As most of you know by now, almost 50,000 United Auto Workers across the country have been on strike for almost a week now, an action that has been a decade in the making. First, those of us in the NJ IWW wish to extend our warmest greetings and solidarity to our Fellow Workers on strike.
The Great Recession and taxpayer lifeline to US automakers seems like
a lifetime ago, many, especially in the UAW, can’t forget about the
concessions workers were forced to make. One of the key sticking
points, was the hiring of “temporary workers” at less than half
the standard base pay, with virtually no benefits. Now these
“temporary workers” can be on the job for upwards of 3-5 years
with no road to becoming a fulltime employee. Another sore spot from
2009, is that GM has had consistently profitable quarters for years,
and banked $35 billion in just the last three years alone. Their CEO,
Mary Barra, lives high on the hog as most CEOs do, and took home
almost $22 million, just last year! That’s 281 times the average GM
rest of the contract disagreements are the same ones we hear time and
time again, but that by no means makes them unimportant: the company
is looking to slash jobs (14,000 over two years by closing plants and
moving production), and cut healthcare and benefit spending. In fact,
during the strike, GM has actually cancelled their employees’
healthcare, and shifted it to the UAW. A striker out of Local 1005 in
Ohio, had his son’s cancer treatment suspended without warning.
What a way to make your workers feel valued! Hopefully the anger will
just strengthen their resolve to “hold the fort.”
the UAW isn’t completely blameless in this strike, either. A day
before the “main” strike took place, around 850 Aramark employed,
but UAW represented, janitors at several plants, hit the picket line.
Not that it should matter, but it bares noting that the janitors here
are crucial to a plant’s operation, cleaning machinery and
equipment on assembly lines or in painting areas, easily risking
bodily harm. But because there was no official word from UAW
leadership or even the Locals, union members had to cross their own
brothers’ and sisters’ picket! Thankfully not everyone did
though, to quote Sean Crawford in Flint, “In my opinion, crossing
the picket line makes you a scab. The
picket line is sacred. That’s the meaning of solidarity.” At
least there’s still some in the rank and file who know the deal.
Solidarity is also being shown by the Teamsters, who are honoring the
picket line, and refusing to transport any GM vehicles to dealers.
In an age of
exponential automation and the shuttering of plants and factories in
business’ favor of overseas exploitation, a strike such as this one
might prove pivotal down the line (sources were estimating it to go
3-4 days before GM would really feel the pressure, losing $50 million
a day…for comparison, the 2007 strike only lasted two days).
Securing stable jobs with living wages and a retirement plan that
*doesn’t* include poverty, is crucial right now. And no fortune
teller was needed to tell you that Trump’s 2017 speech and the
now-closed Youngstown, OH GM plant, promising to bring “all”
manufacturing jobs back to the US, was never going to materialize in
the slightest. The barbaric approach of nixing healthcare is also
likely to have a lasting effect, especially while the Medicare For
All debate is raging. Imagine
living and working in this country in 2019, and being completely
beholden to your boss in a life or death struggle, “get back to
work or you or your family will die.” For the UAW’s sake, and for
the sake of all workers toiling, we wish a speedy and victorious end
to the strike!