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Volvo Trucks workers in Virginia reject third consecutive sellout deal, in massive rebuke of UAW
The rejection of the agreement is a powerful expression of the Volvo workers’ determination to fight and a debacle for the United Auto Workers, which pulled out all the stops in its attempt to ram it through. It is part of a growing mood of rebellion and opposition among workers in the US and internationally.
The third tentative agreement was largely a rehash of the two previous agreements, which workers rejected by 90 percent. Workers cited the fact that it included wage increases for “core” workers below the rate of inflation, sharp increases to out-of-pocket healthcare costs and a six-year wage progression for new hires.
Workers were particularly angered by the continued attacks on retiree healthcare. “It’s criminal what the UAW and Volvo have done to the retirees,” one worker said. “The UAW mismanaged the retirement fund, and the company has no problem telling 30-plus year retirees that your entire check will be used to pay for health insurance when they were told it would be paid for.”
The World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter calls on Volvo workers to demand the immediate resignation of the entire bargaining committee, which brought back this contract and its predecessors to workers.
The UAW bargaining committee must be replaced by a committee elected by the rank-and-file, composed of workers who have the confidence and trust of the rank-and-file. The last three agreements should be put where they belong: in the garbage can. Negotiations must proceed from what workers have been demanding all along: significant wage increases, a cost-of-living escalator clause to meet soaring inflation, the elimination of tiers by elevating all workers to the top tier, protection of healthcare and pensions and other key demands.
Breaking News: Volvo Trucks workers reject third consecutive sellout deal
Striking Volvo Trucks workers at the New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia have voted down a third consecutive concessions contract backed by the United Auto Workers.
According to a post on the UAW Local 2069 Facebook page, the contract was rejected by 60 percent. Workers earlier reported a large turnout.
The new contract would have included wage increases below the rate of inflation, sharp increases to out of pocket healthcare costs, a six-year wage progression for new hires and cuts to signing bonuses compared to the two previous agreements.
The outcome of the vote is a powerful expression of the Volvo workers’ determination to fight, four weeks into their strike. It is also a debacle for the UAW, which pulled out all the stops in its attempt to ram it through.
A striking worker at the NRV plant told the World Socialist Web Site:
The people are waking up. We’ve got a fire in our belly. We are really showing some unity and strength. No one is asking for more than we deserve. The company is just pushing us too much, and we aren’t going to allow it. Still a long way to go, but we are willing to go the distance and fight the good fight.
This is our occupation, our future. They are trying to strip everything away. If they can’t offer [health] insurance, what’s the point of working for them?
The striking Volvo workers have been encouraged by the statements of support they have received from Volvo workers and other auto workers in the US and internationally.
Responding to the vote, Bill, a retired auto worker from the Pontiac GM Truck plant, said:
I have been a member of the UAW since January of 1972. During this time, I have watched them go from a union whose mission was to negotiate for and support the membership, to a group that seemed to negotiate contracts that were not in the membership’s best interests. My own local 594 was put in a position where we had to demonstrate in front of “Solidarity” House to tell the public of our lack of support from the union.
So I say to the Volvo Truck workers. ‘Good for you! Lotta backbone showing there!”
Video update: Volvo workers vote down third contract
Union to Kansas Frito-Lay workers: Don't ask for wage increases
Nearly 600 workers at Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of food and beverage giant PepsiCo, entered the fifth day of their strike Friday at the company’s plant in Topeka, Kansas, the state capital.
Workers walked out after voting down a contract proposal for the fourth time this year, a deal backed by the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union. Striking Frito-Lay workers are fighting to put an end to years of stagnating, poverty-level wages along with brutal mandatory overtime schedules, problems confronting ever-broader sections of the working class.
The company, committed to maintaining these miserable conditions despite being highly profitable, has moved aggressively against the strikers, cutting off their health insurance. According to a statement released to news station KSNT, Frito-Lay is also moving forward with plans to hire replacements, i.e., scabs, for the duration of their strike.
Hyundai and GM Korea autoworkers vote to strike
Autoworkers in South Korea voted this past week by large margins to strike as they fight to improve working conditions following a series of wage freezes in the industry last year imposed by the unions and the companies. On July 7, workers at Hyundai Motors, the country’s largest auto manufacturer, approved a walk-out, which followed a similar vote two days earlier by GM Korea workers.
At Hyundai, 74 percent of the 48,599 union members belonging to the Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU) voted to strike. They are demanding a 99,000 won ($US87) increase in the base monthly pay, 30 percent of Hyundai’s annual profits to be paid as bonuses, and an extension of the retirement age from 60 to 64 as workers are not eligible for the national pension until 65.
