BREAKING: Volvo workers confront UAW officials during re-vote on rejected contract
Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Virginia, are reporting that there has been a steady pace of workers casting their ballots for a second time on the tentative agreement they voted down last Friday.
Workers are frustrated and angry with United Auto Workers officials who have forced them to carry out a re-vote on the rejected deal. Many workers have challenged UAW Local 2069 officials over their insistence that workers end their five-week strike and return to work even if they reject the deal in voting that ends at 5:30 p.m. today.
“Everybody is mad,” one striking worker said, adding that there were a lot of workers waiting to vote early in the morning. “Some are voting ‘yes,’ but it might be a bigger no vote than the last time. The scare tactics from the company and the union might backfire. People don’t like being bullied,” the worker said.
“Everybody is discussing what to do if we vote this down. They want to continue striking and not go back without a contract. The local union leaders are saying if it is a ‘yes’ vote workers will be returning to work as soon as tonight. If it is a ‘no’ vote the union is still saying we’ll be back to work by Monday, July 19.”
Workers angrily confronted local officials who said the decision to send workers back was made by the UAW International. While this is no doubt true, Local 2069 President Matt Blondino and the rest of the local leadership have been complicit in the conspiracy against workers.
After workers voted down the third UAW-backed contract last Friday, Volvo management declared that this had been its “last, best and final” offer and that negotiations had reached an impasse. Knowing full well that it had the backing of the UAW, the company announced that it was reopening the plant with strikebreakers. The UAW then announced it would make workers vote again on the rejected deal and send them back to work whatever the outcome of today’s vote.
“A lot of people in there are frustrated and saying that the union has sold us out,” another striking worker said. “They gave an earful to the union officials who were saying that they were going to file an unfair labor practices charge against the company whichever way the vote goes. The workers challenged them, saying, ‘How are you going to take this to the NLRB if you’ve allowed them to shove this contract down our throats? All the company is going to do is point to a ‘yes’ vote to claim that we supported it.
“Workers were gathering in groups down by the union hall to discuss what to do next. Some were saying we should stay out, others said we should go in and walk out again.
“If we vote no again, we should stay out and expand our strike to we win what we need.”
Belgian Volvo Cars workers to workers in Dublin, Virginia: “We must be together, for a good future for the workers”
Video: Volvo workers call for rejection of third TA
This video has been produced by two striking Volvo Trucks workers at the New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia. Nearly 3,000 workers at the plant are re-voting today on the third tentative agreement being pushed by the company and the United Auto Workers (UAW). The audio and video of the workers has been altered to protect their identities.
Volvo Trucks workers re-voting today on rejected contract as opposition mounts to UAW collusion with corporations
Opposition among Volvo Trucks workers in Virginia continued to grow on the eve of the revote ordered by the United Auto Workers on a third tentative agreement, which nearly two-thirds of the workforce have already rejected. Voting is scheduled to begin today at 6:30 a.m. at the UAW Local 2069 union hall in Dublin, with results expected to be released shortly after the polls close at 5:30 p.m.
Last Sunday, two days after the workers rejected the agreement by 60-40 percent, Volvo declared it had reached an “impasse” and would impose the terms of its “last, best and final” offer on Monday and reopen the plant with strikebreakers. Far from opposing this provocation, the UAW immediately announced it would hold a revote and possibly file a toothless “unfair labor charge” against Volvo with the National Labor Relations Board.
A negligible number of workers have broken ranks and crossed the picket lines, with workers reporting seeing only a couple dozen, including management personnel, reporting for work. With its supply of trucks nearly exhausted due to the strike, the company is pressing white-collar workers, including engineers from its Greensboro, North Carolina headquarters, to resume the production of trucks at a rate of 10 a day.
Rank-and-file workers are calling on their fellow workers, including those who voted “yes” last Friday, to decisively reject the contract at the revote today. “The mood here is angry,” one worker told the WSWS. “People are pissed at the company and the union. There are posts on the local’s Facebook page by workers who voted ‘yes,’ but are going to vote against it because of the way they ignored our vote and are trying to ram this down our throats. I am hoping that sentiment will grow, and we will shoot this contract down again.”
