Strike in the automotive sector: The greatest triumph of the North American working class in the 21st century


- He earned a salary increase of 25% annually over a period of 4 and a half years, with an immediate 11%.

-Salary adjustments are reinstated due to the increase in the cost of living.

-The maximum wage for production workers is raised from $32 to $42 per hour.

By Jesús Valdez, activist of La Marx México and La Marx Internacional.

November 9, 2023

On October 30, 2023, the automotive union (United Auto Workers) reached a provisional agreement with General Motors to end the strike that began 6 weeks earlier, on September 15, marking 44 days of strike. This strike is considered the largest and the one with the greatest impact in the 21st century, as it achieved a sustained salary increase of 25% over a period of 4 and a half years, to complete a 100% increase.

According to Shawn Fain, the main leader of the UAW, salaries in the sector were 33% behind the cost of living, that is, compared to inflation. In addition to this, in a live broadcast on November 8 through union communication platforms, Fain stressed that:

- It is the first time in history that a simultaneous strike has been carried out in the Big 3 (Ford, Stellanis and General Motors).

- The contract won is the most lucrative and juicy in the history of the union
It is the first time in history that the big three pay the lost wages and every dollar that the strike cost the workers.

- It is the first time that the workers of the big three, join their forces simultaneously and with their example, teach the entire working class not only how to start a strike, but how to obtain victory, claiming it as the most powerful tool they have. the working class.

- This strike was won by resorting to old school union methods, increasing pressure progressively.

- The sliding scale of salary prices is claimed, the union reserves the right to go on strike at any time if the agreements made are not met, at the same time it announces the preparation of a new day of struggle when the current contract ends (2028). and invites the entire North American working class to form a common front to present their demands together.

Since 1979, unionized workers in the automotive sector have endured blow after blow that their pockets and their families have suffered in the face of the general increase in prices and the meager increases that their union leaders in turn have negotiated with the companies. This era is over, on day 41 of the strike, Ford was the first company to fold its hands, accepting most of the conditions imposed by the UAW strike. [1]

The UAW contractual review negotiation is the reference for all contractual reviews in the United States, where all working conditions, salary, benefits, etc. are reviewed; that is, where the price of labor power is negotiated.

Although, the strike had begun in some workplaces, with the strike of 12 thousand of the 150 thousand members that it has in those companies (not counting the other 200 thousand that it has distributed in other companies and countries such as Puerto Rico and Canada). , the straw that broke the camel's back, was when the strike reached the two largest money generators of General Motors and Stellantis: the SUV and truck assembly plants in Texas and Michigan, while the strike also reached the main source of Ford revenue: The Kentucky Truck plant, [2] where some of its most iconic and best-selling vehicles are manufactured.

Main achievements of the automotive strike

- He earned a salary increase of 25% annually over a period of 4 and a half years, with an immediate 11%.

- Salary adjustments are reinstated due to the increase in the cost of living.

- The maximum wage for production workers is raised from $32 to $42 per hour.

- Skilled trades will earn more than $50 per hour.

- Payment for new workers will increase from $18 to $28 per hour.

- From now on, it will take three years to reach the maximum salary, instead of eight.

- Members now progressing will receive immediate raises of 20 to 46 percent.

- Temporary workers with more than 90 days of service will become permanent immediately, while future temporary employees will become permanent employees after nine months, these nine months will count towards their promotion to a higher category.

- Stellantis will add an additional 5,000 jobs at the end of the deal, marking a turnaround from the company's threats to cut thousands of jobs ahead of negotiations.

- Together, that will raise the top wage for production workers to $42.60 an hour by the end of the deal in 2028, up from $32.05 today, while skilled trades will earn more than $50 an hour. Starting pay for new workers will increase from $18.05 to $28 per hour.

Impact of the strike outside the automotive sector

When the strike began in September 2023, we announced that:

"A victorious strike in the United States directly benefits the working class around the world, mainly the unionized workers of the USA, Mexico and Canada, since after the signing of the Free Trade Agreement 2.0 (the T-MEC), One of the main clauses has been imposed by the proletariat of the United States and Canada, who demand better salaries for Mexican workers, so that there is an even floor and avoid competition from below."[3]

According to Lynne Vincent, a professor at Syracuse University, "this set of strikes is part of a larger movement in the United States in which people are reexamining their relationships with work and with their workplaces."

According to Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker, more than 486,000 workers have joined walkouts and union strikes as of mid-October 2023. Meanwhile, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has announced that in In total, more than 11 million work days were lost; while JP Morgan & Chase estimates that the auto strike has cost more than $500 billion (half a trillion dollars) to General Motors and Ford alone. [4]

Preparing the new battles

Koji Sato of Toyota, Shawn Fain of the UAW, Elon Musk of Tesla. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EMIL LENDOF/WSJ; AP, REUTERS, GETTY

After the victory of the strike day, Shawn Fain announced that new campaigns will begin to unionize the workers of Volksvagen, Toyota... and Tesla Motors, whom he has called "members of the future of the UAW." [5] Previously, there have already been attempts at union organization at Tesla, which have led to dozens of failures, but the victory of the UAW has completely changed the relationship of forces.

On Saturday, November 4, the UAW reclaimed the power of the strike to improve the living conditions of auto workers, while announcing its intentions to coordinate with other US unions to prepare for a unified day of struggle in May. 2028. In Fain's words:"We need to organize the non-union and we need unions everywhere to rediscover the power of striking." [6]

The expiration of the agreements agreed with GM, Ford and Stellantis on April 30, 2028 will be the starting point to prepare a unified strike on May 1 within the framework of "International Workers' Day." While this happens, inflation will continue to hit the entire North American and global working class, the triumph of the automobile strike marks a new pattern in the class struggle, the power of our class is such that there will be no shortage of pipers and snake charmers that will seek to divert us from the path, it is no coincidence that Joe Biden himself and Donald Trump appeared waving the flag of the strike to obtain sympathy in their electoral campaigns, we again call to distrust all bourgeois sectors, because from our point of view, they do not There are progressive bourgeois camps.


[1] Big 3 Buckled as Stand-Up Strike Spread


[2] Auto Workers Escalate: Surprise Strike at Massive Kentucky Ford Truck Plant


[3] Estalla huelga indefinida en el sector automotriz norteamericano


[4] Huelga de UAW en EU podría poner en peligro estrategias financieras de GM y Ford


[5] Trabajadores de la industria automotriz van por Musk: Buscarán mejores tratos laborales en Tesla


[6] Sindicato automotriz de EU va por frente común para 2028