Hugh Lanning of Labour & Palestine Speech January 18th

Palestine in 2024 – What the World should be doing

For the first time since the war on Gaza began there was a “Labour Members for Palestine” bloc on the march last Saturday, January 13th.

The bloc was organised by Labour & Palestine, CLPD, Arise and Momentum amongst others. 

Hopefully it represents a long-overdue willingness by Labour Party members to be identified as supporters of Palestine and a ceasefire. Apart from the supporting organisations there were constituency and Labour Councillor banners. The intention will be to organise the bloc again on the next national march in February.

We need to translate the support on the marches into political organisation – to make Palestine a ballot box issue. 

Hugh Lanning Labour & Palestine

To quote Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in”. Instead, Labour has watched the bodies float by, endorsing Israel’s war objectives. With over 20,000 dead Labour has effectively gone to war on Palestine – just as it has in the Yemen.

In so doing, Labour has morally lost the plot with hundreds of thousands of marchers, with a whole generation of people now committed to supporting Palestine. 

This issue is going to haunt Labour before, during and after the next election. It will not go away with the election of a Labour Government. 

We have seen where the arms and money the West gives Israel are going – we see it every night on the television. They are going to kill Palestinians – whether the ICJ concurs that this is genocide or not, the reality is Israel is trying to literally demolish any serious prospect of a Palestinian state. 

This will require Labour to commit to global pressure on Israel to comply with international law. This will not be easy – but Netanyahu gives us the clue in saying he needs 3 things:” munitions, munitions, munitions”. 

As with South Africa, sanctions will be the key – Labour needs to call for an arms embargo and commit to immediate recognition – not backtrack from its established policy. It also should publicly state it will repeal the anti-boycott bill should it become law. 

A ceasefire will not be enough to create peace, it will only be a beginning. To establish the conditions for peace it will be necessary to dismantle the Israeli apartheid regime from Gaza to Jericho – that means bringing down the Wall ‘brick by brick’, removing the settlements and settlers, getting the troops out – it means ending the illegal military occupation.

Palestine needs a Labour bloc for Palestine at every level inside and outside the party making sure that the Palestinian voice is heard. As a democratic party we cannot be deaf to the calls for justice or we will come to regret ignoring the calls of hundreds of thousands of Labour Party supporters who are uniting in action for a “ceasefire now” and a Free Palestine.

The air strikes on Yemen and continued support for Israel exposes the Party. We need to not just march and protest, we need to organise.

Take part on in marches on January 20th – get involved, join the bloc on next national march in February.

Website: https://labourandpalestine.org.uk/

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New York Times To Sue OpenAI & Microsoft; Sports Illustrated Sacks Senior Staff Over Use Of AI

The newspaper and magazine industry is gearing up for a battle over the use of AI in information harvesting and the use of artificial intelligence to create fake articles, fake writer profiles and photos.

The New York Times is to sue  OpenAI and Microsoft accusing them of using millions of the newspaper’s articles without permission to help train chatbots to provide information to readers.

The New York Times said it is the first major U.S. media organisation to sue OpenAI, creator of the artificial-intelligence platform ChatGPT, and Microsoft, an OpenAI investor and creator of the AI platform now known as Copilot, over copyright issues associated with its works.

Writers and others have also sued to limit the automatic collection of data by AI services of their online content without compensation.

The newspaper’s complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court, accused OpenAI and Microsoft of trying to “free-ride on The Times’s massive investment in its journalism” by using it to provide alternative means to deliver information to readers. “There is nothing ‘transformative’ about using The Times’s content without payment to create products that substitute for The Times and steal audiences away from it,” the Times said.

OpenAI and Microsoft have said that using copyrighted works to train AI products amounts to “fair use,” a legal doctrine governing the unlicensed use of copyrighted material. On its website, the U.S. Copyright Office says “transformative” uses add “something new, with a further purpose or character” and are “more likely to be considered fair.”

The New York Times is not seeking a specific amount of damages, but estimated damages in the “billions of dollars.” It also wants OpenAI and Microsoft to destroy chatbot models and training sets that incorporate its material.

Meanwhile the prestigious U.S. magazine Sports Illustrated recently sacked its CEO Ross Levinsohn for using Artificial Intelligence to produce articles and  headshot photos generated by AI.

The company also fired its chief operating officer, media president and corporate counsel after revelations  that the magazine had published articles by non-existent authors with AI generated biographies and headshots.

