now, not the day of the vote or right before.”
There are already clear signs that the UAW’s deal with management is a complete betrayal of workers’ demands.
“This is totally insane”: Autoworkers denounce UAW decision to limit strike to two more plants
Autoworkers across the Big Three expressed growing frustration and indignation Friday following the announcement by UAW President Shawn Fain that the UAW would only expand its extremely limited “stand up strikes” to two more plants.
A GM Flint Assembly temporary worker told the WSWS, “This is totally insane. Fain’s strategy is not hurting the Big Three. I don’t see how this is doing anything.
“Our line speed has increased since the strike started so we’re building more than before. We are three weeks into this strike and Fain has still refused to call an all-out strike! He’s keeping us all isolated.
“Flint Truck Assembly is one of GM’s most profitable plants and he’s not calling on us to strike. He’s making more workers scab on each other at the Lansing plant, where the Stamping plant will be working while GM Delta Assembly is on strike. We need to take things into our own hands now or we will be sold out.”
A worker laid off due to the partial strike at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant told the WSWS, “I work in the body shop and have been on layoff for two weeks. I’m thinking what everybody else is thinking. I don’t understand why we’re not hitting the Big Three where it hurts. I don’t think this is impacting them or making us stronger. Why isn’t he calling out the big money-making plants like GM Flint? Why not call everyone out?”
“If we went on an all-out strike,” a Toledo Jeep worker said, “this would probably have been over by now and each of the Big Three companies would be tripping over each other to try to get a contract first. By separating us, not just by facilities, but by long distances, we can’t get together and picket together. There is no strength in numbers if you’re limited to small groups picketing alone.
“We are not having the effect that Fain claims we’re having. And the Big Three is joining the act too, issuing angry statements. But they’re working together against us.
“We, as workers, are not conscious of the power that we have. If we had the numbers, we could force an all-out strike. We need to fight for it now because Fain’s ‘strategy’ is not working.
“The other day in the photo-op for Biden, Fain was talking about the UAW helping build the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ in World War II. First, we don’t need or want another war. Second, Fain is the last one to be talking about democracy. He destroyed it when didn’t listen to our 98 percent strike vote. You can’t say democracy when you took it off the table and told us we have to do it your ineffective way. It’s up to us, the rank-and-file workers, to make sure that what we voted for is what we do.”
A worker at Ford Rouge told the WSWS, “I talk to a lot of people. They are revved up to strike. The union promoted this, but after the smoke clears, they aren’t doing anything.
“I’m here working 11 hours, still getting harassed and threatened. I asked my union rep can we walk out, and they won’t back us.
“The union is supposed to be about solidarity. They have $825 million in the strike fund, and the people out on the picket line don’t even have ponchos.”
Other workers voiced the need to raise strike pay from its currently inadequate level of $500 a week. “The union needs to pay us full pay,” a worker at Ford Chicago said. “Not $500, that’s $2,000 a month if we go on strike for weeks. It will cover a mortgage and car insurance. That means no food for me, no gas, no amenities. Thank god I don’t need medications and have no health issues. This could go for months. If we make $800-$1,000 a week, we should get paid that.”
Enough is enough! For an all-out strike of all Big Three autoworkers!
The following statement was issued Friday by the Autoworkers Rank-and-File Committee Network:
Two weeks into our strike, it is high time for an all-out offensive against the Big Three. In the face of the intransigence of the companies, we must mobilize our full strength. We cannot win this fight if the UAW bureaucracy is keeping one of our hands—or, indeed, both hands—tied behind our backs.
The Network of Autoworkers Rank-and-File Committees calls on workers in every plant to demand emergency local meetings to pass resolutions calling for an all-out strike. We must take control of the battle ourselves and transform the UAW’s phony “stand-up” strike into a genuine strike. Every assembly plant, every stamping plant, every engine plant, every parts plant—every work location—must be on strike if this fight is to succeed.
UAW President Fain’s “expansion” of the strike on Friday is another stab in the back. Only two plants with a total of 7,000 workers were called out, the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant and the GM Lansing Delta Township Plant. This leaves 83 percent of us “standing up” on the job, without a contract, vulnerable to victimization, producing inventory and pumping out profits for the auto companies.