Belgian Volvo workers support striking workers in Virginia
World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke with workers today at the afternoon shift change at Volvo Cars in Ghent, Belgium. Last week, they launched a wildcat strike action against a company-union plan to extend the working week by 2.5 hours.
“I support the action of the Americans,” one worker said. “We need to have a voice. We need to be able to say, these are the rules.” At Ghent, “what the company wants is not normal,” he said. The company “wants us to work 40 hours,” but “not the pay of 40 hours.”
After hearing that the United Auto Workers had presented the same pro-company contract to the workers that they had already rejected, Gill, who has more than five years at the plant, said: “It’s the same as here, because they [the union] get paid the company. The union gets paid by the company and they are not independent [for] the people. If you hear older workers, they say that in the past the union workers also worked on the line. Now they only have a desk somewhere in the tower here.”
“In the past they asked the people if they agreed with what the company proposed,” he said. “Now they just agree without even going through the people. Three years ago we struck on the assembly line because the working hours went up and they reduced the [number of] workers. The union said to us, ‘We will listen to you and ask you if any changes appear,’ and now they just signed it again.”
“I’ve been here seven years,” said Koen. “I don’t agree with the 40 hour week. It has an impact on our life and the way we live. We are normally able to leave earlier on a Friday. We organise things around that.”
Koen explained that “the union didn’t talk to the people about the plans they were making [with the company].” They were “similar issues” to what workers in the US were facing, he said. “To be united with them would be great,” he said.
Statement to Volvo workers in Belgium: “Build rank-and-file committees! Support the strike of the American Volvo workers!”
The spontaneous strikes at Volvo Cars in Ghent, Belgium, were an important prelude in the struggle against the reintroduction of the 40-hour work week. When workers walked off the job last Thursday and Friday, management was surprised. It announced that it would postpone the dispute over the extension of the working week until after the summer vacations.
But postponed is not canceled! The postponement is not a retreat. Management is determined to force the extension of working hours against the will of the employees. The company stated that the introduction of the 40-hour week is “not up for discussion.”
The World Socialist Web Site has informed striking workers at Volvo Trucks in the US about the strike against the 40-hour week in Ghent. This has strengthened them and encouraged them to continue their own struggle. The globalization of production gives workers enormous strength and power. They must become aware of this strength and together defend the rights that previous generations fought for in bitter strikes and class struggles.
The unions are trying to prevent just that. This is true not only of the American UAW, but also of the German IG Metall, the Belgian metalworkers’ unions and all other unions around the world.
The highly paid co-managers in the unions and works councils represent the interests of “their” corporations against their corporate rivals and not those of the working class, which is an international class. They divide the workers and pit one section of workers against the other.
The Volvo strike and the silence of the pseudo-left lambs
With the strike by roughly 2,900 Volvo Trucks workers in southwestern Virginia reaching a decisive turning point this week, the silence on the walkout by organizations and political figures that present themselves as “left-wing” or “socialist” is taking on an even greater significance.
The World Socialist Web Site has previously examined the silence on the Volvo strike that has characterized the response of organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and one of its leading publications, Jacobin magazine. The DSA and Jacobin have continued to keep quiet about the strike despite the recent escalation of the extraordinary attacks on workers’ rights being carried out by Volvo, as have self-described “socialist” organizations such as Socialist Alternative and Left Voice.
The silence over the Volvo strike has taken on the character of a coordinated cover-up among virtually all the official institutions of the corporate, political, media, and union establishments, with the pseudo-left dutifully following their lead. From the UAW to the broader AFL-CIO apparatus, to the White House and the Democratic and Republican Parties, to the major national news outlets, to the DSA and its corollaries—all have in effect been working in tandem to say as little as possible about the Volvo strike.
