October 31, 2023
From World Socialist Web Site

The World Socialist Web Site calls on autoworkers at Ford, GM and Stellantis to reject the sellout contracts supported by the United Auto Workers apparatus. We urge workers to establish rank-and-file committees to fight for the broadest possible “no” vote and prepare a real struggle to win workers’ demands.

There is growing opposition among rank-and-file workers study the contract emerge. The WSWS will continue to post updates on details and responses from autoworkers. The full contract, not including 50 supplemental pages that were not posted by the UAW, is available here.

Join the next meeting of the Autoworkers Rank-and-File Committee Network to discuss the implications of the UAW-Ford deal and how to organize to defeat the sellout. Register here to attend.

Sign up for text message updates on the Detroit Three contract fight by texting AUTO to (866) 847-1086

UAW concealing plans for mass layoffs at Ford Rouge

The UAW bureaucracy has deliberately concealed the number of factories Ford and the other corporations plan to close in the next few years and the massive concessions they plans to wrench out of workers to “save” remaining plants. But new signs are already emerging of the massive attack on jobs the companies intend to carry out.

A letter to UAW Vice President for Ford Chuck Browning buried in the UAW’s contract changes, with the subject “Zone 1 staffing needs,” states, “Effective no later than December 1, 2023, the entire Rouge complex will be considered surplus” and eligible “for voluntary job posting opportunities” at other plants.

Part of page 261C of the UAW-Ford agreement

Another letter to Browning, “TEVC Transfer Opportunities,” states that “the parties discussed the interest of finding job placements for surplus UAW employees,” again specifically referring to workers at Rouge, stating they would be “allowed” to transfer to Ford’s planned EV plant in Tennessee, which is not scheduled to begin operations until 2025 and is hundreds of miles away from Dearborn.

Part of page 243C of the UAW-Ford contract

Earlier this month, billionaire company chairman William Clay Ford Jr. threatened the future of the giant Rouge complex at a speech at the facility.

UAW-Ford deal: No protections from EV job massacre and low-wage battery jobs 

There is no list of plant closures or impending layoffs in the tentative agreement, although Ford CEO Jim Farley has been the most outspoken in saying that the company has “too many” employees and EV production requires 40 percent fewer workers, which would entail tens of thousands of jobs eliminated at Ford alone.

The fact is the UAW bureaucracy has already agreed to huge job cuts and is primarily focused on acting as a labor contractor—supplying and training “displaced” workers for Ford’s new EV battery plants—and collecting dues from those low-paid workers. While the UAW has trumpeted the “right to strike over plant closures” it “won,” it is effectively meaningless, since the union bureaucracy has willingly collaborated with the companies over and over again to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs over the past 45 years.

At the same time, in the name of “job security,” the UAW is pledging to collaborate in the further destruction of job classifications, health and safety, and other working conditions to maximize profits in the existing internal combustion engine (ICE) and new EV assembly and component factories. 

An Administrative Letter from Kevin Legal, Ford’s Vice President of Labor Affairs, to UAW Vice President Chuck Browning, titled “Product and Investment,” notes, “the parties recognized major changes within the global automotive industry” including the growth in battery electric vehicles with “uncertain demands and timing, significant supply chain disruptions, new competitors with new business models, and uncertainty in government regulations and incentives.” 

It continues:

The long-term viability of both the Company and Union rests upon our ability, together, to find opportunities to profitably grow the business. These opportunities have not been exhausted. During the term of this Agreement, the parties commit to continue the work done during the course of the previous agreement to continue to secure the future both of Ford and the UAW.

Among such proposals are “competitive local agreements.”

The only battery plant mentioned in the agreement is Ford’s Blue Oval Battery Park Michigan (BOBM) plant in Marshall, Michigan, which was slated to open in 2026 and initially employ 2,500 workers. The much larger electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facilities in Tennessee and Kentucky—which could employ 11,000 workers—do not appear to be in the current proposal.  

