“Your Body Suffers”: The Unremarkable Pain of an Auto-Assembly-Line Worker

This article is a joint publication of Workday Magazine and The Nation. Daniel Carpenter was one month past his 40th birthday when he suffered neck pain so severe that he thought he was having a stroke. “I was up north with my girlfriend at the time at a wedding,” said the autoworker, who has been employed for nearly 19 years at General Motors, almost all of it at the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center in Michigan, which produces the Hummer and Silverado. “We were staying at a cabin. I couldn’t walk.

Stop Letting Auto Companies Pit Workers Against the Environment

This article is a joint publication of Workday Magazine and In These Times. In recent media coverage of the United Auto Workers’ stand-up strike against the Big Three car makers — Stellantis, Ford and General Motors — a false narrative is circulating: that the walkout is in conflict with the urgent need to mitigate climate change. The basic argument is that if wages and benefits were to improve, this would make the transition to electric vehicle manufacturing unprofitable, and would therefore imperil a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s environmental policy. 

“Union demands would force Ford to scrap its investments in electric vehicles, Jim Farley, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview on Friday,” reporter Jack Ewing wrote for the New York Times on September 16. Ewing goes on to quote Farley saying, ​“We want to actually have a conversation about a sustainable future, not one that forces us to choose between going out of business and rewarding our workers.”

In an article that ran on September 13, the day before the strike began, New York Times reporter Noam Scheiber put it similarly: ​“The companies say that even if they could raise wages for battery workers to the rate set under their national U.A.W. contract, doing so could make them uncompetitive with nonunion rivals, like Tesla.”

These reports echo the talking points of the same companies that have had a direct hand in slowing the transition to electric vehicles. All of the Big Three automakers are members of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group, that lobbied against a proposed Biden administration rule to require that two out of three new passenger cars sold in the United States are electric vehicles by 2032. 

These companies have also played a key role in fueling climate change. Scientists at Ford and General Motors knew about the impacts of global warming as early as the 1960s, yet the companies intensified their fossil-fuel heavy business model, turning to the manufacturing of trucks and SUVs over the ensuing decades while donating ​“hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that cast doubt on the scientific consensus on global warming,” as revealed in a 2020 investigation by E&E News.

UAW’s “Element of Surprise” Strike Appears to Be Working

This article is a joint publication of Workday Magazine and In These Times. Workers walked off their shifts on September 14 at midnight to cheering crowds, as the United Auto Workers launched its first simultaneous strike against the ​“Big Three” automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The initial work stoppages were not company-wide, but instead targeted at three locations: GM’s Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, Stellantis’ Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, and Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., just outside Detroit. The plants employ some 12,700 of the roughly 150,000 UAW members who work for the Big Three. The strike strategy, developed under the leadership of reform challenger Shawn Fain, was defined by its element of surprise.

Exhausted, Injured and Angry: Autoworkers Are Ready to Strike

This article is a joint publication of Workday Magazine and In These Times. CHICAGO – Wearing a red United Auto Workers (UAW) t-shirt, Anastasia Gibson, 48, is warm and polite, quick to flash a broad smile. But her anger rises when she talks about her sacrifices to Ford, which made $10.4 billion in profits in 2022. Gibson works 10-hour shifts and injured her back on the job in 2021. ​“They don’t value anything we do. They want us to get as many cars off the line as we can.” 

Such anger was palpable among the roughly 200 workers who gathered alongside Gibson in the late afternoon of September 6 outside the UAW Local 551 union hall in far southeastern Chicago, not far from the Indiana border.