UAW scabs do bidding of US auto companies
9 November 2015The United Auto Workers is seeking to rush through a new contract on Ford workers and wrap up its months-long campaign to break the resistance of 140,000 US autoworkers and impose contracts dictated by the auto executives and Wall Street.
The UAW announced the Ford deal on Friday, even before the resolution of the vote by 53,000 General Motors workers on a similar agreement. A majority of skilled trades workers (59.5 percent) rejected the UAW-backed arrangement, while it was ratified, according to the UAW, by a narrow margin (55 percent) of production and skilled workers combined. To impose a contract after such a split vote is a violation of the UAW’s constitutional bylaws, but it had no problem running roughshod over Fiat Chrysler workers’ rights during similar circumstances in 2011.
Like the Fiat Chrysler and GM deals before it, the Ford agreement paves the way for the establishment of a permanently lower pay and benefit scale in the auto industry after the UAW colludes in driving out older, higher paid workers through speedup, victimization and supposed voluntary retirements.
Far from eliminating the hated two-tier wage and benefit system—the major demand of workers—the contracts will give the auto bosses free rein to introduce a third-, fourth- and fifth-tier of temporary and contract workers earning poverty level wages, inferior pensions and health care. Meanwhile, the insulting 1.5 percent annual wage increases for traditional workers will leave them with a two-decade decline in real wages of 25 percent by 2019.
The auto companies are already reaping record profits and a staggering 10+ percent profit margin in the US after the deals in 2007, 2009 and 2011, which reduced per vehicle costs by more than half. However, the money-mad speculators on Wall Street want even more, and the UAW, which owns a substantial portion of the automakers’ stocks, has been more than eager to comply.
The “transformative” character of the contracts goes beyond wages, however. After dumping their retiree health care benefits into a UAW-controlled trust, which promptly slashed medical coverage for hundreds of thousands of retirees and their dependents, the new agreement will slash the coverage of current workers. This has been worked out in conjunction with the Obama administration, which wants to shift the cost of health care from the employers to the backs of workers who are already making barely subsistence wages.
Throughout the course of the contract battle, the UAW has proven not to be a “trade union” or “labor organization” in any sense that workers traditionally understand such terms. Instead, it has functioned as a corporate-labor syndicate and an industrial police force for management, thoroughly hostile to the needs and interests of the workers it falsely claims to represent.
At every stage the UAW has kept information from workers and lied to them, using threats and economic blackmail to beat back rank-and-file workers. UAW officials have unabashedly spouted the company line, insisting that the corporations have nothing more to give and that if workers press for any improvements then the companies will simply shut their factories and move to Mexico and other low-wage countries.
The UAW has transformed the strike from a weapon of workers against the corporations into a weapon against the working class. If workers rejected the contracts, like the Fiat Chrysler workers did last month, the UAW would be forced to call a strike, UAW officials threatened, which would leave workers on the picket lines for weeks or months with only $220 a week from the UAW’s $600 million strike fund. Autoworkers would receive no public support, the UAW insisted, and in the end they would be forced to settle for even less.
The UAW hired a New York City public relations firm to sell its lies to workers, while during ratification votes it made workers run the gauntlet of local union functionaries who denounced them as “greedy” and “stupid” if they were planning to vote against the deal. As for the final vote counts, the UAW is more than ready to rig them to get the “right” result.
When the unions, despite their pro-capitalist leadership, still increased or at least protected the income of workers from diminution they could be termed “workers organizations.” But as Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Fourth International, explained in 1937, should the labor leaders “defend the income of the bourgeoisie from attacks on the part of the workers; should they conduct a struggle against strikes, against the rising of wages, against help to the unemployed; then we would have an organization of scabs, not a trade union.”
This is a description of the UAW, the AFL-CIO and the Coalition to Win organizations to a tee. They do not unite workers but divide them. They are hostile to the class struggle and socialism and endlessly preach “class harmony” while the capitalist class wages a relentless war against the working class. In the factories, the UAW ignores the grievances of workers, enforces speedup, and oversees a dictatorial regime that resembles the darkest days of industrial slavery in the early twentieth century.
Whatever the outcome of the Ford vote—and workers should reject it with the contempt that it deserves—the outcome of the 2015 contract battle will be a further discrediting of the UAW. It is also an exposure of the numerous pseudo-left groups that insist on the organizational dominance of the “unions” and denounce as illegitimate any efforts by workers to rebel against their authority.
The transformation of the UAW and other unions into the tools of management—which is not just an American but international phenomenon—is the result not simply of the perfidy of the corrupt and bureaucratic officials who control them. It is rooted in the failure of the pro-capitalist and nationalist program of these organizations and their political subordination of the working class to the Democratic Party.
The long-term decline of American capitalism and the growth of transnational production pulled the rug from underneath these organizations. They responded to by embracing corporatist “labor-management partnerships” and transforming from entities that pressured management for concessions into organizations that spared no effort to destroy the jobs and living standards of workers to make the corporations more profitable.
