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

Report by Kathy Goodwin

Nov 27, 2023

The new contracts at GM, Ford, and Stellantis did achieve 11% up-front raises. These contracts were approved by the majority of auto workers.

What auto workers did not achieve is what workers truly deserve: A chance for enough money to live a comfortable life and enough time off work to enjoy life.

These contracts will not catch workers up with inflation. The top wage in 2007 for an auto production worker was about $28 an hour. There’s this handy dandy calculator if you Google a website called Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you can put in a dollar amount from a certain year and what the buying power is today. So, buying power today would require $41 an hour TODAY to have the same amount of buying power. And these contracts, it’ll be four years before production workers get up to that level.

There was a real opportunity in 2023 to make progress. These negotiations happened during an economic boom for the capitalists. Some auto workers were ready for a fight. While partial strikes were waged at GM, Ford, and Stellantis, all the auto workers were never brought out together.

Under a different leadership at the top of the UAW this year, the words were different than in past decades. Workers heard fighting language for the first time in a long time. New UAW leaders emphasized how profitable the companies are. New UAW leaders said that unless the companies came through on key demands, workers would have no choice but to go on strike.

In the new auto contracts, there were improvements for temporary workers, and this was a good thing. But the category of temporary worker did not go away. All who want a full-time job should have one. Work is work. The temporary worker label is just a trick to lower wages. The working class needs equal pay for equal work.

This time, top UAW officials talked about the corporations as the enemy. But to have a completely new policy, different from all the old policies, top UAW officials would have had to have added something to that sentence:

The first part, the company is the enemy.

The second part, THEIR profits are not OUR problem.

This fall, the current group of union leaders carefully crafted strike targets to maintain company profits. That devotion to the right of companies to make profits is the wrong policy for the working class.

These were strikes where the working class was held back. They were limited strikes. Workers never got the chance to all come out together this fall. There was no feeling of being inspired by the power of workers fighting for our class to move forward.

Workers never got the chance to have big union meetings to discuss each contract proposal together, point by point.

The fight this fall was twisted into contradictions because UAW leaders were not ready to put the working class first and only. The fight this fall was twisted into contradictions because union leaders have no readiness for the shop floor organizing that creates a strong union from the bottom up.

Why do union leaders have a top-down manner exactly like the companies? Yes, this society is top-down, but why do union leaders have to copycat that awful behavior? Why keep so many secrets from the workers? Secrets from the workers are the policy of corporations to help them exploit and control. Big companies make decisions hidden in secrecy.

All of the surprise strikes were carried out by the top UAW officials this fall with secrecy. This was done because it was said that it would surprise the companies, but it surprised the workers too. Too little information flowed daily within the union.

Our working class organizations, our unions, and our working class party should belong to us. It should feel like our organization. When it doesn’t feel like that and when it feels like something far away from us, workers have to figure out how we get control of it. Working class democracy should be encouraged and felt by all in the unions. We, the workers, need to push back together, millions of us, all of us who are exploited by this greedy capitalist class.

A political party collecting the working class together needs to be built to fight in the political arena for our working-class interests. Our party must take up the fighting words of the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW of a hundred years ago:

The working class and the employing class have NOTHING in common.

Going through these UAW strikes, we saw that fighting words are not enough to truly be a new policy. We saw that for workers to achieve what we need, we have to fight outside the bounds of capitalism.

We need to fight for a better society.