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Growing calls for united struggle with striking Volvo workers as UAW prepares to resume negotiations behind closed doors

 Growing calls for united struggle with striking Volvo workers as UAW prepares to resume negotiations behind closed doors

Talks were scheduled to resume on Tuesday between representatives of UAW International (Auto Workers Union), UAW Local 2069 and Volvo Trucks North America, but were called off according to striking workers Volvo's New River Valley plant in Dublin (NRV), Virginia. Nearly 3,000 workers at the truck manufacturing plant have been on strike since June 7 after decisively rejecting two favorable Volvo contracts offered by the UAW.

On Monday evening, Local 2069 president Matt Blondino told strike leaders: “The company has contacted the International Heavy Truck Department [UAW] and the local bargaining team. Negotiations will start tomorrow with them. ” On Tuesday, however, neither the local nor the UAW International released further details, and appeals from the World Socialist Web Site to Volvo's media spokesperson went unanswered.

Growing calls for united struggle with striking Volvo workers as UAW prepares to resume negotiations behind closed doors
Volvo workers on strike (Source: UAW L. 2069)

The workers denounced the UAW's maneuvers as a cynical ploy. “The UAW is just participating in this cat and mouse game to play with our emotions,” a worker told the WSWS. “It's the kind of theater you've seen with Nancy Pelosi and Trump. They can tell you this or that, but in the end, they are working together against us, and the majority of workers know it. We are in this fight for the long term, ”he said.

On June 6, workers 90 percent rejected the latest proposal recommended by UAW secretary-treasurer Ray Curry and regional and local officials. The agreement would have increased wages by only 2 percent per year over six years. This represents a significant drop in real wages, given the soaring costs of consumer goods. He also allegedly maintained the despised two-tiered wage and benefit system. It would have further significantly increased medical costs, reduced benefits for retirees and introduced a new 10-hour working day, with no overtime payment after eight hours of work.

Volvo's Workers' Base Committee on Tuesday released an open letter to UAW President Rory Gamble, Curry and UAW Local 2069 President Matt Blondino. He demands to know what the UAW is offering the company, why the UAW is only providing $ 275 a week in strike pay when the strike fund stands at $ 790 million, and what the UAW is doing. UAW to mobilize its 400,000 and the AFL-CIO its 12.5 million members to win the strike.

The letter details workers' demands for substantial wage and benefit increases and calls for the mobilization of UAW members to support the strike, starting with the shutdown of all Volvo operations in the United States. The statement concludes, “If you are not ready to wage such a fight, then go. The base will elect its own negotiation and strike committee which will be ready to lead the necessary struggle ”.

Workers on the picket lines greeted the open letter enthusiastically and disseminated it widely. “They read the letter and were particularly angry with the UAW which spent $ 6.2 million to renovate its headquarters in Detroit,” a Volvo worker told the WSWS. “They said the UAW is nothing but a bunch of thieves. Workers set up a pine coffin at the entrance to Volvo for scabs and contractors. When they read the open letter in a mail, they said they should put it in front of the UAW lobby for Matt [Blondino] and the others! ”

Another striker said: “The UAW says the strike is about everything, but they don't give any details. We will be slaves to our jobs without a real pay rise. A lot of people here have been educated on inflation and they say we need a COLA [cost of living adjustment]. Before, it was not a big problem, but now it is, with the increase in prices at the pump and for food ”.

The strike also enjoys broad support among workers at the Mack-Volvo factories in Allentown, Pa., And Hagerstown, Maryland. The New River Valley plant paints the cabs of assembled trucks in Macungie, Pa., And uses engines and transmissions from the Hagerstown plant. The two factories made temporary layoffs this week.

“Volvo wanted to speed up production at our factory because Mack needed more cabins,” said a striking worker. “But with our strike and the microchip problem, they have shortages for the Macungie plant and they are laying off. They should just go on strike and set up a picket line so that we can all have one voice ”.

The UAW has imposed a media blackout on Volvo's strike, fearing it could spark a broader workers' movement. UAW International does not have a single word about the ongoing conflict on its website or Facebook page. The websites and social media pages of UAW Locals 677 and 171, which cover thousands of Mack-Volvo workers in Allentown and Hagerstown, also did not publish information about the strike at NRV. .

National and Virginia AFL-CIO websites and social media have also remained silent. The same goes for the United Mine Workers, United Steelworkers and the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which are currently isolating strikes and struggles by workers at Warrior Met Coal, ATI, ExxonMobil and St. Vincent of Worcester.

The president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Sarah Nelson, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) presented as the next possible president of the AFL-CIO, did not say anything on the Volvo strike at a rally last Saturday, as nurses in Worcester neared the 100th day of their strike.

Among the workers who learned of the strike, largely through the World Socialist Web Site, there was widespread support for Volvo strikers and a determination to join a common struggle.

Responding to the open letter from Volvo workers, Rob, a young worker at the Stellantis Warren Truck Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit, said: “Their letter is impeccable and should serve as a model for all workers. of the automobile. The demands they present are truly up to what is necessary for the prosperity of the working class. All auto workers should follow along and do all they can to help those on the picket line ”.

Referring to measures taken by workers to challenge the UAW in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread through factories, Rob said, “The wildcat strike was big business! She showed exactly what the solidarity of auto workers can do. The first hurdle for all of us Volvo and the Detroit auto companies is the UAW ”.

“Volvo workers are fighting for everyone,” a worker from Stellantis in Indiana told the WSWS. “We have the same problems. We all find ourselves abused and used with regard to our health and safety, our working conditions, our schedules, our benefits and our wages ”.

“The rejection of their contract says a lot. They were not going to accept what was presented to them. The union has proven it doesn't care by forcing them back to work to make more trucks after a two-week strike last month. Their demands must be met, otherwise they will not work ”.

Calling strike pay a 'joke', she added: "$ 275 would only pay for gasoline for a month. People have bills. We have to eat, pay off mortgages, auto insurance, and a host of other obligations that we have. They try to starve Volvo workers and get them back to work with as little money and benefits as possible. Strike is essential for workers to meet their basic needs. I wish we could all go on strike to let CEOs know we're not kidding. ”

An electrical worker from Warren Truck, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union for 34 years, said he was not surprised that the UAW had not informed Michigan workers on strike. “They sweep her under the carpet. They have been doing this for years at IBEW. Every time we try to get a raise it's taken from our insurance, so we don't get a raise. It does not fit in our pocket. They just fill Washington DC and the AFL-CIO with money. That's what they do ”.

“It's the same with the UAW. Volvo workers must continue to fight and not give up ”.

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