Tenneco spark plug workers vote down second UAW agreement as more US auto parts contracts set to expire

Tenneco spark plug workers vote down second UAW agreement as more US auto parts contracts set to expire

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A worker inside a Tenneco plant [Photo: Tenneco]

Workers at the Tenneco spark plug plant in Cambridge, Ohio, have voted for a second time to reject a sellout contract negotiated by the United Auto Workers. The workers in Cambridge, along with workers at a sister plant in Burlington, Iowa, are currently working under an extension of the old contract that expired in March.

The Tenneco contract is only one among more than a dozen parts plants under the UAW that are up for negotiation this year, while some 150,000 workers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis head into contract talks this summer. Decades of concessions have seen the pay and conditions of auto parts workers deteriorate drastically, dropping far below the already depressed rates paid for comparable work at auto assembly plants.

Earlier this month the UAW forced through a sellout deal on 500 striking workers at the Clarios battery plant in Holland, Ohio, virtually identical to two earlier UAW-backed deals workers had overwhelmingly voted down. The contract included below-inflation 3 percent pay raises and opened the door to mandatory 12-hour shifts without the payment of overtime after eight hours.

A group of militant workers at the plant had formed the Clarios Workers Rank-and-File Committee to fight against the collusion of UAW officials with management and to appeal to other workers for common action in support of the strike.

The betrayal of the Clarios strike by the UAW bureaucracy and the imposition of the company’s terms has been a swift demonstration of the continuation of the UAW’s pro-corporate policies under the self-declared “reform” administration of President Shawn Fain. Fearful of the possibility of the strike spreading and eliciting a broader rebellion, the UAW apparatus under Fain used all of its well-worn dirty tricks to break the strike—isolating the struggle to just the Ohio plant, starving workers on inadequate strike pay, making them vote on limited contract “highlights,” and, worst of all, ordering locals at Big Three plants to continue handling scab-produced batteries.

The same week the UAW bureaucracy shut down a strike by about 160 workers at auto parts maker Constellium in Van Buren Township, Michigan outside Detroit. About 30 percent of the workers voted “no” because of pay raises that barely matched inflation. Last month, the UAW reported a contract passed at the Forvia (formerly Faurecia) parts plant in Saline, Michigan, by a suspiciously close margin of 51.72 to 48.28 percent, after the workers initially voted it down by 80 percent on May 11.

Workers at the Tenneco plant in Cambridge, Ohio (about midway between Columbus and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) produce the ceramic parts for spark plugs. There are about 80 workers left at the plant. About 400 workers are employed at the Burlington operation.

The plants used to be owned by Champion Spark Plugs, then were acquired by Cooper, and then by Federal-Mogul before coming under Tenneco.