Detroit auto workers voice solidarity with striking Volvo Trucks workers
The World Socialist Web Site spoke with many autoworkers outside of the Stellantis Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan on Tuesday afternoon.
Randall said, “We need more people out fighting for these workers! We got to have each other’s backs.”
After WSWS campaigners explained what was happening in Dublin, Virginia, where the UAW is forcing workers to revote on a contract that was already rejected, Johnny said: “If I can be frank” Johnny said, “the UAW is full of s**t. They take our money every paycheck and where does it go? They should be doing everything to support these workers and their not. No surprise.”
“UAW should step up,” said Tony. “They should be doing everything they can. Workers deserve a fair contract. We all pay dues and it’s for these times that it matters.”
More coverage on the WSWS tonight.
UAW Local President 2069 President Matt Blondino to striking Volvo workers: “Vote again until you get it right!”
UK Jaguar Land Rover workers support striking US Volvo workers in Virginia
Car workers at Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) plant in Halewood, England expressed solidarity with striking US Volvo workers in Virginia.
JLR, which made hundreds of redundancies at Halewood in 2020, plans 2,000 further job losses in non-manufacturing roles across the company as part of a “full review” of operations over the 2021/22 financial year. Unite union national officer Des Quinn said of the redundancies last year, “Given the unprecedented drop in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was all but inevitable that job losses would be announced… If workers are made redundant then Unite will ensure they receive everything they are legally entitled to.”
Speaking to the WSWS, JLR worker Shaileth said, “The deal at Volvo should not be accepted. If a worker has been working 20 years or so in a factory, he has given almost half his young life, and suddenly the government and management cut down his health insurance and retirement benefits, it will impact on everything, his family.
“It should never happen, bringing in new workers in place of men on strike.”
Chris told our reporters, “Good luck to them [striking US Volvo workers]. It’s a hard battle. People should stick together.”
Gareth said, “Whatever affects Volvo workers, affects us, has a knock-on effect. If they do it to them, it’ll end up happening to us.”
Worker: Volvo attempting to bring in white collar workers to break strike
A worker has told the World Socialist Web Site that company management is preparing to break the ongoing strike by Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Virginia by attempting to bring in white collar workers.
The worker said: “Volvo had a meeting with their white collar workers to ask for volunteers to be bused down to New River Valley. They will pay for their meals and their hotel, and they actually rented out an entire hotel for 4 weeks. The white collar workers would do production jobs for 4 weeks while the other people go out on strike, because that's what they [Volvo management] are predicting.”
The worker added, “This comes from a very reliable source, so if you could please get this out to the union members I'd appreciate it.”
Volvo Trucks workers denounce UAW officials, call for decisive rejection in contract revote
Hundreds of angry Volvo Trucks workers flooded the United Auto Workers Local 2069 union hall in Dublin, Virginia early Monday morning to confront UAW officials who agreed to hold a revote on a tentative agreement that nearly two-thirds of the workforce rejected last Friday. Defying the will of the majority, the UAW will hold a ratification vote on the concessionary agreement this Wednesday.
According to striking workers, less than 30 employees out of more than 3,000 hourly and salaried employees reported to work, including supervisors, a handful of intimidated younger workers and an electrician. Strikers were contacted by several engineers at Volvo Trucks North America’s Greensboro, North Carolina headquarters who said management had asked them to volunteer to go to the New River Valley plant to replace striking workers and build trucks at a target rate of 10 trucks per day. Many refused and told strikers they supported their struggle and would honor their picket lines.
A striking worker described the scene at the local union hall Monday morning. “We gave [Local union president Matt] Blondino hell for bringing this contract up for another vote. They could have shot it down, but they didn’t. He said that ‘only’ 60 percent of the members voted against it, and that was not enough to ask the UAW International to keep spending so much money on the strike.”
“We were outraged,” the worker said. “We told him and the rest of the bargaining committee to resign their positions. He complained that we voted down three tentative agreements, and we said that was because they were crap. The third TA has a little more in pay for production workers, but the Core Group and the rest of the plant is going to lose money because of what we are paying for our insurance.
Detroit Stellantis worker to striking Volvo Workers: “If Volvo can get to do this in Virginia, it can happen to us in Detroit.”
Ron, a Stellantis worker in Detroit made the following statement on the struggle of Volvo Trucks Workers in Dublin, Virginia:
The Volvo workers should have everything they demand. People fought real hard to have COLA and other demands and the companies want to strip us of everything and make us at-will employees on our knees before the powers that be.
Simply put, if Volvo can get to do this in Virginia, it can happen to us in Detroit. GM, Ford and Stellantis can apply the same approach if we vote down our contracts. As far as the UAW is concerned, doesn’t matter if workers voted down 10 contracts, they want the Volvo workers to vote again until they ‘get it right.’ The UAW does not represent us.