Every week, Fain provides fewer and fewer details about what is being “negotiated” behind our backs. We are being told nothing of substance about the core demands of workers—a massive increase in wages, the restoration of COLA that fully keeps up with inflation, an end to tiers, the conversion of all current and future temps to full-time workers, full health care and pensions for all, and, perhaps most important, securities against the jobs bloodbath the companies are preparing as part of the EV transition.
Instead, we get empty rhetoric and deliberately ineffective action. The media and financial analysts, who calculate the impact of our strike in dollars and cents, are gloating over how it is having next to no impact on corporate profits.
An all-out strike cannot be delayed any longer! Every day that the overwhelming majority of Big Three workers stay on the job without a contract, more workers are victimized, and the companies stockpile more and more inventory.
Fain announces only two more assembly plants to strike, provoking outrage from workers on social media
In a Facebook Live video Friday morning, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain reiterated his order that the vast majority of UAW members at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis continue working without contracts and producing profits for the companies.
Claiming there had been “significant progress” at the last minute from Stellantis, Fain did not call out any further facilities at the company. He announced walkouts only at the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant and the GM Lansing Delta Township Plant. With just 7,000 workers at the two factories, the announcement means that 83 percent of UAW members—more than 120,000 workers—are still on the job two weeks after their contracts expired.
Fain’s announcement Friday is a continuation of the UAW’s cynical “stand up strike” policy, better termed a “stay at work order.” The UAW bureaucracy has deliberately avoided calling out the auto companies’ main profit-making centers which produce pick-ups. This includes the Ford Dearborn and Kentucky Truck plants, which produce the F-150s, the GM Flint and Fort Wayne plants (Chevy Silverados), and Stellantis Warren Truck and Sterling Heights Assembly (Dodge Rams).
The UAW bureaucracy is betraying the widespread desire among workers for industry-wide strike to reverse decades of concessions. Acting on a strategy worked out in advance with management and the Biden administration, the UAW is seeking to placate workers with false promises of “expanding” the strike, while it wears workers down and prepares the ground to announce contracts that will be in line with the company’s demands for massive attacks on jobs and workers’ living standards.
Friday’s livestream underscores the urgency of the call by the Autoworkers Rank-and-File Committee Network for emergency mass meetings at union locals, so that workers can discuss and vote on resolutions demanding all-out strike action. To fight for this policy against the resistance of the UAW bureaucracy, the network is calling for workers to hold discussions and form rank-and-file committees at each facility.
Fain’s announcement that only two more assembly plants would be called out produced an outpouring of anger in the comments on the UAW’s livestream.
“As long as the big MONEY plants continue to produce plants they are not going to deal with us appropriately,” one worker wrote.
Similar comments included:
- “Everybody out! Let’s stop playing the guessing game!!!”
- “Omg! He’s gonna let us work forever!! This is wrong!”
- “Stop giving them more time! Shut them all down.”
- “You’re giving them more time, while we are slaving.”
- “The rest of us are getting forced in every Saturday stockpiling parts, getting overworked!!!”
- “Giving them a chance because they are making progress doesn’t work. Ford already proved it. All you did was give them an opportunity to build more cars and be stronger against the current strikers. Now you’re doing it with Stellantis, the worst one of the Big Three. This is a mistake.”
- “So keep these plants stockpiling. While other brothers and sisters are out striking, struggling, fighting for what everyone wants. Makes no sense to me. Why not shut it all down and get it over with? #FightTogetherWinTogether”
The UAW has called out just four and a half assembly plants to date: Stellantis Toledo North, GM Wentzille, GM Lansing Delta, Ford Chicago, and only the paint and final assembly departments of the Ford Michigan Assembly plant, with the rest of the plant has been laid off by the company. Last Friday, Fain announced strikes at GM and Stellantis’ parts distribution centers, which solely supply dealerships and the after-market and have no impact on production.
With the limited exception of Michigan Assembly, the UAW has refused to call out any production facilities in the Detroit metro area, which remains the center of the US auto industry, with tens of thousands employed in the auto and auto parts plants. The UAW leadership no doubt fears that striking further plants in Detroit could quickly trigger uncontrollable demands by workers throughout the region to join industrial action.
