I got the following message from the UAW (I’m on their email list) on December 3rd, the same Friday the Korea trade deal was taken out with the trash announced.
Show solidarity with striking Hyundai workers
The UAW is offering its full support to a strike by temporary workers at a Hyundai plant in Ulsan, South Korea. These workers, who earn very low wages and have no job security, have been occupying an auto plant since Nov. 15 when the subcontractor who employed them announced that it was closing.
But it was later discovered that Hyundai was the actual subcontractor – all to avoid directly hiring the workers as required under South Korean law.
Not only has Hyundai refused to meet the workers’ demands, but it has filed lawsuits against dozens of the workers involved in the work stoppage. The powerful Korean Metal Workers’ Union declared a strike of its members on Dec. 1 to show support for the 500 workers occupying the seat-manufacturing plant in Ulsan.
The UAW will hold a peaceful demonstration at the Hyundai America Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Monday, Dec. 6, at 4 p.m. to show our support for these workers.
The demonstration will feature a speech on the importance of global solidarity by UAW President Bob King, and a vigil to show support for Korean workers. UAW and community members are urged to attend and show their support for the striking South Korean workers.
The event, which will feature music from striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra members, will be held outside the Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc., 6800 Geddes Road, Ann Arbor, Mich.
So what does it mean? I’m all for real international labor solidarity (not the kind of labor imperialism that defined international labor activities until recently) but really, on the same day as the trade deal? I am not a staunch protectionist, if a bilateral deal could be struck that was a win/win for both countries I would support it (I would add that that I have never seen a trade agreement that met this standard). Trade policy should reflect national interests and labor advocacy should reflect class interests; the calculus of this agreement is almost uniformly harmful to the majority of working class people in both nations. Labor movements have been historically divided between member advocacy and overall class advocacy, in this case the UAW seems to have failed in both columns. So what does it mean?
Was there discussions between the Korean auto workers and UAW about the deal?
Do elements within the UAW believe the deal is a forgone conclusion so they might as well “go-along-to-get-along” and dabble in international activity at the same time?
Is there a naive belief that that this agreement could strengthen the union’s position in a strategic way by allowing it to work with an international partner?
Is this “feel good” kabuki theatre for internationally minded activists?
Is it a big coincidence?–didn’t think so