Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Scabs Will Not Pass: Defend the UAW Strike With Organized Grassroots Power

The Big Three are escalating their use of scabs. The rank and file are fighting back.

Facebook Twitter Share

This week marks the third in the historic strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW). The fight is heating up.

Last Friday, the UAW expanded its strike against the Big Three automobile manufacturers to “parts distribution centers.” PDCs are some of the most profitable parts of the companies’ business, shipping after-sales spare parts and accessories to car dealerships on a just-in-time basis. 

Now the Big Three are ramping up their attack. They’re bringing in more scabs — strikebreaking workers — to fill in for those on strike in order to keep profits flowing. 

Earlier in the strike, the bosses had already started making use of scabs, like to ship products from struck plants. The Teamsters, for their part, have said they refuse to cross any picket line to help the Big Three — a major example of solidarity from another union. So the bosses are hiring non-union truck drivers, who have been trying to enter PDC parking lots to pick up parts and deliver them. Twice, those truck drivers have pulled guns on the picketers who have refused to let them through

On Tuesday, General Motors (GM) began bringing temps hired for $14 an hour to attempt to keep some of the parts and accessories flowing. It’s part of a broader plan by the bosses to staff the PDCs and move their product with scabs. 

UAW members are finding creative ways to fight back. In part, they’ve started using “hard pickets,” that is, pickets that physically stop scabs from being able to enter PDCs. Workers are marching and refusing to move to let the scab trucks through; they’re blocking entrances with cars and they’re installing new locks on gates. 

Unleashing the Power of the Rank and File

The UAW is calling for major concessions, like a 32-hour workweek, major raises to $40/hour, and an end to the hated two-tier workforce. What’s more, this strike is very popular. A majority of people in the U.S. are siding with the union against the bosses. There looks to be no quick end in sight, and there’s plenty of room for the union to expand the strike even further. 

It’s become clear to everyone how much power the UAW is holding in its hands. For example, both of the presumptive nominees in the presidential election next year — Trump and Biden — are scrambling to visit Detroit and act like champions of auto-workers. Biden visited the pickets Tuesday; Trump is scheduled to visit a non-union plant Wednesday. For all their gestures, though, they’re still the parties of the capitalist class. Biden, like Trump, is afraid of the growing power of workers; the parties are competing for hegemony over them, to make sure they stay chained to the chariot of the rulers and follow their lead.

The Big Three is watching all of this. They have assessed the relation of forces; they’ve been knocked on their back foot. They understand, and fear, the power of the strike. They are trying to undermine that power by bringing in scabs tasked with keeping part and car production and delivery moving amid the strike. It’s part of a wider strategy to shift the balance of power in their favor, including laying off thousands of workers in response to the strike. In other words, this is the order of the day: bleed the strike, shift the relation of forces at the bargaining table in the bosses’ favor. 

The UAW is powerfully pushing back against the scabs. But the Big Three will likely escalate their use of these strikebreakers in the coming days and weeks. 

Stopping them is a major task, one that depends, above all, on the organizing of the rank and file themselves. That would mean, for example, continuing to build bigger and bolder pickets that bring in more workers and more sympathizers, to show with the power of numbers that scabs are facing the force of workers united with their surrounding communities. 

It’ll take more, too, though, like expanding the “hard” pickets where workers are locking arms and gates to keep the non-union workers from entering. Doing that means going head-to-head with the labor law set up by Democrats and Republicans alike. These politicians might be acting like heroes of labor for now, but the labor law those parties have passed was set up to keep the balance of power in favor of the bosses, not the workers.

That law forbids workers from defending their livelihoods against the bosses by blocking scabs. Going head-to-head with labor law, then, means there’s a threat of police coming in to help break the strike. Police have always been the friend of the bosses and the enemy of workers. If history teaches anything, it’s that cops are an arm of organized government violence to assist the rulers, not protect the workers. That means it’s all the more important for a bottom-up, unified rank and file to defend themselves — with their own power and methods. 