The magazine’s publisher Arena Group said the removal of Levinsohn had been decided after a meeting on actions to “improve the operational efficiency and the revenue of the company”.

The AI articles were unveiled by an online magazine Futurism, which discovered that articles supposedly written by ‘Sora Tanaka’, a fitness guru was found to be fictitious. Similarly, an article about volleyball by ‘Drew Ortiz’  who Futurism says has no social media presence, no publishing history and who’s profile photo on Sports Illustrated was for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots, where he’s described as “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”

Arena denied the allegations, stating the content was from AdVon Commerce, an advertiser, which used ‘pen names’. The group has now severed ties with AdVon.

Levinsohn was replaced by Manoj Bhargava as interim chief executive. Bhargava is the founder of the energy drink ‘5-hour Energy’ who outlawed his staff using Powerpoint presentations telling them to “stop doing dumb stuff” and said the “amount of useless stuff you guys do is staggering”.

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Ceasefire – Free Palestine : You Tube Film by Unite’s Jamie Bramwell

This YouTube film and song about the genocide now happening in Gaza has been produced by Unite activist and construction section member from Merseyside Jamie Bramwell who releases his songs with his band Coalhouse. Please share widely.

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USW Slams Nippon Plan To Acquire USS

The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Dave McCall  has issued a statement slamming an announced deal in which Japan’s Nippon Steel will purchase U.S. Steel:

“To say we’re disappointed in the announced deal between U.S. Steel and Nippon is an understatement, as it demonstrates the same greedy, shortsighted attitude that has guided U.S. Steel for far too long.

“We remained open throughout this process to working with U.S. Steel to keep this iconic American company domestically owned and operated, but instead it chose to push aside the concerns of its dedicated workforce and sell to a foreign-owned company.

“Neither U.S. Steel nor Nippon reached out to our union regarding the deal, which is in itself a violation of our partnership agreement that requires U.S. Steel to notify us of a change in control or business conditions.

“Based on this alone, the USW does not believe that Nippon understands the full breadth of the obligations of all our agreements, and we do not know whether it has the capacity to live up to our existing contract. This includes not just the day-to-day commitments of our labor agreement, but also significant obligations to fund pension and retiree insurance benefits that are the most extensive in the domestic steel industry.

“Our union intends to exercise the full measure of our agreements to ensure that whatever happens next with U.S. Steel, we protect the good, family-sustaining jobs we bargained. We also will strongly urge government regulators to carefully scrutinize this acquisition and determine if the proposed transaction serves the national security interests of the United States and benefits workers.

“No union has actively engaged in more acquisitions in its core industries than the USW, and rest assured, our union will hold management at U.S. Steel accountable to every letter of our collective bargaining and other existing agreements.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.

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United Autoworkers Commence Strategic Organising Campaign

Following their recent success in the dispute  with the ‘Big 3’ US based car manufacturers (Ford, GM and Stellantis) the United Autoworkers Union strategic organising campaign aimed at recruiting and organising 150,000 non union autoworkers in over a dozen auto manufacturers in the USA has begun with workers at Honda, Hyundai and VW standing up against management intimidation by filing unfair labour practice claims  under US legislation.

The UAW says thousands of workers  inspired by success of the Big 3 campaign which was based on rolling ‘stand up strikes’ workers at at Honda in Indiana, Hyundai in Alabama, and Volkswagen in Tennessee are facing aggressive union busting campaigns,

“These companies are breaking the law in an attempt to get autoworkers to sit down and shut up instead of fighting for their fair share,” said UAW President Shawn Fain. “But these workers are showing management that they won’t be intimidated out of their right to speak up and organise for a better life. From Honda to Hyundai to Volkswagen and beyond, we’ve got their back. The auto industry’s record profits should mean record contracts for these workers, too.”

Fain met with thousands of non-union autoworkers on a Facebook Live broadcast recently where Honda workers reported being targeted by management for pro-union activity at the company’s plant in Greensburg, Indiana. Hundreds of workers at the facility have signed union cards.

At Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, the scene of previous union organising campaigns over 1,000 VW workers signed union cards in less than a week, and hundreds more continue to sign up. Management has harassed and threatened workers for talking about the union; confiscated and destroyed pro-union materials in the break room; attempted to intimidate and illegally silence pro-union workers; and has attempted to illegally prohibit workers from distributing union literature and discussing union issues in non-work areas on non-work time.

Volkswagen a German company which recognises union across the globe continues to make public claims of “official neutrality” while aggressively pushing an anti-union message in forced meetings and internal anti union literature.

At Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama plant, management has unlawfully confiscated, destroyed, and prohibited pro-union materials in non-work areas during non-work times. Hundreds of workers continue to sign up to win their union despite this illegal interference and intimidation.

Beverly McCall, a team member in engine assembly at the Hyundai plant, was in the parking lot passing out union leaflets on non-work time when a manager told her to stop. “The manager came up and told me you can’t be out here doing that,” said McCall. “I just kept right on doing what I was doing. We have every right to get the word out and they can’t stop us.” 

Among the companies the UAW say they will be targeting are  Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo,  Tesla, as well as startups Rivian and Lucid.

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Nordic Tesla Investors Tell Musk: “You Must Obey The Rules”

The pressure on Elon Musk, the worlds richest man and CEO of Tesla who is refusing to reach an agreement on Collective Bargaining and union recognition with the Swedish IF Metall union, (who are being supported by other Nordic unions in the engineering, transport and postal industries) continues to ramp up as sixteen large Nordic investors in Tesla has sent a letter to the company urging Musk to reconsider his rejection of talks with IF Metall.

The investors have expressed their deep concern “about the current conflict in Sweden”, according to Kiran Aziz of Norway’s largest pension company KLP.

If Tesla does not change its mind Aziz says: “It may be appropriate to sell the shares in the company and leave the part ownership”, adding that it would be their “last resort”,

Ms Aziz also warned Tesla that it “must relate to the rules, and the context, that exist where they operate and not bring the American one over to other countries.”

The investors are seeking a meeting with Tesla management in the letter stating: “We seek a dialogue with you about your handling of the highlighted issues and would like to request a meeting in early 2024 to discuss this. This is the last opportunity we have, but we primarily want the company to meet our expectations.”

She also qualified her comments by stating she did not know if Musk was listening or would respond.

In another development, waste collection workers in Sweden who are members of the Transport Workers Union have now refused to service the company’s sites.

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Nordic Transport Unions Blockade Tesla in Sweden Dispute

Following the decision by the Danish transport workers union 3F to take secondary action and cease transporting Tesla vehicles into Denmark’s lucrative e-vehicle market in support of the Swedish IF Metall Tesla mechanics strike, Norwegian and Finnish transport unions are also expected  to follow suit and give notice of a refusal to transport or move Tesla vehicles.

“You could say it’s underway. Tomorrow maybe, it’s in the near future anyway, says a source within the Nordic trade unions.” Action is being co-ordinated by the the Nordic Transport Federation (NTF) consisting of 340,000 members across 40 unions.

The strike by Tesla mechanics – members of the IF Metall Union are on strike following a decision by Elon Musk CEO of Tesla not allow its Swedish management to sign a union recognition and collective bargaining agreement or engage in talks with the union and the Swedish mediation service.

The dispute has now entering its sixth week.

Denmark’s largest trade union 3F says if Tesla’s Swedish subsidiary TM Sweden does not sign a collective agreement with IF Metall, the Danish union says it will stop all transport within Denmark of new Tesla cars to the Swedish market, both via ports and trucks.

PensionDanmark, one of Denmark’s largest pension funds, which manages pensions for 823,000 Danes, has announced it had decided to sell its holdings in Tesla over their refusal to enter into agreements with IF Metall.

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Lessons From History – Working With An Incoming Labour Government

By Sarah Veale, Former Head of Equality and Employment Rights, TUC

After seventeen years of Tory rule, in 1997 the prospect of a Labour Government felt like emerging into sunlight after years spent in a dark, damp tunnel.

Manifesto promises that unions had campaigned for soon appeared on the legislative timetable – the National Minimum Wage, reinstatement of trade union recognition at GCHQ, adoption of the EU Social Chapter, which brought in new rights for part time workers and working time protection. All of these made a big difference to workers. By and large they were swallowed by the employers’ organisations. The size of Labour’s majority forced them to concede that there was clear public support for them.

But what of collective rights, rights for union members to recognition and collective bargaining, rights to individual representation by a union and the repeal of the Tory anti strike laws?

Commitments in the manifesto were there but hedged about and vague. Unions would be recognised, with statutory underpinning but only where there was majority support in the workplace. Collective bargaining following recognition would be on pay, hours and holidays but not training or equality. Workers could take a union “companion” into a formal disciplinary or grievance procedure. But nothing much on repealing the anti-strike laws. It was made clear to the TUC before the election that on these collective matters there would have to be discussions and agreement with the CBI.

