Trade Wars

UAW President hails ‘union-management’ partnership after Volvo strike is liquidated

Less than a week after United Auto Workers chairman Ray Curry conspired with Volvo Trucks management to end the five-week strike in Virginia and pass a contract previously rejected by workers, he wrote a chronicle in the Detroit News Tuesday titled “UAW Works with Employers for Union Members”.

the Detroit News, a Republican-aligned newspaper and longtime spokesperson for auto bosses, regularly publishes articles from UAW President, Teamsters President James Hoffa, and other Michigan labor bureaucrats who made their proofs with large companies.

Ray Curry in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2015 (AP Photo / Erik Schelzig, File)

In his July 20 editorial, Curry drops any suggestion that unions should have a “confrontational” relationship with business and touts the UAW’s longstanding adherence to corporatism and labor-management “partnership”.

“[B]Beyond the conflict and headlines of member demands in collective bargaining and workplace issues like grievances, “says Curry, unions and employers” must always come together to drive the economic engine of this nation ”.

Nowhere in Curry’s column is a single mention of the months-long struggle of nearly 3,000 Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Va., The most important battle fought by members of the ‘UAW for years, if not decades. This is because the experience has demonstrated the irreconcilable conflict not only between Volvo workers and the Swedish-based multinational giant, but also between workers and the UAW.

As the director of the UAW’s heavy-duty truck department, Curry drafted the contract proposals that Volvo workers repeatedly rejected. The UAW-backed deals guaranteed “business success and profits” by forcing large increases in direct medical spending on workers, keeping the hated two-tiered wage system and offering a meager 2% annual pay rise for the best paid. workers. Under the current rate of inflation, the latter would result in a 20% drop in real wages on the six-year contract signed by Curry.

After workers decisively defeated the UAW’s pro-business proposals in May, June and July 9, the union colluded with management to impose its “last, best and final” offer. When Volvo threatened to reopen the plant with scabs, Curry ordered the local union to hold a vote on the latest rejected contract and make it clear to strikers that they would be fired on the terms of the job. company, regardless of the outcome of the vote. On July 14, the UAW announced that the deal had passed by 17 votes. Amid widespread accusations by grassroots workers that the UAW had manipulated the totals, Curry cynically asserted the “democratic process at Volvo Trucks” as he ended the strike.

The contract that Curry and the UAW imposed will ensure the further impoverishment of Volvo workers. And while the union and Volvo falsely claimed that each of the contracts was the “best they could do” and that the substantial improvement in wages and benefits was unaffordable, this week Volvo announced profits from the second. quarter of approximately $ 1.12 billion, bringing its total revenue in 2021 to $ 2.5 billion to date.

“The UAW lied to us when they said it was the best the company could do,” a Volvo employee told the WSWS after the earnings report was released on Tuesday. “They are making record profits. Once people see what the UAW has negotiated, every time those bastards on the hill finally publish our contract, all hell is going to break loose. “

Curry is part of a long line of UAW presidents – starting with Douglas Fraser, who was appointed to Chrysler’s board of directors in 1980 – whose entire UAW career has been based on corporatist doctrine of “employer-union partnership”, meaning that there is an identity of interests between companies and workers. This policy has resulted in both the ever closer integration of the unions with the management and the capitalist state and the serious deterioration in the standard of living of the workers.

In his column, Curry says, “The UAW has proven since its inception that the success of an employer opens the door to the success of a UAW member at the bargaining table. We have worked on a united front to build a strong economy, improve job creation and improve living standards. This is true whether we work together in the factory, at the bargaining table, or compete in this global economy. “

In fact, the “united front” between UAW and business is a against the workers.

Despite Curry’s assertions, “union-management” partnership and corporatism have not been the guiding principle of the UAW “from its very beginnings.” Socialist-minded workers and left-wing activists who waged mass industrial struggles like the Flint Occupation Strike of 1936-37 understood that the working class had totally distinct and antagonistic interests from those of the capitalist owners of giant industries.

