On the UAW auto workers’ picket line in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Picture: UAW on Twitter)

More US auto workers are to join a strike against the Big Three firms—Ford, GM and Stellantis. The UAW union is expanding the action from the present three plants involving 13,000 workers to another 38 parts and distribution locations across 20 states.

But this adds only a further 5,600 workers on strike. There are almost 150,000 who could be out—the UAW is squandering these workers’ enthusiasm and determination to fight. Many, including Wall Street analysts, expected the union to expand work stoppages to the truck plants which are crucial to the companies’ profitability.

This hasn’t happened. And the partial escalation leaves out Ford where, the union says, there are supposed to be signs of progress. Immediately after the union announcement, Ford shares gained 3.7 percent and GM shares also rose.

UAW president Shawn Fain declared the new walkouts during a livestream update on Friday morning.

He said there was still a long way to go to win an acceptable deal and “Stellantis and GM in particular are going to need some serious pushing”.

Fain said Ford had agreed to eliminate one lower wage tier and would reinstate a cost of living adjustment that bosses eliminated in 2009. And the union would have the right to strike over plant closures.

But there’s nothing at all on basic pay. The automakers have proposed a 20 percent increase over 41/2 years. The UAW wants 40 percent over four years and a 32-hour work week with no reduced pay.

It also wants the total abolition of the multi-tier workforce imposed by bosses and pushed by then president Barack Obama when the banking crisis hit.

Currently, UAW workers who were hired after 2007 don’t receive guaranteed pensions. Their medical coverage is also worse than previously recruited workers—a huge issue in a country with no proper public health service.

Winning these demands will take much more than is presently taking place. Ford should also be squeezed.

And many workers want it to happen. During his Friday broadcast, Fain acknowledged “more of you are ready to walk”. He said the eyes of the world were on the union, which had received solidarity messages “from South Africa to Malaysia urging us to stand firm and win big”.

Workers are already escalating from below by refusing voluntary overtime. Many plants are hugely dependent on overtime to make up for understaffing. Some were forced to shut for the whole of last weekend because of a lack of workers.

At Ford’s Buffalo Stamping in New York, the whole committee of local union reps went out on the floor. They talked one on one and to groups about the strike strategy, forklift driver Ricky Brand, the branch vice president, told the Labor Notes website.

“We also encouraged people to do no voluntary overtime,” Brand said. “It’s crossing an unofficial picket line to work overtime. It’s helping out the company.”

They’re also backing up those on strike by saying no to managers who ask them to do any out-of-the-ordinary tasks at work.

Within a day, so many workers had turned down extra shifts that “Ford had to cancel both Saturday and Sunday work,” Brand said. He believes at some point “it’s inevitable that the company will make overtime mandatory.”

Workers at Stellantis’s Mack Assembly in Detroit are encouraging each other to “Eight and Skate.” Usually, said Crystal Childrey who works in quality control, people want lots of overtime, but now they’re leaving after eight hours.

This is the mood the union should tap with an all-out and indefinite strike of 150,000 workers. The UAW has a £675 million strike fund it could use if it wanted to.

Instead, the union will invite president Joe Biden to come to the picket lines. This can lead directly away from real militancy in order to keep in with the White House. Biden is no friend of strikers. He outlawed a rail strike earlier this year.

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