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Workers at the Ventra Evart auto parts plant in central Michigan voted 98% to allow the strike on Thursday.
The massive show of determination to secure higher wages and better working conditions comes nearly three weeks after workers overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal backed by United Auto Workers, which was rejected by 95% on June 27. The deal, which had been unanimously approved by the UAW negotiating team, included below-inflation raises totaling $2.50 an hour over five years, while increasing costs workers’ health care.
Ventra is owned by Flex-N-Gate, one of the world’s leading auto parts producers, with 26,000 employees in 69 facilities worldwide. The company produces bumpers, lights and other components, supplying the Detroit Three automakers and Tesla.
The powerful vote to authorize the strike comes in the face of attempts by the UAW bureaucracy to intimidate workers into accepting the company’s demands and prevent a walkout.
Ahead of the contract vote in late June, UAW international representative Dan Kosheba told workers at a union meeting that they would not get higher wages than the company is paying. offered because “you’re not the big three”. The meeting erupted in anger when the UAW muted the microphone of a worker criticizing working conditions.
After the Ventra deal was rejected, the UAW announced it had agreed to keep workers on the job under a day-to-day contract extension after the June 30 expiration of the previous deal . The union also agreed to a 72-hour waiting period before the start of any walkout and postponed a strike authorization vote until Thursday.
While workers want to seize the moment and fight their way out of poverty wages and poor working conditions, there is no doubt that UAW leaders are looking to block a struggle and impose a repackaged version of the demands. of the company.
Closed-door talks have continued with management since the contract was rejected. “Why are they so secretive about the negotiations?” a worker told the WSWS. “Adam Spayth, our union representative, was at home with the management HR representative. Why would you meet privately at your home? I know why: It’s the same reason they’re never at work. Everyone should hear the negotiations.
On Wednesday, the Ventra Evart workers’ rank-and-file committee issued a statement demanding that a deadline for a walkout be set after the vote to authorize the strike, writing that further delay “only gives the company a greater advantage”.
The statement demanded that the contract talks be placed under the watch of rank and file workers, with all negotiations broadcast live. The committee also called on Ventra workers to reach out and appeal to Flex-N-Gate and Big Three workers, to mobilize support for a common fight for better wages and working conditions.
The strike vote at Ventra is part of a growing climate of rebellion in the auto industry, which has resulted in a growing number of decisive rejections of UAW-backed contracts.
In nearby Greenville, Michigan, nearly 230 Tenneco workers have twice rejected pro-company UAW contracts in the past month. Tenneco Powertrain, formerly Federal Mogul, produces bearings and other parts for the automotive industry.
In June and July, Tenneco workers in Greenville rejected contracts 95 percent, then 79 percent. In the first deal that was rejected, Tier 2 workers and skilled workers ended up with a $2.50 raise in year four of the contract, and Tier 1 workers only received a $2.50 raise. $1.20. With annual inflation now at 9.1%, the contract would equate to a pay cut, not to mention increased health care costs.
Ventra Evart workers who spoke to the World Socialist Website denounced the delaying tactics of the UAW. “They said we vote, then it goes to International for approval,” said a production worker. “It’s stagnating.”
When asked if there was a feeling for a walkout, the worker continued, “Yeah, they want it. Sooner rather than later. They work us for seven days and flood the factory with temp workers.
“Everyone is exhausted by this crap. They want something done; we won’t let go.
Like many in the auto parts business, Ventra workers work in sweatshop conditions for pittance, the product of decades of collusion between the UAW, the Big Three and auto parts companies to drive down wages, benefits and conditions of workers in factories. Just before the first vote on the contract, a worker was seriously injured after a £30,000 dice fell on him. In 2018, a factory worker, Robin Wilkins-Yazdani, died after a pipe fell on her head. More recently, at the Ventra plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Moses Kur was run over by machinery and killed in December 2021.
The UAW has been particularly concerned with preventing strikes at parts manufacturers in recent years, given the shortages plaguing the auto industry and the vulnerability of “just-in-time” supply chains to shutdowns. work in parts factories. Serving as an enforcer of “labor discipline” on behalf of the corporations, the union bureaucracy is terrified that a walkout by auto parts workers would quickly find support across the auto industry and spark a widespread uprising.
Workers at GM Subsystems, a subsidiary of General Motors, were kept on the job by the UAW 14 months after their contracts expired. The UAW brought in a last-minute deal shortly before the strike deadline. UAW Vice President for GM Terry Dittes sent letters to GM assembly workers to cross the picket line in the event of a strike. Like tentative agreements at parts factories, low-wage workers were heavily armed to accept the contract with bonuses and initial raises, while pay capped at $22 an hour for workers. production after six years.
While the Ventra struggle has been completely blacked out by UAW International and the corporate media, it has received strong expressions of support from Will Lehman, a Mack Trucks worker who is running for UAW International president. .
“The huge strike authorization vote and earlier rejection of the contract at Ventra Evart, and similar votes at Tenneco, are extremely significant developments,” Lehman told the WSWS on Friday. “It shows once again that workers are tired of being told by the UAW bureaucracy that they have to accept less and less, year after year, so that companies can make even more profits.
“My campaign stands in solidarity with the grassroots committee of the Ventra Evart workers. I encourage autoworkers and workers around the world to follow their example, to come together and make their own demands, to form networks of communication within and between factories and to create new organizations controlled by workers themselves.
To contact the Ventra Evart Workers’ Base Committee and discuss your involvement, text 231-335-7049 or email email@example.com.