By Satyaki Chakraborty
The international labour movement witnessed a unique spectacle on September 26 when on the 12th day of the strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW), the United States of America president Joe Biden visited the picketing workers in Michigan for extending support. This never happened in the US history even during the regime of the President Franklin Roosevelt who was known for his pro-labour views.
The Biden visit might have been prompted by the President’s compulsions to be on the right side of the labour and the powerful labour organization AFL-CIO to seek support in his bid for November 2024 presidential elections, but this unusual position taken by the President has the potential of angering the Wall Street lobby in the Democratic Party who are the major fund givers to the Party kitty. The President’s open support to the demands of the strikers and the US labour department’s efforts to persuade the auto companies owners to come to an agreement, have brightened the prospects for an early settlement.
The UAW strike has led to national turbulence as the former president and the Republican presidential aspirant Donald trump also plans to visit the striking workers in Detroit though the UAW union leaders earlier termed Trump as anti- workers. Republican sources said that Trump is showing his usual playing to the gallery attitude since he can not take a position in support of the striking workers. The three auto owners are big funders to the Republican Party campaign. There is a big interest among the political circles about what finally Trump tells the picketers.
President Biden visited the picketers at a time when his acceptability in the opinion polls has dipped as against his contender Trump and AFL CIO, the biggest labour organization of the USA has not yet announced its endorsement of Joe Biden as the Presidential candidate. Biden camp is now hopeful that after this visit, the AFL-CIO will be officially endorse Biden as their candidate.
The leftwing Senator Bernie Sanders who is in charge of labour committee of the US senate has also put pressure on the President Biden to extend his support to the strikers. Sanders has already come out against the three CEOs of the auto giants by telling them that they have to share the profits with the workers. He has extended his support to the demands of the striking union. Under Sanders direction, the labour department has taken pro worker attitude in a number of strike actions throughout the country including Amazon and Starbucks.
At Bernie Sanders’ instance, President Biden told the picketers “I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the automobile industry was going under. They gave everything from their pensions on, and they saved the automobile industry”. He said workers should benefit from carmakers’ riches “now that the industry is roaring back.” Biden also supported the unionization of workers in key industries which is now sweeping the American big conglomerates for ensuring decent living wages.
In 2023, the labour unions in a number of US industries have carried out protest movements against the managements successfully by getting the US labour department support in most cases. The nearly five month old writers strike in Hollywood is ready for a settlement in favour of the strikers. The Hollywood actors strike is still continuing but hopes are there for an early settlement. If the UAW strike ends in an agreement favourable to the workers, that will give a big impetus to the labour movement as a whole in the USA.
That way, the success of the UAW strike action has the potential to give a boost to further unionization efforts among the American labour and the consolidation of the support base of the Democratic Party among the US labour on the eve of the coming Presidential elections. (IPA Service)