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Unifor pushes sellout “pattern” as Monday night strike deadline approaches for 4,300 autoworkers at GM Canada | Updates on the autoworkers struggle

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Unifor pushes sellout “pattern” as Monday night strike deadline approaches for 4,300 autoworkers at GM Canada

As a 11:59 p.m. strike deadline approaches Monday night, the Unifor bureaucracy is waging a campaign to browbeat 4,300 autoworkers at GM Canada into accepting the sellout “pattern” agreement which was pushed through last month at Ford in sham vote and over its rejection by skilled trades workers. 

The latest “bargaining update” from Unifor President Lana Payne, Unifor GM Master Bargaining Chair Jason Gale and Unifor GM Master Bargaining Vice-Chair Trevor Longpre reiterates the determination of the bureaucracy to “drive the pattern home to GM members,” despite “items of contention” which remain with GM. These are said to include the transition of full-time temporary part time workers to permanent positions and quarterly payments for retirees. 

In a letter to GM skilled trades members posted on Saturday, Payne warned that despite a long standing practice going back to Unifor’s predecessor the Canadian Auto Workers, their rejection of the deal will not “veto” ratification. The union also put out a video seeking to sell the deal to younger workers who live paycheck to paycheck, taking advantage of their precariousness, the result of previous Unifor sellouts, to lock workers into yet another pro-corporate contract. 

The three-year sellout pattern set at Ford, which Unifor has boosted as “transformative” and “life changing,” maintains the hated multi-tier wage system, provides for wage increases which fail to make up for high and continued inflation, and does nothing to guarantee jobs in the transition to electric vehicle production. 

Unifor sabotaged last month’s impending strike by Ford workers, who had voted by 98 percent to strike. First it announced a 24 hour extension of contract talks, an hour-and-a-half after the supposed strike deadline had passed. This was followed the next day by the announcement of a tentative agreement. In an anti-democratic ratification process workers were kept in the dark on the details of the agreement until they were presented with self-serving highlights at a single online Zoom meeting. During the email ratification vote, registration surreptitiously reopened, with low-paid temporary part time workers encouraged to vote in favour with a $4,000 signing bonus dangled as incentive. 

The union apparatus plans to carry out this same fraudulent process to ride roughshod over opposition and enact terms at GM and Stellantis which are favourable to management. 

Despite the union bureaucracy’s efforts, its sellout “pattern” faces stiff opposition from the rank and file. It passed with just 54 percent support of those who voted at Ford, and many GM and Stellantis workers have expressed their determination to break the pattern in favour of a better deal and to join their brothers and sisters at the Detroit Three in the United States on strike. At a Unifor Local 444 meeting in Windsor attended by approximately 600 autoworkers last week Stellantis workers took to the floor to denounce the deal as totally inadequate. 

Autoworkers must heed the lessons from the Unifor sellout at Ford and seize control of the contract struggle through the formation of rank-and-file committees at every plant to return power to the shopfloor. They must turn to their colleagues in the US and Mexico to wage a united North America wide struggle against the transnational Detroit Three which exploit workers for their profits around the globe.

Mack Trucks workers reject UAW-backed contract, set to strike Monday

Nearly 4,000 Mack Trucks workers in multiple states overwhelmingly voted Sunday to reject a tentative agreement backed by the United Auto Workers. A strike will begin Monday morning.

The UAW announced Sunday evening that the agreement had been rejected by a margin of 73 percent “no” to 27 percent “yes.” Workers immediately expressed skepticism, saying that opposition to the sellout contract was much higher.

The rejection is a rebuke to both Mack Trucks and the UAW apparatus, which conspired behind workers’ backs and sought to push the agreement through to avoid a strike in the critical trucking industry.

The agreement at Mack Trucks had been announced mere minutes before the October 1 expiration of the previous 2019-2023 contract as a way of averting a walkout, which would coincide with the Big Three autoworkers contract struggle, now in its fourth week. This happened even after Mack Trucks workers voted by 98 percent to strike in the event of a contract expiration.

“We did it. We spread the word and won,” said a Mack Trucks worker in Macungie, Pennsylvania in response to the rejection vote. 