The Volvo workers voted ‘no’ and the UAW is doing the company’s dirty work. Workers are becoming aware of this. The Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee has given workers something to look forward too. It has strengthened them. We have to make these committees the norm and popularize them in every factory. We have to make ourselves the power and not live under the foot of these two entities—the companies and the UAW.
There are growing numbers of people who understand the seriousness of what is happening with the Volvo workers. Others are like ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ There was a different culture years ago, when workers would not put up with things. But now there are more militant and thoughtful workers speaking up in the plants and others are stopping and listening. They know they are not just bellyaching but telling the truth.
If the UAW and Volvo can do that in Virginia, they can do it to us too. Imposing a contract that workers just rejected is like a slap in the face. It’s like the Electoral College or Trump overturning an election. It’s crazy to say, but it’s like a dictatorship and clearly that’s what the government wants it to be. No one will have a say over their own conditions. It’s ‘do your job or we’ll put you on skid row. You shut up and fall in line, or else.’
The Volvo strike is a pivotal point for all workers. All autoworkers should be on strike to support them. That would be a clear, concise statement to all the corporations and the UAW. That would be a response that they didn’t see and would not be prepared for. All autoworkers should drop our tools and walk back from the line like we did during the wildcat strikes over COVID. We produce everything and should hold the means of production hostage. That would be a huge blow to the corporations and Volvo would be ready to give workers a good contract.
All over, workers are being exploited. At Frito-Lay, they’re working back-to-back 12-hour ‘suicide shifts.’ No wonder some workers are dying from overdoses or piling up in traffic. They’re tired and stress out. And when you’re like that you start to think about all the other things you’re sick and tired about, and it starts to snowball. People are refusing to be overworked and they are doing little personal strikes. But we have to act collectively and for that we need a leadership and a strategy.
Veteran Stellantis worker: “The issues that they we facing here in Stellantis are the same as at Volvo”
A high-seniority worker at the Stellantis Warren Stamping outside Detroit expressed his support for the strike and reviewed his experience with the auto industry. “I’m from Youngstown, Ohio, originally, so naturally I support the Volvo strike because this is my neck of the woods. Not too far from where I grew up was the Lordstown plant, which they shut down in 2019. I was a kid when people were getting construction jobs building the plant. I remember the Lordstown strike in 1972 very well. That was a bitter fight.
“I had relatives who were Teamsters. Back in the day, when they went on strike, that was serious, not like what the unions have now. On the picket lines it was like war.
“Now, they’ve used automation to slash jobs repeatedly. Back in the day, a stamping plant used to have 3,500 or so workers. Then they cut that in half and cut it in half again. There’s only a fraction of the workforce still at Warren Stamping compared to when I first started working here a decade ago.
“Before transferring to Warren, I used to work at Twinsburg Stamping Plant outside of Cleveland until it closed in 2010. I’m close to retirement; as soon as I finish my time here, I’m going back home to Ohio.” He also said he personally knew Terry Garr, another former Twinsburg worker who died earlier this year in an accident at Sterling Stamping Plant.
“I knew [him] from since he was hired in at Twinsburg. I knew his mother very well. Everyone thought the world of him. Then I got a call from a buddy of mine from Twinsburg not too long ago, who is working in Kokomo now, who said, ‘Have you heard that Terry died?’ It was a big shock.
“The issues that they are facing here in Stellantis are the same as at Volvo. In particular, the way they are attacking the younger generation with the tiers. I’m close to retirement now, but the younger people coming in, they won’t have that same opportunity.”
Autoworkers voice support for Volvo strikers, oppose company-UAW strikebreaking: “All autoworkers should be on strike to support them”
Autoworkers in Detroit and Chicago responded with outrage upon learning of the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) attempt to shut down the five-week strike at Volvo Trucks in Dublin, Virginia. Although workers voted down a third tentative agreement last Friday, the UAW is forcing workers at Volvo’s New River Valley plant to vote on the exact same agreement again this Wednesday and has told them the company will impose the deal no matter which way they vote.
“I’ve only just heard that this strike was even going on from you right now, but that’s exactly the same thing the UAW is doing here!” Lawrence, an autoworker at Warren Stamping Plant, told campaigners for the WSWS . “They work for the company. These guys deserve to be sued into the ground. All of them are in jail already, and yet nothing has changed.”
Craig told the WSWS: “I support the Volvo workers. Let’s stand in solidarity against these companies and the UAW placing profit before people. I agree with their fight to end the two-tier system, everyone should be paid the same amount. You shouldn’t be working next to someone and they’re making twice the amount you’re making, it’s BS. I’ve been a Tier 2 worker for a while, so I understand the struggles and the pain, so let’s just all stand together and go against the corporations.”
“They should have gotten rid of the tiers long ago,” Gregg, another Warren stamping worker, said. “Same work, same pay. The conditions are pretty similar [here as at Volvo], but tell Volvo workers to keep fighting. Just tell them to stand on it. Tell them we got their back 100 percent.”
