On Sunday, Sep.15, The United Autoworkers took up the mantle of class once again and authorized a strike against General Motors with the ending of their contract the previous night before. On Monday, Sep.16, the strike began with a force unseen in decades in the US. The UAW is not standing alone.
As of Monday morning, over 48,000 American autoworkers went on strike, shutting down GM’s domestic production.
GM’s management has been dragging their autoworkers around for better conditions amid false promises and deceptive negotiating at the table. GM brought in over $8 billion dollars in profit in 2018, while simultaneously attempting to shrink the share that the workers – those who make such profit possible – are able to take home to their families.
On average, a factory worker at GM makes $13 dollars an hour, while producing nearly $128 dollars worth of value every hour; reinvesting, on average, $63 dollars on that hour. The GM executives make over $50 dollars for every $1 dollar made by the worker, a 50:1 ratio in favor of the bosses. GM CEO Mary Barra’s compensation was $21.87 million in 2018, 281 times median GM worker.
GM is attempting to bring their capital-investment (variable capital) into hourly wages and benefits down over 13% so that they match the lower investment of foreign-owned companies. This takes the $63 dollar reinvestment of variable-capital return down to $50 dollars.
In America’s “Rust Belt”, GM is closing four plants, causing them to sit idle and leaving the workers without productive jobs. Without active work, auto workers lose their pension and healthcare (both of which GM is attempting to raise the pay-in of the worker on). The UAW is demanding that the factories be allowed to begin production on new car models to keep said factories going, keeping people in work and maintaining their pensions. With each of the four factories hiring between 3,000-5,400 workers, the risk is great for the literal tens of thousands of workers depending on this for their livelihood.
It’s clear that GM grows its profits off of the turmoil and exploitation of the American worker. Lay-offs in the thousands, higher medical insurance costs, more intense production for active workers, the shrinking of factory by factory production.
But the UAW does not stand alone. Over the past two years, the United States has been seeing waves of strikes, the likes of which it hasn’t seen in decades. Steelworkers, teachers, teamsters, and electrical workers have made massive waves as a testament to labor rising against capital. Through these practical struggles, the American working class continues to grow in its ability to function, and more importantly, to see itself as a class united by a common plight, as well as common goals. The current UAW strike only exemplifies this development.
Sunday night, on the eve of the strike the Teamsters Union, the union agreed to halt transportation of GM goods in solidarity with UAW workers. Over 1,000 Teamsters have pledged not to move GM commodities, so as not only to bring production to a halt, but cease the transportation of already produced goods. This directly interrupts the circuit of capital and, as a result, also directly breaks the flow of profit.
By 6:00 AM Monday, the UAW workers striking outside of the GM plant in Flint, Michigan (a city in the grip of the struggle for clean water), along with community members, blocked the entrance to the GM factory. This prevented the salaried workers (whose salary primarily comes from the stolen value of hourly workers) from entering the factory, bringing the third halt to GM – a total halt in administration.
The UAW strike exemplifies the growing consciousness of the American worker – not just a worker, or a person with a job, but a person who is a member of the working class. A class which creates all value. A class which maintains, grows, and propels society, but is unfortunately exploited and degraded for the sake of power and control of management, executives, and the ruling class they belong to.
But now in America, the working class is coming together as a class. Unions are joining together in solidarity against the “bosses” – the capitalists. Working people from working communities are standing together in defense of one another, in defense of their class. The contradictions of capitalism have become more visible, less and less obscured by failed manipulation and attacks, and therefore it’s only natural for the working class to see what’s front of their eyes. The working class is not a class of armchair complainers, but of action. Bills need to be paid. Families need to be fed. Enjoyment deserves to be had.
As the working class moves forward, the American Party of Labor stands behind the efforts of organized workers for their victory. Not just contract negotiations, but in the growing consciousness of the class. Just as the fight for better pay and workers’ conditions have brought the working class together (despite attacks to diminish them), it will soon force the working class to move from demands of wages to demands of control. Demands regarding building a revolutionary movement against the capitalist class (and their selfish chaotic system of profit), demands for their overthrow, and demands for an overhaul of the system: a new system of worker control, a system of planning and rationality, a system of people over profit.
Two days into the strike of now over 50,000 workers and the power of labor has already shown its strength and that it is the source of all value. Conservative estimates put GM monetary losses at around $100 million dollars a day. Some analysists have suggested the number may be as high $200-250 million dollars.
GM confirmed late Tuesday night that the healthcare of striking workers had ended. The healthcare of strikers and their families will be provided for, at least in part, by the union’s healthcare fund COBRA. The UAW has a strike fund of around $850 million dollars, allowing striking workers a supplemental income of $250 dollars weekly.
Details of GM’s offer to the union have leaked confirming that GM only offered a 2% raise to workers while profits have been quite high, 2018 reported $8 billion in profit, and higher margins due to downsizing, the closing of four plants.
After a Politico article on Tuesday, the White House (Trump Administration) was reported to be working directly with GM. Both the White House and GM have denied this. Given the Trump Administration’s anti-labor agenda, the particular history of the U.S. State acting against workers with and for the capitalists, and the general precedent of the state is the executive branch of the ruling class, such allegations, and denials must be expected.
GM is attempting to hire scabs