The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

When You Fight, Bring Others with You!

Jul 2, 2023

Shawn Fain, new president of the UAW, says the auto contract expiration will “see the defining fight of a generation.”

Sean O’Brien, Teamsters president, says that what happens at UPS will “set the tone, set the standard high for labor. Not just for Teamsters, but for the entire labor movement.”

It’s true, these are big companies, playing an important role in the economy. Both UPS and auto have been rolling up stupendous profits. In the last 11 years, UPS reported one-hundred billion dollars net profit. The three auto companies, according to Fain, made almost one-quarter of a trillion dollars in ten years time. Trillion, not billion. And both Fain and O’Brien say they want to lead a fight.

They both say that the companies could afford to give something back to their workers.

Afford it? Sure they could. But the issue is not how much profit they make, it’s what this capitalist system requires them to do with the profit.

If it were just a question of money, UPS and the auto companies could well afford to bring every worker up to a decent wage, without anyone having to work overtime. They could get rid of all two-tier arrangements. They could guarantee jobs. All that and a lot more. And other companies would follow.

But none of them will do it just because they could! The goal of every company—in auto, trucking, warehousing, and every other productive industry in the country—is to make as much money as it can, more money this year than the year before.

The auto companies claim they need the money to invest in “electrification.” UPS claims it needs money to prepare for the next economic downturn.

It’s true, the companies need money—but to satisfy their “investors.” Last year for example, out of UPS’s 13 billion dollars in net profit, 9.6 billion went to its so-called “investors.”

Don’t think that this fancy word, “investor,” means your Grandma sitting at home, waiting for her small quarterly dividend check. Over 90% of all stock is owned by big Wall Street banks, the massive “private equity companies,” big insurance companies. That’s who the “investors” are.

So when Teamsters go up against UPS in a bid to transform part-time workers to full-time workers, they are going up against not only UPS, but against the big financial interests standing behind UPS.

When auto workers go up against Ford, GM and Stellantis to get rid of two-tier, it’s the same. Every company, in fact, is trying to roll up immense profits in order to pass most of it on to big finance, which pulls the strings of all the companies.

And, right behind big finance, is the government. Don’t forget what Biden and Congress did when railroad workers set a strike date in a bid to get more help on the railroads, trying to get rid of forced heavy overtime. The politicians passed a law making the railroad strike illegal.

Behind every company is the rest of the capitalist class—and its government.

These new union leaders say they want to lead a fight. And maybe they do.

But that’s not enough. Every worker has to have the perspective that when you go to fight, you don’t go alone. Companies you fight don’t go alone.

There is no reason to fight alone. It’s not one auto company, there are three big ones. And there are many more auto workers than that: 990,600 in the whole auto industry. The same thing is true in trucking: millions of workers. And there are all the other industries.

Fain says this can be the “defining fight of a generation.” It could be—if this whole generation of the working class is involved in it. Of course, it’s not enough to just call on everyone to come out and see millions rush out to join in the fight.

But someone who wants this struggle to turn into a real fight would aim at bringing out workers from other companies and industries.

That is the opposite of what the unions have done for years. But what the unions have been doing isn’t working. Time for workers to break the unions’ tired old habits!