Monday, October 19, 2015

Scandal as UAW leadership turns to social media in their war on members.

Partners: Fiat boss Marchionne and Obama
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

In a period in which the 1% and its allies at the top of the UAW have waged a joint austerity war against the folks who make the autos and pay the salaries of the labor officialdom, the UAW bureaucracy has revealed that nothing less than dislodging these class traitors from their position will do.

UAW president Dennis Williams and the clique that backs him has hired a Public Relations firm to convince his UAW members to vote yes on the most recent concessionary deal the leadership has negotiated with Fiat/Chrysler. Fiat/Chrysler members voted against the previous attempt to push a concessionary contract through by a two thirds majority.

Williams and co have also launched a “social media blitz” as the Wall Street Journal puts it in order to “help sell the deal,”. The PR firm BerlinRosen of New York, will also “…help hone the social-media strategy, including advising on how to present postings and when.”

The Wall Street Journal as the major journal of US finance capital, and the UAW leadership, are blaming the failure to get the last contract passed on a lack of communication.  But this is not the case. The UAW leadership blamed the previous no vote on “outside” agitators but the Fiat/Chrysler workers voted the last contract down because they saw what it was and didn’t like it.  The method of the labor officialdom is to use their control of the union apparatus to confuse and disorient and they’ve stepped up this tactic with the help of a major big business marketing firm.

Adding insult to injury, Williams and co are paying BerlinRosen with their members’ dues money. These people are criminals. “I’m definitely against them using our money to pay for the PR firm,” Marcelina Pedraza, a 40 years old Fiat/Chrysler worker who says she will vote no on the present deal, told the WSJ, “I mean, we can all read.........And how hard is it for the union to do that work?  It does, “…..nothing but shuffle things around from what we were offered before.”

A major problem with the new deal is the company’s demand to use more temporary workers, “which many UAW members view as a threat to job security…” the Journal adds.  The workers are right about that, they don’t need a PR firm paid for with their own dues money to explain it.  Gregg Shotwell gives a more detailed account of the negatives of this contract in his article here.

Dennis Williams promised the bosses that all would be well.  The last no vote undermined him as a union official and he desperately needs to get the new deal through or his credibility with the bosses’ (he doesn’t care as much about the members) will be shot. The present clique atop organized labor sees the unions as employment agencies with them as the CEO’s. Williams also has to rectify this present situation to stay in the business and as the WSJ points out, “Another defeat could revive momentum for a strike….”

Williams’ woes will get much worse if this latest con is voted down and a strike occurs. The anger beneath the surface of US society is so great, and the autoworkers have suffered years of setbacks, that even an industry wide walk out could erupt. Things could get out of the bureaucracy’s control which would upset the auto bosses. American workers need only study our own history to understand that potential.   “Mr. Williams has been careful to promise each contract will reflect auto makers’ differing financial fortunes.” the Wall Street Journal points out which further reveals how completely bankrupt Williams and the UAW officialdom are. But they are not alone. The entire national union hierarchy puts the bosses’ interests first.

The present leadership has to be removed. We cannot simply remove them through recalls or by electing more of the same, as in the main, it is their policies and approach that is the problem. Nothing will change if any alternative leadership that replaces them doesn’t reject the Team Concept and bring with it a fighting anti-austerity, anti-cuts approach with demands that speak to what workers (including future workers) need rather that what the bosses’ want.  And a leadership has to be prepared to use the power of the membership to win those demands. 

We must build rank and file power first on the shop floor, in our places of work as that is where our power is most concentrated. Through workplace committees we can reach out to our communities and in fact help build community committees that can fight on and off the job, where we live and where we work. 

Defensive battles are not sufficient, the likes of Williams call these “victories” but these are simply defeats that allow us to go backwards a little slower. We owe it to the young people to fight for them as well and not leave them with half a job, a sort of  “I’ve got mine and I’m outa here approach.” The average worker knows this is not good, but the bosses’ will always offer it to us because they know the union leadership will not oppose it, it is a good deal for them as they get away with doing nothing. But it makes solidarity and unity harder on the job as new hires are the ones that get screwed.

We can take control of our unions if we start where our power is most concentrated, the shop floor/workplace.  I am retired and also not an autoworker. But we are all in the same boat, not just organized workers but the unorganized as well.  Most of us aren’t in unions and we must rectify that. We want jobs, not temporary positions. 

The anger that must exist among the ranks and Fiat/Chrysler must surely be present at Ford and GM. The union hierarchy’s strategy of negotiating with them separately isolating one group of workers from another is designed to fail. This anger must be organized and an industry wide movement against concessions built. Workers at GM and Ford and especially the unorganized workers in the Southern plants must be approached.

I feel confident that the rejection of organizing drives in the South is more due to the complete inadequacy of the bureaucracy’s approach rather than a hostility to unionism. These workers see what the organized UAW members have to deal with and do not see it as such an advantage.

There is one final and very important point I would like to make about these developments and that is the use of social media. I do not believe social media can replace mass action, but it is a great organizing tool. It spurred the Arab spring and it is being used by the union hierarchy and the bosses to impose their austerity agenda on the American working class.   

The bosses and their agents atop organized labor are making social media theirs. We must not lag.  We must make social media ours. 

If the auto bosses claim poverty we demand the taking in to public ownership of the auto industry. The US government nationalized the US auto industry after the Great Recession. Their media used the less threatening term, "Conservatorship".  We reject the blackmail of the auto bosses that profits can't be made so jobs will be eliminated.  If the private sector doesn't provide decent employment, and it doesn't, then the public sector (using the wealth we create) will. 

* Read more on the UAW by going to the UAW label on the right.

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