Nexteer workers challenge legitimacy of UAW contract


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On May 21, United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 699 posted on its Facebook page a one-sentence statement claiming that a second tentative agreement (TA) for auto parts workers from Nexteer to Saginaw, Mich., Had been ratified by a slim 52-48 percent margin.

The announcement was published just hours after the end of the vote in the union hall at 8 p.m. For the next two weeks, neither Local 699 nor Region 1-D released the actual vote count or any other information on the alleged ratification.

The workers immediately demanded a recount. “[O]nce still fucked up, do a recount, ”one worker wrote on the ad. “[N]o way it went. What crap bullshit, ”wrote another. Many workers on the second shift (2 p.m. to 10 p.m.) said they were unable to vote. Unofficially, workers learned in a private Facebook group that more than 1,000 of the roughly 2,500 workers did not or could not vote on the contract.

Nexteer workers’ strike in 2015 (WSWS)

Other workers demanded to know how the votes were counted. “So it only takes 2 hours to count the votes now?” Who counted them and who checked them? wrote a worker. “These are the fastest results I have seen in 15 years of working there.”

Other workers expressed their anger at being denied access to the full contract before the vote itself. The UAW has released only the selfish “highlights” of the five-year deal.

The UAW has remained silent on these issues, demonstrating its contempt for the democratic rights of grassroots workers.

After the alleged May 21 ratification, Local 699 President Tom Hurst told local ABC television that the deal was a ‘victory’ and then unwittingly reversed the victory issue he was talking about. , stating: “I know this has been a great relief for the bargaining committee and all union staff.

Indeed, after workers at Nexteer rejected an initial tentative deal by 85 to 15% in February, the UAW did everything to prevent a strike and adopt another pro-company contract. Nexteer employees produce steering columns, shafts and drivetrains for five of the 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States, including Ford F-150, Dodge Ram and Chevy Silverado pickups, according to annual results announced 2020 of the company released in March. After spending the past year keeping factories open as the deadly COVID-19 virus killed dozens of auto workers and infected hundreds, if not thousands, the last thing the UAW wanted was a strike which would quickly lead to the closure of assembly plants in Flint, Dearborn, Sterling Heights and elsewhere, already affected by the shortage of microchips.

In other words, the workers of Nexteer had enormous power not only over Nexteer, but over virtually the entire national auto industry. If a real struggle had been waged, uniting the workers at Nexteer with their siblings at Ford, GM, Stellantis and other companies in the United States and beyond, it would have been possible to launch a counteroffensive to overthrow decades of UAW-backed concessions. for all auto and parts workers.

By blocking such a struggle, the UAW has demonstrated for the umpteenth time that it is not an organization that fights for auto workers, but a business management tool whose top executives are bribed to do whatever they want. UAW Region 1-D Steve Dawes, for example, had a salary of $ 204,791 last year, in addition to the other benefits he was receiving.

This only underscores the need for Nexteer workers to join the growing number of auto workers and other workers in forming grassroots committees, which will give workers the voice and collective organization to truly to fight. Such committees, which operate independently of the UAW and other unions, have been formed in Stellantis, Faurecia, Volvo Trucks and other factories.

Nothing in this new labor agreement, including the way it was “ratified”, is legitimate. One of the first tasks that a Nexteer grassroots committee would carry out is investigating electoral fraud, gathering information from witnesses, reviewing vote totals, and interviewing local and regional officials. If there is evidence of fraud, the vote should be canceled and the contract declared null and void.

Workers must make their own demands for a new contract, including the reinstatement of pay cuts and contract concessions in 2010 and 2015, a 25% increase, the immediate transfer of temporary and part-time workers to employment status. full time with full pay and benefits and expansion of fully paid medical benefits. Workers should also fight for the abolition of the tiered pay and benefits system, alternate working hours and critical factory status and forced overtime.

Most importantly, a grassroots committee would take on the functions long abandoned by the UAW: dealing with workers’ grievances, opposing layoffs, speeding up and unsafe conditions, and fighting for plant closure and full compensation. workers if there is COVID. -19 homes.

As might be expected, company management praised the UAW for adopting the new agreement. “We are delighted that the management of Nexteer and our partners United Auto Worker have successfully concluded a new collective agreement,” said Dennis Hoeg, vice president and president of the North America division of Nexteer Automotive. “The commitment of both parties has enabled the teams to overcome many challenges over the past year and to strike a mutually competitive agreement that builds a strong and sustainable future for our employees and Nexteer. “

In fact, the new contract will deteriorate wages and working conditions. The agreement:

  • Keep most production workers at near-poverty wages until 2026, when most production workers will peak at $ 21.50 / hour, if they are even able to keep their job. employment;
  • Further increase the burden of health care costs for most workers and restrict access to those who opt for cheaper care;
  • Expand the pool of heavily exploited temporary and part-time workers and maintain the hated tier system;
  • Maintain “alternate working hours” and “critical plant condition” in place, erasing the concept of the eight-hour working day and dragging workers into an endless cycle of forced overtime;
  • Cede “management flexibility” on all business-critical issues for future contract changes, only on the condition that they are done “jointly” with the pro-business leadership of the UAW.

The 230-page contract was never officially posted by Local 699, unlike the first TA which was flatly rejected. Instead, the second full TA was posted by a private Facebook group “Saginaw unions no hold bar”.

The same Facebook group, unofficially administered by the UAW and other aspiring union bureaucrats, has censored the posts of WSWS articles. Auto worker Bulletin. These articles informed workers of the actual content of the contract, quoting what the workers were saying, and urged them to vote against the sales contract and form a grassroots committee independent of the union.

The way forward for Nexteer workers: create an independent grassroots committee

Despite the coordinated efforts of the UAW and the company to keep the factory workers isolated, the reality is that the anger of the workers at Nexteer is part of a larger opposition emerging among key sections of workers in the industries. automotive, mining, steel and others.

On Sunday, June 6, about 3,000 Volvo truck workers in Virginia will vote on another sold-out contract proposal after rejecting a virtually identical offer by 91% three weeks ago. The factory workers formed a grassroots committee and issued a series of statements describing the actual demands of the factory workers.

In Alabama, 1,100 coal miners are now in the second month of a strike against Warrior Met, after rejecting a second sales contract prepared by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). These developments are part of a global upsurge in strikes among workers, including thousands of auto workers at major Indian factories owned by companies such as Ford, Hyundai, Renault-Nissan and others last week. .

To fight against global corporations, a new strategy and new organizations are needed, those fighting for the international unity of the working class. The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), which publishes the World Socialist Website, called on May 1, 2021 for an International Alliance of Grassroots Committee Workers (IWA-RFC). A grassroots committee at Nexteer would be an essential part of such a global network of workers’ organizations.

We invite Nexteer workers who wish to know more about the creation of a committee to contact us today.


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