Auto Workers Notch Historic Win Against General Motors in Brazil and the U.S.
The United Auto Workers union announced a historic strike against the “Big Three” U.S. car manufacturers (Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis) on September 15 to demand wage increases and benefit improvements. After 46,000 workers in 20 different states participated in a six-week stoppage, the companies backed down. General Motors agreed to pay increases of as much as 89 percent.
Over 1,200 workers were laid off at three General Motors factories in the Brazilian state of São Paulo in late October 2023. After over 11,000 workers organized a 17-day strike, Brazil’s Superior Labor Court ruled in favor of the workers and ordered the company rehire all workers.
General Motors is a Detroit-based car manufacturer whose brands include Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. The company reported a US$9.9 billion profit in 2022, from sales of US$156.7 billion. CEO Mary Barra took home US$34.1 million in compensation last year, angering workers who earn between US$2 and US$8 an hour in Brazil and US$16 and US$32 an hour in the U.S.
“I believe this is a great victory not only for GM workers, but for the entire working class in Brazil, because if this trend of dismissing people via telegram catches on, logically other companies would use this same disrespect.” - David Carvalho, Vice-President of the Metalworkers Union for Mogi das Cruzes.
“When we all stand together, the working class gets our fair share of equity and the fruits of our labor. It doesn’t matter if a corporate class builds 20 factories; if there aren’t workers to man it, they’re not going to make any product. We just have to get unified in this country and globally.” - Shawn Fain, President of United Auto Workers.
Trade unionists in Brazil and the U.S. have long organized in solidarity, dating back to the days of Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, and they did so again in 2023. In an unprecedented action, both President Lula in Brazil and President Biden in the U.S. met with striking workers in their respective countries to express solidarity and signed a joint pact on workers rights.
Victory in the U.S.
The United Auto Workers’ strategy to target all three major auto companies simultaneously was unprecedented. It kept companies guessing by organizing worker walkouts at individual factories on very short notice. Finally it cut a deal to raise pay and benefits; to eliminate employment “tiers” that kept wages low for some workers; and to ensure job security for electric vehicle workers.
Victory in Brazil
Days later, Brazil’s Superior Labor Court ordered General Motors to rehire the 1,245 workers who were fired in São Paulo because the action violated an agreement with the Metalworkers’ Union that guaranteed job stability until May 2024. After a 12-hour meeting with the union, General Motors agreed that the workers would be paid for the three weeks that they were laid-off.
“We understand the impact that this decision can have on people's lives, but adaptation is necessary and will allow the company to maintain the agility of its operations.” - General Motors Brazil press release
“We are looking forward to having everyone back to work across all of our operations, delivering great products for our customers and winning as one team.” - General Motors U.S. CEO Mary Barra
This is #72 in our series of Instagram infographics on resistance against corporate power.
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