The anti-socialist purges of then-UAW President Walter Reuther in the 1940s, however, led to the consolidation of the UAW based on the defense of capitalism, nationalist support for the geopolitical interests of US imperialism. and the political subordination of the working class to the Democratic Party, with a similar process underway in other unions.

The globalization of capitalist production in the 1970s and 1980s highlighted the bankruptcy of the nationalist agenda of the UAW and other unions, which abandoned all resistance to employers. The unions have joined in the brutal downsizing of large sections of industry and the relentless reduction of the workers’ share of the national income in the name of making American capitalism “more competitive.”

During this period, the UAW bureaucracy developed new sources of income from corporate share ownership, board positions, joint “training” programs among workers. and the leadership (as well as the bribes paid by them) and the multi-billion dollar investments in retiree health care trusts. This allowed the senior executives and army of union staff to protect themselves from the impact of their anti-worker policies and to become rich with a share of the wealth extracted from the working class.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAW not only sacrificed the livelihoods of its members for the benefit of businesses, but also their lives. In an effort to hide this, Curry praises the UAW’s role in the so-called Detroit Three COVID-19 task force set up in March 2020.

“Faced with a deadly pandemic and no tests to determine exposure, nor a vaccine to protect workers and their families, the UAW and the Detroit Three have collaborated and shut down factories to save American lives,” says Curry in the Detroit News column. “These actions of the task force and the role the task force played in identifying return-to-work protocols have saved lives and led other industries to adopt these same protocols and policies.”

These are grotesque lies. The truth is, the UAW did everything it could to prevent auto factories from shutting down, even as hundreds of workers were infected and dozens of UAW members died from exposure in factories. It was just a series of wildcat strikes by auto workers, starting in Europe and spanning Canada, the United States and Mexico, that forced the shutdown of the auto industry and other industries. These were grassroots rebellions against the UAW, including savage actions by Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) workers in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

The security protocols the UAW and the companies put in place after the two-month shutdown were just a front to pave the way for factories to reopen by mid-May 2020. Once the factories restarted, the UAW has colluded with management to withhold information from workers. on epidemics and additional deaths. More recently, the union agreed to drop mask-wearing and social distancing requirements to allow companies to ramp up production, even as the highly dangerous Delta variant is erupting and tens of thousands of people continue to be infected every day.

To justify his call for even closer collaboration with business and the US government, Curry cites the challenge that China, European countries and other competitors pose for US companies in the race to dominate electric vehicles and other automotive technologies. . “[T]there is also a role between employers and the UAW to ensure that the United States does not fall behind in adopting this new technology, ”says Curry.

As the UAW demands that auto workers endlessly sacrifice themselves to compete with workers in Japan and other countries in the 1980s, Curry’s campaign on electric vehicles will lead to wage cuts and d even more painful jobs. Curry is signaling to companies that the UAW is ready and willing to be a full partner in transforming autoworkers into a low-paying temporary workforce, and that the union will support the U.S. ruling elite in its future trade and military wars. confrontations with China and other nuclear-weapon competitors.

The betrayal of Volvo workers is just one of many that Curry and the UAW are plotting. But the rebellion at Volvo this year and the emergence of the Volvo Workers’ Grassroots Committee (VWRFC) as the new voice and leadership of workers points to another way forward.

In opposition to the union’s efforts to isolate the strike behind a conspiracy of silence, Volvo workers, with the help of the WSWS, organized the VWRFC and established links with Mack Truck workers, autoworkers in Detroit and other cities, and Volvo workers in Australia. , Canada and Belgium.

Already, analysts from auto industry think tanks are warning Volvo workers will inspire other workers to quash decades of UAW-backed concessions. The repeated defeats of the UAW contract proposals “change the dynamics a bit,” said Kristin Dziczek, senior vice president of the Center for Automotive Research. “If the members don’t see the first deal as the best they can get, then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

The lessons of the courageous struggle of Volvo workers against the company and the UAW must be transmitted to every section of the working class, in order to prepare the necessary industrial and political counter-offensive of the working class against the capitalist profit system. global.