Nearly 7,000 US auto workers have joined the national strike over pay. They are employed at the Stellantis company’s most profitable plant in the world.
At 10am on Monday workers streamed out of the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (Shap) near Detroit, where they build the Ram 1500 pickup truck. They chanted, “No bucks, no trucks”.
It’s not a moment too soon for the UAW union leaders to escalate the action. It means 41,000 workers are now striking against the Big Three—Ford, General Motors (GM) and Stellantis. But that’s a long way short of the 150,000 who could be out, and it is nearly six weeks since the action began.
“Some of the younger people have been bugging us every day, wondering when we were going to go out,” Charles Archard told Labor Notes website. He is a Local (branch) 1700 UAW full-timer at Shap.
Shap normally works around the clock, on three shifts, with much Saturday overtime scheduled. That has helped the company build up a 114-day stock of the Ram 1500, reducing the impact of a targeted strike.
Local 1700 has a more militant history than most and expected to be called out earlier. It spearheaded the rank and file rejection of the 2015 Chrysler national contract which forced union officials back to the table for a better deal.
In 2009 when Chrysler announced it would close the plant, a campaign to “Keep Shap Open” was victorious. And local officers opposed the national concessions by union leaders in 2007 that auto workers are now revolting over.
Bosses are also escalating. As well as thousands of layoffs at plants in the US as a result of the strike, companies are also hitting out internationally. Layoffs mean workers who are not striking are told not to come into work. Permanent workers receive only basic pay, and the many temporary and short-contract workers may get nothing.
Last Saturday GM announced mass layoffs at three factories in Sao Paulo, Brazil with no advance warning to its workers. But that has spread the struggle. Thousands of workers at three GM plants in Sao Paulo began strikes on Monday.
Workers at the Sao Jose dos Campos, Sao Caetano do Sul and Mogi das Cruzes plants are out “until we win”. The Sindmetal union said the plants “will only resume production after the job cuts are cancelled and job stability is guaranteed for everyone.”
The UAW nationally has called for a 40 percent pay increase at the Big Three over four years and a 32-hour work week with no reduced pay. It also wants the abolition of the multi-tier workforce imposed by bosses and pushed by president Barack Obama when the banking crisis hit.
The employers have now moved to a pay offer of around 23 percent over four years—well short of the union’s demand. UAW president Shawn Fain says “there is more to be won” but he also said that talks are coming to an end.
Ford, GM and Stellantis made combined profits of nearly £20 billion in just the first six months of this year. There is plenty of money there to win the full claim. But that means quickly calling out all the 150,000 to squeeze the bosses much harder.Original post