Tuesday, September 5, 2023

#248 / Share The Wealth: Don't Sugarcoat Sh--


That is Shawn Fain, pictured. He is the President of the United Auto Workers. The UAW has recently charged General Motors and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler Motors, with engaging in unfair labor practices. According to The Wall Street Journal, Shawn Fain "has Detroit on edge." Fain and the UAW are intimating that a strike of the "Big Three" automakers may be coming as soon as September 14th, which is when current contracts expire. 

Fain rose from the ranks of the UAW. Here is how The Journal presents him: 

His office at the union’s famed Solidarity House in Detroit still holds a jumble of unpacked boxes, some filled with contract materials from past negotiations.

Around the room are placards with inspirational phrases: the “Believe” sign from the popular TV show “Ted Lasso,” which he watches with his 31-year-old daughter, and another that reads: “I don’t sugar coat s—. I’m not Willy Wonka.”

I enjoyed reading the article about Fain, and about how he has Detroit "on edge." If The Wall Street Journal paywall lets you slip by, I recommend that you read that article, too. What struck me, particularly, beyond the Willy Wonka reference that is featured in the headline to my blog posting today, was the following:

[Fain] has insisted that workers should be sharing in the success of companies that have earned billions of dollars in profits each year. Members spent much of the Covid-19 pandemic working long days on assembly lines, Fain has argued, while corporate workers had the flexibility to clock in from home.

In recent weeks, he has been unusually outspoken about his frustrations with labor talks—at one point, making a public show of throwing Stellantis’s bargaining proposals in the trash—and has embraced fiery rhetoric that has riled up workers for a potential walkout and taken many auto executives aback.

Fain disclosed Thursday evening that the UAW had filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that GM and Stellantis have been negotiating in bad faith, which the filings said amounted to an unfair labor practice. It is highly unusual for the UAW to make such a complaint at this stage of talks.

Both companies denied the allegations. 

At an event in March he said the union was fighting its “one and only true enemy: multibillion-dollar corporations.”

Under Fain, the union has brought forward a set of demands that includes winning back benefits that workers gave up in past talks to help the companies survive (emphasis added).

The idea that workers should "share" in the success of the corporations for which they work is a real "we are all in this together" perspective. It is exactly the perspective advanced by Abraham Lincoln, as we learn from Heather Cox Richardson, in the commentary that I have linked right at the beginning of this blog post. Let's remember Labor Day - and its history. 

Since we are, in fact, all in this together, the correct perspective about how we should structure our society, economy, and political life is the one urged by Abraham Lincoln - and by Shawn Fain. 

I am wishing Fain and the UAW good luck!

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