Whereas of course it was usual to have discussions between Labour Governments, unions and employers, this time it appeared that agreement would have to be reached – in other words, in a situation where the TUC wanted reform and the CBI clearly didn’t, the CBI was getting a potential veto.

There followed hours and days of parallel lobbying and occasional tripartite meetings. Repeatedly, the TUC hammered out some kind of legislative architecture with Labour, only to find that the CBI had refused to accept it and to end up with an often messy and complicated compromise.

There are many examples of this in the Fairness at Work White Paper, that preceded the Employment Relations Bill of 1999. Applications for statutory recognition would be made to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), which would determine whether the union could proceed, then determine the “bargaining units”, the composition of which would have to be agreed by the CAC, who were given a duty to consider the business case.

The bargaining unit had to include a percentage of union members. This was changed in the Bill to include the union also having to demonstrate that it would be likely to win a ballot. The ballot would include a forty per cent turnout threshold plus a fifty per cent majority. (This formula was later applied to strike ballots, but never suggested by Labour for the Brexit referendum many years later, although that affected the entire population, rather than just a workplace).

Other parts of the Bill that were added at the behest of business were the exclusion of small businesses and the so-called mirror de-recognition procedures.

This pattern continued throughout the whole period of Labour rule. The TUC and the CBI (or increasingly the small business groups, such as the British Chambers of Commerce) asked for legislative changes, or objected to proposed legislative changes, and the Government came up with a compromise, sometimes after asking the TUC and CBI to try to reach an agreement.

Will it be different this time?

With the CBI recently hugely weakened by its internal problems, it may be that an incoming Labour Government will seek to bring the various employers’ groups together as appropriate to consider proposals for reform of employment and union rights. When it comes to sectoral collective bargaining the public sector employers would presumably be part of the dialogue, as well as private sector organisations to represent the contracted-out services.

Judging by the relationships already forming between the Opposition and various employers’ organisations, together with the messaging to unions about restraint and economic necessities, it is likely that the process of legislative change will essentially be similar to that that which went before.

It is also important to bear in mind that the economy is not going to be in the same relatively healthy state as it was in 1997. The Labour leader and shadow Chancellor have warned that expenditure will be tightly restricted. Unions will need to consider how to maximise opportunities in areas of the economy where there is to be investment, eg, green energy, while working to embed new methods of pay determination through new statutory collective arrangements.

At the same time, the promised improved individual rights for all workers, eg, the ban on zero hours contracts, will need a great deal of attention to secure maximum effectiveness. The TUC and affiliates will need to be closely involved in the design and the Parliamentary passage of the Employment Bill, both of which could be fraught with technical difficulties.

Employers will no doubt be involved in parallel lobbying and even with a large majority, Labour may err on the side of caution, as they did previously.

It is important therefore that unions reflect on the past when approaching relations with an incoming Labour Government.

What to watch out for

Now that the UK is no longer in the EU, formal social dialogue between unions and employers is no longer required in relation to EU employment Directives. It was never required for domestic legislation but was nonetheless often used. If it is to emerge under a future Labour government, for example, in relation to collective agreements at sectoral level, unions will need to secure from the outset an agreed mechanism for negotiating and enforcing the agreements.

Relations with the new Government in 1997 often resembled negotiations. The TUC was offered union recognition but was told that this would be all it would get in terms of trade union legislation. There would be no repeal of the Tory laws on industrial action. The laws restricting trade union activity that were introduced under successive Tory governments remained on the statute book – and are still there today.

It is important for unions, through the TUC, to privately decide which reforms and changes are the most important to the Movement. It is very unlikely that the TUC will get everything that it wants, so focussing on what is both necessary and achievable is crucial – and very challenging! It will also be important to keep up the public campaigning to maximise pressure on issues where legislation is not forthcoming.

In this context, keeping as close an eye as possible on the reactions and lobbying of employers is essential.

The Government may argue that not doing some things, eg, not repealing EU derived legislation under pressure from employers, counts as giving something to the unions – it can get very transactional at times.

The TUC will have to consider how important it is to them for the architecture of Government to change. It would no doubt be much better for employment relations and for workers and unions if the former Ministry for Labour, or some such department, were to be formed, taking in parts of the various Business departments and parts of the Department for Work and Pensions.