On page 35 C, the contract notes that if the UAW wins “lawful” recognition at the BOBM, Ford workers will have transfer rights to BOBM “on a one-time basis” and this would “establish no precedent with regard to any other facilities or circumstances.”  

BOBM will be a wholly owned Ford subsidiary that will license battery cell technology from China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., or CATL, the world’s leading EV battery maker. To get around the corporate ruse that BOBM is a separate company, Ford will “lease” its employees to BOBM.

While production and maintenance workers at the battery plant will nominally be “covered” by the UAW national agreement, the UAW is giving Ford a free hand to do whatever it wants and providing numerous exceptions, including outside contracting, gutting job classification, imposing “flexible” schedules, etc. It explicitly states: 

The parties acknowledge the importance of operational and structural flexibility for this facility. Accordingly, to the extent Article 1, Sec. 4 applies to BOBM once it begins regular operations and the Union obtains lawful recognition, the parties agree that the existing methods, terms, and manner in which the Company operates the facility will remain unchanged and/or maintain existing in place flexibility to preserve operational and structural flexibility (eg. Teams, operating practices and patterns, versatility, potential outside contracting and sourcing, footprint restrictions, etc.) and ensure best-in-class culture and lean manufacturing principles continue uninterrupted, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Master Agreement.

In order to provide improved business opportunities for profitability, effectively management business growth, fluctuations, changing consumer preferences, and rapidly evolving technology BOBM shall have the exclusive right to determine and modify future product lines; and BOBM may insource or outsource work or materials. Ford Motor Company and BOBM may buy, sell, spin, merge, or otherwise dispose of any assets.

The UAW has also agreed to exempt BOBM from any strikes, stating:

In addition, if the Union engages in a lawful strike, picketing, work stoppage, or dispute of any kind that involves or arises at one or more Ford facilities, Ford subsidiary, or entity in which Ford has an interest, no such actions shall be taken against or directed at BOBM. 

At the same time, the UAW bureaucracy hopes to cash in from directing “retraining programs” for displaced workers from closed plants, both from corporate money and federal training funds. On page 123 A it states: 

Jointly coordinate local training activities, working closely with the joint local Education, Development and Training Program and the UAW-Ford Labor Management Committee (LMC) Joint Trust to ensure that quality, cost-efficient training is provided and appropriate funds are secured from both within Ford and from external sources.

Cartoon: Fain pleads with workers to manage their expectations

Cartoon: Fain pleads with workers to manage their expectations

UAW-Ford deal: Wages which don’t restore past concessions

The contract includes a cumulative 25 percent wage increase spread over four and a half years, far below the demand by workers for a 40-46 percent raise that Fain previously claimed he was fighting for.

There is an immediate 11 percent raise followed by a raise of 3 percent in October 2024, 3 percent in October 2025, and just 3 percent in October 2026. The final 5 percent does not come until October 2027.

Given that the Consumer Price index has risen by 22 percent since the last contract in 2019, the cumulative rise in base pay does not represent an advance, only barely offsetting previous inflation. By the end of the contract base pay will rise to just over $40 an hour. 

The top wage rate of $40 an hour by 2028 will put workers behind in real terms, the top rate in 2009 at the time of the restructuring of the auto industry. In fact, the top pay of $40 an hour in 2028 will be near or below what a Ford worker was making in 1976 if inflation is factored in.

In other words, Ford workers in 2028 would be earning less than their grandparents a half century ago—despite a massive rise in productivity and corporate profits.  

The contract reduces but does not eliminate the wage progression for Tier 2 workers, a substantial cost savings for management, around $20,000 per worker annually. New workers will earn just 70 percent of the standard base pay rate. After one year pay will rise to just 75 percent of standard base pay and 85 percent after two years. 

UAW-Ford contract allows continued abuse of temporary workers

The immediate rise in the pay for temp workers to the poverty wage of $21 an hour only brings real wages up to the level of tier two workers in 2009, adjusted for inflation. 

