Lines VI


After six weeks of sit-down strikes, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has reached tentative contract agreements with each of the Big Three automakers: Ford, Stellantis, and General Motors. Many of the wage tiers the Big Three installed over a decade ago to reduce labor costs have been removed.  

In a 2014 chapter, HARRY C. KATZ, JOHN PAUL MACDUFFIE, and FRITS K. PIL examine how labor conditions in the auto industry were transformed in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis. 

From the text:

“The UAW is the primary union representing workers in the auto industry. In 2008 and 2009, a crisis of historic proportion hit the industry, particularly the Big Three, who were already suffering from longer-term market share declines. GM and Chrysler went through bankruptcies they escaped only with the help of federal bailout funds. Under government pressure to lower labor costs, the UAW agreed to unprecedented concessions. These included the transfer of retiree health care liabilities to union-managed funds, a lower wage for new “non-core” hires ($14/hour versus $28/hour), a pay freeze for current workers, and six-year collective bargaining agreements that included no-strike and binding interest arbitration provisions. The lower entry tier was initially limited to so-called non-core jobs but this restriction did not last long. By spring 2009, all new hires were being hired into the lower pay tier. The managed bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler with support provided by federal TARP funds helped those companies recover. In addition, the Big Three launched new products, leading to strong vehicle sales. As auto sales rose so did sector employment, to 642,700 in 2012—a rise of 14 percent from the 2009 low. Yet auto sector employment remains far below previous levels and average hourly wages continue to fall, declining from $29.65 in 2007 to $28.13 in 2012. Contributing to this fall was the hiring of workers at the lower pay tier.”

+  “The UAW is transitioning from a union that primarily threatens to withhold labor to one that primarily enables work, bringing expertise to discussions of quality, safety, predictive and preventative maintenance, workforce development, and team-based operations.” By Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Dan Brooks, and Martin Mulloy. Link. And see their study of collaboration between UAW and Ford. Link

+  “Could the Teamster and UAW contract campaigns be a bellwether in this new environment, in which excitement for organized labor is appearing to grow?” By 
Andrew Elrod. Link. And see Beverly J. Silver’s study of how workers’ movements shape labor negotiations. Link

A UAW white paper from July examines labor conditions at factories manufacturing EV battery cells. Link. And listen to an Odd Lots podcast about UAW strategy vis-a-vis electrification. Link


Primitive accumulation

ALINA-SANDRA CUCU is a research fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin. In a recent paper, she offers a novel conceptualization of state socialism in Romania. 

From the paper:  

“Drawing on the Romanian case, this article argues against looking at state socialist regimes through the lens of exceptionalism, and assesses the merits of analyzing them from the perspective of primitive accumulation. Integrating socialist projects into a longer history of modernization, capital formation, and struggles over labour and land allows me to develop a four-step argument about primitive socialist accumulation in Romania. First, I argue that, in Romania, peasant dispossession had underpinned capital formation for roughly 150 years before the communist takeover. Second, these mechanisms of primitive accumulation constituted crucial matrices for class formation that were irreducible to ideal-typical processes of proletarianization. Third, the articulation between peasant dispossession and strategies of keeping labour cheap was state-led, mandated, or protected, and stood at the core of all modernization projects for the whole period under discussion. And fourth, seen through these lenses, the communist collectivization and nationalization in the 1950s appears as one instance, among others, in a longue-durée history of primitive accumulation in the region.”

+ + +

+  “The substitution of interest rate swaps for repurchase agreements represents a new market structure, which involves more complex funding and higher reliance on risky firms to provide affordable liquidity.” New on PW, Elham Saeidinezhad on interest rate swaps. Link.

+  Sean H. Vanatta on the “financialization of US public pension funds.” Link.

+  “How, when, and why did women in the US obtain legal rights equal to men’s regarding the workplace, marriage, family, Social Security, criminal justice, credit markets, and other parts of the economy and society?” By Claudia Goldin, winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize for Economics. Link

+  Noemí Peña-Miguel and Beatriz Cuadrado-Ballesteros on how public-private partnerships exacerbate inequality in developing countries. Link.

+  “A world of multipolar sanctioning could suppress innovations in global governance meant to address entrenched inequality and precarity.” By Ryan Martínez Mitchell. 

+  The United Nations Adaptation Gap Report 2023 estimates that the global “climate adaptation finance gap now stands at between $194 billion and $366 billion USD per year.” Link.

+  Rachel Cheung on the Chinese government’s attempts to regulate its domestic AI industry. Link

+  “Our analysis of whose interests have been prioritized and marginalized in Timor-Leste is based on three major factors: regulation of class relations, organization of gender relations, and the governance of the petroleum industry.” By Selver B. Sahin and Stepan Verkhovets. Link.

+  Ely Melchior Fair on the Freedman’s Bank Crisis of 1874. Link.

+  “No durable or substantial agrarian reform ever occurred in the Roman Republic, despite constant agitation and turbulence over the question in the final epoch of its existence. The political dominance of the nobility blocked all efforts to reverse the relentless social polarization of property over the land. The Roman equivalent of the hoplite category—men who could equip themselves with armor and weaponry necessary for infantry services in the legions—were the assidui or ‘those settled on the land.’ Below them were the proletarii, propertyless citizens, whose services to the State were merely to rear children (proles). The increasing monopolization of land by the aristocracy was thus translated into a steady decline in the numbers of the assidui, and an inexorabe incrase in the size of the proletarii. The result was that by the end of the 3rd century BC, the prolietarii were probably already the absolute majorit of citizens, and had to themselves be called up to deal with the emergency of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy.” By Perry Anderson. Link

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