Workers at largest Canadian Ford plant voted down Unifor sellout deal, according to leaked ballot totals
Production and skilled trades workers at Ford’s Oakville Assembly Plant voted down Unifor’s sham contract during the ratification process last weekend. The details were leaked to the World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter Thursday afternoon by a worker at the plant, who said the information is circulating widely on the shop floor.
According to the vote breakdown, Unifor’s sham contract passed by 2,330 votes to 2,006. There are reportedly 5,680 workers represented by Unifor at Ford, meaning that turnout was approximately 77 percent. Close to 60 percent of the workforce therefore either voted “No” or did not participate in the sham ratification process, which included an online voting system that was cumbersome for many workers to access. Only around 41 percent of the workforce voted “Yes” despite the Unifor bureaucracy’s best efforts to browbeat them into accepting the agreement.
At Oakville, which faces a looming eight-month shutdown for electric vehicle retooling, production workers voted by 1,237 votes to 1,171 to reject the agreement. Skilled trades workers voted “No” by 122 votes to 120. Skilled trades in the Windsor Local 200 also rejected the agreement.
The internal release of the vote breakdown was forced by the initiative of skilled trades workers, who demanded in-person meetings to discuss the contract after being informed by a union official that they had turned it down.
All Ford workers and autoworkers across the Detroit Three’s operations in Canada must exploit this opportunity to intensify their campaign for a revote on the sham agreement overseen by the rank-and-file.
“Everybody in the Big 3 should shut down”: Striking Michigan autoworkers call for expansion of walkout
Ford workers who spoke to World Socialist Web Site reporters Tuesday expressed a strong determination to fight. Virtually all workers, full-time and part-time, said they were finding it increasingly hard to survive on already inadequate pay that has been further ravaged by inflation. Workers expressed little enthusiasm for either corporate-controlled party, with many expressing the view that Biden’s visit was simply a publicity stunt.
Mark, a 26-year veteran worker at Ford Michigan Assembly was on the picket line with his son, also a Ford worker. Mark was not impressed by Biden’s visit. “You know how it is with politicians, they are just trying to make themselves look good.”
He said even though he was working at top pay scale, he finds it hard to live. “I work full time and I’ve worked two jobs for 26 years to take care of my family. I do construction on the side,” he said.
“The last contracts have all been junk,” he continued. All you got was a little signing bonus.”
The WSWS also spoke to two younger Michigan Assembly workers, Matt and Brendon. Neither was impressed with the visit by President Biden.
Brendon said, “Trump-Biden, that doesn’t matter to us. Neither one of them stands for what we’re out here for.”
Matt agreed, “It’s the working class versus the millionaires and billionaires, and they are both for the two parties. We are standing here for the working class, but the politicians are coming just to smile for the cameras.”
Matt said he had seen what Biden had done to the railroad workers last year and also the sellout contract that had been imposed on oil workers in 2022 just before the start of the Ukraine war. “I have friends in the oil industry who lost their jobs after that contract,” Brendon said.
Both Matt and Brendon said it was hard for young autoworkers to earn enough to support themselves.
Matt said he was a third-generation autoworker. “Previously working in an auto plant was a great career. But we are now seriously struggling. We don’t get good wages. The auto companies are making millions and we are making pennies. I have three kids and a wife and we have just $80 to spend a week on groceries. That will buy just three bags. Many people think we have a good job, but that is not the reality.”
Unifor violated constitution to ratify Ford Canada contract over rejection by skilled trades workers
The World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter has learned that Unifor ratified the tentative agreement with Ford Canada over the rejection by skilled trades workers and in violation of the union’s own constitution. The three-year agreement for 5,600 autoworkers was declared ratified on Sunday with a slim 54 percent support.
With the contract rammed through online, Unifor is now holding physical meetings to sell the ratification in the face of workers’ anger and disbelief.
Workers at Ford Oakville Assembly were informed at an in-person meeting Monday by Unifor Skilled Trades National Director John Breslin that even though skilled trades— who operate under different terms than production workers—had rejected the contract, it had still been ratified.
“What the union basically said is that skilled trades votes don’t matter because they were ignored,” a Ford autoworker told the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter. “Unifor’s constitution was not followed by the national union to push the contract through.”