Workers at Ford Engine Plant near Cleveland express support for striking Volvo Workers
Rick, a veteran autoworker at the Ford Engine Plant near Cleveland, after hearing about the Volvo strike said, “You are saying they have been out for five weeks. Five weeks is a long time and this is the first I am hearing about it. When there is a strike the word should go out.
“The whole mentality of the companies is to isolate us and fight us one at a time. If Volvo is doing this, then in a few years Ford will do it to.
Asked his thoughts about the UAW trying to force through a sellout contract, he added, “I have been a union man my whole life, and it pains me to say it but they aren’t there for us. What they [union officials] are doing is just not any good. Now we are hearing about the corruption scandals, and it just confirms what we have been suspicious of for years.”
Another autoworker at the Ford Engine Plant, said, “The UAW is such a BS union, and I want them out of here. You see that several of the presidents are corrupt, and they don’t even get serious jail time. They are just given a slap on the wrist and get out.”
Tony, who is contracted out as a cleaner to work at the Ford Plant, said about the Volvo strike, “This kind of thing is happening all over. People doing my job used to be hired by Ford directly, and they used to $15 to $16 more than we make. Now they contract it out.”
His coworker, Mel, added, “The price of everything is going up, and it is going to keep going up. The Volvo workers are right to demand more. We should all be together, but instead they keep us separated.”
Indianapolis autoworker supports striking Volvo workers
An autoworker responded to the strike by Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Virginia by saying:
Hang in there, and make sure the contract has everything you are fighting for included in it. These companies are making billions, and the CEOs are making millions and have been for years. And don't let the UAW sell you out anymore. It's time we all stand up and do this at our next contract negotiations.
Video Update: Volvo workers vote on third tentative agreement
Volvo workers strike continues for second day in Ghent, Belgium
Volvo Cars workers in Ghent, Belgium continued their wildcat strike into a second day on Friday morning. The Ghent strike began with the morning shift on Thursday, when only a portion of workers started their shift. It continued into the afternoon and evening shifts. This morning, workers reported on Facebook that the strike action continued at least partially into the day shift. Not a single vehicle rolled off the production line on Thursday as a result of the strike.
The Ghent strike developed as a wildcat action in a rebellion against an agreement reached between company management and the union. The agreement would have meant that 6,000 out of the 6,500 workers would have been compelled to work an additional 2.5 hours per week, up from 37.5 to 40 hours. The strike began after the company sent a notice to employees this week informing them of the change.
Volvo Cars workers took to Facebook to denounce the company-union deal and express their hostility toward the union, which is widely viewed as an arm of company management. The union did not even bother to hold a vote on the extension of the working week.
Lorenzo B wrote: “Don’t stop, striking colleagues! Now is the time to make clear that we mean business.”
Referring to management’s pledge to delay discussions on lenthening the work week, Lorenzo added: “This pause button is purely for the purpose of making their cars before the [Summer] holidays. After the holidays, Volvo is just going to continue with their plan as if nothing happened… It clearly states that the change to working times is a non-negotiable condition. And just that condition is the problem for a lot of colleagues. The traffic jams. Our free time. The need for a second car for our partners. Problems taking children to day care. No compensation whatsoever for what we all have to give up. And so on. It’s downright scandalous.”
“I have been working at Volvo for 37 years,” wrote Heirbrandt. “The union delegates are on the side of the [company] board—being pampered with company cars with fuel cards and traveling to supposedly European meetings with Sweden and China. These people no longer stand for the staff.”
Chicago Ford worker sends message of support to striking Volvo workers
The following statement was sent in to the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee from a worker at the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant:
Hi there, I have been a Ford UAW worker for 35 years now. Let me tell you the UAW ain't no good. You have no say in [what] the international does, you can't even vote for the president. I wouldn't vote for a six-year contract. They can take that six years contract and shove it up their ass.
Hang in there and hold your head up. It will be tough, but you can do it. You will be doing this for every UAW member out there now, they just don't know it. I support you for everything you are doing for a better life.
Striking Virginia workers defiant as Volvo issues threats
Volvo Trucks management issued a series of provocative threats against striking workers in Virginia Thursday in a last-ditch effort to bully them into accepting a six-year labor agreement worked out with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Nearly 3,000 workers, who have been on strike at the New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia for more than a month, are voting on a third UAW-backed proposal today.
