Updated: Oct 24
For over one month now, the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America—more commonly known as United Auto Workers (UAW)—has been on strike nationwide. This is the first time in almost 80 years that workers are on strike, taking collective action against Detroit’s Big Three auto companies, Ford, General Motors (GM), and Stellantis (the parent company of Chrysler). What began as a strike of about 17,000 people in mid-September has now more than doubled; just this week alone, another 12,000 workers have joined their striking comrades, for a total of 46,000 members now striking across 20 states.
The ongoing strike mirrors other labor actions across the country over the last several months; like the members of the Writers’ Guild of America, who were on strike from early May until late September, autoworkers are pushing back against, among other things, stagnant wages and industry-changing technology. Also among the Union’s demands are a 4-day work week, union representation at new electric battery production facilities, and an end to employment tiers that gave preferential treatment to employees hired before 2007.
At the end of September, 80 members of UAW Local 3039 walked out of the Chrysler parts distribution center in Tappan, New York, joining their counterparts across the country. Almost a month later, they’re still striking every day—fighting for the same protections UAW members are demanding at least 38 locations across 20 states. Chief among the concerns of UAW members at the Tappan distribution center are the reinstatement of cost-of-living adjustments and profit-sharing. And they’re willing to fight for them.
Last week, I joined the picket line in Tappan, where UAW members are coming out daily, for 8-hour shifts. With the COVID-19 pandemic and being based in New York City, this was the first time in a while I joined an action in an area with zero foot traffic, but I was surprised by the number of people driving by that slowed down to show their support. Despite the picket line being on a major road, a steady stream of people slowed down, raised their fists out of their windows, and honked their horns repeatedly to show solidarity with those of us standing on the picket line.
For now, they need our support. UAW President Shawn Fain has shifted tactics in the last few weeks, ordering immediate walkouts of facilities, citing the Big Three’s need to pony up in negotiations. These walkouts have caused shutdowns of both manufacturing and distribution centers, including the largest Ford plant in the world. Until an agreement is reached, though, UAW members will continue to strike, fighting not only for better wages and improved working conditions but also for the American working class as a whole.
To learn more about the ongoing UAW strike, check out UAW President Shawn Fain’s Friday Addresses, which he uses to order new walkouts and update members on bargaining.