UAW president hails “labor-management” partnership following sellout of Volvo strike

Cecilia Nysing

Less than a week after United Auto Workers President Ray Curry conspired with Volvo Trucks management to shut down the five-week strike in Virginia and ram through a contract previously rejected by workers, he wrote a feature column in the Detroit News Tuesday titled “UAW works with employers for union members.”

The Detroit News, a Republican Party-aligned newspaper and longtime mouthpiece of the auto bosses, regularly publishes columns by the UAW president, Teamsters President James Hoffa and other Michigan union bureaucrats who have proven their worth to big business.

Ray Curry in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2015. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, File)

In his July 20 op-ed, Curry dispenses with any suggestion that unions should have an “adversarial” relationship with the corporations and touts the UAW’s long-standing embrace of corporatism and labor-management “partnership.”

“[B]eyond the conflict and headlines of members’ demands during collective bargaining and in workplace issues like grievances,” Curry declares, unions and employers “must still partner to drive this nation’s economic engine.” The UAW president adds, “Good employers who succeed understand that a happy, productive workforce is essential to corporate success and corporate profits.”

Nowhere in Curry’s column is there a single mention of the months-long struggle by nearly 3,000 Volvo Trucks workers in Dublin, Virginia, the most important battle by UAW members in years, if not decades. That is because the experience demonstrated the irreconcilable conflict not only between Volvo workers and the Swedish-based multinational giant, but also between the workers and the UAW.

As director of the UAW’s Heavy Truck Department, Curry drew up the contract proposals which Volvo workers repeatedly rejected. The UAW-backed deals guaranteed “corporate success and corporate profit” by imposing sharp increases in out-of-pocket medical expenses on workers, maintaining the hated two-tier wage system, and providing a meager 2 percent annual wage increase for top-paid workers. Under the current rate of inflation, the latter would result in a 20 percent cut in real wages over the six-year contract signed by Curry.

After workers decisively defeated the UAW’s pro-company proposals in May, June and on July 9, the union colluded with management to impose its “last, best and final” offer. When Volvo threatened to reopen the factory with strikebreakers, Curry ordered the local union to hold a revote on the last rejected contract and to make it clear to striking workers that they would be sent back to work under the company’s terms no matter what the outcome of the vote. On July 14, the UAW announced that the deal had passed by 17 votes. Amid widespread charges by rank-and-file workers that the UAW had manipulated the totals, Curry cynically claimed the “democratic process played out at Volvo Trucks” as he shut down the strike.

The contract that Curry and the UAW imposed will guarantee the further impoverishment of Volvo workers. And while both the union and Volvo falsely claimed each of the contracts was the “best they could do” and that substantial improvement in wages and benefits were unaffordable, just this week Volvo reported second quarter profits of roughly $1.12 billion, bringing its total 2021 earnings to $2.5 billion so far.

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