Some 2,900 United Auto Workers Local 2069 members voted down a new tentative agreement with Volvo truck bosses July 9 — the third time angry union members have rejected deals they consider insufficient this year. Since the vote the striking workers continue to picket 24 hours a day.
Bosses responded by announcing they would try to restart production July 12. UAW officials then scheduled a second vote for July 14 on the pact workers had rejected. As the Militant goes to press, the outcome of that vote isn’t known.
“We’ve been given absolutely no reason to concede,” striker Travis Wells told WDBJ News, on the picket line July 12. “All we’re asking for is a fair wage path to the top for everybody, insurance stays the same as it is now. And if we don’t get that we’re going to vote no, until the cows come home.”
More families joined the picket line July 12. Only a handful of workers crossed the line. Nonetheless, bosses boast it will take them only a few days to get assembly lines back up and running.
The company made $1 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2021. Sales are surging so fast that bosses say they can’t keep up with orders.
“The ongoing strike — which we continue to believe is unnecessary — is hurting our customers,” NRV Vice President and General Manager Frank Marchand told the press.
“Basically, they are trying to break our union, telling people to cross the line,” replied UAW President Matt Blondino in a video on the union’s website.
Before the July 9 vote, the company released “highlights” of its offer, claiming it eliminates the two-tier system.
The reason so many strikers voted no “was because we’ve been fighting to get rid of this tier system,” Wells said. Under the current contract, new hires make $16.77 an hour while a “core group” with the most years in the plant make $27.47.
Under the proposed contract new hires will have to wait six years to reach top pay. Workers hired after 2015, would get top pay upon ratification. Even the lump sum signing bribe is different based on which tier you are in.
Volvo has not commented on the issue of health care for retired workers. When this worker-correspondent visited the picket line last month, I met strikers with decades working at Volvo who said they can’t afford to retire because of health care costs up to $900 a month.
Samantha Taylor, SMART Local 1933 chairperson, sent a July 2 message of support to the strikers on behalf of the 250 rail workers at Amtrak and the Keolis Virginia Rail Express commuter line. It commended autoworkers for taking actions to address “the multiple wage tiers.” Rail crews in Fredericksburg and Manassas, Virginia, at Keolis VRE collected 22 signatures on a letter for the strikers and $175 in donations.
“As a fifth generation railroader, one thing I’ve learned is that companies watch other companies,” Taylor told the Militant July 13. “This strike is a big deal. The workers are laying a foundation for all of us. I’m with them, as far as they want to take it.”
Send solidarity messages to UAW Local 2069, P.O. Box 306, Dublin, VA 24084 or UAWLocal2069@gmail.com.