Libcom.org's reading guide on working life and struggles written by and about workers in the global automobile industry.
Car industry: reading guide
- 1930-present: Labour unrest and the successive geographical restructuring of the world automobile industry - Beverly Silver – Excellent piece tracing the growth of workers’ power in the auto industry and the resultant outsourcing of industry to lower wage areas of the globe, where workers organised again and fought for better conditions, effectively spreading a militant workers' movement across the globe. In many ways, a shorter version of her must-read Forces of Labor.
- Detroit: I do mind dying; a study in urban revolution - Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin - Excellent book on the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement and League of Revolutionary Black Workers and their struggles in the Detroit car industry. One of the most important books on the black liberation movement and American workers' struggles, includes interviews and accounts from participants.
- Punching out and other writings - Martin Glaberman - A great collection of the writings of former-auto worker Martin Glaberman, covering topics such as life on the production line, the unions and methods of struggle.
- Organized labor versus "the revolt against work" - John Zerzan - Article examining the role of unions in managing workers’ unrest, focussing in particular on the US car manufacturing industry from the 1930s to 1970s.
Key people, groups and publications
- League of Revolutionary Black Workers – Organisation of African-American radicals from the late-1960s/early-1970s, largely organised into various ‘Revolutionary Union Movements based in the Detroit car industry.
- Solidarity Motor Bulletins - Series of bulletins from UK libertarian socialist group, Solidarity, from the 1970s about the global car manufacturing industry, produced largely by and for car workers themselves.
- Mechanics Educational Society of America - Union which pioneered the organisation of skilled autoworkers, refused to sign the no-strike pledge and fought against CIO incursions into their organized shops.
- United Auto Workers - American labour union representing car industry workers.
- Martin Glaberman - American Marxist and Detroit car factory worker associated with the Johnson-Forest Tendency. Wrote extensively on Detroit struggles, including criticisms of the unions and racism in the car industry.
- Ken Weller - British libertarian socialist, member of Solidarity and car factory worker. He was heavily involved in producing the Solidarity Motor Bulletins and wrote many important texts on car industry workers’ struggles.
- British Leyland
- General Motors
- Standard Triumph
- The US industrial workers’ movement - Chapter 3 of the brilliant Poor Peoples' Movements: Why They Succeed, How they Fail analyses the movement of industrial workers in depression-era America, particularly in the car industry, and the role of the unions from the sitdown strikes to the union no strike deals of World War II.
- The Flint sit-down strike, 1936-1937 - Jeremy Brecher – Excellent history of the legendary General Motors sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, where workers occupied the factories and won big concessions.
- Wartime strikes: The struggle against the no-strike pledge in the UAW during World War II - Martin Glaberman - Glaberman’s brilliant examination of the American car industry workers’ wildcat strike wave, despite their own union's no strike pledge, during World War 2.
- 1968: Ford female employees win strike for equal pay in Dagenham - a short account of the largely successful strike by female Ford workers in the UK against pay inequality.
- 'Clasismo' and the workers: 'Sindicalismo de Liberacion' in the Cordoban automobile industry, 1970-1975 - James P. Brennan - In-depth study of radicalism in the Cordoban car manufacturing industry, with focus on the activities and fortunes on the revolutionary clasismo movement.
- Against the state as boss - Autonomous Assembly of Alfa Romeo - A fascinating and detailed first-person account of workers struggles at Italian state-owned auto manufacturer, Alfa Romeo from 1971-1972.
- The Lordstown struggle and the real crisis in production - Ken Weller - Fascinating pamphlet on workers’ informal resistance to the frenetic pace of work at a General Motors plant, and the later co-optation of the struggle by the auto workers union.
- Wildcat: Dodge Truck June 1974 - Detailed article by participants and eyewitnesses about the wildcat strike at the Chrysler truck plant in Michigan, 1974, and the roles of the workers, the union and the left.
- Autoworkers and the working class in Brazil - John Humphrey - Analysis of the strike waves of the late-1970s Brazilian working-class movement, and the important role which car factory workers played in it.
- Strike and police brutality at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, 2005 – A look at the violent, month-long strike/lockout of HMSI workers in India in 2005, which ended with the employers giving into many of the workers' demands.
- Report and reflections on the UK Ford-Visteon dispute 2009: a post-Fordist struggle - A detailed account and analysis of the struggle of Ford-Visteon car manufacturing workers who occupied and picketed their plants after being sacked when their employers declared themselves bankrupt.
- Ssangyong motors strike in South Korea ends in defeat and heavy repression - Loren Goldner - Analysis and overview of the dramatic 2009 struggle at the Ssangyong Motors plant, which saw almost a thousand workers occupy the plant for 77 days.
- Auto industry strikes in China - Lance Carter – Excellent account and analysis of the hugely successful wildcat strike wave at mostly Japanese-owned auto factories in China, 2010.