The UAW is boasting that current temporary part-time workers will be rolled over if they have worked at least 90 days of “continuous service,” and future temps will be converted after nine months.

But the abusive system of temporary employment remains in place. New temps will still not receive supplemental unemployment benefits, sufficient paid or even unpaid time off or other benefits. Management retains the power to “discharge or terminate Temporary Employees” with the only language added (P. 113 A) that “Temporary employee evaluations will be made available to the Union upon request.” 

Most of the section on temporary workers (pps. 108A-118A) contains the exact same contract language on temps as the 2019 UAW-Ford agreement. 

Part of page 108A of the UAW-Ford contract

This includes: 

The parties agree in certain circumstances, it may be necessary to utilize Temporary employees to supplement the full-time work force…The number of Temporary employees will be 8% percent of the total active UAW hourly population Company-wide. The National parties can adjust this total between the facilities based on the facility’s previous absence data, in a manner that does not alter the overall total of Temporary employees allowed Company-wide. Any facility exceeding a total of 10% of their population as Temporary employees will require mutual agreement between the parties. [Emphasis added]. 

The contract language continues: 

The Company shall review with the National Ford Department other situations requiring Temporary employees above the allowable number such as, but not limited to: product launches, attrition program transition, periods of high vacation from April thru November, placeholders awaiting transfer of laid off employees from other locations, or other similar supplemental manpower needs. Requests for Temporary employees in such cases shall be made in writing to the National parties for mutual agreement. 

In other words, there will continue to be virtually no limit to the use of low-paid temps at individual factories, as long as it receives a rubber stamp by the UAW bureaucracy.

On page 110 A, it states, “The utilization of Temporary employee shall not be considered as an infringement of the rights of full-time seniority employees.” In fact, under the terms of the agreement, full-time workers can still be reduced to the temporary status if he or she is “laid off in a reduction in force.” 

Unifor sanctions phony 7-hour strike by 8,200 Stellantis Canada autoworkers before announcing sellout tentative agreement

The strike by 8,240 autoworkers at Stellantis’ operations in Canada was over Monday almost before it began. While workers at assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, and the casting facility in Etobicoke responded enthusiastically to the job action that was launched after their contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, October 29 without a deal being reached, the Unifor bureaucracy conceived of the walkout from the get-go as a cheap maneuver to give it a false air of militancy.

This is underscored by the fact that no sooner had Unifor and Stellantis officials shaken hands over a tentative agreement less than eight hours later, than the union ordered workers to immediately return to work on their next shift. That is, without the workers even seeing the agreement, let alone voting on it. So much for “no contract, no work,” a basic concept of working class solidarity that was until recently considered a core union principle.    

Workers picketing Stellantis’ Windsor assembly plant [Photo: Unifor Local 444/Facebook ]

The job action at Stellantis was the classic definition of a “Hollywood strike”—a stunt pulled by the union bureaucracy to create the illusion among rank-and-file workers that Unifor President Lana Payne and Local 444 President Dave Cassidy had “fought hard” to secure the same miserable “pattern” agreement the union previously imposed on workers at Ford and GM.

The bureaucracy is painfully aware of the widespread determination among rank-and-file workers to secure inflation-busting pay increases, an end to multi-tier wages, and job protections during the transition to electric vehicle production. They also know that Stellantis workers, especially at the Windsor assembly plant, had voiced strong opposition to the Unifor-Detroit Three “pattern.”   

By touting the brief “strike” as proof of their supposed militancy, the Unifor bureaucrats hope to bamboozle and bully workers into accepting a three-year agreement that amounts to a real wage freeze, entrenches multi-tier wages, and offers no guarantees of the number of jobs Stellantis will provide following the EV transition.

