UAW Dispute With US Automakers: Biden & Trump Try To Woo Union Members

Biden tells Auto strikers ‘Stick with it’, while Trump says the strikes are ‘ridiculous’

For the first time in modern history a sitting US president joined and spoke at at union picket line this week.

 Joe Biden was accompanied by UAW president Shawn Fain on the UAW picket at the GM parts distribution centre in Bellville, Michigan on September 26th to support the union campaign for a 40% pay raise saying workers deserve a “lot more” than they are getting.

“Companies were in trouble, now they’re doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well, too,” Biden said through a hand held megaphone, referring to the  2008 government bailout of U.S. automakers. “You deserve what you’ve earned. And you’ve earned a helluva lot more than what you’re getting paid now,” he said.

Asked if he supported the 40% increase the union had asked for, a figure that mirrors CEO pay increases over four years, Biden said, “Yes. I think they should be able to bargain for that.”

Elon Musk owner of the anti union Tesla EV manufacturer said a 40% pay increase and a shorter working week would make companies bankrupt.

Flanked by secret service agents, Biden told a cheering picket line: “You deserve a significant raise and other benefits. Let’s get back what we lost,” 

The UAW president Shawn Fain who’s union has yet to announce support for Biden in the presidential race told the picket line: “Today, the enemy isn’t some foreign company miles away. It’s right here in our own area – it’s corporate greed. The weapon we produce to fight that enemy is the liberators, the true liberators – it’s the working-class people,” as Biden stood next to him.  

Former US President Donald Trump addressed a ‘rank & file’ rally as expected on September 27th in an attempt to counter Joe Biden’s visit to a UAW picket in Michigan the previous day.

In what one UAW official described as “a bust” – Trump addressed diehard supporters – and according to ABC News many of those at the rally were employees of Drake Enterprises, a non union auto supply chain company in Detroit. 

There were some UAW members at the meeting but they didn’t include members currently on strike.

In his rambling speech Trump said he ‘saluted’ the UAW and said he was the only protector of American labour. He also attacked Biden’s environmental policies on car emissions, which he said encouraged electric vehicle production.

Describing the current strikes against the Big 3 automakers as “horrible and ridiculous” he berated Ford’s and GM CEOs for not fighting against the development of electric vehicles.

He also suggested the UAW should support him in his bid for the presidency and if they did he would “not say a bad thing about them again.” 

This was 24 hours after saying he did wasn’t looking for UAW support.

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Tom Conway: International President of the United Steelworkers USA & Canada

The news of Tom Conway’s death came through on September 25th and was a great shock. Although Tom had been unwell for sometime, we had kept in touch.

Tom was a senior official of the USW (International Vice President) leading on steel and the rubber industry when I first met him as a USW member of the board of the Unite/USW/Los Minero’s independent global  trade union Workers Uniting.

He took over the Presidency of the USW from his great friend Leo Gerard, both veterans of many battles in the US and Canadian steel and manufacturing industry, and both committed to making the USW a union not only for steelworkers, chemicals and manufacturing workers in the USA and Canada but  a wide raging membership across both countries including workers in healthcare, pro sports, education and other areas of the economy.

Tom was a tough negotiator and a wise councillor. He knew about global and US manufacturing inside out; he knew about trade and its importance to working people; he knew about US politics – when the lunatics attempted to stop the election of Biden and attacked the White House he told me that it was “heartbreaking  what is happening this this country”.

Tom was an internationalist, a comrade  and a friend to working people everywhere.

Below is the USW’s tribute issued on September 25th – there will be many more not doubt from his friends and comrades throughout the world.

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of International President Tom Conway at age 71.

Elected as the union’s president in 2019, Conway was known for his quick wit, formidable bargaining skills and unwavering devotion to workers and their families.

“From his earliest time making steel to his steady hand leading us through the darkest days of the pandemic, Tom followed two simple guiding principles: the dignity of work and the power of working people,” said David R. McCall, the USW’s International Vice President of Administration. “Tom was never afraid of a fight, and thanks to his ingenuity and determination, generations of workers can enjoy better jobs and brighter futures.”

Conway relished going toe to toe with top leaders of some of the biggest corporations where USW members work, and over the course of his career, he became one of the union’s most accomplished contract negotiators in steel, aluminum, oil and other major industries, often directing bargaining during crises.