The worker noted the company’s effort to dangle a $3,500 signing bonus to coerce financially desperate new hires to accept the agreement had backfired: “We are so happy [the contract] didn’t pass. We finally got around to the new hires to tell them what we were really losing. We did our jobs as UAW 677 members that have been here and know what we deserve!”

Expressing the determination to strike, another worker simply stated that the “plan is to shut down the plant.”

Seeking to save face, UAW President Shawn Fain hypocritically declared that he was “inspired to see UAW members at Mack holding out for a better deal, and ready to stand up and walk off the job to win it.” The public statement made no reference to the fact that a few days earlier Fain had declared the offer to be “a record contract for the Heavy Truck industry.”

Will Lehman, UAW presidential candidate and a rank-and-file socialist worker from Mack Trucks, denounced Fain for “acting like he stands with us” after having “tried to ram through a pay cut, sellout tentative agreement on the workers at Mack Trucks.”

Lehman added that “the workers who rejected this agreement are on the floor living with the decades of concessionary UAW agreements, and we want to fight. We are throwing Fain’s agreement in the trash with our vote.”

The vote followed a mass membership meeting on Saturday, at which workers overwhelmingly opposed the contract. At that meeting, Lehman said, “This is the kind of contract that gets negotiated behind closed doors. There needs to be full transparency to all the workers, and as far as the vote count goes that needs to be made transparent to the workers as well.”

Will Lehman denounces the UAW tentative agreement at Mack Trucks on October 7, 2023

The 4,000 workers at Mack Trucks are determined to reverse UAW-backed concessions. Mack Trucks workers received only a 6 percent raise from 2019 to 2023, as they were forced to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In that time, inflation skyrocketed by 22 percent, while the new offer increased pay only by 19 percent, by 2028.

Prior to the vote, many workers denounced the sub-inflation pay raises, the lack of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), attacks on seniority and job security, extensions to the length of the work day, as well as the proposal to extend the life of the contract to five years from the current four.

“That might be decent if the company paid that much in the first year,” said a worker at Mack Trucks in Hagerstown of the 19 percent raise. Other workers stated they voted “no” simply on principle because of how the offer was being presented, without any details and in a rushed fashion.

The amount of profit that the company pumps out of its workforce is enormous. In 2022, Mack Trucks recorded a profit of $11.07 billion, near its 2019 profit levels of $11.11 billion.

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The massive “no” vote deals a staggering blow to the phony “stand-up” strike of Fain and the UAW apparatus. After more than three weeks since the expiration of contracts covering autoworkers in the Big Three, 83 percent of workers remain on the job, and the profits of the auto companies have hardly been impacted.

The walkout at Mack, which the UAW apparatus could not prevent, will encourage the growing demands among workers at Ford, GM and Stellantis for an all-out strike.

Mack Trucks workers have taken an important first step to taking the fight to the company. However, their struggle still faces danger, as the UAW bureaucracy will attempt to starve and isolate their strike if it is left in their hands. It is necessary that Mack workers join their fellow co-workers who have initiated the Mack Trucks Rank-and-File Committee.

A statement released by the committee last week declared that a “no” vote “will send a powerful signal that workers will not accept further concessions under any circumstances and that we are willing to fight for our interests.”

“But if there’s going to be a real struggle, it will have to be organized from below… Begin forming groups of workers who want to fight and establish rank-and-file committees on each shift, in each department, and in each plant.”

Mack workers erupt in anger at UAW “information sessions”

For updates and to discuss joining the Mack Workers Rank-and-File Committee, text MACK to (877) 861-4428.

Mack Trucks workers erupted in anger at a Saturday afternoon “information session” held in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, hosted by UAW Local 677 to try to ram through a tentative contract that the bureaucracy used to abort a strike one week ago at Mack Truck.

Mack workers in Pennsylvania denouncing the UAW‘s sellout contract at a Local 677 meeting on Saturday, October 7, 2023

About 400 workers from Mack’s flagship Macungie plant attended the meeting, at which the UAW hoped to present packaged “talking points” to workers to convince them to vote for a contract that it presents as a “record.”

Workers told the WSWS after that comments from the floor were universally hostile to the contract. At one point, an audience member asked how many in attendance were in favor of the contract. A single hand went up–that is, 1 out of 400.

