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Celebrating Our Victories

Each week, DSOT highlights the common struggles that bind most of us together as empathetic and caring humans in spite of what often feels like intense atomization and deep hopelessness in the face of systemic obstacles. Our allies are fighting for so many issues: from women’ reproductive health, to ecosystem protection, to civil rights, labor rights, and the consistent advocacy for peace and diplomacy over war, and Don’t Shop on Tuesday hopes to act as a binding tether between them, stitching together disparate efforts into a pluralistic union. To that end, it is important to celebrate victories by our allies, such as the tentative agreement reach by the United Auto Workers with all three major auto companies, Ford and Stellantis and General Motors after 44 days of a “stand-up strike”.


 


This is an historic win for labor and an equitable work environment, representing one of the largest material gains from a collective bargaining negotiation in recent memory. Deals with the automakers include pay hikes of nearly 30%, and an end to the two-tiered pay system depressing new workers’ earning potential. These gains are impressive in isolation, but they come at a critical moment in history. As Shawn Fain, president of the UAW put it: “This contract is about more than just economic gains for autoworkers. It's a turning point in the class war that's been raging in this country for the past 40 years.”


 


These latest labor actions, from the UAW to the writer’s guild, to the teamsters union, etc. falls in a long tradition of economic collective action which posits that the question of who gets the value of increased productivity from technological innovation is a political choice, not some mechanical and immutable law of nature. This economic tug of war between capitalists and united workers extends back over 100 years through a rich history of American militant labor action, and even further back to the early 1800s with the famous clashes between the Luddites and factory owners in England. The Luddites were, contrary to popular belief, not backwards yokels, afraid of technological advancement, but were rather engineers and technical workers in the factories who were deeply concerned about how technology and automation were being used to exploit them and extract further profit.


 


These same battle lines are still being contested to this day: One of the major sticking points in the UAW negotiations beyond pay raises was to protect their members against displacement by automation of the assembly line. Similarly, in the recently successful writers’ strike some of the most fractious negotiations centered on the use of generative AI for writing scripts, only bringing writers in for “editing”. Waging these struggles is vitally important, because it reminds us that how we split the productive capacity of our economy is a political question, with different possible answers.




We join together in the long tradition of proud Luddites who say that the workers from the UAW, to Kaiser Permanente, to Starbucks, Amazon and beyond deserve to partake in a piece of the profits. We must follow in the footsteps of our allies’ victories and use our collective economic power in the political sphere on behalf of the people. So join us this Tuesday in celebrating UAW’s tentative victory, and then redouble our efforts in growing solidarity to build a more equitable economic future with prosperity for all. #DSOT


 


 



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