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

Opportunities Lost in ‘23 Can Be Found in ‘24

Jan 21, 2024

Coming into 2023, there was the opportunity for the working class to start a fight to gain back what we have lost after years of concessions. The UAW auto contracts and the Teamster UPS contract were up. These 2 groups of workers and their unions play a big role in the whole economy and in the working class, a role much bigger than their numbers. A fight by these workers together could have opened the door for a fight by all the workers who are also facing a declining standard of living.

Both the Teamsters and the UAW had a new union president. Both were promising a more militant fight to turn back years of concessions. But the results were much less than what was promised.

When the UAW leadership ended the strikes at GM, Ford and Stellantis, they declared “victory” for auto workers. They said they had achieved a “historic” contract. But in December, just weeks after the contracts were ratified, thousands of auto workers were told they that they would soon be getting laid off, unsure if they would ever return.

Then on January 12, over 500 temporary supplemental workers at Stellantis who believed they would be getting full-time jobs, instead received a text message from the company saying they had been fired, effective immediately. They were told, in effect,"hit the street, don’t come back, good luck with paying your bills.” The next day, the UAW top leadership said that another 1,600 supplemental workers at Stellantis would be terminated in the coming months. There was certainly no “victory” for these workers.

Last summer, the Teamsters union leaders had also declared a “victory” after they settled a contract with UPS without a strike. They said they had “ended 2-tier". But this new contract still left half of the UPS workers working part-time jobs at much lower wages. If this is not 2-tier, then what the hell is??? The Teamsters leaders had said they would not extend the strike deadline. But then they backed down and accepted a contract that continued a 2-tier system.

The union leaders at both the Teamsters and the UAW never used the full power of the workers against the bosses.

The UAW top leadership did call a strike, but it was a partial strike that did not use all the forces of the auto workers. This strike did achieve some monetary gains. But the new UAW leaders said the contract was more than it really was. It did not catch wages up to inflation and did not address working conditions. The UAW leaders misled the supplemental workers at Stellantis. They did not tell them what the top union leaders already knew—that many supplemental workers would soon be terminated. The fact that the UAW leaders did not propose any kind of fight to stop these outrageous layoffs showed that they already knew about them. The union leaders at the UAW and Teamsters declared a “victory", even as 2-tier continued and workers were getting laid off. Workers don’t need “victories” like these. Workers need something better than this.

Workers everywhere are facing the same low wages and bad working conditions as the auto workers and UPS workers. Many workers face even worse. We live in an economy that does not provide a decent life for working people. We live in a system that is moving toward a world war, a war that would be paid for on the backs of workers.

To make better lives for ourselves and our families, it will take a fight by workers against our capitalist bosses. The corporations and Wall Street are together as one class. Our class, the working class, has to be together to make a fight against them. We can make this fight because workers, union and non-union, make everything run. We make up the majority of society. But to mobilize our full power, we need to know what we are up against and we need to be able to make our own decisions. We don’t need leaders who don’t tell us the truth, leaders who call something a “victory” when it is not. We don’t need leaders who would hold back a fight.

When the working class is ready to make a fight, we will have to find workers from our class to be leaders. We will need working class leaders who are ready to take a fight as far as it can go.