- Struggles ‘Made in India’: on the series of factory riots, occupations and (wildcat) strikes in Delhi’s industrial south, 2014 - Article documenting material concerning eighteen factory struggles in Delhi’s industrial belt between early 2014 and mid-2015.
- Flint 1936-7: Diary of a sitdowner - Diary of a striking General Motors workers who occupied their factory during the sit-down strike of 1936-1937.
- The American worker - Great pamphlet from 1947 by Phil Singer and Grace Lee Boggs about life working in an auto plant.
- Organising at Fiat, 1969 - Speech by a worker from the Fiat Mirafiori plant outlining workers' organising efforts and lessons learned in the militant struggles running up to the hot autumn of 1969.
- An interview with workers at Fiat, 1970 - Three workers from FIAT Mirafiori in Italy describe the experiences of the Southern immigrant coming to work in the industrial cities of the North.
- Datsun: hell's battlefield - 1974 text by labour organiser Matsuo Kei about the condition of workers in Japanese Nissan plants.
- Anatomy of an industrial struggle: Chrysler factory at Tonsley Park in Adelaide 1976-1978 – A worker’s account of two years of struggle at an Australian Chrysler plant, including a detailed look at the role of the union.
- An account of car factory sabotage - A brief account of sabotage at a car manufacturers in Detroit by Eugene, a carburator assembler.
Managing the industry
- The red rose of Nissan - John Holloway - Following the opening of a new Nissan factory in Sunderland in 1986, John Holloway analyses changes in the British car industry over the previous two decades, in particular how workers' organisation at British Leyland was broken up to usher in a new age of "harmony" and increased exploitation.
- Workers' struggles and the development of Ford in Britain - Ferruccio Gambino – Interesting pamphlet looking at how the struggle between workers and bosses at British Ford factories shaped the company’s management strategies and development.
- [URL=https://libcom.org/library/solidarity-motor-bulletin-08-chrysler-workers-beware] Chrysler workers beware! - Excellent Solidarity pamphlet from ex-ex-about struggles of Peugeot workers in France in the 60s and 70s and how management tried to contain them with paternalism and later a mercenary force.
- The union-management GM strike, 1970 - Jeremy Brecher - A brief history of the interesting national strike of the United Auto Workers union at General Motors, organised in conjunction with management to allow workers to blow off steam.
- UAW scab union - auto industry bulletin from 1974 looking at the UAW union and how it was sabotaging and scabbing on struggles of its members at the time.
- 1980s-1990s: The Myths of the Toyota System - Nomura Masami - The myths of the Toyota system of management in the car industry, such as increased worker participation and ‘Just In Time’ production.
- The Second Industrialization of the American South - Will Barnes - Essay detailing the deindustrialization and relocation of global auto capital to the US South.
Other recommended texts
- Akron rubber workers' struggles, 1933-1936 - Jeremy Brecher - Account of rubber workers’ struggles in Akron, Ohio, centre of the American rubber industry, who, growing disillusioned with their unions inability to improve their situation, developed the sitdown strike.
- The 1934 Toledo Auto Lite strike - Ted Selander - One of the most important strikes in American history, remembered for its mass pickets and running battles between strikers and police/National Guard, recounted by a participant.
- What happened at Fords? - a detailed critical analysis of workers' defeat in a dispute at the Ford Dagenham plant in 1962-3.
- I love yellow monitors! The wildcat strike in Hyundai factory in Czech - An analysis of a wildcat work stoppage in Hyundai factory in Czech in December 2009 and its context.
- Rivethead - Ben Hamper – Novel written by an American car factory worker during shifts on the shop floor, Rivethead details the down and out memoirs of a line assembly worker for GM Motors over the 1980s.
- We Want Everything: A Novel - Nanni Balestrini - Nanni Balestrini’s fictionalized account of the Hot Autumn, in which a young worker from Italy’s impoverished south arrives at Fiat’s Mirafiori factory in Turin, where he finds himself in conflict with the bosses and the entire capitalist system.
- Images from 1934 Autolite strike – Photo gallery of one of the most important and dramatic strikes in US history.
- 1932: the Ford Hunger March massacre – Photo gallery of an autoworkers’ demonstration in Detroit, where police and Ford security guards killed 4 and injured 60 when they opened fire on a protest organized by the Communist Party USA's Unemployed Council.
- Blue Collar – American crime drama starring Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor as two Detroit autoworkers who rob their corrupt union, finding themselves in conflict with both union and management.
- The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La Classe Operaio Va in Paradiso) – Fantastic Italian film from 1971 depicting a car factory worker’s radicalisation after an injury at work, resisting his condition as a tool in the production process and, as a result, the politics of the trade unions.
- Made in Dagenham – Film about the 1968 Ford sewing machinists’ strike by women workers in protest at the company’s sexual discrimination and demanding equal pay.