However, is this really a priority, given the huge pressures on an incoming Labour Government and the time that it would take up? Already the Labour Party is hinting that reform of the House of Lords and Regional Government will more likely be a second term priority. Will a Ministry or Department of Labour similarly be postponed and how much does this matter? On the other hand, if there is to be a new statutory system of collective bargaining at sectoral level, doesn’t this necessitate a Ministry for Labour?

When working with a Labour Government on proposed legislation, it is crucial to ensure that those involved understand how legislation is drafted, and how Parliament works. All sorts of details can be missed, for example, the title of the Bill. It must include broadly what will be in the Bill, so if trade union law is to be repealed as part of an Employment Bill, the title should provide specifically for that.

The Employment Relations Act 1999 put all the statutory recognition provisions into a Schedule, that was inserted by the Bill into the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. This could have been repealed very swiftly indeed in Parliament when the Tories came into power – although it never was, which might say something about how effective the legislation turned out to be in practice.

Other issues to watch are the commencement dates, the number of provisions that will be enacted by subsequent secondary legislation, any sunset clauses, exhaustive lists of those to whom it will apply, consequent repeals of older legislation and more besides. Unions should ask to see a draft Impact Assessment and draft clauses for the Bill.

Unions will want to campaign for full and speedy repeal of the Trade Union Act 2016 and the Minimum Service Level legislation, as promised by the Leader of the Opposition. Unions will also want  to include other reforms, such as the introduction of electronic balloting for all union ballots – which stands a good chance of being adopted – and repeal of the old Tory anti strike legislation – which is less likely to succeed but important to attempt.

Previous Governments, both Tory and Labour, have made a fetish of regulation. It has been elevated from a process to a principle. The Tories want less of it, as a principle, and Labour wants it to be better. Surely all that needs to be agreed is that doing regulation well, making sure that it is enforceable and ensuring that it addresses actual risks, should be the underpinning of good government. This could be achieved by training for civil servants and indeed MPs and peers and by moving the internal Better Regulation Executive, which is part of the civil service, out of the Business and Trade Department into the Cabinet Office.

The existing quasi-independent Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) was set up in 2009, following on from various other iterations (Better Regulation Task Force/Commission/Committee). The TUC decided during the 2000s that it would involve itself in the various bodies and was successful in using them to gain some small regulatory improvements to TU and other legislation which had not previously been agreed.

Is there a need for a separate body to achieve this and is there a risk that if so, it will get in the way of policy objectives?

More recently, the TUC has been helped considerably by the RPC issuing “red lights” against proposed TU legislation which had defective Impact Assessments. But how would the TUC react to having a Labour Employment Bill, or parts of it, held up and “red lighted”?

Some of the legislation introduced by former Labour governments has proved to be very hard to enforce, including the statutory recognition legislation and the Agency Work regulations. It is important to look at putative legislation from the other end of the telescope. An initial question should be “Is it easy to enforce?”

The current system of taking breaches of employment rights to Employment Tribunals is cumbersome and expensive. It may not be a first order issue, but the TUC may want to consider whether there are better ways to enforce employment rights, especially where a claim has the potential to impact groups of workers.

In 1997/8 the new Labour Government added quite a lot of “extras” into the Employment Relations Bill, eg, rights for part time workers (derived from joining the Social Chapter of the EU). This can lead to hurried drafting and can distract from the main political objective of a Bill – although of course the rights themselves were very welcome and important.

In this context, although unions want changes to discrimination legislation, it may be unwise to try to add this into the first Employment Bill.

On issues such as discrimination, legislation generally goes wider than employment. Much equality legislation also covers the provision of services for example. For that reason, it is usually better to work with other organisations to achieve change. Although it is important for unions to be at the forefront of progressive changes to social issues, this does not mean leading them, especially where there may be differences of view within and between unions.

While arguing for employment and union rights it will help if the arguments are based on the improvements for productivity that have been shown to result from a happier workforce that has an independent collective voice.

There are some small but important reforms that are needed, for example, restoration of the duty on ACAS to promote collective bargaining.

Finally, successive Tory governments have removed TU representatives from the Boards of many regulatory bodies, even where the TUC has statutory representation rights. Where they have not removed them altogether, they have chosen people who were not nominated or supported by the TUC. This is unacceptable. Previous Labour Governments have been generously pluralistic, allowing Conservatives to take places on various public bodies. This caused problems on several occasions and should not be repeated.

This blog was first published by the Institute of Employment Rights and is re-published with the permission of Sarah Veale.

