Volvo strike in Virginia fights divisive wage tiers

By Arlene Rubinstein
July 12, 2021

The strike by 2,900 members of United Auto Workers Local 2069 at Volvo’s largest North American truck manufacturing plant is now in its fourth week. Workers are standing firm with round-the-clock pickets at the New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia.

Strikers got a boost when fellow unionists from UAW Local 3520 walked the picket line June 19, driving up from the Freightliner plant in Cleveland, North Carolina.

A key issue in the strike is getting rid of the multiple wage tiers that the company uses to try to keep workers divided and drive down wages. Under the current contract, new hires make $16.77 an hour while a “core group” of workers with the most years in the plant make $27.47.

“They have to stand their ground against the two-tier system. We were out in 2019 for the same reason,” David Fowler Jr., president of UAW Local 171 at the Volvo-owned Mack Trucks plant in Hagerstown, Maryland, told the Militant by phone. “We support the union and its members.”

In 2019 more than 3,600 workers went on strike against Mack in five U.S. cities. Volvo and Mack workers have joined each other’s picket lines.

Workers at Volvo have twice rejected bosses’ concession demands by 90%. The second offer was voted down overwhelmingly June 6 and the strike resumed the next day.

In a failed attempt to lure workers into voting “yes” while keeping the two-tier divisions, this proposal would have reduced the wage progressions from eight to six years.

Bosses are pressing for workers to pay more for health care, the weakening of seniority and four 10-hour shifts with no overtime pay. Currently overtime is paid after eight hours.

Volvo Group shareholders got a generous handout — $2.3 billion — as the company passed along proceeds from the sale of a Japanese business unit this year and sought to calm investors’ jitters about the strike.

Send solidarity messages to UAW Local 2069, P.O. Box 306, Dublin, VA 24084 or