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USA: Environmental organizations support the strike of automobile workers

The union strike is on Friday, September 15th United Auto Workers (UAW)against the three major American automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (formerly Fiat-Chrysler). Over 100 environmental organizations such as Fridays for Future USA or Greenpeace and other civil society organizations support the strike in an open letter.

What is the strike about?

It's about the collective agreements for 145.000 workers. The union is calling for a four-day, 32-hour week. The union's president, Shawn Fain, explained that auto workers often spend 10 to 12 hours on the assembly line, seven days a week, to make ends meet. The union is also demanding massive wage increases. The CEOs of the Big Three have approved salary increases of an average of 40% over the past four years. The union is demanding hourly wages of around $32,00 for the workers. In 2007, the starting wage was $19,60. Taking inflation into account since then, that would be equivalent to $28,69 today. But actually the starting wage today is $18,04. In the last 20 years, 65 Big Three factories have closed, with catastrophic consequences for surrounding communities. The UAW calls for a “family protection program”: When a factory closes, affected workers should be given the opportunity to do paid community service. The strike begins at one of the Big Three locations in Detroit, with a total of over 12.000 employees.

Source: CBS News (

Why do environmental organizations support the strike?

In the open letter, the organizations note that workers and their communities have experienced unprecedented extreme heat, smoke pollution, flooding and other disasters in recent months. “Your companies’ leaders have made decisions in the past that have exacerbated both of these crises over the past few decades – leading to further inequality and increasing pollution.” Over the next few years, the letter says, there must be a transition away from fossil fuels and combustion engines can be mastered. With this shift comes an opportunity for workers in the United States to benefit from a revitalization and renewal of manufacturing, including electric vehicles and collective transportation such as buses and trains, as part of the renewable energy revolution. “The transition to electric vehicles,” it continues, “must not be a ‘race to the bottom’ that further exploits workers.”

The letter concludes: “We and millions of Americans want what the UAW is negotiating for: family-sustaining, community-building, union jobs in a green energy economy; an economy that enables us all to earn a living on a living planet.”

Signatories include: Fridays for Future USA,, Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Earth, Labor Network for Sustainability, Oil Change International, Union of Concerned Scientists and 109 other organizations.


No either/or between good and green jobs

Trevor Dolan from Evergreen action explained: “We don’t have to choose between good and green jobs. Corporate titans will attempt to divide our movement by presenting us with a false choice. They will try to argue that building cleaner cars is more important than supporting workers. But we know better. Our collective movement can only be successful if workers benefit directly from climate action. Evergreen and the environmental movement are ready to stand with workers because a fair transition to a clean energy future means not only using clean technology, but also promoting a working-class economic agenda that empowers workers and communities supported. It is incumbent on the President and the climate movement to continue to support the UAW in this fight and to help ensure the transition to electric vehicles does not become a corporate race to the bottom.”


Companies also have a responsibility towards taxpayers

Erika Thi-Patterson from Public Citizen's Climate Program: “The Inflation Reduction Act will pump billions of taxpayer dollars into automakers’ efforts to transition to electric vehicles. As taxpayers drive the transition, automakers must prioritize creating millions of good, union jobs for their employees - alongside the transition to green steel, sustainable recycling of electric vehicle batteries, and robust transparency for consumers communities.”


The cover image shows a mural by Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Arts from 1932 to 33, which focuses on work at the Ford factory in Detroit.
Recording: CD shock via flickr, CC BY 2.0

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