The Swedish-based multinational, which made more than $1 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2021 and handed over a record amount of dividend payments to its wealthy investors, is trying to put a gun to workers’ heads, in effect declaring, “Accept further concessions, or we will rob you of your meager raises, strip you of your vacation pay and maybe take your job.”
Rank-and-file workers remain defiant and determined to defeat the contract. “It’s obvious they’re trying to bully us,” one striking worker responded. “They’re going back to the ‘We’re going to move to Mexico’ scare tactic again. This just might piss enough people off that we get a landslide rejection. We should respond with another 90 percent ‘no’ vote to show them we mean business and are not scared by their threats.”
The worker added: “The union claims the full contract is in the backroom of the union hall. But I’ve seen several messages on Facebook of workers who have gone to the hall to look at it, and the local union officials say it’s not there or they have to wait until another official shows up before they can see it. Workers are fed up with the UAW.”
Referring to the company’s threats, another worker said: “They are trying to scare us into voting for this. If we vote this down, they are going to say, ‘We’ve halted all construction and we’re going to look elsewhere for our new plant.’ I guarantee that’s what they’ll say if we vote it down.
“A lot of younger workers stand to lose a lot of money if they go back to the second TA, heck I’ll lose $2-3 an hour. But we have to get the word out not to be intimidated by these threats to vote this down.”
Volvo workers in Belgium down tools over expanded workweek
Workers at the Volvo Cars plant in Ghent, Belgium, downed their tools and shut down production Thursday, in a wildcat protest over the company’s plans to increase the workweek from 37.5 hours to 40 hours.
The action involved hundreds of workers on the morning shift and was at least partially extended into the afternoon shift. Reports also indicate that the night shift has not reported for work.
According to Belgian news site hln.be, the agreement to extend the workweek “had been approved by the trade unions, but was not checked beforehand with the workers.” Volvo sent out a letter to workers this week announcing the change.
Statement of the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee calling for rejection of the third tentative agreement
This statement was published by the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee in advance of the vote on Thursday.
The Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee calls on workers to vote “no” on the new Tentative Agreement brought back by the UAW. This TA is another sellout that proves workers were right not to trust anything that was agreed to in the dark and behind our backs.
On Thursday, the UAW published a statement on its website, “Striking Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Virginia reach a tentative agreement with major gains.” According to Ray Curry, who became president of the UAW the same day that the TA was announced, this contract “reflects significant gains from the prior two tentative agreements.”
First, “Striking Volvo Trucks workers” have not reached any agreement on anything. Let us remind Curry that it is one thing for the UAW officials to reach an agreement with Volvo management, and it is quite another for workers to accept it. One would have thought they already learned this lesson after we rejected their two previous agreements by 90 percent.
Second, we would like to point out that this is the first statement that the UAW posted on its website or on its Facebook page since our strike began. For the past month, the UAW has said absolutely nothing about the fact that we were even on strike, keeping our brothers and sisters throughout the auto industry in the dark about our struggle.
Third, Curry now hails the “major gains” in the tentative agreement. Let us recall that Curry said in May that the second TA had “even more solid gains” than the first, and we told him what we thought of these “even more solid gains” at the time.
Fourth, there is a basic contradiction in what the UAW officials are claiming. When they tried to sell us the last TA, they declared that it was the best we could get. Now, they say that, as a result of our strike, we have won major gains. If the claims about “major gains” are true—which they are not—it only proves that the previous claims made by the UAW were false. Moreover, if there are really improvements in this third contract, they have been achieved because the rank-and-file opposed the previous agreements.
Now let us turn to these “major gains.” Currently, we only have access to the UAW’s “highlights,” but it is already clear that the contract does not meet our basic demands. The CPI inflation index is currently rising by 5 percent a year, driven by the price of gas and other necessities. We need to demand a contract that not only protects us against rising costs, but also makes up for decades of concessions accepted by the UAW.
SEIU-affiliated trade union imposes 3-year sellout contract on 460 Amcor workers who voted 'no' twice
The Workers United union announced Saturday that it was imposing a contract which Amcor workers in Terre Haute, Indiana voted down for a second time on July 2. The union also acted to block a strike that workers had voted to carry out if the second contract proposal was voted down. Workers had not even seen the full contract before the union announced it would be forced through against their will and will not expire until June 2024.