As president, he also spearheaded innovative initiatives to organise more workers into the labor movement, extending the benefits of union representation to workers in a variety of fields from manufacturing to higher education. Under Conway’s leadership, USW members gained some of the movement’s most significant organising victories.

“Solidarity wasn’t just a word to Tom; it was a way of life,” said USW International Secretary-Treasurer John Shinn. “He understood that by working together, we will balance the scales against greedy corporations and the billionaire class.”

During his time in office, Conway relentlessly advocated for fair trade, demanding that the government enforce trade laws to prevent importation of illegally subsidized and dumped products that damage domestic industries and destroy good-paying jobs.

At the same time, Conway worked not just to save jobs but to create them, finding new ways to engage both companies and elected officials to expand manufacturing, secure domestic supply chains and invest in healthy, flourishing communities.

Conway first became an activist in USW Local 6787 in 1978 when he went to work at the Burns Harbor Works of Bethlehem Steel. While working as a millwright in the coke plant, Conway served as a griever for plant-wide maintenance and was a member of the safety and contracting-out committees. He joined the union’s International staff in 1987 and was elected as USW International Vice President in 2005.

“We will all miss Tom’s passion, his integrity, his gift for strategy and not least of all, his sense of humor,” said McCall. “His time as USW president was too short, but it’s clear he will leave an indelible impact on our union and beyond.”

Statement from Joe Biden, President of the USA.

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Speech To VSC AGM 2023

Tony Burke, Chair VSC, Opening Speech Venezuela Solidarity Campaign AGM 2023

Welcome all to this 2023 Annual General Meeting and its pleasure to be the opening speaker for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign at this event today.

We are holding this event at an interesting stage for Latin America and Venezuela, with the next US Presidential elections approaching fast and political change on the agenda in a series of Latin American countries.

In terms of today’s agenda, it’s been eight years or so since the United States first imposed sanctions on Venezuela, absurdly declaring Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.  

Under Trump those sanctions – which are illegal under international law – were ratcheted up to become a blockade of the sort that Cuba has endured for decades.

The impact has been devastating. A UN report earlier this decade described how these sanctions have completely debilitated the Venezuelan economy, massively degrading peoples’ living standards.

In the last few years, Venezuela has emerged from the pandemic with signs of economic recovery, but these harsh US and other sanctions are still a major concern. 

There was perhaps a sliver of hope that when Biden took office there might be some relaxation of the blockade. But Biden dashed that hope initially by renewing the declaration of a state of national emergency regarding Venezuela. Whilst some minor relaxations have taken place, the bulk of these illegal sanctions remain in place.

In the VSC we are clear that dialogue and peace are the way forward, not sanctions and aggression.

Here in the UK we also need to keep talking about the ownership of Venezuela’s gold, held by the Bank of England, that rightfully belongs to the Bank of Venezuela. This is still an issue that VSC needs to keep campaigning on – boosted by the decision of Portugal to return assets to their rightful home of Venezuela.

To conclude, the overarching issue that we need to carry on campaigning on is the sanctions imposed by the US, with support from the British government, Canada and the EU.

This means raising it in our union branches and other organisations. We need to continue seeking support for our petition and explain why sanctions are unjust, illegal and so harmful to the Venezuelan people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable

Our solidarity is an important source of strength and comfort to the Venezuelan people – thanks to everyone for attending today.

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Sarah Woolley: “Trade Union Movement Should Back Organise Now”

Sarah Woolley General Secretary of the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union

Sarah Woolley, General Secretary of Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) is calling on the whole labour movement to back Organise Now, as it celebrates its first anniversary. 

As figures show that 200,000 workers (mainly women) left the trade union movement in 2022, and in a climate of real terms pay cuts and a cost of living crisis, the need to grow the breadth and scope of trade union density in response has become critical.

On celebrating Organise Now’s birthday, Sarah Woolley, said, “What has been achieved in just a year by this project shows its incredible potential to reverse declining levels of union membership and grow the trade union movement. The BFAWU is proud to be a founding supporter and urges the whole union movement to provide resources and support for this project.”

As well as providing support for workers through a large group of volunteers, Organise Now has played an active part in days of action, such as the Baristas United campaign in November. It also organised its own ‘guerrilla’ May Day campaign, enabling groups of volunteers to target shops and restaurants, talking to staff about benefits of joining and organising a union at work.

