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

Auto Contract Signed, Jobs Cut

Jan 15, 2024

After settling a so-called “record contract” with the auto workers union, Stellantis wasted no time reverting to normal. First, they sent WARN notices to Michigan and Ohio governments about February shift eliminations at one plant in each state. Then, on January 12, they sent text messages to over 500 temporary workers that it was their last day of work and they would no longer have a job at Stellantis. The message stated that the cutback was “part of our normal course of business.

So, how did the union leadership react to this announcement? A detailed message by the UAW top leadership the following day made clear that they were neither surprised nor disagreed with the Stellantis announcement. In fact, they said that another 1,600 supplemental workers would be terminated within the next few months before they could reach nine months and achieve full-time status!

What the hell happened! How could this be? In the “highlights” they presented to the Stellantis workers, the union leadership listed out all the gains that had been achieved, including gains for the temporary supplemental workers. The UAW leaders said that some supplemental Stellantis workers would be converted to permanent, full-time jobs starting 90 days after ratification. They said that all remaining supplemental workers would be converted to full-time jobs when they reached nine months of unbroken service time. The UAW’s “highlights” said that “within the first year of the agreement 3,200 SEs (supplemental workers) would become full-time”.

There was only one problem—Stellantis had over 5,200 supplemental workers. What would happen to the remaining roughly 2,000 supplemental workers?

Workers found out on January 12 when the company told 539 supplemental workers that they would be immediately terminated.

It is clear that the UAW leadership misled Stellantis workers. They knew Stellantis had 5,200 supplemental workers. They knew that converting 3,200 meant that Stellantis planned to get rid of about 2,000.

Most workers had no way to know how many supplemental workers there were. What most workers knew was that the “highlights” said that everyone will be converted within nine months, so many of them reasonably assumed that the 3,200 converted would mean all of them.

The new UAW leadership, which presented itself as a more militant alternative, did what the old UAW leadership often did. To get workers to vote for a contract, they simply did not tell the workers the truth.

The new leadership, like the old leadership, just accepted that layoffs are “part of our normal course of business.”

And that is exactly the problem. “The normal course of business” includes waves of temporary hiring followed by waves of job cuts. It’s supposed to be accepted as normal that hundreds of workers suddenly lose their livelihoods, and their children lose the security of food on the table just because the profit margins of companies demand it.

It’s supposed to be accepted as normal that union contracts merely set rules for how layoffs will proceed. And then, following job cuts, the remaining workers are normally put on overtime to fulfill orders!

When these jobs are cut, it won’t just be the supplemental workers who suffer.

Overloaded jobs. Insufficient break time. Killing schedules. Mandatory overtime up the wazoo. Did you know that only a small percent of auto workers make it to that golden retirement, first tier or not?

We need more workers!

Both Stellantis and the “new” union leadership played the same rotten game. They put a glittery pot of gold up front, an amount that is equivalent to less than five percent of its 17.9 billion dollar profit. Of course, it looked good. But in exchange, there was an unstated deal not to oppose wringing every drop of labor out of workers’ minds and bodies in the shortest number of paid hours.

UAW president Shawn Fain and his new administration and their “historic” agreement have failed to represent workers’ interests as surely as any prior UAW administration. They made promises they didn’t keep and put workers’ lives and limbs on the chopping block.

We would have found out about this sooner or later. Sooner is better!