|Paul Wellstone and Workers from the Mexico City Ford Plant|
Facts For Working People (FFWP) Conference Call. Saturday November 4th. 2017.
The FFWP Conference Call on November 4th focused mostly on the recent development in the Duluth Labor Body (Duluth Minnesota). This Council recently passed the resolution below. We are urging all union members to get support in your locals for this resolution or if not in a union send support in the form of letter or petitions to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asking him to act. FFWP is also filing information related to this activity, resolutions, letters etc. and any details of the debate that took place or other relevant details. Hopefully there will be a coordinating committee arise out of this (read more below) In the meantime if you have relevant documents or questions to or if you want to participate in building support for this and come on our conference call this Saturday where it will be the first item on the agenda send us an email
Resolution Passed by the Duluth Labor Body
Whereas, workers in Ford Motor’s Mexico City Assembly Plant were involved in a series of labor disputes in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s resisting efforts to bring their wages and benefits down to the level of the new plants on the U.S. border and demanding democratic elections in their union. Many were kidnapped, beaten, shot and fired. One died from wounds received in the plant.
Whereas, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), a now defunct arm of the AFL-CIO was reputedly involved in these events and the AFL-CIO has sent the old records from this group to the University of Maryland, the official repository for AFL-CIO records.
Whereas, the University of Maryland has requested permission for a year to open new AIFLD records and archive them for researchers and has not received approval from the National AFL-CIO to do so.
Therefore, be it resolved, That the National AFL-CIO take the action necessary to allow archivists at the University of Maryland to open new American Institute for Free Labor Development records
This resolution calls for the opening of the files of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. (AFL - CIO) to any interested parties. Especially the files related to the work of the department of the AFL-CIO known as the American Institute for Free Labor Development. (AIFLD) It is well known that this arm of the US trade union leadership has worked with the US government and the US Central Intelligence Agency in suppressing trade union organizing and labor struggles internationally. The files of AFILD are sealed at Maryland University and the AFL-CIO leadership refuses to give permission for them to be unsealed.
Two US trade union activists, now retired, participated in the FFWP conference call. This was a great help. One of these trade union brothers, a former Ford worker in the US, had contact with one particular strike in Mexico. He related his experience and knowledge.
The US owned Ford Company had moved part of its production to Mexico over the years to reduce wages and benefits. As well as a Mexico City plant it opened plants on the Mexico/US border. It initially paid less wages to the workers on the border plants. The workers in the Mexico City plant voted for a union. There was a 61 day strike and 3,200 workers were fired. 2,500 were eventually rehired, but at wages and benefits down to the level of the Ford plants on the US/Mexico border. The workers who were rehired voted to organize into a union. They elected an executive board. This executive board was fired. Then this entire executive board was kidnapped. The workers occupied the plant demanding their release. 300 thugs wearing Ford uniforms attacked the workers who were occupying the plant. During this attack one worker was murdered and others injured. One reason to open the files is to see what if any role AIFLD had in the anti union violent activities at this plant.
It was the opinion of the conference call that organizing and getting Ford uniforms for 300 thugs could not have been done without significant outside help. Such developments as this have been and are common especially throughout the less industrially developed capitalist countries, especially throughout Mexico and Central America, where US corporations move to have access to cheaper labor, where they can impose dangerous working conditions and where they can pollute at will.
Stopping this kind of anti worker activity at US owned plants abroad or plants that supply US and European retailers is essential to improving the lives of working people in these countries. But it is also essential to strengthening the struggles of US workers to hold onto their jobs and gain higher wages and better conditions in the US. Solidarity between US workers and workers throughout these other countries is in the interest of all workers.
To this end, the Duluth (Minn) Labor Body is asking that the files of the AFL-CIO - AIFLD be opened and available for review by interested parties to see what part the US union leadership has played in the anti union activity of US corporations and all corporations abroad. FFWP has offered its resources to this objective. It also offered to contact workers and activists with whom it has connections to seek their support for this call of the Duluth Labor Body.
All present at this conference call, agreed to start work to get the call to open the files moved as resolutions in their unions and workplaces. Those on the call who were not presently in unions agreed to contact people whom they know in unions and seek to get these people to move the Duluth resolution. It was also agreed that if progress began to be made along these lines then it should be possible to gather together the information of what unions and/or workplaces took such a decision, make this information known and build upon this and hopefully at some stage help to form a coordinating committee to take this work forward.
Some other points were made in relation to this work. It is a time of surging demand for transparency on just about all fronts. From the call for all to be known about the goings on of Trump and the Trump Whitehouse and the politicians of the two big business parties, to the call for the exposure of the sexist assaults of the Hollywood capitalists and so-called stars, to the call for the exposure and confronting of the sexual abuse of the heads of major corporations, people want to see what has been and is going on. The US trade union leadership must not be exempt from this scrutiny. Their past and present activities must be available for all to see. The Duluth Labor Body leads the way. Open the files of the AFL-CIO - AIFLD. And there is no better time than this for Duluth to give this lead. It is the time of opening the files and opening the books as never before. It was noted that if the AFL-CIO leadership at the time had nothing to hide why are they resisting the opening of the files. It was also noted that if the AFL-CIO leadership did nothing in relation to such strikes and anti worker attacks such as in Mexico City then they should have. They should have been organizing support. AFL-CIO leadership – Open the Files.
