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

After UAW Run-off Election Comes the Big Auto Contract—And Others

Jan 23, 2023

Active and retired UAW members have been getting ballots for the run-off election for offices not decided in the first election, which the government oversaw during October and November.

The runoff for president features one candidate representing the Administrative Caucus, which has run the union for decades, Ray Curry.

The other candidate, who often is referred to as the “reform” candidate, is Shawn Fain. Both promise to negotiate a better contract than the ones expiring this fall. But what comes out of these contracts will not depend on negotiations, no matter who wins the election.

It will depend on the situation facing every worker today, and the readiness to organize massively to change that situation. This is particularly important with the Ford, GM and Stellantis contracts coming up this year, along with many at the parts plants, as well as the one at Blue Cross of Michigan, whose work is directly tied to auto, and whose contract subsequently impacts medical insurance companies around the country.

Consider, first, the situation:

1) The auto industry says the “transition” to electric vehicles is in its future, and it must cut workers. In fact, it has already begun the cuts, even before producing many electric vehicles.

2) Last year, auto produced almost three million vehicles fewer than the year before. But it made much more profit—with fewer workers. That’s the real “transition” the U.S. auto industry intends, shrinking its own market. It produced essentially only expensive, high-profit vehicles for high-income buyers—regardless of whether the vehicles were gasoline, electric or hybrid. Long before this year, the three U.S. companies had already been cutting out production of small, mid-size and family-size vehicles, leaving only luxury models and trucks.

3) Changes like this affect not only the three U.S. companies. They impact the parts plants that feed into them. They impact companies like Blue Cross that service their workforce, or maintenance companies that service their facilities. They will impact the steel and aluminum industry, and all the other materials industries that feed into auto.

4) The government sits on top of the union today. The government monitor and the courts set the terms of the election, including putting up a bar to prevent retirees running for the union’s high offices. If workers push for the strike that is needed, the government is already on the scene, ready to block them. And the government is not neutral. Biden jumped in to block railroad workers who were trying to get a better contract. Trump threatened to do the same with teachers who decided to strike.

Workers will have to prepare to face this situation—the worsening economic situation, as well as the political one, which directly implicates the government in a direct role, attempting to control their struggle.

The only answer to this is the workers’ determination to fight, and first of all their readiness for a fight—especially this fall, with the big UAW contracts expiring. It will take a fight—and not just any fight. What’s needed is a fight that takes on all the companies at once, a fight that knows in advance it will at some point have to take on the government that serves the big companies. What’s needed is a fight that makes every effort to spread itself out beyond the auto industry.

A fight like this doesn’t just happen the day the contract expires. It depends on organizing far ahead. It depends on workers preparing, getting ready for a strike that could cut into their income. It means preparing, building up organizations in the plants, the one thing that can let the voices of the workers be heard, and their collective forces exerted.

Prepare for the strike we need to carry on this fall: that’s the least that someone who wants to lead the union today would say now, just a few months before these contracts expire.