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Why the UAW Strike is More Important Than the 2024 Election (and We Need You)
"40 years ago, social darwinists fueled by Reagan—& aided by Democrats—recognized an important fact: the only lock on the bank vault stopping us from robbing the working class blind was…labor unions
“In their economy, the CEOs get everything and the working class gets shit on. In their economy, workers live paycheck to paycheck while the billionaires buy another yacht. In their economy, we make all the sacrifice and they make all the profit. In their economy, one of our workers would have to work 400 years to make what the CEO makes in one year. So we’re going to wreck their economy because it only works for the billionaire class…we have to do whatever we have to do by any means necessary. We have nothing to fear. The only limit we have is the limit we put on ourselves. We gotta stop it! No limits. Look around. You know who is scared? The corporate media is scared. The billioanaire class is scared. And the Big Three is scared. I look around here, I see power. I see faith. And I see a working class that is fed up and fired up. I see working class people from all walks of life standing together.”
-UAW President Shawn Fain, September 15th, UAW Strike Rally in Detroit
In eight years reporting across America—from the unprecedented Bernie/Trump wave in 2016, to minus 10 degrees at Standing Rock, to nearly 20 reporting trips to Flint, to another Bernie wave in 2020 that fell painfully short, to the frontlines of the John Deere strike and historic Amazon-Starbucks union victories—I’ve seen a lot of shit.
I’ve also heard a lot of, well…shit. I’ve heard slogans from politicians. I’ve repeatedly heard non-stop media coverage and political rhetoric about the “most important election of our lifetime.” I’ve been shot at by rubber bullets (they still hurt a lot!) and when I got back to the hotel, saw CNN and others pontificating about Trump’s latest tweet.
What I haven’t heard, or seen, is any figure or entity—even figures I respect and believe had good intentions—willing to go beyond the talk and leverage and deploy their POWER to gain major victories for the battered and bruised working class. The type of victories that, frankly, are not coming anytime soon through electoral politics and a system marked by legalized bribery.
That changed the first time I saw UAW President Shawn Fain speak in the lead-up to the UAW strike. That changed after a few interviews with the UAW workers on strike (we have been ON-THE-GROUND for all 7 days of the ongoing strike and were just LIVE again from the picket lines). This is why I am asking anyone who is reading this, and able to, SIGN UP TODAY as a paying Status Coup member for $5-10 bucks a month.
Now, don’t get it twisted. This is not about hero worship or thinking Fain and new UAW leadership is infallible. He’s human just like the rest of us. With the good will inevitably come some actions I, or you, might not completely agree with it. But all we can go on is Fain and the UAW’s current actions, which, believe it or not, are way more important than the results of the 2024 presidential election.
But Jordan! many will respond. If Trump gets elected, there will be an acceleration to full-throated fascism in America. He will also pour gasoline on the climate inferno. Or if Biden, or a corporate Democrat replacement, wins re-election, they will continue offering us crumbs while allowing Wall Street to further fleece the proletariat. As Biden does this, he and other Democrats will preach civility as the planet burns.
So…what can be more important than than the result of those two bad choices, you might ask?
A working class finally, and fiercely, fighting back, and refusing to stand down.
Over 40 years ago, social Darwinists fueled by Reagan—and aided by Democrats— recognized an important fact: the only lock on the bank vault preventing us from robbing the working class blind was…labor unions. That’s why systematically, with the help of robber barons like the Koch Brothers and the rest of the army of Republican mega-donors and corporations, began attacking labor unions. As their union-busting strategy proved successful, income earned by the working class was literally STOLEN and redistributed to the wealthy.
As you can see, beginning in the early 80s under Reagan, and accelerated under free-trade loving Democrats like Bill Clinton and anti-union deals like NAFTA, Republicans and Democrats took a battering ram to unions. The resulting grand bank robbery, perpetrated by the plutocrats, stole you and your families’ income so already wealthy individuals could buy mansions, vacation homes, yachts, home elevators, fleets of luxury vehicles, and all the rest.
10 presidential elections have taken place since Reagan’s election in 1980. Seven presidential elections have taken place since Clinton’s election in 1992. And, of course, most of them were sold by the media as “the most important election of our lifetime.”