History teaches something else, too: the workers, united and militant, can and do win. In 1938, when auto-workers held their “sit-down strike” (then, as now, a fight against General Motors), the bosses called the cops on them. But the workers organized and defended themselves, and won. In Minneapolis in 1934, a roiling, rank-and-file-led strike by the Teamsters also used militant pickets — this time, “flying” pickets to shut down scab drivers all over the city. They won, too. 

This time around, too, workers can defend their strike by unleashing even more of the creative power of the rank and file. This battle against scabs is one major key to winning big concessions in the strike.  That’ll mean uniting different ranks of workers, across tiers, to fight together. To organize something so important on a big scale — to gather the solidarity and strength needed — calls for union energy to be poured into forms of organizing like local strike committees: places where workers of all ranks can link up with those in the surrounding communities, to organize themselves and decide for themselves how to best build up big, loud, militant, roiling, and powerful pickets. 

The battle is heating up, and the working class is showing it’s ready to flex its muscles.

Facebook Twitter Share

Jason Koslowski

Jason is a contingent college teacher and union organizer who lives in Philadelphia.

Jimena Vergara

Jimena is an author of the collection "Mexico en Llamas" and lives and works in New York City.

Labor Movement

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Has No Place at Labor Notes

The Labor Notes Conference will have record attendance this year, but it’s showing its limits by opening with a speech from Chicago’s pro-cop Democratic mayor, Brandon Johnson. Instead of facilitating the Democratic Party’s co-optation of our movement, Labor Notes should be a space for workers and socialists to gather and fight for a class-independent alternative.

Emma Lee

April 16, 2024
Cargo ship crashing into a bridge in Baltimore on March 26, 2024.

Baltimore Bridge Collapse Reveals Unsafe Working Conditions for Immigrant Workers

Six Latine immigrant workers died in the March 26 bridge collapse in Baltimore. The accident exposed how capitalism perpetuates dangerous working conditions for many immigrants, and funds genocide over crumbling public infrastructure.

Julia Wallace

April 4, 2024

Self Organization and the Mexican Student Strike 

Left Voice member speaks about the massive 1999 Mexican student strike and the role of assemblies.

Jimena Vergara

March 30, 2024

“Our Big Push Was for Union Democracy and a Plan to Win”: An Interview with the Amazon Labour Union Democratic Reform Caucus

Two years after the historic victory at JFK8, Amazon workers voted in a referendum in their union. They want to hold new elections and revise the constitution, as part of a struggle to make ALU more democratic and militant. Left Voice spoke with two organizers to discuss the struggle in ALU.

Luigi Morris

March 20, 2024


Google employees staging a sit-in against the company's role in providing technology for the Israeli Defense Forces. The company then fired 28 employees.

Workers at Google Fired for Standing with Palestine

Google has fired 28 workers who staged a sit-in and withheld their labor. The movement for Palestine must take up the fight against repression.

Left Voice

April 18, 2024

The Movement for Palestine Is Facing Repression. We Need a Campaign to Stop It.

In recent weeks, the movement in solidarity with Palestine has faced a new round of repression across the U.S. We need a united campaign to combat this repression, one that raises strategic debates about the movement’s next steps.

Tristan Taylor

April 17, 2024

U.S. Imperialism is Pushing Tensions in the Middle East to a Boiling Point

U.S. Imperialism's support for Israel is driving the tensions behind Iran's attack and the escalations in the Middle East. It is all the more urgent for the working class to unite with the movement for Palestine against imperialism and chart a way out of the crisis in the region.

Samuel Karlin

April 15, 2024

Thousands of Police Deployed to Shut Down Congress on Palestine in Berlin

This weekend, a Palestine Congress was supposed to take place in the German capital. But 2,500 police were mobilized and shut down the event before the first speech could be held. Multiple Jewish comrades were arrested.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 12, 2024