Wednesday, October 7, 2015

UAW: Williams and Marchionne will try to force a deal on ranks.

Williams and Marchionne: good buddies
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired.

UAW members at Chrysler overwhelmingly rejected the contract the UAW leadership brought back to them (see previous blog) and as usual, the  labor officialdom, disconnected as they are from the members whose hard earned dues money pays their obscene salaries, blames outside agitators for the “no” vote.

Taking a cue from the bosses and without realizing what an insult to his members it is, UAW president Dennis Williams issued a statement after the vote assuring the rank and file that their voices were heard. He adds,  “Finally, outside groups like to stir people up. You, our members need to make decisions based on what’s best for you and your families. No one else has to pay the price of a strike. No one else will lose a paycheck or a home.”

After years of concessions handed to the auto bosses by people like Dennis Williams and his predecessors, autoworkers don’t need “outside groups” to stir them up.  What a contemptible bunch the labor hierarchy is. I will agree with Williams that there are two groups that are stirring up my sisters and brothers in the auto plants, one, an outside one, any worker recognizes and that is the boss. The other works from the inside ands that is the present clique that heads organized labor, the UAW and all the unions, people like Dennis Williams.

Williams takes a page from the bosses’ handbook when he blames outside agitators for influencing workers to reject a deal that is not in their self-interest to accept. US foreign policy is based on the fear that forces outside of ourselves are all out to destroy us, al Qaeda, ISIS, Somali war lords, African Bees, you name it. As a writer pointed out on this blog last week, we don’t need to fear foreigners are out to kill us, Americans do a good job of killing other Americans.

In his statement below Williams says of healthcare: “We DO NOT want another VEBA or a Taft-Hartley for active auto members. We believe that healthcare should be provided by the employer.”  Health care should be provided by the state and it should be free on demand.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Williams intends to “….explore the willingness of Fiat Chrysler Chief Sergio Marchionne to sweeten previous offers in the tentative agreement that was overwhelmingly rejected by union members last week…”

And what is he suggesting?  He hopes he can convince Marchionne through wile and crafty talk no doubt, to increase the $3000 signing bonus “…promised to Chrysler’s 37,000 members.”  Kudos to the Chrysler workers for rejecting that contract.  Signing bonuses are bribes. What we want to accept in a contract is an improved standard of living for ourselves and our children and future generations.  One time signing bonuses do not compound over time.

So many workers I have talked to over the years and an argument I always countered when my co-workers raised it with me is that the labor hierarchy, people like Williams are corrupt, are “taking bribes” etc.  It is not that they are corrupt although there is obviously corruption in the labor movement at the top as corruption is endemic in capitalist society.

The main problem and the reason they lie and deceive, that they control the union through bureaucratic measures and constantly tell us what we can’t do rather than what we can if we organize, is that they are ideologically corrupt. They accept that the market is the answer to all things; that the boss must make profit and without the bosses and the private sector owning industries like auto, there will be no work. They reject any statement or policy that might raise our expectations or give us a sense of our real power.  They are terrified of a victory because it will inspire us and millions of other workers who have suffered after decades of attacks and declining living standards. A powerful movement from below will threaten the comfortable relationship the labor officialdom has built with bosses like Sergio Marchionne based on labor peace.

That the bosses and the labor hierarchy are both against the worker and rank and file union members---------are on the same team ideologically-------- is clear.  We don’t simply feel it in lower wages, increased workloads and a general decline in living standards, they admit it.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the UAW Ford negotiations in Kansas City at a Ford pickup truck plant there.  Members were prepared to walk off the job Friday apparently but “I think we have reached an agreement that our members will be proud of”, Todd Hillyard, president of the local there told the WSJ.

As is often the case, the corporation, in this case, Ford, made a statement in response to Hillyard that, “Working with our UAW partners we have resolved the open items at Kansas City….” (My added emphasis). That statement explains it all. One doesn’t need to be an economist or so-called labor expert to recognize that over the past decades UAW members, like all workers, have seen their living standards decline in the face of the assault on them by the auto bosses and their junior partners at Solidarity House. In the case of the Cleveland Five, the leaders of the UAW local representing workers at the Freightliner plant in Cleveland North Carolina, the UAW heads collaborated with management in terminating militant rank and file leaders.

I am away from home in the beautiful California Redwoods at the moment and had to travel a considerable distance to get access to the developments in the auto talks so I hope this commentary is clear enough as I’m in a hurry.  But while the rejection of a contract is a first step in firing one back at ‘em. Workers can be confident that Fiat Chrysler management and Williams and co are working to get the deal past on management’s terms.  There is an opportunity here.

