After announcing a tentative agreement with GM Subsystems on June 30, the United Auto Workers are holding a ratification vote on Monday and Tuesday without giving workers enough time to study and discuss the contract. The UAW expects workers to vote on the deal immediately after attending “briefings” where union officials are expected to release the first self-serving explanation of the deal.
After forcing all 600 GM Subsystems workers to stay on the job for 14 months after their contracts expired, the UAW announced a settlement 15 minutes before a June 30 strike deadline. A walkout would have immediately shut down four key General Motors plants in Michigan.
The workers need at least a week to study and discuss the contract, which is probably written in such a complicated way that it would take a lawyer to interpret it. The only reason the UAW would rush a vote under such conditions is that it is a betrayal, which will maintain the status of GM Subsystems workers as overexploited cheap labor. Rank and file workers should reject such an agreement with the contempt it deserves.
Management and the UAW say GM Subsystems is an outside contract company and therefore not subject to the UAW’s framework agreement covering 45,000 General Motors workers. GM subsystem workers handle and sort parts used in car and truck assembly, working side-by-side with regular GM employees but earning only a fraction of their pay. Workers typically start at just $15 an hour and finish at $17 an hour, about half the wages of entry-level “old” assembly workers, who earn about $31 an hour. hour.
GM Subsystems workers are in a strong position as a strike could impact production at Lansing Grand River, Flint Assembly, Lake Orion Assembly and Factory Zero in Detroit, which produces the Hummer electric vehicle. Although GM’s flagship electric vehicle plant in Detroit is being retooled, hundreds of additional GM Subsystems workers are expected to be hired as production ramps up.
The UAW has proven time and time again that it is nothing more than a corrupt management tool. Under conditions of runaway inflation, UAW officials stalled strike after strike, including at Dana, Detroit Diesel, Ventra and now GM Subsystems. They brought back concession agreements containing increases well below the current annual inflation rate of 8.6%.
At the Ventra auto parts plant in Evart, Michigan, workers recently rejected a sales deal by 95% that included a measly $2.50 per hour raise over the life of a five-year contract. year. A UAW official even told workers they didn’t deserve the same pay as workers in the Big Three.
GM Subsystems workers do the same work as General Motors workers and deserve the same pay. They should follow the example of the Ventra workers and form a rank-and-file factory committee to campaign for the rejection of this deal and for an immediate $10 per hour raise and full cost protection. life. They should also require fully paid medical benefits, without copayments or premiums.
The rejection of the agreement is crucial but it is only the first step. GM Subsystems should demand the dismissal of the UAW negotiating team that signed this agreement and elect a new shop floor committee. All negotiations must be broadcast live with full base monitoring.
If it is not possible to reach an agreement that includes the demands that workers and their families need, then a firm strike deadline must be set. There needs to be a campaign against scabs by the international UAW, calling on GM workers to cross the picket lines of GM Subsystems workers.
The contract vote at GM Subsystems comes as an activist mood builds among GM workers and other sections of autoworkers after decades of give and take. A GM worker in Lansing told the WSWS, “GM Subsystems workers almost went on strike. The word circulating in the factory is that the workers want to strike. Workers say it’s time to take back what they gave up. The UAW is not doing enough.
The terms of GM Subsystems’ current contract will directly affect GM’s expansion into electric vehicles, as the company plans to open four new battery plants that will not be covered by the UAW-GM national agreement. GM and other automakers have signaled plans to use low-paid contract workers for battery plants as well as electric vehicle assembly plants. A GM battery plant in Brownstown Township, Michigan currently employs GM Subsystems workers for a fraction of the wages of assembly plant workers.
The 2009 agreement by the UAW to allow GM to use Subsystems workers as industrial slaves is part of an endless list of betrayals by the union. This includes overseeing a vast expansion of part-time and temporary workers, imposing a tiered wage and benefits system, and eliminating hard-won gains such as retirement, overtime after eight hours and cost of living protection.
In 2018, Cindy Estrada, then UAW vice president for GM, sparked worker outrage by agreeing to allow GM to replace some full-time workers with lower-paid subsystem workers at factories. of Lordstown, Ohio and Lake Orion. The UAW insisted the action was necessary to “save” jobs. However, that did not deter the UAW from accepting the closure of the Lordstown plant as part of the 2019 contract agreement.
GM Subsystems workers deserve the support of all autoworkers. In opposition to the UAW’s attempts to divide workers, a common struggle is needed to eliminate levels and contract work and provide all workers with decent pay and working conditions.