Workers Vanguard No. 910
14 March 2008
Victory to UAW American Axle Strike!
MARCH 10—Some 3,650 United Auto Workers (UAW) members are on strike against American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings (AAM). They walked out of five plants in Michigan and upstate New York on February 26 in a struggle against massive cuts demanded by the auto bosses. The strike has reverberated throughout the industry, with parts shortages forcing General Motors to idle or partially shut down 29 factories and other suppliers to cut production.
Backed by Detroit’s Big Three automakers and Wall Street, AAM, a profitable company spun off of GM, wants to slash wages and benefits by nearly two-thirds, including reducing wages down to $14 per hour. The union battle at American Axle takes place as the Big Three seek to buy out tens of thousands of senior workers, which would further divide and weaken the UAW by creating a smaller, low-wage workforce. Striking AAM workers are fighting to put a halt to the endless concessions repeatedly accepted by the UAW tops. Fed up with givebacks, one striker at the Detroit Gear & Axle plant picket line told Workers Vanguard: “Now that we are out, we’re not going to back down.”
GM boasts that its large inventory of pickups and SUVs will allow it to withstand a prolonged strike. Against the automakers’ hardball tactics, the UAW and the entire labor movement have to revive the class-struggle methods that built the unions in the first place—from mass UAW pickets shutting down production to the Teamsters and other unions hot-cargoing stockpiled car inventory! But to wage such a fight against the automakers also requires a political struggle against the pro-capitalist union misleaders who cravenly abide by the bosses’ rules and rely on protectionist appeals to capitalist politicians, particularly the Democrats. This has led to the decline of the UAW and the union movement as a whole.
The auto bosses smell blood in no small part due to the abject capitulations of the UAW tops. Joining the companies in railing against “unfair” competition, union officials routinely ram through givebacks with the lie that they will “save American jobs.” Racist, chauvinist protectionism scapegoats foreign workers when the real culprits are the union-busting, profit-hungry American capitalists.
A mere 40 miles from American Axle’s Detroit plant is a non-union AAM plant in Oxford. The key to the survival of the UAW is organizing the large and growing number of unorganized auto workers in the U.S., mainly concentrated in the South. Such an organizing drive would require the union to take up the struggle against black oppression, a cornerstone of American capitalism, as well as fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. The way forward is to forge international solidarity with workers abroad and unity of the multiracial working class at home, alongside the struggle to replace the current labor misleaders with a class-struggle leadership. Victory to the UAW strike!