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Earlier this month, President Joe Biden paid a go to to the important battleground state of Michigan. He got here to Detroit – Motor Metropolis – to courtroom union voters. Mr. Biden had simply received the United Auto Employees’ endorsement, and he was desirous to share the highlight with UAW president Shawn Fain.

Fain informed the gang, “You realize what the hell’s going to occur if this man’s not president, as a result of we have seen what occurs. Labor went backwards.”

“You all are those that brung me to the dance,” Mr. Biden informed union employees. “And I by no means left it.”

Fain desires to ramp up the battle over unions and employees’ rights, not simply with auto firms, however with company leaders nationwide.

Requested if he stood with Fain, President Biden stated, “Completely, positively. Look, I haven’t got something in opposition to companies. They’ve simply bought to start out paying their justifiable share. The concept we’ve a thousand billionaires who’re paying a median of 8.2 % in federal tax? Come on, man!”

United Auto Employees President Shawn Fain and President Joe Biden, with CBS Information chief election & marketing campaign correspondent Robert Costa. 

CBS Information

Final September, Mr. Biden was the primary sitting president to stroll a union picket line, displaying his help for the unprecedented six-week walk-out at the entire Huge Three automobile makers. He informed the employees, “Wall Road did not construct this nation; the center class constructed this nation.”

The UAW went on to win historic contracts for 150,000 of its members, making Shawn Fain the standard-bearer for the labor motion’s comeback in 2023.

“That is what occurs when employees get energy,” Fain stated. “When the employees bought this union again, they had been capable of elect their high management for the primary time in historical past, and we noticed huge change in a brief period of time, and we’re gonna proceed to do this.”

“You’ve got shaken up the place,” stated Costa.

“Properly, that is what they elected me for.”

UAW President Shawn Fain. 

CBS Information

Fain was the primary UAW president elected instantly by membership, and inside months he led shutdowns on meeting strains at Ford, GM, and Chrysler/Jeep father or mother firm Stellantis. He additionally broke with custom: whereas negotiations normally occurred behind closed doorways, Fain broadcast updates through Fb to union members and the world at giant. In a single video he exclaimed, “All three firms wished concessions on revenue sharing. And we stated, ‘Hell, no.'”

Fain defined, “It was essential to us to be, you realize, open and clear with the membership, not simply in bargaining, but it surely’s in every thing we’re doing.”

The union’s new contracts not solely make up for pay cuts employees took greater than 15 years in the past throughout the nice recession; they supply a foothold for the union in Detroit’s electrical automobile future.

Ford CEO Jim Farley lately warned the contracts can have “a enterprise affect” on the automaker. Fain says affect is what he is all about.

A local of Kokomo, Indiana, the 55-year-old got here up the ranks as an electrician, and nonetheless carries his grandfather’s union pay stub in his pocket. “I keep in mind my grandfather speaking a couple of 110-day strike at Chrysler again in 1950 to get pensions,” he stated.

“In the event you would have requested me after I was in highschool, ‘Are you gonna be an electrician sooner or later?’ I might have laughed and like, are you kidding me?”

He recalled the difficulties of being on unemployment: “When my first daughter was born, we had been getting WIC. It was a humbling expertise. However experiences like that, they laid a groundwork for me for what was essential in life and why issues mattered and why wages mattered, why having good jobs mattered, why having good advantages mattered.”

From Hollywood actors and writers, to lodge and hospital employees, even neighborhood baristas, final yr’s labor protests had been like a dam bursting. From 2021 to 2023 the Huge Three automakers made greater than $100 billion in earnings (in accordance with the Financial Coverage Institute), whereas common auto employee pay has fallen almost twenty % from pre-recession ranges.

Fain stated, “What gave us energy on the bargaining desk was the corporate noticed how keen members had been to exit on strike, and once we had been calling vegetation to exit on strike, that vegetation that did not get known as had been dissatisfied. It was only a matter of when and the way lengthy it was gonna take, as a result of I knew our members had the resolve to make it occur. 

“That is our era’s defining second,” he stated.