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United Autoworkers Union : Members Back Big 3 Deals

Workers picketed at GM’s Wentzville Assembly Center, near St. Louis, one of the first three plants to strike. They were out for six weeks. Photo: UAW.

Reprinted from labornotes.org

After a six-week escalating strike, the Auto Workers (UAW) ratified agreements with each of the Big 3 automakers. The deals are a sharp about-face from decades of concessions. The Big 3 are GM, Stallantis and Fords.

The new contracts go further than many people thought possible, on issues that the companies had insisted were off the table. Stellantis agreed to reopen its idled Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant. The companies will include most new battery plant workers in their master agreements.

While the contracts don’t abolish tiers for benefits, they mostly get rid of the wage tiers the Big 3 had created to drive down pay. Some workers will see their pay more than double.

The gains are a testament to the UAW’s aggressive strategy under its new leaders, which ramped up the strikes slowly at first and then faster until the companies caved one by one. The strategy threw the companies off guard and kept them guessing throughout.
The ‘Stand-Up Strike’ began September 15th when 13,000 workers walked out at three Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis assembly plants; by the end it grew to 50,000, out of 146,000 UAW members at the Big 3. The agreements came after a major escalation: striking each company’s most profitable truck plant.

Workers have approved the deals at GM, Ford, and Stellantis.

At Ford and Stellantis, two-thirds voted in favour. But at GM, the numbers were close. Just 55 percent of workers voted yes, reflecting workers’ heightened expectations and frustration with years of givebacks. Many higher-seniority assembly plant workers at all three companies voted no, saying the raises and retirement gains were not enough.

“They wanted higher increases in pay, higher than the 25 percent, and they wanted it all up front,” said Katie Deatherage, the recently elected president of Local 2250 at GM’s plant in Wentzville, Missouri. “Pensions and post-retirement health care were a huge topic and have been for a long long time.”

Deatherage estimates that 70 to 75 percent of workers at her plant have been hired since 2007, meaning they don’t get a pension or retiree health care. Still, in her 20 years at GM, “it’s the best contract I’ve seen in my career.” She voted yes.

THE DETAILS

The UAW says each year of each deal is worth more to members than the entire 2019 contract. In fact, according to the union, the new deals are worth more than the last four contracts combined.

They include 25 percent wage increases over four and a half years, including 11 percent immediately, and they reinstate cost-of-living adjustments, a major goal. Combined, that will bring top pay for production workers above $42 by 2028, up from the current $32, while skilled trades will earn more than $50 an hour. Starting pay for permanent workers will rise from $18 to $28.

Many workers will see larger increases. It will now take three years to get to top pay, rather than eight, and members currently on this progression will get immediate 20 to 46 percent bumps.

Workers at the many plants that had been on a lower wage scale, such as axle and components plants and parts distribution centers, will now be on the same scale as other Big 3 workers. This includes GM Subsystems, an invented category where GM employees in the same plants were under separate, inferior contracts.

Workers in these plants had been on a lower tier in many cases since 2007; for example, two Ford axle plants worked under a $16.25 to $22.50 scale. They’ll see immediate raises of 53 to 88 percent. These groups were voting heavily in favor of the deals.

Full-time temporary workers with more than 90 days’ service will be converted to permanent status immediately. Future temps will become permanent employees after nine months, and those nine months will count toward their progression to top rate. For two decades the Big 3 have kept temps on for years at low wages; if they were finally “rolled over” to regular status, they would have to wait another eight years for top pay.

Temps will also be eligible for profit-sharing and the $5,000 ratification bonus for the first time.

RETIREMENT TIERS CONTINUE

To completely end tiers would require that second-tier workers, those hired since 2007, get pensions and retiree health care, as first-tier workers do. The Big 3 did not agree to either of these proposals, complaining of significant long-term liabilities.

Instead the companies will put 10 percent of each worker’s pay into a 401(k), a big increase from the current 6.4 percent, with no match required. The union also won the first increase to the pension multiplier (for workers hired before 2007) since 2003.

The union was able to eliminate the tiered vacation system at GM. Workers hired since 2007 will now be eligible for five weeks’ vacation after 20 years; previously they were capped at four. At Ford and Stellantis, the union won an agreement that the company can only force workers to use one week of vacation during shutdowns, giving workers more ability to schedule their vacations when they choose. But at Stellantis, workers will now be forced to use some of their vacation and personal time to cover FMLA leave.

