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Grand Theft Auto: US Carmakers Taking Workers for a Ride Over EV Switch

United Auto Workers members walk the picket line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. So far the strike is limited to about 13,000 workers at three factories — one each at GM, Ford and Stellantis. InternationalIndiaAfricaJames TweedieAuto expert Lauren Fix, an analyst and consultant at Car Coach Reports; Dr. Linwood Tauheed, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Economic Information; and Dan Kovalik, a human and labor rights lawyer and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, discussed the causes of the strike hitting the big three US auto manufacturers.The Democrats’ obsession with green issues helped spark the biggest strike the US auto workers have undertaken in years, pundits say.The staged walkouts by some 13,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) union members at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — which makes the Chrysler and Dodge brands — is nearing the seven-day mark.The union, led by UAW President Shawn Fain, is demanding a 40% pay deal over a span of four years, along with a move to a four-day working week. Ford and GM have offered 20% over the same timeframe and Stellantis 17.5%.

Infrastructure Issue

Motoring expert Lauren Fix told Sputnik that the Biden administration’s goal of half of all new cars sold being electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 was part of the problem.»I have had many conversations privately with CEOs and leaders at all the car manufacturers, and they agree that this electric push is not good for business,» Fix said. «It could put many of the smaller businesses out of business. It could force mergers and it could cause a lot of issues for the car companies, which are a big part of the economy.»She said European manufacturers were already facing stiff competition from firms in China and other far-east countries who have taken a generational lead on EV technology.»They’re just dumping these cars and it’s impacting the German manufacturers. And we’re going to start seeing that here as well if China started selling their cars,» Fix warned. «We now have Vietnam selling cars here with Vinfast. They’re going to build a plant in Raleigh, Durham, North Carolina. You’re going to start seeing a lot of cars coming in this country that are non-union cars.»

"The car manufacturers were pushed to making electric vehicles. They were not planning to produce electric vehicles. They were trying to meet the corporate average fuel economy," Fix pointed out. "Then this administration came in and said, 'listen, we're going all EV so they need great cars.' Problem is there's only a certain range, which means you need charging available. So now we have a charging infrastructure issue."

Even in California, the leading US state for EVs where 18% of the cars on the road are electric, there is only around one public charging station for every 10,000 EVs registered in the state, she noted.AmericasAuto Workers Strike ‘Natural Result’ of Biden Administration’s Policies15 September, 17:33 GMT

Neoliberal Strategy

Economist Dr. Linwood Tauheed pointed out to Sputnik the inherent contradiction in neoliberal economics of «wanting to decrease wages while also increasing profitability and increasing the cost of living.»

"At some point, when wages continue to drop and other benefits continue to drop, either the working class have no money to buy anything or they perish because of starvation and other problems," Tauheed said.

The academic noted the profits of the three big US auto firms had risen by 92% in the 10 years to 2022, and they are expecting combined profits of $32 billion in 2023. But they continue to argue that raising wages would put them out of business.»CEO pay in that same 10-year period is up 40%, while worker pay is not up at all, not even with a cost of living increase, which the workers conceded in the 2008 crisis,» Tauheed pointed out. He linked the economic crisis caused by sanctions on Russia — in support of NATO’s proxy conflict in Ukraine — with attacks on workers’ living standards across the West.

"The neoliberals, not just in the US but in the EU, have wanted this opportunity to depress the working class. And so we have real wages falling with higher energy prices and other types of inflation, and the working class in the EU is becoming poor," Tauheed said. "EU countries had an industrial policy which included re-education for workers in declining industry and universal health care and pensions and unions. Those are things that are being destroyed in Europe."

Analysis‘Pro-Labor’ Biden Must ‘Walk Fine Line’ Between Union, Bosses in Posturing on UAW Strike15 September, 21:03 GMT

Political Manoeuvres

Labor lawyer Dan Kovalik told Sputnik the UAW’s 40% wage claim was «pretty reasonable» after years of belt-tightening.»The UAW had given concessions where they didn’t take wage increases for some time,» Kovalik stressed. «And meanwhile, we’ve had rising inflation in the last two years, meaning that the take-home pay is just not worth what it was before. And so the UAW has a lot to make up for there.»Former US President Donald Trump has seized on the crisis to appeal to the auto workers and other frequent voters in crucial Midwestern swing states.Kovalik said Trump had «probably the worst labor board than we’ve ever had in US history,» but admitted that he was «cutting into the Democrats’ working-class base.»US President Joe Biden, by contrast, has avoided the picket lines in the strike that could cost the economy $5 billion if it goes on for more than a week.»Biden is seeking reelection next year. And so he’s afraid, I suspect that he’s afraid if he looks too favorable to the strike in the strike does hurt the economy, that it’s going to come back on him,» Kovalik argued.For more in-depth analysis of current affairs, tune in to our Sputnik Radio shows.

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