United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain announces progress in the union's negotiations with the Big Three automakers on October 6, 2023.

(Photo: United Auto Workers)

'Unbreakable Solidarity Is Working': UAW Wins Protections for GM Battery Plant Workers

"When workers stand together in the fight for economic justice there is nothing they cannot accomplish," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, "Eat the Rich" in his latest online broadcast Friday afternoon, United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain told the union's 145,000 members that brand-new progress made in contract negotiations with the Big Three automakers made one thing clear: "We are winning."

Fain addressed the union as thousands of its members concluded the third week of a "stand-up" strike, in which autoworkers have been gradually called to join the work stoppage to build pressure on the companies—Ford, General Motors (GM), and Stellantis—to provide a fair contract commensurate with their record-breaking profits and including a just transition to renewable energy.

Just minutes before Fain was planning to announce that workers at GM's assembly plant in Arlington, Texas were being called on to join the strike, the automaker told UAW negotiators it would include workers at its electric vehicle factories to be covered under the union's national agreement.

The Big Three have previously said their battery plants are being set up through joint ventures with other companies and shouldn't be a factor in negotiations—a position the UAW said would harm its ability to secure a just transition.

The threat of expanding the walkout to Arlington, where some of GM's top-selling cars are manufactured by 5,300 workers, "provided a transformative win," said Fain as he explained that the strike would hold off on further expansion for now.

"We've been told for months that this is impossible... and now we’ve called their bluff," he said. "Today, because of our power, GM has agreed to lay the foundation for a just transition."

The announcement made this week the first since the strike began that more workers were not called to join the work stoppage.

About 17% of UAW members—25,200 workers—are currently on strike. GM said this week that the work stoppage has cost the company $200 million so far, while the UAW has been able to preserve its $825 million strike fund and pay striking members $500 per week.

In his address, Fain rallied UAW members for the continued strike.

"The billionaires and company executives think us autoworkers are just dumb," he said. "They think we only understand the power of a supervisor yelling at us or an assembly line coming at us. They look at me and they see some redneck from Indiana. They look at you and see someone they would never have over for dinner or let ride on their yacht or fly on their private jet. They think they know us, but us autoworkers know better."

Sara Nelson, president of the President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, applauded the UAW's securing of "major movement" from GM.

"The pressure of smart, creative tactics backed up by unbreakable solidarity is working," she said.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also congratulated Fain and the union and called on Stellantis and Ford to provide their own guarantees that workers making EV batteries at their plants would be covered by the UAW agreement.

"The power of the strike was made evident today," added Jobs With Justice. "It's now up to Ford and Stellantis to listen to the chorus of workers demanding a just transition."

Watch Fain's entire address below:

With the victory, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said, Fain and the UAW are showing "how union power can lead the economy in tackling the climate crisis and making a better world for workers."

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