As I pointed out in a previous piece on this issue 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 demand. 

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 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, 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 as 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.  In auto, as I wrote the other day, reaching out to the non-union plants is crucial, returning to master agreements is also important.  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.

Autoworkers were once the benchmark for entry in what we call the middle class in this country. With the cooperation of the labor hierarchy the bosses have changed that. We have the power in this industry alone to stop the US economy from functioning. With the correct approach we can also draw to organized labor’s struggles all those workers who have lost their jobs, lost their homes, are buried in debt, are victims of racism, sexism and police abuse, are opposed to the destruction of the environment that we love to hunt, fish and simply immerse ourselves in.  Despite the low unionization rate we are still potentially the most powerful force in the US.  The docks, transportation, communications, these are all organized, this is potential power. Let’s use it.

But we can’t be passive sit back and let someone else run the show dues payers. We’re in a war here. Part of that war is dislodging the stifling pro-market bureaucracy that has its hands on the steering wheel.

Here is an interview with a Chrysler worker we did some years ago when a contract that the leadership supported was rejected.

Here is Williams’ statement from Monday:

Full text of UAW president Williams' statement:

Brothers & Sisters,

You have spoken and we heard you. We have been listening to your issues and concerns through your local union leadership.

We have real challenges. We all know that without investment and product there is no true job security. For someone to suggest we endorse products going to Mexico is just nonsense. We have been fighting NAFTA and other trade agreements every day and are still fighting.

We know that health care is a challenge because of the rising cost of medical and pharmaceutical benefits. We have always fought to keep from paying premiums and we will continue to do so.

We DO NOT want another VEBA or a Taft-Hartley for active auto members. We believe that healthcare should be provided by the employer.

What we do want is to find a way to use our collective numbers and knowledge to be ahead of healthcare inflation rather than to just wait for insurance and pharmaceutical companies to simply hand over a bill to fill their own pockets. That’s why we wanted to create an opportunity to work together, using centers of excellence, giving members a real choice for their families without passing on cost.

Finally, outside groups like to stir people up. You, our members need to make decisions based on what’s best for you and your families. No one else has to pay the price of a strike. No one else will lose a paycheck or a home.

We met with the UAW-FCA local union leadership at great length and are fighting to address your issues taking everything into consideration with all the challenges.

Our responsibility is to you, the membership. We are going to continue to bargain on your behalf. We are also going to tell the whole story. This is a very serious situation. I ask that you get the facts as we continue to address your issues. Over the next several days we will be posting more facts and explanations, hoping to get these facts into your hands. Please keep checking and the UAW International Union Facebook page for updates.

In Solidarity,


Thanks to Stan S for sending Facts For Working People this.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Thank you Richard for this very good article. I would like to raise one issue. Voting the contract down is very good. But this leaves it in the hands of management and the union bureaucracy to come back with another contract. We all know this will also contain concessions. This is so because both the bosses and the union bureaucracy believe in the team so called concept and also believe that the bosses must be allowed to make a profit. I feel that the next step after rejecting this contract is to get the battle out of the hands of the union bureaucracy. Would it not be possible for the union membership to come together in their workplaces, and come together throughout the entire company in a mass gathering and in this way come up with a proposed contract and mass direct strike action to win this contract. This contract to contain no concessions of any kind and in fact make up for what was taken away over the last years. Such a mobilization should push aside the union leadership[. let them have the same rights of any member. The same time to speak at a meeting on the shop floor, the same time to speak at a mass gathering throughout the entire company workforce. This union leadership will choke any movement of the members. It must be set aside. Mass direct action is needed. Take a leaf out of the page of the Air France workers if necessary. they physically attacked the management and tore the clothes of their back and chased them out of negotiations. See the article and video on this on this Blog. The offensive of the bosses will not be stopped by the union bureaucracy. The bureaucracy must be pushed aside and the rank and file union membership must elect a new fighting leadership. Call mass meetings in every plant now. Elect new leaders in every plant now. Existing leaderships should be disqualified from running for positions. they have proven themselves unable to lead. They have proven themselves to only be capable of making concessions to the bosses. If there is the odd exception to this the workers in the plant will know and make this exception but overall an entirely new leadership has to be put in place. While doing so the wages and benefits of the existing leadership must be immediately looked at and reduced to that of the membership and as part of this the big salaries that these union leaders paid themselves which were over and are over that of the average membership muster be repaid into the union. this will help with the strike fund. Sean O'Torain.