Full Article

Mack Trucks intransigently refusing striking workers’ demands, as engines run low at Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia

A motorist waves to members of UAW Local 171 as they picket outside a Mack Trucks facility in Hagerstown, Maryland after going on strike Monday, October 9, 2023. Workers voted down a tentative five-year contract agreement that UAW negotiators had reached with the company. [AP Photo/Steve Ruark]

Mack workers have been on strike since October 9, after a majority voted “no” by 73 percent to reject a tentative agreement (TA) endorsed by the entire UAW leadership locally and nationally, including union president Shawn Fain. The deal had contained raises that were less than inflation and no cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), as well as weakening job security rules and lengthening the workday. 

A leading member of the Volvo Trucks Rank-and-File Committee at the New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia, told the WSWS that the day shift Monday was canceled due to the strike at Mack, which supplies the Virginia factory with engines.

“Supposedly they are dropping some shifts so they can limp along without running all the way out,” the worker said.

In its latest “update” on Mack, the UAW admitted the company has flatly refused to budge on both wages and COLA. According to the UAW, Mack’s “position has not changed: ‘If COLA is a must have, our position is no COLA.’” The union notes, “While the parties agreed to schedule additional dates, none are yet on the calendar.”

In its own press release, Mack Trucks arrogantly rejected out of hand workers’ demands as “unrealistic.” Mack stated that while “negotiators were able to reach tentative agreements this week on the four local agreements that were not ratified by UAW members on Oct. 8,” higher wages and COLA “continue to be unrealistic.”

The media has sought to portray Mack’s management and UAW officials as being at loggerheads, stating that official bargaining sessions have been suspended. However, the actual conflict is between Mack and the UAW bureaucracy on the one side, and rank-and-file workers on the other.

The UAW apparatus has parroted the company’s claim that the workday must be extended at the Lehigh Valley Operations (LVO) location in Macungie, Pennsylvania. The company demands the eight-hour work day be scrapped and extended to eight and a half hours, adding two and a half hours paid at straight time every week. 

“They’re extending the work day because management is planning to get more done with fewer workers,” said an LVO worker to the World Socialist Web Site. In a meaningless “improvement,” the UAW stated the extension won’t begin until 2025 and that “All contractual paid time off including vacation, holidays, bereavement, casual days, will be paid at an additional half hour of pay.”

Full Article

WSWS Statement: Oppose the UAW-backed sellout contracts at Ford, GM and Stellantis!

Workers picket near a General Motors Assembly Plant in Delta Township, Michigan on September 29, 2023. [AP Photo/Paul Sancya]

The World Socialist Web Site calls on autoworkers at Ford, GM and Stellantis to reject the sellout contracts supported by the United Auto Workers apparatus. We urge workers to establish rank-and-file committees to fight for the broadest possible “no” vote and prepare a real struggle to win workers’ demands.

The UAW announced a tentative agreement with General Motors Monday morning after announcing similar deals over the past few days with Ford and Stellantis. UAW President Shawn Fain, US President Joe Biden and the corporate media issued the inevitable declarations that the contracts are “historic” (Fain and Biden), “reward autoworkers who gave up much” (Biden) and “give workers the biggest pay raises in decades” (New York Times).

These are a pack of lies. The UAW’s bogus “stand up strikes” were tightly scripted to conclude with deals that in fact had already been agreed to long ago. Barely a third of the UAW membership at the Big Three was called out on strike at the widest point of the “stand up strikes” last Tuesday. For most of the time after the Big Three contracts expired on September 14, 80-90 percent of autoworkers were ordered to stay on the job, working without contracts.

In a final burst of theatrics before the agreements were announced, the UAW called out a small number of larger, more profitable plants, shutting them down after a handful of days or less. Workers were ordered to end their pickets at these plants before there was any impact on the inventories the companies had built up.

All of this was designed in advance by the UAW leadership and the Biden administration to have as little effect on corporate profits as possible. Topping off this charade, the UAW apparatus shut down all strikes immediately after announcing their agreements, before workers even had a chance to see, let alone vote, on them.

Full Statement

Source: Wsws.org