The contract the union implemented against the workers’ will is a sellout. It includes wage increases below inflation rates for three years of 3 percent, 2.5 percent, and 2.85 percent, respectively. Workers will receive zero monthly increases to their pensions across all three years of the contract. Health care coverage for the PPO plan will go up $1.50 to $2.50 per month, and the only decrease in health care costs is for workers under the high-deductible plan.
Kathy Hanshew, Board Manager of the Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board (CMRJB) of Workers United, issued a pompous video addressed to members on Saturday after the Local Executive Board voted to ask the Joint Board to implement the contract proposal that members had voted down the day before.
Speaking like a two-bit dictator, Hanshew informed workers who might be “possibly confused” that they must abide by a new three-year collective bargaining agreement, effective through June 2024, no matter what. The decision came “following two contract rejections by eligible voting members,” she said. It was the leadership of Local 1426 in Terre Haute who wanted to impose the contract, she said.
Australian postal workers support striking Volvo workers in the US
The latest meeting of the Australian Postal Workers Rank-and-File Committee unanimously passed a resolution in solidarity with striking Volvo workers in Dublin, Virginia. The committee has been closely following the struggle in the plant and stands in solidarity with the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee.
Jim Franklin, Australia Post worker and member of the PWRFC said:
I support the important stand the Volvo workers have taken, in rejecting the union backed company sell-out contract, and your determined fight for decent conditions.
Your struggle goes much further than your immediate factory in Virginia. Your rejection of the attempts by the union to force you to accept their pro-company deal has established a line in the sand, and shows workers everywhere what they must do.
I support all the demands of the Volvo workers rank-and-file committee and its exposure of the rotten role of the UAW. Your decision to form this rank-and-file committee and its principled fight against the pro-company UAW is an important lesson for all workers to follow.
Everywhere, the unions do the same as the UAW, and seek to sell workers out. This means for workers to advance their struggle even one inch requires new organisations, through which we can fight and defeat the conspiracy of the unions and the employers.
Sri Lankan workers speak out in support of Volvo strikers
Workers in Sri Lanka continue to voice their solidarity with the 3,000 striking Volvo workers in the US.
Jayasekera, an agriculture instructor from Rajagiriya, Colombo said:
I totally condemn the betrayal of the UAW union leaders. In this pandemic, it has increasingly become difficult for workers to survive. They need pay rises to face the rising cost of living and increased health needs. The trade union-company alliance is against that. They only want to maximise profits and so they neglect the lives of workers and their interests. The fight against this reaction must be advanced by expanding the Volvo Workers’ Rank-and-File Committee and strengthening its collaboration with other workers internationally.
A nurse from Sirima Bandaranaike hospital in Peradeniya, Kandy said:
As workers, we must not let this strike of Volvo workers be isolated. We should feel it like our own struggle. Workers everywhere, across all national borders, should defend their struggle against the treachery of the company and the trade unions.
I see similarities with the treachery of the health sector trade unions in Sri Lanka. Our unions here also pretend that they are working for us, but what they are doing is forcing the government’s agenda on us. I agree that workers should organise independently from capitalist interests and reject the trade unions.
Volvo Trucks worker warns about UAW ballot-stuffing, calls for united fight against sellout deal
“I am confident that we will vote this contract down again, but it might be by a narrower margin this time,” Jimmy said, citing the economic pressure on workers due to the poverty-level strike benefits from the UAW. “Some guys want to get back to work, but the majority will vote against this,” he said.
“The closer the margin,” he warned, “the more brazen the UAW will be to throw some ‘no’ votes into the ‘yes’ column. They don’t start counting the votes until the parking lot is empty and then there is no one left in the building but local and UAW International reps. A lot of workers take pictures of their ‘no’ votes, but the ballots are generic pieces of paper, which don’t have our names on them. I don’t trust the union and I don’t know of anyone who does. There’s no reason we can’t have the ballots counted publicly for the sake of integrity.”
“I’ve been working here for almost 30 years, and I’ve never paid for healthcare insurance. Now it’s going to be $100 a month, plus the $70 we pay in dues to the UAW. The new hires have been paying premiums for years, so some of them are saying, ‘Why can’t you pay? I’m already paying.’ This is a dividing tactic to split the young and the old. None of us should be paying the premium,” Jimmy said, “The company should.”
Jimmy decried the one-sidedness of the previous UAW-backed contracts, which seemed to be binding only on them, but not on the company. Other NRV workers have reported to the WSWS that UAW officials readily let Volvo modify contract terms whenever it suits them. This includes letting Volvo hire nonunion temporary workers and allowing Volvo to steal overtime pay, supplemental unemployment benefits and vacation time.