Shawn Fain, the American trade unionist who stands up to car manufacturers

President of an automobile union, this ex-electrician triggered an unprecedented strike against the big firms in the sector.

Shawn Fain became the spokesperson for the demands of American auto workers
Shawn Fain became the spokesperson for the demands of American auto workers

Ford, General Motors, Chrysler. He wants to pin them all. Shawn Fain, a 54-year-old former electrician, seems to be establishing himself as a real figure in the union movement in the United States, as reported by Courrier International. The Wall Street Journal even described him as the man who keeps Detroit on its toes. At the head of the United Auto Workers (UAW), the American automobile union, for six months, Fain has launched an unprecedented strike uprising against the big automobile manufacturing firms.

His strategy? Sow “chaos” to surprise both the thinking heads of big companies and the decision-makers at the White House. Where his predecessors could allow themselves to be corrupted, Fain chose “to turn his back on the CEOs,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Worse, Shawn Fain designates “multi-billion dollar firms” as the real enemies of the UAW.

Break with union tradition

Fain has an atypical profile, including within the UAW itself. Unlike his predecessors at the head of the union, he was not appointed by local leaders but by the activists themselves. A former electrician at Chrysler – a company where his grandfather himself started almost 90 years ago – he rose through the ranks within the auto workers movement. Declaring himself “frustrated” by the negotiation policy of the UAW leaders, he chose to get involved.

Now, the activist wants to see large-scale change. Among its demands: a 46% increase in wages over the next four years and a move to a 32-hour week worked. And to do this, Shawn Fain wants to influence politics. Not by presenting yourself, but by adopting a radically different style. Thus, contrary to union tradition, he did not speak out for the re-election of Joe Biden. The American president, who supported the strikers’ movement, will have to adopt “actions, not words” in Fain’s own words, to hope for support from the UAW.

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