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

A Fight by All Auto Workers Is Needed

Nov 27, 2023

After the UAW contract with the Big Three—Ford, GM, and Stellantis—was ratified, union president Shawn Fain said, "Next, we are going to organize non-union auto companies like we’ve never organized before." The transplant companies, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and others, followed the UAW contract by announcing that they would be giving their own workers an immediate raise of 10 or 11%, matching the upfront raise that the UAW workers received. Fain claimed the credit for the UAW.

And it may be true that the transplant companies raised wages because of the wages won in the UAW contract. They gave the same pay raise to convince their own workers not to organize a union. This is a strategy the transplants have followed for years. Scare tactics, threats, and anti-union propaganda from the companies are some of the reasons why the UAW has failed in previous attempts to organize unions at the transplants. But there is another, more basic reason. Under the old UAW leadership, organizing was mostly conducted from the top down and from the outside. Little was done to engage the workers inside the plant to build their own fighting union.

So, will the new UAW leadership organize differently than the old leadership? Will they make the union campaign the strongest it could be by engaging the workers themselves to lead the way?

The new leadership certainly did not do this during the strike at the Big Three. They used fighting words beforehand, and many auto workers seemed ready to make a fight. But the UAW leadership called out less than one-third of the workers to actually go on strike, a few plants at a time. The leadership never organized meetings where workers could come together and discuss and decide anything about the strike. The strike was very much conducted from the top down and never gave the workers the way to feel their own power and make it their own strike.

In any case, victories at the transplants would be a step forward. But if organized auto workers want to see real victories, real changes in job conditions, and real gains in standard of living, they need to bring a majority of auto workers into the fight. And that means all those who work at the auto supply plants.

Today, there are about 146,000 UAW workers at the Big Three and 128,000 at the transplants. But there are about 600,000 workers at auto supply companies, almost all of them non-union. Many of these supplier plants were Big Three plants that got outsourced in order to lower wages. The below-poverty wages and lower benefits at these supplier plants are being used to bring down the wages of all auto workers.

If we are going to organize and fight into the future, we need the weight of the organized working class—starting with all those who have a hand in producing vehicles would be a good start.

Why is that important? Because we keep fighting for crumbs when we bake the whole cake. Why are we working like dogs in these plants while the profit of our labor goes into bosses’ and bankers’ pockets?

We could have a decent life for ourselves and future generations without having to burn off our physical and mental health to do it. Auto workers have the social and political weight to lead a fight for that.