Based on Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor at Cornell College’s College of Industrial and Labor Relations, “If unions do not run the form of campaigns that power employers to come back to the desk and discount with them, as a result of the price of not bargaining with them is bigger than the price of bargaining with them, they don’t seem to be going to have the ability to construct their energy and set up extra employees. Employees aren’t silly; they know that the businesses weren’t going to provide them that bump.”

Bronfenbrenner notes the American public sided overwhelmingly with placing autoworkers: “That they had given enormous concessions in 2007. Now the businesses had been being profitable they usually weren’t sharing it. That they had risked their lives throughout COVID. And so, [Fain] did an excellent job of getting the general public to see these points. This was about one thing that was honest, and this was simply, and that we’re dwelling in a time the place companies are taking an excessive amount of.”

Fain could come throughout as mild-mannered, however he additionally rails in opposition to the “billionaire class,” and has even worn T-shirts that say “Eat the Wealthy.”

“I do not assume billionaires ought to exist,” he stated. “Nobody wants that a lot cash. I feel it is inhumane. Decide any metropolis, stroll round, you realize, you see individuals ravenous, individuals with out primary requirements. There is no excuse for that. And it isn’t as a result of persons are lazy or do not need to work. The billionaires that hold amassing increasingly wealth, to allow them to construct rocket ships and do regardless of the hell they need to do, that does nothing for humanity.”

“Your critics say that is class warfare,” stated Costa.

“Yeah, class warfare has been happening on this nation for the final 40 years – the billionaire class has been taking every thing and leaving the working class with nothing,” Fain replied.  “At any time when working class individuals ever step up and say, ‘That is mistaken, we wish it to cease,’ impulsively, Oh, it is class warfare. It is the top of the world.

If there’s a labor conflict being waged in America, the entrance strains are within the non-union factories of the South and Midwest. Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, builds their newest electrical automobiles – and it is a high goal of UAW organizers.

Fain informed employees in Tennessee, “When the corporate makes use of worry, we’re gonna come again with info. And these are the info: You realize, Volkswagen made $78 billion since 2020 in revenue. They paid out $24 billion in dividends to company executives and shareholders. The CEO of Volkswagen makes $12 million a yr.”

United Auto Employees president Shawn Fain speaks exterior Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

CBS Information

The UAW has tried twice earlier than previously decade to arrange in Chattanooga. What’s modified since then? After the UAW’s current victories, non-union automakers (together with Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and VW) provided raises, too. However the further pay got here with out the union’s advantages or job protections.

Fain defined coming right into a extra hostile territory: “We do not ever relaxation,” he stated. “Employees deserve justice.”

“Sunday Morning” was there in December when employees tried to petition administration for a gathering with organizers.

In a press release to “Sunday Morning,” Volkswagen Group of America stated: “Volkswagen is pleased with our 5,500 staff who energy our world-class meeting plant in Chattanooga. Our tradition has been constructed via frequent, clear, and two-way dialogue with our individuals. We respect their democratic proper to decide who ought to characterize their pursuits within the office with out interference, intimidation, or misinformation.”

However Volkswagen employee Shaun Lawler says skepticism of the UAW runs deep locally. When requested how his household views unions, he replied, “They do not see it as a very good alternative; they see layoffs.”

What do they name unions? “They name them communist,” Lawler stated.

Nonetheless, after the UAW’s success final yr, 13-year Volkswagen worker Vicky Holloway says the union’s time has come. “I actually assume we’ve an opportunity this time,” she stated. “Until your eyes are simply closed and your ears, and also you simply do not hear something, then you definitely understand that we do want a union.”

The UAW now says a union vote in Chattanooga is approaching. It is going to be one other defining second for Shawn Fain – and for the American labor motion.

“You realize, organized labor led the best way for the American dream,” he stated. “And that is fallen by the wayside during the last 40 years. And it’s our obligation to humanity to vary that.”

And, he provides, he isn’t going to surrender: “In no way. That is the mission.”

For more information:

Story produced by Ed Forgotson. Editor: Ed Givnish. 

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