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), commented, “We were proud to become a supporter of Organise Now this year. We believe no worker should be left behind. All workers need to be organised in fighting unions, and we must grow our movement during this period of increased industrial disputes. We hope the whole labour movement will join us in supporting Organise Now.”

Organise Now has recruited over 200 volunteers from across the trade union movement. Imogen Woods, an Organise Now volunteer said: “I volunteered for Organise Now because workers organising in their own workplaces is the best way to build working class power, change working conditions, and challenge injustice. To do this workers need support and mentorship”.

Despite the project still being young, Organise Now has been able to deliver quick wins by supporting workers from all over the economy. Lee, a recycling worker, describes his experience, “I’m glad I found Organise Now! The help and support has been very welcome and beneficial. The coach gave me valuable tips and advice which I have implemented to good effect at my workplace. The best thing is, the support is ongoing and has given me the confidence to tackle the issues that exist.”

As of September 2023, the project had attracted the most worker signups from the hospitality sector (21%), followed by health and social care (15%), education (14%), retail (11%) and the charity sector (11%). Tess, a charity worker who contacted Organise Now, said, “The call was really helpful and exactly what I needed. Afterwards, I felt more confident and positive about the next steps and less worried about our anxious/reluctant management team. I was clearer about the issues and benefits of working towards a recognition agreement.”

Through delivering engaging workshops around developing the confidence of workers, Organise Now has been actively helping support workers not in unions to form them and get active. This has meant delivering a brief union organising guide, Get Organised Now! that has been used by younger people in helping them activate unions at work. Nehaal Bajwa, National Union of Students (NUSUK) Vice President, Liberation and Equality, commented, “Organise Now delivers uniquely powerful support that links together experienced trade union activists, who have led effective campaigns, with workers who need the confidence and support to organise effective unions at work. That is why we at NUS back this exciting project on behalf of students and apprentices.”

Organise Now is supported by Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), National Union of Students (NUS), Strike Map and Notes From Below. 

For more information please go to:

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UAW Dispute With The Big 3 – Downtown Detroit Rally Sept. 15th

UAW President Shawn Fein speech, September 15th to UAW members in Downtown Detroit Rally

Good afternoon UAW family – and hello again to the Big Three.

It is my absolute honour to stand here today. 

Looking out on this sea of red shirts. 

What I see is the power of a united working class. Right now, in Wayne at Ford Michigan Assembly, at Stellantis Toledo Assembly in Ohio, and at GM Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, around 13,000 UAW members are on strike

For the first time in our history, we are on strike against not just Ford, not just Chrysler, not just GM. As I said for many months, the target is the Big Three. ALL THREE.

That’s because ALL THREE have made record profits.

  • ALL THREE have price-gouged the American consumer.
  • ALL THREE have ripped off the US taxpayer.
  • ALL THREE have nickel and dimed the American worker.
  • And ALL THREE have failed to recognize the contributions we’ve made. The sacrifices we’ve endured. And the profits we’ve created.

They have forced our hand.

You know, in the past 24 hours, the CEOs and executives have found a lot of time to go on the corporate news and talk their talk.

We all know what they say. They say they can’t pay us a decent wage.

But there’s always money for another stock buyback. They say they can’t provide a dignified retirement.

But there’s always money for another special dividend for Wall Street.

They say they can’t provide cost of living allowance.But there’s always millions for the CEO.

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, was on CNN this morning. They of course gave her an eight and a half minute segment. She said every management talking point you’d expect.

And in those eight and a half minutes, she made more money doing nothing than any autoworker in America makes in a day. The day before that, Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, was on CNBC. 

He said if they give us economic justice at Ford, it would bankrupt the company. He talked about how we can’t pay autoworkers too much because then the public school teachers and firefighters would get left behind.

That man made $21 million dollars last year.

In their economy, these CEOs get everything and the working class gets nothing.

In their economy, workers live paycheck to paycheck while the billionaires buy another yacht.

In their economy, we take all the sacrifice and they take all the profit.

They want to use scare tactics saying we’re going to wreck the economy. We’re not going to wreck the economy.

We’re going to wreck their economy. The one that only works for the billionaire class.

I find it funny when they try to scare us. Look around.

You know who’s scared?

  • The corporate media is scared
  • The White House is scared.
  • The Big Three are scared!

I look around. I see power. I see faith. I see a working class that is fed up and fired up.

There’s only one thing left to do. You already know.

When they tell us to sit down? STAND UP.

