‘We will not back down,’ 2,900 striking autoworkers tell Volvo

By Arrin Hawkins
May 10, 2021

DUBLIN, Va. — “Beep, beep. Volvo’s cheap!” chanted striking autoworkers picketing Volvo Truck North America’s New River Valley assembly plant here April 27. Some 2,900 members of United Auto Workers Local 2069 voted by 96.8% to go on strike April 17. At the union hall across the street from the plant, volunteers serve up snacks, coffee, a cold drink and a hot meal to strikers and supporters, who keep up the picket lines 24/7.

The strike is about wages, health and safety, benefits and job security. Now in its second week, it has shut down the 1.6 million square foot plant — Volvo’s largest truck manufacturing plant in the world — near Virginia’s borders with West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

“This strike is far-reaching and it’s not a small fight. It impacts multiple towns and counties in the region,” restaurant worker Marlena Rorrer told the Militant at a restaurant near the plant. Her husband has worked at Volvo for 22 years. She expressed what many workers on the picket lines told this worker-correspondent: “We are not backing down.”

Volvo has made record profits off truck sales over the last few years. Its profits rose by 89% to $1 billion in the first quarter of 2021. Sales are surging so fast that Volvo can’t keep up with orders and is still working through the backlog.

This past year alone, Volvo has hired several hundred workers to meet demand for its heavy-duty trucks. At one plant gate all 11 pickets had been hired in the past three months.

The Sweden-based Volvo Group, which also owns Mack Trucks, boasts that Mack and Volvo manufacture all their trucks in the U.S. In 2019 more than 3,600 autoworkers went on strike against Mack.

The strike is winning solidarity from working people across the region. Communications Workers of America Local 2204 President Chuck Simpson drove 50 miles from Roanoke to walk the picket line. “They are union brothers and sisters,” he told the Militant. “I walked the line with them when they struck in 2008 and they supported us during the 2016 Verizon strike.” On April 23 Northern Virginia Labor Council President Virginia Diamond brought a union delegation to deliver a $1,500 check, saying, “UAW 2069 needs our solidarity.”

Send messages of solidarity to: UAW Local 2069 P.O. Box 306 Dublin, VA 24084 UAWLocal2069@gmail.com.