Will Lehman, a rank-and-file socialist worker from the Macungie plant who challenged Fain and other bureaucrats for the UAW presidency last year, spoke from the floor. Lehman condemned the contract, and called for the expansion of the struggle. 

He that the UAW apparatus seeks to pit “workers in one country against another, while workers essentially don’t have any differences with each other, no matter if we’re in the US or if we’re in Sweden. We’re all trying to put food on our plates for our families and roofs over our heads.”

“We’re telling you we don’t like these decisions that you made for us,” another worker said during the meeting. “Why can’t you fix it? Why can’t you go back to them and say, ‘Our membership doesn’t like this?’ And you should’ve known, being at that table. You sat there with us before you became our representative, not liking what people before you did. So, why can’t you say, ‘Our membership doesn’t like this?’”

The UAW has been backfooted by worker anger against the tentative deal. In scores of communications to the World Socialist Web Site with rank-and-file workers and in social media posts, opposition has been unanimous.

Read the full report

UAW President Shawn Fain continues phony “stand up strike,” says no new plants will be struck

In a Facebook livestream broadcast Friday afternoon, UAW President Shawn Fain said no new plants would be called out on strike, continuing his phony “stand up strike” policy that has kept 83 percent of UAW members on the job producing profits for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.

In justifying his decision, Fain cited supposed “progress” in negotiations. In particular, he touted what he called a “historic” agreement by General Motors to place its electric vehicle battery plants under the UAW national contract. Fain claimed that a last-minute offer by GM caused the union to cancel a planned strike at the GM Arlington, Texas Assembly Plant.

Even as Fain announced “progress” on the part of GM, workers have reported that all temporary workers the GM Lake Orion Assembly Plant were termina­ted effective immediately.

For the UAW apparatus, the main significance of an agreement to incorporate EV plants in the UAW “master agreement” is to ensure that workers continue paying dues. It will do nothing to ensure decent wages for the workers in the plants. By saying that this is part of a “just transition,” Fain implicitly recognized that the UAW agrees that the “just transition” to EVs will include the massive elimination of jobs.

Fain spent most of the livestream trying through means of bombastic rhetoric and vague generalities to answer demands, most clearly articulated by the Autoworkers Rank-and-File Committees Network, for an all out strike.

Significantly, Fain said nothing about the sellout contract that the UAW is attempting to force through at Mack Trucks this weekend, over mass opposition. The agreement includes a 19 percent wage increase over 5 years (below the level of inflation) without a cost-of-living adjustment and with a longer work day.

Posts on Facebook during the livestream gave a glimpse of the growing rank-and-file anger over the refusal of the UAW leadership to wage a real fight against the auto companies.

“Meanwhile we continue to make cars for those filthy rich folks,” one worker wrote. “So I guess the companies will all get a pass this week from getting hit with a strike,” wrote another.

Other commetns included, “Way to sell out the workers at Mack Trucks!” and “He’s playing a game. Just put the plants down and get on with it faster.”

A worker at the Stellantis Toledo Jeep complex told the World Socialist Web Site. “This victory with GM placing their EV manufacturing facilities under the banner of the UAW is a victory for those collecting union dues.” He added, “It’s ironic for a man who makes $300,000 a year, while representing workers who can barely afford to survive, to be wearing a shirt that says ‘Eat The Rich’”

Puncturing Fain’s claim about the supposed effectiveness of the stand up strike, the Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday headlined, “UAW Strikes Spare Automakers From Financial Pain—for Now.” It notes that by keeping the vast majority of workers on the job the UAW is protecting its own treasury as well as the profits of management. It cites a Wells Fargo analyst who notes “It’s creating a lot of headlines. Financially, it’s not very impactful at all.”

As UAW reveals efforts to lengthen workday at Mack Trucks, workers voice opposition to sellout contract

The tentative agreement announced by the United Auto Workers with Mack Trucks at midnight last Sunday—in order to block a strike that was set to begin Monday—faces massive opposition among workers, teams of World Socialist Web Site reporters found in visits to major plants at Macungie, Pennsylvania, and Hagerstown, Maryland.

