Photo: Stills from livestream video showing auto workers confronting police and picketing at the Arlington General Motors Plant.
By David Martinez
On Tuesday, workers at the General Motors (GM) Assembly Plant in Arlington, Texas (part of the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan area), continued the eighth day of a national strike, with an estimated 150 strikers forming picket lines at various entrances to the plant. The workers, many of them members of United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local 276, organized the picket into 4-hour shifts all day and night.
While energetic, the scene was less tumultuous than in previous days, when Arlington police had attempted to corral the striking workers at shift changes, allowing scabs to break the picket line.
A live video posted by a worker to Facebook last Thursday shows a police officer herding a crowd of strikers behind barricades. Workers argued back, observing how the barricades cut off access to the sidewalk, which they are legally allowed to march on. Cops allowed strikebreaking workers to drive in and out, while picketers shouted “Scab!” at them.
With more agitation and workers pressing into the street, the cops backed down and removed the barricades, as picketers started playing hip hop group NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” and restarted their moving picket. The workers earned a victory, but it’s clear that more direct action and stronger tactics are necessary to fight against police intervention.
In the same video, the livestreamer can be heard making appeals to the police, asking what they would do if they were on strike. He even thanked them for taking away the barricades, even though it was his fellow workers risking arrest who were able to get the picket restarted. One fellow worker even asked the streamer why he was shaking the enemy’s hand.
His appeals to the police show a misunderstanding of the police as fellow workers. While some with proletarian backgrounds or from oppressed nations may join the police force, the police function as part of the armed organization of the state, controlled by the ruling class. The interests of the bourgeoisie who own the factories and exploit the workers are enforced by the police and government. This is the why the police protect scabs and not striking workers.
Incendiary supporters visited the picket line to show solidarity with striking workers and distribute an Incendiary article on the UAW strike in Charlotte, North Carolina. Strikers told the supporters that temp workers on the line are especially “abused,” working 12-hour shifts and mandatory 6-day work weeks. They receive no call-in sick days or vacation days. The company allows them three paid vacation days a year, but they’re denied when they call in. They are immediately fired if they can’t make it to the line.
In addition, the temp workers are hired on the false premise they will be offered permanent positions and raises, but four years have passed for some of these hires, and they are now seeing what little benefits they have taken away. One worker said he cannot take his daughter to the doctor because it costs almost as much as paying out of pocket without insurance.
All of these conditions illustrate the intense exploitation of the industrial proletariat, even in an imperialist country which claims to offer fair work and higher wages than the third world.
In 2007 at the onset of the Great Recession, GM was on the brink of collapse until major automakers received huge bailouts from the US government. Following this, workers gave in to major concessions, eventually allowing GM to post record profits in 2016 of $35 billion in North America alone.
Workers at the Arlington plant asserted that their facility is, “the most profitable manufacturing facility in the world,” primarily because it is where they make Cadillac Escalades, with luxury prices at around $90,000. One group of workers reflected on the ways that the same $90,000 could help them with living expenses over a year if split between them. In the context of the strike, the discrepancy between the value of what they produce and what they earn has been made much more tangible.
The bourgeois owners are the thieves who steal the surplus value created by workers, and now squeeze the workers further to make up for crises of their own making. Overproduction has resulted in a glut of cars that can’t be sold, which capitalists frame as “low demand” or “underconsumption,” even though they are also the ones who push lower wages and unemployment. Global economic slowdowns due to the imperialist trade war between the US and China have created more instability that falls on the backs of workers.
The strikers out on the picket line were resolute in their solidarity against the owners. Incendiary supporters asked how people could show solidarity in material ways, such as financial donations to offset lost wages or food and water for the picketers. While the local UAW hall is taking donations, some strikers said that it would be better if people just donated directly to workers on the picket, since it’s likely that they wouldn’t ever see the money that’s donated at the union hall.
The workers, while recognizing the need to strike and enforce the picket line, are still aware of the corrupt nature of their own union. While tens of thousands of workers are losing wages and putting in hours on the picket line across the country, nine national union leaders have been convicted of crimes such as wire fraud and embezzlement, including UAW Region 5 director Vance Pearson, who is still advising on negotiations despite being charged.
Incendiary sends its solidarity to the rank and file workers on the picket line, not the corrupt union bosses, as they demonstrate their collective strength. We encourage our readers who are able to support the strike to bring donations to the workers directly as they requested, not to the union hall. The working class builds and creates the world, it is inevitable that they will inherit it all through international proletarian revolution!