NEW JOBS ADDED

The UAW and Stellantis reached a deal on October 28th, three days after Ford.
One big issue was the status of the Belvidere Assembly plant in Illinois, which Stellantis had idled earlier this year, forcing 1,200 workers to disperse to other plants. The new agreement will bring jobs back to Belvidere, where the two shifts will produce a midsize truck.

Stellantis will also add 1,000 jobs at a new battery plant there. “Under our contract, members from Belvidere who have been scattered across this country will have the right to return back home,” said UAW Vice President Rich Boyer.

The union won the right to strike over any failures by the companies to live up to the investments and products they promised for various plants, as well as over plant closures. “That means if the company goes back on their word on any of these plans, we can strike the hell out of them,” said UAW President Shawn Fain.

One surprise bonus: the companies will pay each striker $110 a day for their time on the picket line, on top of the union’s $500 a week strike pay.

E.V. ORGANIZING

At Ford, the union had wanted a pledge that all electric vehicle plants, including joint ventures, would be brought under the master agreement that covers existing UAW members at the company. It extracted a pledge to recognise the union at two plants now under construction, the Tennessee Electric Vehicle Center and the Marshall Battery Plant in Michigan, if a majority of workers sign union cards (what US union organisers call “card check”). This should be easy for the UAW.

Ford is planning three other battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky, jointly owned with South Korea’s SK On and scheduled to start production in 2025.

There, it appears the union will have to organise the old-fashioned way.

At GM and Stellantis, the gains on electric vehicles were greater. Both agreed to put workers at their joint venture battery plants under their master agreements. “They told us for years that the electric vehicle transition was a death sentence for good auto jobs in this country,” Fain said. “With this agreement, we’re proving them all wrong.”

To get these workers under the master agreement, the UAW agreed that new hires at battery plants will make 75 percent of the top rate for workers at assembly plants (though workers who transfer there will keep their top pay). That’s still a big step up: production workers at GM’s Ultium joint venture in Lordstown, Ohio, will see immediate $6 to $8 increases, on top of the $3 to $4 the union won earlier this year. Starting wages stood at $16 earlier this year; they’ll now be $27. Ultium workers voted 97 percent in favor of the new contract.

MEMBER REACTIONS

The automakers were likely counting on these deals to sail through, but members at many assembly plants had other thoughts.

At Ford and Stellantis, 68 percent of workers voted in favor of the deal, according to the UAW’s vote tracker, with a few plants yet to count. But workers at the largest Ford plant, Kentucky Truck, voted the deal down by 55 percent. Kentucky Truck was the last Ford plant to be called out on strike. At the first, Michigan Assembly near Detroit, the local voted 82 percent yes.

“In our plant, it’s a little torn,” said Julian Thomas, who has worked assembly and repair for 10 years at Toledo Jeep, a major Stellantis plant, in advance of the vote there on November 15th “A lot of full-timers are leaning no. A lot of temps are leaning yes. Even on my line, some people just want to get back to make money, and other people say, ‘This isn’t everything we could get.’” The Jeep plant was on strike for six weeks.

“It’s been an every-day debate on the lines,” said Thomas, with some members bringing printouts of Stellantis profits to argue the company could afford a better deal on wages and retirement.

Toledo Jeep workers ultimately voted 55 percent against the deal. But the contract passed at all five other Stellantis U.S. assembly plants, with yes votes ranging from 61 to 85 percent.

At GM, the vote was much closer: only 54.6 percent of members voted in favor. Two-thirds voted no at the Spring Hill, Tennessee, assembly plant. Workers also voted no at most of GM’s other assembly plants, including the plant in Wentzville, Missouri, which was the first to strike. But the contract got support from 60 percent of workers at GM’s largest plant, in Arlington, Texas, which had been on strike just a few days, as well as heavy support from parts depots and components and battery plants.

“At GM, a lot more people are still angry about what happened in 2019 when we went on strike for six weeks and we basically didn’t get anything,” said Jaron Garza, a skilled trades worker at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.

Scott Houldieson, who’s worked as an electrician at Ford Chicago Assembly for 34 years, supported the agreement. (He is chair of the caucus Unite All Workers for Democracy, UAWD, which opted for a neutral stance.) “It was a strike that was trying to dig us out of 40 years of concessions, 40 years of cooperating with the companies, 40 years of corruption,” Houldieson said.

“We didn’t get it all. But nobody should expect to get it all in one set of contract negotiations. We won record wage increases, we got back COLA [cost-of-living adjustment]. Ending wage tiers is huge. We got our foot in the door with the transition to electric vehicles.”