According to carefully selected “highlights” distributed Monday to workers, the contract includes a 19 percent wage increase over five years without a cost of living adjustment. The raise does not even recoup the 22 percent of real wages lost to inflation over the past three years. All of the other “highlights” are virtually meaningless, including a $3,500 signing bonus meant as a sweetener to help workers choke down the rotten contract.

Gates to the Mack Trucks plant, Macungie, Pennsylvania

On Wednesday, a “lowlight” of the contract, thus far concealed from workers, was revealed. The UAW has agreed to the extension of the workday from eight hours to 8.5 hours at straight time (i.e., without overtime payments) at Local 677 in Macungie, its flagship facility. The UAW openly boasts, on a 15-page document posted to Local 677’s web site, that the lengthening of the working day is an aspect of its “joint partnership approach” with Mack Volvo. The deal, the UAW reports, will “allow” Mack workers in Macungie to produce 1,600 more trucks per year.

Shamelessly voicing management’s interests, the UAW wrote that extending the workday would be “an innovative approach to be able to help increase market share.”

That this so-called “union” is pushing to undermine the eight-hour day is of historic significance. The eight-hour day emerged as the rallying cry of the American working class soon after the Civil War: “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will.”

The eight-hour day has already become all but a thing of the past throughout much of the auto and auto parts industries, with the support of the UAW bureaucracy. Workers are regularly forced to work 10- or 12-hour shifts, six or seven days a week, just to make ends meet.

There is one reason and one reason only that the UAW has agreed to extending the workday at Mack: to line the pockets of the shareholders and executives who control Mack Volvo.

Read the full report

Mack Workers Rank-and-File Committee: “Vote NO on the UAW-Mack sellout contract!”

The following statement was issued Thursday by the Mack Workers Rank-and-File Committee in response to the UAW’s release of “highlights” of its tentative agreement with Mack Trucks.

Brothers and sisters,

The so-called “highlights” of the UAW’s agreement with Mack released Wednesday are enough to show us that this contract is a sellout that belongs in the garbage. The Mack Workers Rank-and-File Committee urges the largest possible “No” vote this Sunday.

If we stand together and reject this pro-company contract, we will receive enormous support and solidarity from the 146,000 autoworkers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis who are also fighting corporate attacks and the sabotage policies of the UAW bureaucracy. It will send a powerful signal that workers will not accept further concessions under any circumstances and that we are willing to fight for our interests.

At the same time, we demand that the UAW release the full contract and all “memoranda of understanding” prior to Sunday’s vote.

If those are the UAW’s “highlights,” then we must know the “lowlights.” Workers have a right to know every detail of every concession the UAW has agreed, down to the letter. Union officials have no legitimate reason to conceal that information from us. John Deere workers demanded it in 2021, forcing the UAW to release the full contract language—which showed it was a total sellout, leading Deere workers to reject it by 90 percent.

What concessions do we already know are in the Mack agreement based on the highlights? The contract:

  1. Is a five-year deal, rather than four, which would weaken us and divide us from workers at Volvo Trucks/Local 2069 and John Deere, whose contracts expire in 2027.

  1. Includes a cut to real wages, with total raises of 19 percent over five years: 10 percent front-loaded the first year, and 9 percent over the following years. Inflation has risen 22 percent over the past three years alone, and our last contract included only a 6 percent raise, meaning we have already suffered a significant cut to the value of our wages.

  2. Leaves the tier system in place, only reducing the “progression” scheme by one year.

  3. Does not include COLA, one of our most important demands, given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and the continuing rise in gas, food and housing costs.

  4. Adds 30 more minutes to every workday at Macungie at straight time to increase the output of trucks by 1,600 a year. By agreeing to be “creative in our joint partnership approach” to productivity, the UAW is opening the door to limitless forced overtime and speed-up.

And the UAW-Mack bargaining “council” has the gall to call this a “record contract”! Anyone who could make such a claim demonstrates that they have nothing but contempt for the basic needs and interests of the rank and file.

Read the full statement

“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.

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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.

Read the full statement

“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.”

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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.”

Read the full report

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. 

Read the in-depth report

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.

Will Lehman's op-ed in Newsweek [Photo: Newsweek]

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.

Read the full op-ed