FFWP Blog, Think Tank and Conference Call requests that all workers take up the call to open the files in their union locals, and workplaces. Calling on the trade union leaders to open the files will not work unless there is a movement built in support of this demand in the rank and file and in the workplaces. If such a movement is built then cracks can be opened up in the trade union leadership and possibly individuals from within the leadership can be made to see that they should help. Along with this we live in the era or leaks and hacks and social media. If anything has been learnt over the past few years it is that no files, no documents, are sacrosanct.
There are people inside all organizations today who are disenchanted with how their lives are going, are disenchanted with the powers that be, whether the big business class, the big business politicians or the trade union leadership. A movement built in the rank and file of the unions and workplaces to open the AFL-CIO files can elicit support and action from such people. The time is right. And Maryland University is not immune to this worldwide phenomenon of people taking action to open and publicize secret files.
Also raised in the FFWP conference call discussion was the rise of many more people in all sorts of protest struggles, against the war on women, against police brutality and racism, against the destruction of the environment. There are growing left groups such as the Democratic Socialists of America. In the main these movements and organizations do not have a class analysis. Do not have an understanding of the importance of organizing in the workplaces. Do not have an understanding that fighting to change things will bring them into struggle with the conservative pro capitalist union leadership. The demand to open the AFL-CIO files is a very simple and justifiable demand. No reasonable working person can oppose it. It is a demand that can get support amongst the new rising movements. And it can be the first step to these movements’ understanding the role of the corporations and the role of the trade union leaderships in collaborating with these corporations.
This collaboration takes the form of the so-called Team Concept, the view that workers and employers have the same economic interests. In the workplaces this has taken the form of working with the owners of the corporations in Labor/Management teams, with names like Quality of Life Circles and Interest Based Bargaining. The Team Concept in politics takes the form of working with the big business parties, the corporations’ parties and refusing to use the resources of the 14 million strong trade unions to build a party of the working class.
It was stressed that FFWP wants to be part of the effort to open the files of the AFL-CIO. No grouping or organization should seek to dominate or control this effort. Such an approach would be sectarian and would damage such a struggle. FFWP wishes to provide its resources and work with others on the two simple demands. Open the files. And take this call into the rank and file of the trade unions and workplaces and move resolutions and organize actions along these lines. FFWP does not have many resources. But they are not insignificant. Close to 40,000 people viewed our Blog last month. These resources are at the disposable of this struggle to open the Files.
FFWP Conference Call did not have much time left after the discussion on the Duluth resolution. But as on every Conference Call we discussed the war against women and the rising of the women in the US and internationally to demand and end to their special oppression and to demand their place as equals in society. It was pointed out the women in the Miss Peru beauty pageant who refused to give the statistics of their bodies instead gave the statistics of the number of women murdered in the country.In Britain 40 top members of the ruling right win Tory party are being exposed as abusers. This may even wreck the Brexit talks on disengaging from the European Union. In France where there was a certain tolerance for men in power abusing women there is now a movement under the heading of “Squeal on the Pig”.
It was pointed out the need to raise within this rising women’s movement the need to organize in the workplaces into unions. The gap between women’s’ wages and men’s’ wages is less in workplaces where the workforce is unionized. Also rules are negotiated and can be enforced restricting abuse of women. The present women’s’ movements are mainly led by middle class and celebrity women and do not take up the need to unionize. This needs to be emphasized, as it is the way to combat the special oppression of women and the way to have the women’s struggle led by working class women who take up the economic issues of the special oppression of women.
There was a discussion about the role of the CIA and the international trade union movement and labor movement. How there was an effort on occasion by the ruling class and their agencies to portray this as just some conspiracy theory and in this way discredit this very history and activity of the CIA. It was noted that there are crazed conspiracy theory outfits and individuals, but that there are also conspiracies by the ruling classes. It was agreed that what was necessary was to separate the crazed nonsense of some conspiracy theories from the real conspiracies that take place. Also what was necessary was to give a class basis to conspiracies. What class was behind them? What purpose did the ruling classes use them for? In some cases they were used to discredit legitimate claims of ruling class conspiracies. In all cases they were used to try and depoliticize the US working class. Not see the class basis of events, just try and explain them away as conspiracies, or as actions by some nut case rather than as rooted in the class struggle and also in the crisis in society and in the role of imperialism worldwide.
As with all FFWP conference calls the discussion took its flights and twists and turns as it ended. Kicked around was the machismo in society and how it not only added to the special oppression of women but also how it as used to con men into working harder for the bosses. "I am a tough guy. See what I can do". Part of the divide and rule also, turning one gender against the other. Kicked around also was the mass culture of capitalism. The movies, the majority car chases, shootings, bombings, women as well as men now portrayed as shooting and bombing. In relation to car movies they even had one now called "Baby Driver". Next they will have a movie where the leading figure is a Chihuahua driving one of those high wheeled trucks and firing a rocket propelled grenade with his wee paw. Suggestions for decent movies and TV series were exchanged. These included Jimmy's Hall, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Silent Witness and others.
The Conference call ended with the shared feeling that some positive work had been done, some interesting ideas exchanged, we all learned a lot and a good time was had by all.