MAY DAY 2028

The new contracts will expire April 30, 2028. That’s four and a half years, a little longer than the previous four-year agreements.

Fain said the UAW wants to give time for other unions to align their contract expirations with the UAW and strike together on May 1, 2028—International Workers’ Day. “If we’re going to truly take on the billionaire class and rebuild the economy so that it starts to work for the benefit of the many and not the few,” Fain said, “then it’s important that we not only strike, but that we strike together.”

The other reason for the longer contract, Fain said, is the union’s plan to organise the many nonunion automakers: Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Nissan, and others.

Within days of the new agreements, non-union automakers were calling emergency meetings and scrambling to hike wages. Toyota raised pay by 9.2 percent and cut its progression from six years to three; Honda announced an 11 percent increase; and Hyundai boosted wages by 6.5 percent, on top of a 3.5 percent increase in March.
Meanwhile, the UAW says that literally thousands of workers at non-union plants have reached out or signed cards online to join the union. “It’s not a hot shop, it’s a molten shop,” said one insider.

BROKE WITH TRADITION

Fain was elected this year in the UAW’s first-ever one-member, one-vote election, after a corruption scandal landed two recent presidents in jail. His victory ended eight decades of one-party rule.

Fain’s slate was organised by the UAWD caucus, which had formed in 2019 to agitate for the right to vote. The slate ran on a winning platform of “No Corruption, No Concessions, No Tiers.” When Fain narrowly beat incumbent Ray Curry, he took office less than six months before Big 3 contracts expired.

As president, Fain finally took the union back on the offensive, with the enthusiastic backing of UAWD members. “For decades, we’ve been fighting with one hand tied behind our back,” he said in announcing the Stellantis agreement. “And to tell you the truth, sometimes it felt like both hands.”

Fain broadcast weekly bargaining updates via Facebook Live, breaking with the UAW practice of sharing no information before a tentative agreement was reached. The transparency and boldness won members over—Fain’s videos regularly had 40,000 to 50,000 live viewers on Facebook and more on other platforms.

And he never hesitated to raise members’ expectations, laying out demands for a 40 percent wage increase, a 32-hour week, and restoration of pensions and retiree health care.

Coming off the strike, the UAW is in a much different place from six months ago: on the offensive, framing its battles as fights for the entire working class, and using power as it hasn’t done in many years.

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United Autoworkers Make Organising Top Priority

Following the successful outcome of the disputes with the three big US auto manufacturers over the past months in which the United Autoworkers won most of its demands from employers, the tentative agreements are currently being voted on across the USA by members working at Fords, Stellantis and General Motors.

In a  livestream address to UAW members on what was won in the tentative agreements UAW president Shawn Fain said the union now had to move forward and begin organising non-union auto manufacturing plants in the US, including Tesla and German companies who have resisted unionisation.

Fain said: “Already, thousands of non-union autoworkers are inspired by our victory and starting to organise. Non-union automakers like Toyota are raising wages because they know their workers are ready to stand up. It goes far beyond the Big Three.

He told UAW members: “What we win back in our pay checks is much more than just a dollar amount. What we win in these contracts is a reflection of our strength as a united working class. What we won in these agreements is a new muscle, a new chapter in the story of the UAW, a new understanding of our collective power. We don’t just win when we get a raise. We win when working people everywhere start to understand our shared interest and our shared fight. We win when workers at Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Hyundai and other companies see what we’ve achieved and get ready to stand up for themselves.”

In an exclusive message sent to the Morning Star who gave their full backing to the UAW  Fain said: “Fighting and winning is contagious.  The best thing we can do for one another is show each other how to be brave, how to be creative, and how to Stand Up for economic and social justice. That’s what our Stand Up Strike was about. We needed to fight like we never fought before – and win like we’ve never won before. We had doubters. We had naysayers. And we had enemies. But we also had champions. We had leaders. We had organisers.

 I don’t mean people like me. People who get on TV. Or people who wear suits. I mean the workers who really run these companies and members who really run the union. People who fight like their life depends on it, because it does.

 People who take the word “solidarity” and make it mean something. Workers from more than 50 unions in 26 countries took action to support our strike, from as far away as Malaysia and as close as our backyard neighbours in Mexico. 

The foreign press and union press got the word out to every corner of the globe.  These important acts of international solidarity undoubtedly sent a message to the companies that we have power, that the working class is ready to Stand Up everywhere.”

 https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/uaw-members-agree-new-gm-contract

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