Shawn Fain is leading the Labor Movement into the Promised Land. Kagiso, Max
Published on Portside (https://portside.org/)
September 22, 2023
In 2007, Shawn Fain was a little-known union official at a Chrysler plant in Kokomo, Indiana, having gone to work there a dozen years before as an electrician. What happened next set Fain on the path to where he is today: president of the UAW and the key figure in a historic strike with no end in sight.
With that defiant step, Fain declared his independence from the political group — known as the Administration Caucus — that had run the UAW for six decades. And the move also set him up for a higher position — for years in staff jobs at UAW headquarters in Detroit, then later to be catapulted into the union’s presidency.
In making these arguments, Fain,
like the legendary UAW leader Walter Reuther who led the union from 1946 to
1970, has framed this fight as one to help not just auto workers, but America’s
entire working class.
United Auto Workers members, including President Shawn Fain,
center, march past General Motors headquarters in Detroit on Friday, Sept. 15,
2023. | Paul Sancya/AP Photo
“The very existence of billionaires shows us that we have an economy that is working for the benefit of the few, and not the many,” Fain said. “It feels like we’ve gone so far backwards that we have to fight just to have the 40-hour workweek back. Why is that? So another ###hole can make enough money to shoot himself to the moon?”
Masters said that by making so many
ambitious demands, “Fain may have painted himself in a corner that he can’t get
out of without losing some face.” In other words, even if Fain wins, say, large
wage increases, a cost-of-living adjustment and an end to two tiers, some union
members might nonetheless be angry that he didn’t also win on a
32-hour-workweek, improved pension benefits, a jobs bank and improvements for
Trump is trying to seize on the
opportunity, saying he will go to Detroit next week to speak to union members.
In response, Fain laid into Trump: “Every fiber of our union is being
poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that
enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers.”
Steven Greenhouse, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, is a former New York Times labor reporter and author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives.” - Eugene Victor Debs