Chappelle, a newer Tier 2 worker, stated, “We're here for you, the workers in Detroit have your back. We definitely need to build a rank-and-file committee here. The multi-tier system is not good. They say that after three months you're supposed to get regular pay, but I know a lot of workers where that's not the case.”
Statement of Volvo Workers: Vote NO to corporate threats on Wednesday! Tell Volvo to take this contract and shove it!
This statement is being distributed by the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee. Volvo workers can contact the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text to (540) 307-0509. Download a printable version of the statement here.
Today, Volvo and the UAW announced that the contract which we just voted down Friday night—the third deal between them we’ve rejected—would be unilaterally imposed by the company starting Monday. Their agreement would raise health care costs significantly, put a question mark over retiree health care, keep wages for top pay far below inflation, and string out new hires on a six-year wage “progression” system, among other concessions.
The UAW, which endorsed the last contract and the two we turned down before it, has called a vote on the very same deal for this Wednesday. They have stated that if it is voted down, there will be no signing bonus, but the contract will remain in effect anyway.
The company is declaring war on us. Instead of countering this naked corporate blackmail and strikebreaking, the UAW is colluding with it. The company and the UAW are using scare tactics, lies and misrepresentations in an attempt to frighten, confuse and divide us. These must be rejected. We are not scared by the company and union’s threats and believe this strike can and must be won. But to do so, the following is needed:
1. The contract must be overwhelmingly defeated on Wednesday. We especially appeal to our brothers and sisters who voted “yes” on Friday to reject this attack on the rights of all Volvo workers. This strike has not been easy for anyone. But nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. The decisive rejection of this contract can clear the path to a victory that meets the needs of all workers at NRV.
2. Any attempt to reopen the New River Valley plant with scab labor must be met with the mobilization of workers at Mack and other Volvo plants—both in the US and in other countries—to immediately shut down the company’s operations. We have to show the company we have this power and are willing to use it.
3. Preparations must be made for solidarity actions by autoworkers in Detroit and other cities, and broader sections of the working class, if the company proceeds with its threats to unilaterally enforce the contract and operate with scab labor. Not only our interests are at stake; the interests of Mack workers, autoworkers, and others are on the line.
4. The UAW must hold town hall meetings to give a comprehensive report on the history of its discussions with Volvo. At this meeting, nominations must be taken so that the bargaining committee is expanded to include all constituencies among the workforce at NRV: pre-2011 hires, 2011-2015 hires, newer hires, retirees, and salaried workers. Despite the company’s ultimatum, the struggle over this contract is far from over.
Who is Volvo Group Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg?
In the heat of the struggle at Volvo, workers should learn about Carl-Henric Svanberg, the chairman of the board of Volvo Group. Workers face a massive, ruthless and profitable enemy at Volvo. Its chairman is no less an enemy of the working class—having his hand in the coverup of the BP oil spill, mass layoffs and consolidations at multiple companies, and helping turn Securitas, the top global security firm, used often to spy on and harass striking workers, into the powerful company it is today.
As in the US, where Volvo relies on the UAW to do its dirty work, Svanberg has worked to cultivate close relations with the Swedish trade unions, including IF Metal and Unionen, which have three seats on Volvo’s corporate board of directors. Svanberg also sits on the Ministry of Foreign Trade’s task force with Susanna Gideonsson, president of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO).
Over the last few years, through cost-cutting measures, Volvo Group has substantially improved its financial condition. It has given billions of dollars to its shareholders just in the last few weeks based on a sale of one of its subsidiaries. Svanberg told the financial world that the company’s “improved profitability, resilience in downturns and strong financial positions” all justified giving out the billions of dollars to its owning capitalists.
If that is the case, that the company has billions to hand out, why are workers at Volvo being squeezed in the latest concessionary contract?
The answer is simple: the money is there but they do not want to give it.
Svanberg and Lundstedt are darlings of the global financial elite because they have consistently, over the last few decades, delivered “discipline,” “resilience,” “profitability” and other catchwords that amount to one thing: paying as little money as possible for the companies inputs, above all labor.
Class war at Volvo and the fight for rank-and-file committees
On Sunday, the United Auto Workers announced that it has ordered a revote on the tentative agreement that striking Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Virginia, voted against by 60 percent.
The UAW’s extraordinary action came after a statement from the company that it has declared an “impasse” in the contract negotiations and is moving to unilaterally impose the agreement rejected by the workers.
Volvo is declaring war on the workers, and the UAW is providing them cover for their strikebreaking operation. UAW Local 2069 President Matt Blondino issued a statement acknowledging that the company was attempting to break the strike, but he made clear that the UAW would take no action other than possibly filing an “unfair labor charges” suit that, according to the union, “could take months or years to resolve.”
That is, the UAW is telling workers that whatever the outcome of the “revote” on Wednesday, they will be forced back to work based on the agreement that they have rejected.