When they tell us to shut up? STAND UP.

When they tell us to give up? STAND UP.

Thank you.

Thanks to the UAW in Detroit for supplying Shawn Fain’s speaking notes.

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TUCG: What Would Workers Rights Look Like Under A Future Labour Government TUC Fringe Meeting

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Updated: Where To Now For The BRICS Nations

Economist Jim O’Neill (now Lord O’Neill) originally coined the phrase ‘BRICs’ in a 2001 Goldman Sach’s economic paper with the title ‘The World Needs Better Economic BRICs’ – which discussed the prospects for four emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

BRICs soon became a term used by journalists, pundits and politicians as a soundbite and buzz-phrase.

Last week in Johannesburg, South Africa the first conference of the BRIC countries took place and the media sat up and took note.

Many media outlets focussed on the unsurprising fact that Vladimir Putin didn’t attend in person as an international warrant would have been issued in South Africa for his immediate arrest. 

However some media lead on what the conference of the BRICs would mean for trade agreements and bodies such as the G7 and the G20, would they form a trading bloc, how would they boost their economic power, was this a power grab by China and who else could join?

The BRICs is a diverse group with very different political and economic outlooks. Some want closer ties to the West, others want to go it alone, others want to expand the group’s clout.

“Right now, changes in the world, in our times, and in history are unfolding in ways like never before, bringing human society to a critical juncture. The course of history will be shaped by the choices we make” said China’s President Xi Jinping in remarks delivered at a BRICS business forum by Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, – and interestingly not Xi, who had that same day already met conference host South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.

But it was Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da SilvaLula who opened up the issue of the divergence of views in the bloc saying: “We do not want to be a counterpoint to the G7, G20 or the United States. We just want to organise ourselves.”

Also on the agenda were the dependency of the U.S. dollar. In his pre-recorded message Putin described the latter as “the irreversible process of de-dollarization of our economic ties” which he said was “gaining momentum.” 

The South African hosts responded by making it clear there will be no discussions on a common currency – an idea that had been previously floated by Lula as an alternative to dollar-dependence.

Also on the agenda was how the bloc could expand and what would be the criteria to allow other countries to join.

Reports suggest that India was wary of expansion, suspicious of China’s motives but said it kept an ‘open mind’.

Lula didn’t want to dilute the influence of the current bloc but said he wanted to see Argentina join. 

Russia is keen to expand membership and South Africa’s  Ramaphosa expressed support for expansion at his meeting with Xi. China is busy with its ‘belt and road’ policy to extend its influence plus it has lodged its  application to join the CTPPT trade deal which the UK recently joined.

Certainly the BRICs pledge to embrace the developing world with an offer of an alternative to Western nations, finds favour with many countries. 

Depending on which reports you read this varies between 15 and 40 countries, some of whom have  their written applications in the post.

Returning to Lord O’Neill (and his fondness for acronyms) these applicants may include countries with the potential of becoming members of the world’s largest economies – the N-11 (Next Eleven) including Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, Mexico, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea and the Phillipines) and the MINTs (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) which differentiate between the variety of emerging economies.

At this early stage it is difficult see how such a diverse group of countries (and applicants) could work on the basis of reaching a consensus on just about anything –  but that does not mean it won’t happen.

The U.S. repose to these events? The White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan told U.S. media he did not see BRICS turning into a geopolitical rival of the United States. We shall see.

Update: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina, the UAE and Ethiopia have now been invited to join the the BRICs nations commencing in 2024.

First published in the Morning Star, August 26th 2023

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International Action Needed For Imprisoned Kurdish Leader Abdulla Ocalan

The UK based Trade Union Campaign for Abdullah Ocalan was joined by members of the Kurdish community and over 40 trade unions, local governments, NGOs and others for a press conference in front of the European Parliament demanding international action on the case of jailed Kurdish political leader Abdullah Ocalan. 

Turkish authorities have prevented Ocalan from communicating with the outside world for over two years. For the millions of Kurds who view him as their political representative, as well as their international allies, this situation has raised serious fears for his health and safety.

“We are here to say, yet again, that Ocalan’s treatment and isolation breaks international law on human rights. No-one should be treated in this way. We are here to remind European politicians, 100 years after the Treaty of Lausanne divided the Kurds among hostile nation states, that democracy and freedom in Turkey and the Middle East are not possible without a peaceful solution to the Kurdish Question, and that Ocalan holds the key to that solution,” conference moderator Sarah Glynn said to introduce the event.

