Showdown brews between unions and automakers – National & International News – MON 5Sep2023

Countdown to autoworkers’ strike.

Man who warned of speed trap wins $50,000 judgment for police harassment.

North Korea’s Kim to meet with Putin in Russia to discuss arms deal, US official says.



Showdown brews between unions and automakers

On September 14, the existing contract between the United Autoworkers and the Big Three automakers Ford, GM, and Stellantis will run out. Earlier this month, UAW members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if the union’s negotiation with management hasn’t yielded an acceptable new. Even UAW’s new president Shawn Fain, himself an electrician, calls his demands “audacious”. The demands include a 46% pay raise, the end of an unpopular two-tiered compensation system, restoration of traditional pensions, and a 32-hour work with with 40 hours of pay.

So far, offers from the automakers have either been non-existent or insulting, according to Fain. Fain said recently, “I’ve told the companies repeatedly- I’m not the reason that members’ expectations are so high. What’s driving members’ expectations are the Big Three’s profits. You cannot make $21 billion in profits in half a year and expect members to take a mediocre contract. You can’t make a quarter trillion dollars in North American profits over the last decade and expect [labor unions] to keep aiming low and settling lower.”

A high stakes game of chicken

Ahead of a Labor Day speech today, President Biden told reporters he thought a strike was “unlikely”. But workers at the three companies seem to be in a fighting mood. After years of accepting unfavorable contracts when the US auto industry had fallen on hard times, workers believe they’re due some payback now that their companies are posting huge profits.

If a strike happens, there’ll be major losses on both sides. If UAW called a strike at all three companies, it would deplete the union’s strike fund in under three months. For the companies, a strike of just 10 days would cost close to $1 billion.

It’s also not clear how much room there is for the Big Three to increase compensation while remaining competitive with non-union foreign manufacturers with factories in the US. This especially true as the Big Three look to transition towards electric vehicles. One of UAW’s demands is for union representation at 10 EV battery facilities the automakers want to build in the US. Tesla, which is non-union, is currently leading the US marker for EVs, leaving other companies having to play catch-up.

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Man who warned of speed trap wins $50,000 over police harassment

Jonathan Guessford, 54, of Delaware has won a $50,000 judgment against the Delaware State Police over an incident that took place in March 2022. Guessford was standing in a grassy area on the side of a road holding up a sign saying “Radar ahead”.  Guessford insisted that he was staging a protest by warning motorists about the speed trap. He argued that three officers, Three officers, Cpl. Stephen Douglas, Trooper Nicholas Gallo and Master Cpl. Raiford Box, violated his approached his First Amendment rights

The entire incident was captured in police bodycam and dashcam footage and Guessford’s own cellphone, which you can see by clicking here. After viewing it, the court apparently agreed with Guessford.

What the video shows

At the beginning of the encounter, one of of the officers approaches Guessford and accuses him of disrupting traffic. Another officer then accuses Guessford of “jumping into traffic”, to which Guessford responds “you are a liar!”. A heated exchange follows with Guessford letting loose with profanities and referring to the officers as “road pirates”.

Footage shows one of the officers twice lunging at Guessford as he attempts to raise his sign, before another officer snatches it from him and rips it up. 

Guessford is then allowed to leave but flashed the middle finger as he drove away. The officers then pull Guessford over and threaten to arrest him for “disorderly conduct”. When Guessford argued his gesture was constitutionally-protected speech, Master Cpl. Box then threated to charge Guessford with resisting arrest. At one point, Guessford says he will take the officers to court, and Box says “Take it to court. That’s what I want you to do”.

Box also threatens to arrest Guessford, tow his car and call social services for Guessford’s son, who was in his car. Ultimately, Guessford was not detained but was cited for “improper use of a hand signal.”

Dashcam captures the officers chuckling over the charge, saying “he wasn’t making a turn”. Box then acknowledges in a call with a supervisor that the citation would likely be thrown out, but at least Guessford would be “inconvenienced”.

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North Korea’s Kim to meet with Putin in Russia to discuss arms deal, US official says

There’ve been several developments in the Ukraine-Russia conflict today:

Zelensky sacks defense minister:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced today that he’d asked for the resignation of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. Reznikov had been in the position since December 2021. The dismissal follows months stalemate in the field against entrenched Russian troops and numerous scandals over corruption within the ministry. The corruption including price gouging of basic goods sold to the army from various defense contractors, with the implication that members of the ministry were also getting a cut. Zelensky did not blame Reznikov for these problems but said it was time for “a different direction”.

Erdogan and Putin meet over grain deal:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin today in Sochi. Erdogan hoped to revive a deal that would allow Ukrainian ships to safely leave Black Sea ports to carry Ukrainian grain to world markets. Grain is one of Ukraine’s most important exports and many African and Middle Eastern countries depend on their supplies of cheap grain.

Moscow withdrew from the agreement when it expired earlier this summer. They then attacked some Ukrainian ports and grain storage facilities. Russia says the deal was one-sided since it allowed Ukraine to profit from exports while Russia wasn’t able to.  While Russian grain and fertilizer exports are not under sanction, restrictions on financial transactions and logistical support for Russia make it more difficult for their grain to reach world markets. Erdogan, who helped negotiate the expired deal, says he’s hopeful it can be revived “soon”.

Kim Jong Un to meet with Putin in Russia:

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un is expected to travel to Russia to meet with Putin, according to a US official. US sources have been saying for months that North Korea (DPRK) has been quietly negotiating with Russia to supply arms and ammunition for the war in Ukraine. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied that any deal is afoot and previous reports that North Korea had already supplied arms to Russia.

The US has threatened more sanctions on North Korea if such a deal took place, but Kim might be able to command such a high price for the munitions that he might decide it’s worth it.

This would be the first time in years that Kim has left his country. A former British ambassador to DPRK says that publicity about the visit meant it was now unlikely to happen. Kim is “paranoid” about his personal security, the ambassador says, and would now be unlikely to go through with the trip due to the unwanted publicity.

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