On Sunday, August 21, there was a UAW rally in Warren, the third largest city in Michigan. The few hundred attendees were asked to wear red and the color was present in abundance. Attendees were a mixture racially and age-wise. The rally coincided with the negotiations over the contracts with the Big Three automakers that expire on September 14 and was the first contract rally the union had called in a long time. I saw a few members of other unions there from SEIU, UFCW, and the MEA. Left groups present were DSA, CPUSA, and SEP who handed out their Autoworker Newsletter. Also present were people from Labor Notes and the UAWD (Unite All Workers for Democracy) reform caucus. I noticed the presence of far-right ideas among some attendees. I only saw one MAGA hat (even though Trump suggested moving auto plants out of Michigan to the non-union south) but there were also Gadsen flags and “Come and Take It” style gun rights imagery present.
UAW president Shawn Fain gave a fiery speech that resonated with the crowd. There were quite a few local politicians present, ranging from city council members and state representatives to three members of Congress: Haley Stevens, Debbie Dingell, and DSA’s Rashida Tlaib. Stevens is one of the most right-wing Democrats in the Michigan House delegation and won her election with massive support from AIPAC against her Jewish opponent Andy Levin, who apparently was not pro-Israel enough. Rhetorically, Stevens kept talking about how important the UAW and the contract are to the “middle class,” while Fain referred to the “working class.” I thought this was an important distinction that shows their different conceptions of organized labor. Fain also mocked the red-baiting attacks on him from the corporate media.
The UAWD organizer present talked to me for a bit. I mentioned that I had picketed the Detroit/Hamtramck plant, aka the Poletown plant, four years ago during the last strike and that it was odd to be picketing a plant that, in my opinion, never should’ve been built. She was not a Michigan native and didn’t know what I was talking about or any of the history of Poletown. She said the old guard union officers are not effectively mobilizing members or getting out information, and UAWD sees one of their roles as doing that. In my opinion, it would be good for socialists and union supporters to help them in getting the word out.
Featured image credit: Don the Upnorth Memories Guy via Flikr; modified by Tempest.
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Hank Kennedy is a Detroit area socialist, educator, and longtime comic book fan.