““There’s been a 60-year campaign against unions by corporate America, by gazillionaires. When you see the numbers, people see that unions can help them. Most of us don’t have that power alone.””
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, joined striking United Auto Workers members in Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday.
The UAW strike at the Toledo plant affects about 5,800 Stellantis
workers who make Jeep Gladiators and Wranglers. It is one of three plants that the union has targeted with strikes so far. UAW President Shawn Fain said this week that if negotiations with the Big Three automakers fail to progress by Friday at noon Eastern time, it plans to call on more members to join the 12,700 auto workers who walked off the job last Friday.
The UAW is seeking wage increases, an end to a tiered workforce, a return of pensions and cost-of-living adjustments, increases to retiree benefits, a 32-hour work week and more.
In a phone interview with MarketWatch after she joined the UAW picket line, Weingarten talked about the importance of labor solidarity. She said labor is acting as a movement, and that there has been more “support and solidarity in unions both public and private.”
“For most of us who were not born with a silver spoon in our mouths, the way you create any kind of economic fairness is to join together in a union and the broader labor movement,” she said.
Weingarten was joined by AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler at the same UAW picket line on Tuesday.
“When other workers stand and march side by side with auto workers, it creates a broader sense of community — that something broader is at stake,” Weingarten said. “Something broader is at stake: the American dream.”
She also said that when workers win higher wages and employers meet their demands, other workers get inspired to fight for their own working conditions. The public — and employers — notice. “Success begets success,” she said.
Finally, Weingarten said workers sticking together is especially important during a time of major changes, which she thinks is part of the reason polls show a majority of Americans support the UAW strike, and labor unions in general.
“With AI [artificial intelligence], climate change and thinking about sustainability, we’re embarking on a new industrial revolution,” Weingarten said. “We’ve not had an industrial change where there’s been a just transition.”
“Every time there’s been a change, workers have always been shortchanged,” she said. “Workers are saying ‘it’s enough.’”
The other two plants with striking UAW members are a General Motors
plant in Wentzville, Mo., which the union said has about 3,600 UAW members and makes vehicles such as the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon, and parts of a Ford Motor
plant in Wayne, Mich., which makes Ford Broncos and has about 3,300 striking members who work in paint and final assembly.