Speakers representing trade unions, including Unite in the UK, local governments, and social movements across Europe called on Turkish authorities to abide by domestic and international law and allow Ocalan to meet with his lawyers and relatives; on European institutions to provide more information about his case and hold Turkey accountable for its failures to abide by these shared legal standards; and on the international community to work towards Ocalan’s release under conditions that allow him to play a role in negotiations to find a lasting, just, and democratic political solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey.

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Unions agree AUKUS job protection deal

Glenn Thompson of the Australian Shipbuilding Federation of Unions addressing CSEU delegates.

Unions representing shipbuilding, aerospace and defence workers have agreed a job and union protection agreement which was launched at the recent conference of UK trade union federation the CSEU.

The agreement was reached by the Australian Shipbuilding Federation of Unions, the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions in the UK, the AFL-CIO Metal Trades and IndustriALL Global Union. The agreement provides for unions to co-operate in ensuring union the representation of workers employed in the building,  build, and refurbishment of submarines and other vessels in Australia, UK and the USA.

The deal provides for workers seconded to sites outside their own countries to be represented by the appropriate trade unions in the host countries – from design to decommissioning of vessels; to build trade union power and influence and to ensure that workers in Australia, the UK and the USA are treated fairly , that the highest common standards apply, and co-ordinating trade union activities to maximise union power.

Workers seconded to another country will received union representation and have full access to local shop stewards and their union. 

The unions agreed to ensure that they take responsibility for future generations and that workers are treated with dignity and respect.

Glenn Thompson Australian Manufacturing Workers Union National Secretary and national convenor  of the Australian Shipbuilding Federation of Unions outlined details the deal to UK delegates in Birmingham and Ian Waddell, General Secretary of the CSEU told delegates that this was the first agreement of its kind connected with AUKUS and was a real breakthrough showing what can be done when unions work together. Also taking part in the signing of the deal were Atle Hoie General Secretary of Industrial Global Union and Anna Fenley director of regulatory and state policy of the United Steelworkers Union representing the AFL-CIO.

Under the AUKUS pact, the US and UK will share nuclear propulsion technology with Australia and the project is expected to create and safeguard thousands of highly skilled jobs and apprenticeships  in the three countries.

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What’s in a name change – X marks the spot

The change of Twitter’s bird logo – named Larry after the US basketball player Larry Bird might seem strange and the name change to simply X (owned by X Corp) a bit sinister.

But it is not just a name change or rebrand – Elon Musk’s plan is to build a ‘super app’ modelled on those now powering ahead in South Asia is emerging – and explains why Musk was prepared to fork out $44 billion to buy Twitter. The  implications are massive.

Twitter now X will no longer just be a messaging service, that is clear. Its future is now focused on being a ‘super app’ providing services including on-line retail, payment and delivery services, content provision and messaging.

Elon Musk dismantled Twitter and sacked 50% of of its worldwide staff while reducing moderation of its content, with the subsequent growth in fake news, rumours and abuse. It earned revenue for its ‘blue tick’ verification which was branded a gimmick, and limiting the number of messages Twitter users can read.

Super apps are now rampaging ahead in South Asia  including China’s WeChat and Moj, India’s PayTM, Indonesia’s Golek and Singapore’s Grab which now provide on-line shopping, booking tickets for gigs and events, booking taxis and ride services, making cashless payments, personal communications and booking parcel collection and delivery.

WeChat like Twitter, was originally a social media platform, but today it offers a wide range of services not just messaging but payment and many other services and has around 1.3 billion users in China alone. Estimates are they spend a third of their waking lives using the super app.

Dedicated Twitter users may be moving to Meta’s Threads platform but if Musk’s gamble  works the switch to the X super app will become dominant, leaving those without the technology or ability to afford it in the rear view mirror, the technologically left behinds creating bigger gap between the have and have nots.

There are also significant implications for jobs and job security, lines will be blurred. Pundits say to expect a growth in ‘one stop’ SME’s using the super app, but the acceleration of technology concentrated in the hands of one person is a frightening prospect.

As Louisa Bull Unite National Officer for the Graphical, Paper, Media & IT and Services Sectors says: “We have gone from the world of media ownership in the hands of a few to our minds and purchasing power being in the hands of a minority of extremely powerful influencers.”

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