Workers on the Move!

Mark Dimondstein

November 15, 2023

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“Without Our Brain and Muscle, Not a Single Wheel Can Turn.”

While corporate profits and income inequality soar and galloping inflation makes life harder, more and more workers are “standing up and fighting back” with an encouraging new militancy.

The Teamsters waged a powerful contract campaign against immensely profitable UPS and, with a 96 percent strike authorization vote, won major gains. 75,000 Kaiser health care workers won better wages and staffing for patients after a successful three-day strike. 160,000 actors represented by SAG-AFTRA are on strike against the bosses’ use of artificial intelligence to undermine their work. Declaring “One Job Should Be Enough,” hotel workers are engaged in rolling strikes in Southern California and a major strike is looming in Las Vegas. Starbucks workers are unionizing store after store. 1,400 Bluebird school bus manufacturing workers unionized in the Deep South. Amazon workers are stirring against an immensely wealthy and anti-union company. A major union organizing drive is underway at Delta Airlines.

Auto Workers Showing the Way

As this article is being written, auto workers of the “Big Three” (Ford, General Motors and Stellantis) are engaged in a historic strike to overcome years of givebacks and concessionary bargaining. In the 2008 recession, caused by Wall Street greed, that sunk the housing market and the economy, the auto companies were in deep financial trouble. The Obama administration led in bailing out the “Big Three.” Much of it was done on the backs of the workers who lost Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLAs) and retirement. New hires were placed into a divisive “two-tiered” wage system, earning 40 percent less than their co-workers. While workers lost 30 percent in purchasing power, the Big Three made $250 billion in profits over the last ten years and top management enjoyed raises of 40 percent.

Enough was enough! The promise made to the auto workers was that if they sacrificed to save the “Big Three,” they would be rewarded when the companies got back on their feet. That promise was broken as the Wall Street investors and $25-million-a-year-compensated CEOs laughed all the way to the bank. The companies used their massive profits to enrich shareholders and the CEOs.

They are laughing no more. Led by a new and militant United Auto Workers (UAW) president Shawn Fain, workers are demanding sizable raises to make up for years of declining wages, restoration of COLA, eliminating the divisive two-tier structure, defined benefit retirement plans for all workers, a shorter work week with no loss of pay, and ensuring the needed transition to electric vehicles is not used to bypass unionized workers and standards.

Harkening back to the auto workers’ historic sit-down strikes of the 1930s that led to the creation of the UAW and helped spark a union organizing wave across the country, the unionized auto workers are standing up for all working-class people in our struggle to win dignity, safe and rewarding jobs, and more time to spend with our families.

As UAW President Shawn Fain framed their fight: “… we’ll keep fighting for justice for the working class while the Big Three keep price-gouging the American consumer, ripping off the American taxpayer, and shortchanging the American worker…It’s a battle of the working class against the rich, the haves versus the have-nots, the billionaire class versus everyone else.”

The APWU is a “solidarity” union, born out of our own historic Great Postal Strike of 1970. Many members joined rallies, picket lines, and signed petitions understanding that “an injury to one is an injury to all” and that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” By the time you read this article, I am optimistic that the power of the auto workers will have led to solid new union contracts.

Workers on the move winning union representation and strong contracts will strengthen postal workers including next year as we once again engage in negotiations for a new union contract. Solidarity Forever! ■

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