The origins of the UAW’s phony “stand up strike” policy
UAW President Shawn Fain and his supporters have presented his “stand up strike” policy as a strategic masterstroke, designed to keep the auto bosses off guard and give UAW officials leverage to escalate strikes and ramp up pressure on companies to hand over “record contracts.”
So far, however, the “strike” has not been a strike at all. Although 97 percent of GM, Stellantis and Ford autoworkers voted to walk out in unison on September 14, Fain has kept almost 90 percent of UAW members on the job, forcing workers to produce vehicles and profits for the auto companies.
The “stand up strike” is based on undermining this power and replacing this elemental weapon of the class struggle with middle class publicity stunts aimed at shifting “public opinion,” i.e., largely consumers, businesses and politicians, against the targeted corporation.
Since first hearing about this, many workers have asked themselves who came up with this nonsense?
A series of text messages obtained by the Automotive News from UAW Communications Director and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member Jonah Furman provides some hints. In them, Furman says, the UAW is inflicting “recurring reputations damage and operational chaos” on the Detroit automakers. “They can basically price in an all-out” strike, Furman claimed, adding, “If we can keep them wounded for months, they don’t know what to do.”
First, it is absurd to claim that pinprick strikes are more effective than an all-out strike, which analysts predict would cost the automakers $1 billion in the first 10 days alone. Second, the UAW has given the corporations ample time to stockpile vehicles and shift resources if need be.
Most revealing, however, is Furman’s reference to creating “operational chaos” for the companies.
“Let us march together”: Mexican autoworkers call for North American-wide fight
Autoworkers in Mexico have reacted with anger over the efforts by the Unifor union in Canada and the United Auto Workers in the United States to sabotage the growing movement for a united struggle by workers across North America.
“It is terrible the way the UAW and Unifor are handling the strike,” Fernando, a worker fired from the General Motors complex in Silao, Mexico, told the WSWS. “The governments in Canada and the US are also interfering and it is wrong that in the face of the support of the majority of the working class, unions consent in this way. Rank-and-file workers are right in expressing their anger. All our support and solidarity with our fellow workers.”
Another GM Silao worker said: “As we can see the unions seem to be conducting this struggle as they like and excluding the rank-and-file workers. This is totally arbitrary and not only that they are trying to divide us.
“We must be more audacious and intelligent than them. We must remain united and join those who are fighting against these union officials who are conforming to the demands of management of the auto companies. To those whose hands they are trying to tie, let’s not allow it, fellow autoworkers, let us march together and fight these corporations.”
“We Mexicans, fellow workers of the Silao plant, express our solidarity and support for a true democracy. Long live the rights and justice for the rank and file and down with the corruption and corporate barriers! We have endured this for too long. It is time to wake up and move forward, not one step backwards!”
Inequality driving the working class towards socialism, Will Lehman writes in Newsweek op-ed
On Monday, Newsweek published the following op-ed by Will Lehman, a Mack Trucks worker and socialist candidate for UAW president in last year’s union elections.
On Friday, President Biden spoke from the White House about the autoworkers’ strike, calling for the car corporations and the United Auto Workers to reach a “win-win” agreement for workers.
“Record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers,” Biden said. “Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create for an enterprise.”
Biden’s remarks raise fundamental questions about the distribution of wealth in the United States. Much more than a contract dispute is involved.
Workers’ wages at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis have declined dramatically over the past 50 years. In 1973, autoworkers received an average hourly wage of $5.54 an hour—more than $38 an hour in today’s dollars. If that wage had merely kept up with inflation (setting aside the massive increases in productivity over that time), autoworkers would be making nearly $40 an hour today.
But today temporary workers at GM start at $16.67 and top out at $20, half as much as workers five decades ago. Should temps be lucky enough to be given full-time status, their top pay is capped at just over $32 an hour, which it takes eight long years to reach.
Another comparison: GM CEO Mary Barra received a $28.9 million compensation package in 2022. She made approximately $2.4 million a month, $550,000 a week, $110,000 a day, or an “hourly” rate of nearly $13,800. It would take a temporary worker making the maximum $20 an hour almost three years to make as much as Barra does in a single day.
The difference between the two, however, is that every penny of Barra’s pay package is ultimately derived from the value produced by the labor of the working class.