September 25, 2023 editorial of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France. Translated from French.
Since September 15, thousands of auto workers have been on strike in the United States, at plants belonging to Ford, General Motors (Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, etc.) and Stellantis (the group created in 2021 from the merger of Fiat-Chrysler and PSA, which also owns Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Opel, etc.). In the U.S., as in France, the insolent profits of the bosses and shareholders of industry and finance are outrageous, while wages are being eaten up by escalating prices.
A class response
This is the first time that workers from the three U.S. car giants, the “Big Three,” have gone on strike together. These groups have made profits of 250 billion dollars in North America over the last decade, and 21 billion dollars in the first half of 2023. Groups whose CEOs have increased their salaries by 40% over the last four years, to an average of $25 million a year. Among them are the wealthy Agnelli and Peugeot families, whom we know well here, the main shareholders in Stellantis (Fiat and PSA), whose head office they have combined to set up… in the Netherlands, in order to pay less tax!
Auto workers in the U.S., for their part, have seen their wages rise by only six percent over the last four years, far less than the soaring prices. They are demanding an end to pay differentials between new recruits, temporary staff and full-time workers, as well as pay raises for everyone in line with the cost of living, and the preservation of all jobs as part of the transition to the production of electric vehicles.
Their anger is such that the president of the UAW, the auto workers’ union, has declared (a rare statement from a senior union official) that in the face of the “one-sided class war” they have been waging against the working class for decades, “the rich will no longer be the only ones fighting.”
Their fight is our fight!
We should learn from them, at a time when prices are soaring here, too, and when we hear (French President) Macron, on Sunday, September 24, declaring that there is no question of indexing wages to prices. He even claimed that the minimum wage was “over-indexed.” As if minimum wage earners had enough to live on! Faced with the rise in gas prices, he could, he says, renew a one-off bonus of 100 euros (about $100) for the poorest employees: the price of a single tank of gas to get to work all year round. Because the profits of Total (the biggest gasoline company in France) are not to be touched.
As for Bruno Le Maire, the Minister for the Economy, he tells us that he is going to ask companies in the agri-food industry and supermarkets to make an “effort” to limit inflation… It’s all smoke and mirrors. Just like the one this summer about freezing the prices of some 5,000 products until the end of the year. Le Maire was obliged to acknowledge the practice known as “shrinkflation” — products with prices frozen, or even lowered… because the quantities of a sold package are reduced, driving up the price per kilo (weight) or per litre (volume)!
Yes, the capitalists are at war with the working class. We workers are paid far less than the wealth we produce, not to mention all the extra trickery the bosses pull to increase profits still further.
What we need is a general pay raise, and an attack on profits. The day of action and demonstrations on October 13, called by the unions, will be the first opportunity for us all to get together.
But it’s only the beginning. We need to prepare for an all-out strike to make the bosses give in: at least 400 euros net increase for everyone, no salary, pension, unemployment benefit or allowance below 2,000 euros net to live on!