Rank-And-File Workers Fed Up With The UAW

by | Mar 9, 2023 | Bargaining/Negotiations, Manufacturing, News, UAW, Unions

We recently discussed the United Auto Workers’ ongoing leadership elections, the first of their kind for the formerly deep-pocketed but still unapologetically corrupt union. Surprise, surprise, the election continues to be a fiasco. Some rank-and-file auto workers recently trounced the election as a “travesty of democracy” and feel disgusted by their union’s bureaucracy and absolute corruption of the election process.

You name it – ballots being sent to wrong addresses, misinformation about voting due dates, and more – those allegations have surfaced. We have more to talk about on that particular mess, but there’s always tangents involved when it comes to this union.

Inside the everyday machinery of the UAW, things are not going well, either. Membership has declined to such a degree that the union has been branching out by aggressively recruiting in higher ed. Yet the UAW hasn’t done so while abandoning their signature move, those sellout deals. Of course, this union will not forget about their manufacturing bread-and-butter, for which they will cut some sellout deals, too.

We pick up with this subject here, not too long after the UAW came to the bargaining table with Caterpillar regarding 7,000 union members ahead of a March 1 contract expiration date. A twelfth-hour agreement averted a threatened strike (authorized in January by at least 99% of members), and here we are.

Good? Maybe not. It didn’t take long for rank-and-file workers to see that they may have been snowballed by those who claim to represent their interests.

Some brief background: Reuters did some cut-and-dried reporting about claims involving this contract, which purportedly includes $6000 ratification bonuses and ”27% combined wage increases” along with promises of increased retirement contributions.

Counterpoint: Allegedly, the UAW won’t show workers the actual contract yet. However, the generally pro-union World Socialist Web Site claims to have done leg work and produced contradictory details on the contract. Those combined raises allegedly amount to a significant “cut in workers’s real wages” when compared to cost-of-living expectations over the six-year contract. The publication claims that the actual raises, amounting to a total 19% over the course of the contract, only put workers at around the traditional 3% per year, frequently a standard annual raise.

Workers are angry that they were not privy to any of the contract negotiation process. They will vote on this agreement on March 12, and something tells us that it may not go marvelously. Will these rank-and-file workers see their votes suppressed, though?

It’s a half-joking but valid question, especially since the aforementioned UAW election – meant to be the first time that this union directly elected its leaders – is not working out as conceived by the feds who put a watchdog on the union:

  • Current UAW international president Ray Curry is straight-faced attempting to maintain power against runoff contender Shawn Fain. Initial voter turnout was low with less than 10% of the eligible UAW membership voting at all, meaning that there’s zero chance that either Curry or Fain could even dream of achieving 50% member approval. And rank-and-file candidate Will Lehmen continues to hammer away with suppression accusations, so that first round of votes hasn’t actually been certified yet with the runoff being counted as we speak.
  • Too close to call: Currently, the vote between Curry and Fain is a squeaker and will come down to contested ballots amid a real possibility of Curry losing.
  • The voter suppression angle couldn’t be more apparent: The runoff election showed slightly bumped-up turnout with only 13% of rank-and-file workers voting.
  • Will true UAW change arrive? Questions do exist about whether a Fain UAW presidency would bring actual change. As The Intercept reports, his campaign promises to “dramatically reshape” the union and, as a Unite All Workers for Democracy faction leader claimed, make “the difference between solidarity unionism – rank-and-file unionism – and the company unionism that we’ve been experiencing in the UAW for several decades now.” It would be an upset of a victory, but not everyone is convinced by Fain. Some workers see no meaningful difference between his platform and Curry’s ongoing practices.
  • However, another Unite All Workers for Democracy candidate, Daniel Vicente, achieved a regional director victory and will now graduate from being a machine operator to attempting to make a difference. “I do not plan to just sit idly and not get in front of the rank and file membership,” Vicente declared.

Back to reality: Meanwhile, other UAW troubles are brewing in the background that might soon become the foreground. BIden’s big promises of EV factory jobs is going “poof” as the reality of increased production costs becomes apparent. Naturally, unions are accusing companies of purposely building factories in Right-To-Work states, although automakers in question haven’t yet responded to those accusations.

No good deed unpunished? One automaker that has directly come under fire would be Stellantis, which is “indefinitely idling” a planned EV plant in Belvidere, Illinois, due to concerns that EVs cost so much to produce that they would potentially have to be sold at a loss. Still, Stellantis is seeing profit elsewhere, which means that 40,000 UAW members will receive substantial profit-sharing checks, some over $14,000.

The left-leaning Detroit Free Press is making noises about these checks representing a “less than 1% increase” from 2022 checks, although those previous checks were based upon record results. Will profit sharing be enough to grease the wheels in the case of any threatened strikes? Only time will tell, and with the UAW recently increasing strike pay to $500 per week before prominent contract talks with major automakers, we could find out sooner rather than later.

Even more controversy: Dozens of Dana Inc. workers claim that they were terminated for no cause after approaching their pension-vesting marks or becoming pregnant. These workers assert that this is happening regardless of their tenure or performance. Although the workers’ allegations have not been proven, it’s notable that they’re also coming for their union and accusing the UAW of colluding with management.


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