Standing with the United Auto Workers


Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) across the United States are striking against the prominent auto manufacturers referred to as the “Big Three.” Like the writers and actors in the world of movies and television, these individuals are uniting to assert their collective influence, safeguard their careers and advocate for the welfare of their families. 

The American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) firmly supports these courageous workers who are harnessing the full strength of unions to drive change. Initiating a strike is never a simple decision and often represents a measure of last resort—a means to convey to employers that workers must be treated equitably. 

I know firsthand what it feels like to walk a picket line. Like those striking UAW workers today, I walked the lines as a first-year teacher in Newark, New Jersey. It was a challenging period that lasted 11 long weeks. During that time, we witnessed picketing teachers being assaulted and ending up in the hospital; more than 200 Newark teachers were arrested and jailed. Yet, our determination and solidarity resulted in a contract that was a model and gave us a voice in the best ways to educate our students. Yes, the battles can be tough, but the rewards are great.

For years, UAW members have been loyally supporting these auto companies during challenging economic periods. Despite their efforts, our union family members in the auto industry who have contributed to the companies’ prosperity were not duly rewarded.

A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute illuminates the current situation:

  • The Big Three auto companies—Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler)—have enjoyed a staggering 92% surge in profits from 2013 to 2022, amounting to a substantial $250 billion. Projections for 2023 indicate an additional $32 billion in profits.
  • CEO compensation at these major firms has risen by 40% during the same timeframe, and the companies have distributed nearly $66 billion in shareholder dividends and stock repurchases.
  • Concessions made by autoworkers after the 2008 auto industry crisis, including the suspension of cost-of-living adjustments, were never reinstated. Consequently, the real hourly earnings of auto manufacturing workers, both union and nonunion, have declined by 19.3% since 2008, falling further behind inflation.

It is increasingly crucial for the Big Three to share profits equitably with workers as the industry adopts a greener approach in vehicle production, encompassing both the choice of materials and manufacturing methods. These companies are slated to receive substantial taxpayer-funded incentives to support their transition into electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing—meaning your tax dollars are being given to these companies. 

The promises of EV transition policies, both economically and environmentally, will not endure if autoworkers and auto communities once again are required to make sacrifices in terms of quality employment. 

These facts provide the context for the ongoing strike. The truth is that UAW members are not just fighting for themselves—they are fighting for all of us. These workers are striking to secure what we all rightfully deserve: fair compensation, workplace safety, job stability and a retirement with dignity. 

This fight transcends autoworkers and their families; it is about forging a future where all of us can thrive. 

The American people are firmly on the side of union members. According to a recent Gallup survey, labor unions maintain robust backing in the United States, with 67% of Americans expressing approval—reflecting a consistently high level of support in recent years after more than a decade of increasing favor. Additionally, Gallup reported that three out of four Americans surveyed are aligned with the UAW in this fight.

The public has seen through the manipulative tactics employed by the Big Three and recognizes this struggle for what it truly is: a battle between billionaires and wealthy corporations versus everyday workers who simply seek their rightful share of the incredible value they generate. 

Workers in this country—from the 12.5 million represented by the AFL-CIO and beyond—stand united in solidarity with the UAW, and are more united today than they have been in a generation. Here at AFSA, we see this solidarity as school leaders around the nation unite to join our union. We recently have seen the biggest surge in membership growth in decades.

To stay updated on the strike’s developments, visit the UAW’s Stand Up Strike website.

 Photo Credit: UAW