This extends to the most prominent Democratic Party politicians commonly touted as its “left” or “progressive” wing, often now affiliated in one way or another with the DSA. Democratic Congressional Representatives and DSA members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib have made no statements on the strike.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who periodically refers to himself as a “democratic socialist” and was backed by the DSA in each of his runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, has said nothing about the struggle at Volvo since April 28. On that date, Sanders issued a perfunctory tweet stating he “stood with” striking workers and calling for the company to “sit down with its workers and negotiate a fair contract now.” At the time, Volvo workers were on their first strike, which the UAW unilaterally shut down a few days later, without holding a vote and or even releasing its first tentative agreement with the company, which workers would subsequently overwhelmingly vote down.
Detroit auto workers voice solidarity with striking Volvo Trucks workers
The World Socialist Web Site spoke with many autoworkers outside of the Stellantis Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan on Tuesday afternoon.
Randall said, “We need more people out fighting for these workers! We got to have each other’s backs.”
After WSWS campaigners explained what was happening in Dublin, Virginia, where the UAW is forcing workers to revote on a contract that was already rejected, Johnny said: “If I can be frank” Johnny said, “the UAW is full of s**t. They take our money every paycheck and where does it go? They should be doing everything to support these workers and their not. No surprise.”
“UAW should step up,” said Tony. “They should be doing everything they can. Workers deserve a fair contract. We all pay dues and it’s for these times that it matters.”
UAW Local President 2069 President Matt Blondino to striking Volvo workers: “Vote again until you get it right!”
Worker: Volvo attempting to bring in white collar workers to break strike
A worker has told the World Socialist Web Site that company management is preparing to break the ongoing strike by Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Virginia by attempting to bring in white collar workers.
The worker said: “Volvo had a meeting with their white collar workers to ask for volunteers to be bused down to New River Valley. They will pay for their meals and their hotel, and they actually rented out an entire hotel for 4 weeks. The white collar workers would do production jobs for 4 weeks while the other people go out on strike, because that's what they [Volvo management] are predicting.”
The worker added, “This comes from a very reliable source, so if you could please get this out to the union members I'd appreciate it.”
Statement of Volvo Workers: Vote NO to corporate threats on Wednesday! Tell Volvo to take this contract and shove it!
This statement is being distributed by the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee. Volvo workers can contact the Volvo Workers Rank-and-File Committee at email@example.com or by text to (540) 307-0509. Download a printable version of the statement here.
Today, Volvo and the UAW announced that the contract which we just voted down Friday night—the third deal between them we’ve rejected—would be unilaterally imposed by the company starting Monday. Their agreement would raise health care costs significantly, put a question mark over retiree health care, keep wages for top pay far below inflation, and string out new hires on a six-year wage “progression” system, among other concessions.
The UAW, which endorsed the last contract and the two we turned down before it, has called a vote on the very same deal for this Wednesday. They have stated that if it is voted down, there will be no signing bonus, but the contract will remain in effect anyway.
The company is declaring war on us. Instead of countering this naked corporate blackmail and strikebreaking, the UAW is colluding with it. The company and the UAW are using scare tactics, lies and misrepresentations in an attempt to frighten, confuse and divide us. These must be rejected. We are not scared by the company and union’s threats and believe this strike can and must be won. But to do so, the following is needed:
1. The contract must be overwhelmingly defeated on Wednesday. We especially appeal to our brothers and sisters who voted “yes” on Friday to reject this attack on the rights of all Volvo workers. This strike has not been easy for anyone. But nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. The decisive rejection of this contract can clear the path to a victory that meets the needs of all workers at NRV.
2. Any attempt to reopen the New River Valley plant with scab labor must be met with the mobilization of workers at Mack and other Volvo plants—both in the US and in other countries—to immediately shut down the company’s operations. We have to show the company we have this power and are willing to use it.
3. Preparations must be made for solidarity actions by autoworkers in Detroit and other cities, and broader sections of the working class, if the company proceeds with its threats to unilaterally enforce the contract and operate with scab labor. Not only our interests are at stake; the interests of Mack workers, autoworkers, and others are on the line.
4. The UAW must hold town hall meetings to give a comprehensive report on the history of its discussions with Volvo. At this meeting, nominations must be taken so that the bargaining committee is expanded to include all constituencies among the workforce at NRV: pre-2011 hires, 2011-2015 hires, newer hires, retirees, and salaried workers. Despite the company’s ultimatum, the struggle over this contract is far from over.