Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

3,000 Volvo Workers Are on Strike Again

After rejecting a second contract offer, Volvo workers at the Mack and Volvo Truck of North America manufacturing plant in Dublin, Virginia are on strike again. They say that this time they are not going back until a new contract is ratified.

James Dennis Hoff

June 16, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share
Photo: UAW Local 2069

On June 7, nearly 3,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW 2069) — which represents workers at the largest Volvo manufacturing plant in the world — walked out for the second time in as many months. 

This strike follows an initial strike last April, which was prematurely called off by the UAW while members voted on whether to ratify a new proposed contract. While the UAW was clearly hoping that decision would put a quick end to the conflict between Volvo and the union, that plan backfired when first that contract and then a second similar contract were resoundingly rejected by the membership by more than 90 percent.

Members say the two contracts, both of which failed to address the exploitative and divisive two-tier wage system, and which included significant increases in health care costs, were more or less the same in content, and only reworded to sound different. Striking workers have also said they are very disappointed with their union leadership for bringing forward two terrible contracts in a row, and say they should have just stayed out on strike the first time. “We had leverage with them on the first strike. We should have never gone back to work at all,” said one worker who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

For its part, Volvo, which has a huge backlog of truck orders waiting to be filled thanks to an expected post-pandemic boom in shipping, has taken aggressive actions to end or undermine the strike. Whereas the first strike, which lasted only a week, managed to close down the entire plant, Volvo has brought in teams of scabs to try and defeat the second strike. Workers say they are outraged that these people, as well local truck drivers who deliver parts, would cross the picket line, and that strikers have made crossing the line as uncomfortable as possible for these scabs. “We are absolutely pissed,” said one worker, adding that “we can’t do anything other than recognize these people and remember who they are.” Unsurprisingly, Dublin, Virginia police have been present everyday to enforce the will of the bosses and protect the scabs.

In 2020, Volvo laid off more than 7,000 workers worldwide, despite massive profits, and are now illegally threatening to lay off striking workers. According to several reports, Volvo sent out letters of termination and cut off health insurance for all striking employees just days into the strike in an effort to intimidate workers. In response, UAW has moved all employees onto union health insurance for the duration of the strike, but it is unclear how much this may have disrupted health care for the strikers. The UAW has also offered $275 a week in strike pay, but workers say that is not enough. In fact, some workers admit they have been forced to seek out part time work elsewhere, a move that only undermines the ability of the union to maintain the picket lines. “$275 is tought to make it on but several local companies are helping with part time jobs so we are getting by. We’re ready to ride this for months if that’s what it takes,” said one worker. 

Meanwhile, shows of solidarity from other local workers and residents have been strong, and strikers have received free food and refreshments from local businesses. While calls to spread the strike to other Volvo plants across the world have not been forthcoming, workers at the Volvo plant in Brazil, where the company’s headquarters are, have expressed solidarity with striking workers in Virginia.

Striking workers, and now even some union leaders, say they will not return to the shop floor until they receive a contract that includes no increases in health care costs and which addresses the two-tier labor system by getting workers to full pay within three years instead of five. While it is unclear how long the strike will last — UAW 2069 resumed contract negotiations on Tuesday — workers say they are ready to stay out as long as it takes to win these demands. 

While determined, these workers nonetheless remain engaged in a two front war against a passive labor bureaucracy that has attempted to undermine any militancy at every turn, and a ruthless global corporation determined to squeeze them for every penny that can be made from their labor. To win this struggle, these workers need the support of the entire labor movement and the Left. But they also need to develop the kind of militant and independent rank-and-file organizing necessary to outmaneuver their bureaucratic leaders in order not to get fooled again and see this strike out until the very end.

As one worker told Left Voice during the first strike: “No matter how long we need to stay out, we will get it.” 

Facebook Twitter Share

James Dennis Hoff

James Dennis Hoff is a writer, educator, labor activist, and member of the Left Voice editorial board. He teaches at The City University of New York.

Labor Movement

“Grueling Working Conditions and Low Wages”: A Testimonial from a UPS Warehouse Worker

Workers in UPS warehouses are among the most precarious workers in the logistics industry. As the 2023 Teamsters contract negotiations approaches, a UPS warehouse worker speaks out about his working conditions and calls for unity in struggle among UPS drivers and warehouse workers.

Nehuen Latif

November 30, 2022
Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. Logo on a grey building.

Workers Built Twitter — They Should Own It, Not Elon Musk

Corporations like Twitter cannot function without the workers who do the daily labor.

Kyle Thibodeau

November 27, 2022

Education Workers Have the Power to Win in Toronto

A rank-and-file educational worker who participated in the historic strike earlier this month in Toronto discusses how fellow workers can fight back against the Doug Ford administration and win their demands.

Martin Reilly

November 20, 2022

48,000 University of California Academic Workers Begin Historic Strike

On November 14, 48,000 academic workers across the University of California system began the largest higher education strike in history. Their fight could inspire higher education workers across the country.

Brian H. Silverstein

November 15, 2022

MOST RECENT

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa in a suit

“Farmgate” Threatens the Very Foundations of Capitalist Stability in South Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa faces an impeachment vote Tuesday. More than a simple case of corruption, it’s a political crisis of the ruling party and of capitalist stability in the country.

Sam Carliner

December 5, 2022

Understanding the Carnage at Colorado Springs

The heinous violence displayed in Colorado Springs is a stark reminder of the menacing, lethal threat that today’s determined far right continues to pose to trans and queer people, and anyone living outside capitalism’s imposed sexual and gender boundaries.

Keegan O'Brien

December 4, 2022
Mapuche people standing with a flag

The Case of the Mapuche: What Can Trotsky Teach Us about the Fight against National Oppression?

Trotsky’s reflections on the social aspect of permanent revolution have deep implications for building working-class hegemony through solidarity with oppressed peoples.

Juan Valenzuela

December 4, 2022

“We Sold Out the People Who Elected Us”: UC Bargaining Team Member Speaks Out About Union Concessions

Here we publish the testimony of a graduate student worker on strike at the University of California, who is part of the bargaining team for UAW Local 2865. Wednesday night, the bargaining team voted 10-9 to make severe concessions to the university.