But regardless of the winner, the above chart and the ongoing bank robbery did not change. In fact, the theft and demolition of the working class has only gotten worse. In response, there’s been no lasting political or social movement to counter it.
For a short time, Occupy Wall Street awoke a sleeping beast, but that moment was fleeting. Bernie tried, and despite making a lot of political mistakes, has my respect for everything he has tried to do for the progressive movement (which in the modern-era, was on life support before his 2016 presidential run). But, ultimately, he was not willing to engage in a full-throttle, scorched-earth battle against the Democratic Party.
That’s it: the aforementioned movement, and political campaigns, have been the only real organized opposition to the capitalist pigs and vampires hoarding and sucking the money out of you. Other than that, there’s been nothing. The pivot point, perhaps, came in 2018 when 20,000 teachers went on strike in West Virginia. After that, we began seeing more outside-electoral-politics energy and organizing with one common denominator: labor unions leveraging and deploying the few levers of power they have.
Workers from John Deere, GM, Warrior Met Coal, Starbucks, Amazon, Nabisco, Frito-Lay, Kroger, Kellogg’s, Columbia University, Mercy Hospital, and many others began going on strike and/or organizing union campaigns. Just last year, major strike activity surged by 50 percent.
And now, for the first time ever, UAW has gone on strike against all three of the Big Three car companies (who have already made a combined $21 billion in the first nine months of 2023).
Not only has UAW made history striking against all three companies; the union is making history by doing it in a creative, strategic way. UAW is stretching their $850 million strike fund way longer by not going out on strike all at once. Instead, they have begun the strike at three targeted plants with threats to strike at additional plants if the car companies don’t significantly sweeten their contract offers. This is placing the billion-dollar corporations on defense, left to guess which of their plants might have a walk-out tomorrow. This strategy will allow the union to stay on strike, and economically damage the car companies, much longer without draining its entire strike fund too quickly.
The UAW is also making history by reviving the labor militancy, and language, of the 1930s and 40s. Just a few examples: UAW President Shawn Fain refusing to attend the symbolic shaking of hands with auto executives to kickstart negotiations; Fain literally tossing insulting contract offers in the garbage during live broadcasts; UAW going on offense against the immoral greed of the company CEOs; and Fain doing live broadcasts to energize and update members on the offers they are receiving.
All of these actions might seem small on their own, but layered on top of one another, is a militancy we have not seen from any major politician or union leader in half a century. To be clear, it is making corporate CEOs, corporate shareholders, corporate think tanks, corporate media executives, and corporate politicians shit their collective pants.
And, unfortunately, neither the neoliberal corporate Democrat or extremist corporate Republican winning the presidency would make any of the aforementioned even blink twice—much less poop themselves.
That’s because, despite their disdain for Trump, they know they will be permitted to continue stealing our money. They know that, aside from platitudes and small-ball legislation here and there, the corporate status quo will continue under Biden or any other corporate Democrat.
But a militant union that deploys new, creative tactics to potentially stretch out a strike for months? A militant union leader that lifts the hopes—and expectations—of workers? The tactics of a militant union, that refuses “generous” contract offers, spreading to other industries? And, worst case scenario for the plutocrats: a militant union and its tactics spreading internationally?
Hell no!, the plutocrats scream. We can’t let this happen because, once the floodgates open, we can’t stop it.
Of course, this is the dream scenario and, whatever deal the UAW ultimately gets will most likely not be everything they wanted or demanded. In negotiations under a capitalist system, that almost never happens even with the fiercest militancy and most creative strategy.
But right now, it is is very possible UAW workers will win close to a 30 percent pay increase, gaining back cost-of-living adjustments, a significant change or elimination of the exploitive two-tier employee system, and other contract benefits. That kind of victory for workers would have been unthinkable just a year ago. And it is much more than these auto workers, or any workers, will get from a Biden or Trump administration or Congress.
Which is why this UAW auto strike, and the domino effect it might breed, is way more important than the 2024 presidential election.
PLEASE SUPPORT OUR ON-THE-GROUND REPORTING FROM THE UAW STRIKE. We would like to remain on the road covering this critically important story. But between flights, hotels, rent-a-car, food, gas, and paying reporters and videojournalists—the costs significantly add up. Can you pitch in and become a Status Coup member for $5-10 bucks a month?