There is immense opposition and a desire by workers to fight. The fact that the UAW has had such difficulty in getting these sellout agreements through, despite the relentless propaganda campaign backed by the corporate media, is an expression of the mass opposition not just of autoworkers, but the entire working class.
The class struggle is beginning to emerge into the open The aspirations of workers to secure their most elemental rights—for decent paying and secure jobs, for safe and humane working conditions, to collectively organize to defend their interests—will find an independent expression.
As the World Socialist Web Site and its Autoworker Newsletter has advocated, workers must form their own organizations that are democratically elected and controlled by rank-and-file workers themselves. The establishment of genuinely representative factory committees, based on the methods of the class struggle not subordination to the dictates of the capitalist system, will prove to be a powerful weapon for the working class.
Nothing has ever been won by workers outside of mobilizing their strength against the corporations and their political servants. Today vast sums of society’s wealth—created by the collective labor of workers all over the world—are monopolized by the super-rich few and squandered on war and other socially destructive purposes. That is why the struggle to secure the social rights of the working class is above all a political struggle, which can only be resolved when the working class take the reins of economic and political power in its own hands.
Income inequality grows FOUR TIMES FASTER under Obama than Bush... Is that news to you???
Never have the rich increased their wealth so quickly as in America since the financial crash of 2008. But side by side with the amassing of previously unthinkable private fortunes, the infrastructure of America is crumbling, education, health care and other social services are starved of funding, and the living standards of the vast majority of the population, the working people who produce the wealth, are declining.
“All of Obama’s policies have been geared toward increasing social inequality. … The claim that the health care overhaul is an oasis of progress in this desert of social reaction is simply a lie”—
Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began November 1 for plans taking effect January 1. The coming year will be the third in which the ACA, signed into law by President Obama in March 2010, will be operational. The World Socialist Web Site’s assessment five years ago that the “reform” commonly known as Obamacare would usher in a frontal assault on the health care available to working people is being richly confirmed.
The ACA has nothing in common with universal health care. That was merely the slogan initially advanced to disguise a corporate-designed scheme to dramatically shift health care costs onto the working class.
The central component of the scheme, the “individual mandate,” requires that individuals and families without health insurance through their employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid obtain insurance or pay a tax penalty. Low-income people can qualify for modest tax subsidies to go toward premiums.
The uninsured are required to purchase coverage from private, for-profit insurance companies on the health care “exchanges” set up under the law. This vastly increases the market for private insurance firms without placing any real restraints on the prices they charge—a formula for windfall profits.
By the government’s own forecast, enrollees will face a 7.5 percent average premium rate increase in 2016. Other sources project rate hikes in excess of 20 percent. A recent study showed that many insurers are requesting double-digit rate increases next year and state insurance commissions are approving them.
A frenzy of mergers in the health care industry will fuel further premium increases. In the space of a few weeks in July, Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. merged in a $37 billion deal, and Anthem Inc. agreed to acquire Cigna Corp. for $54 billion. As a result, the five largest health insurers in the US were consolidated into three.
Drug makers Allergan and Pfizer are in the advanced stages of talks to merge and form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, valued at $330 billion. The price of top brand name prescription drugs are already surging, having increased by 12.9 percent in 2013, the last year for which data is available.
Last week the giant drug store chain Walgreens announced a deal to take over one of its main competitors, Rite Aid, creating a mega-chain to compete with CVS for total domination of the market.
Premiums and drug costs are only one aspect of the burden to be borne by those purchasing coverage under the ACA. The average deductible for the lowest tier “bronze” plans on the exchanges was $5,200 in 2015, and the prevalence of such “high-deductible” plans is sure to expand in 2016. This means that aside from mandated “essential services,” such as certain forms of wellness care and screenings, no medical care is covered until the entire deductible is paid out of pocket. Co-payments for doctor visits and other services are also required.
Research published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 135 health plans in 34 state marketplaces available during last year’s open enrollment period. The study found that as of April 2015, 18 plans in nine states lacked in-network specialists for at least one specialty. These included obstetricians/gynecologists, dermatologists, cardiologists, psychiatrists, oncologists, neurologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists and pulmonologists.
What all of this means is that a substantial portion of the 12 million people who have purchased coverage on the health care exchanges will be forced to self-ration medical care due to economic necessity. Workers and their children will forego doctor visits, prescriptions for life-saving medicines will go unfilled, needless suffering and deaths will occur.
This appalling state of affairs is not an unfortunate byproduct of the ACA. By design from its inception, the legislation has been crafted to cut costs for the government and corporations and boost the profits of the health insurers, pharmaceutical corporations and health care chains.
According to the big business parties and their corporate sponsors, Americans are living too long and health care costs are sucking up too much of the national wealth. There is a calculated drive to lower life expectancy for working people.
That is why the introduction of Obamacare has been accompanied by a concerted drive to restrict access to basic medical tests—that is, to ration health care for workers. In recent months, official bodies have called for reducing or delaying mammograms, pap smears, prostate tests and other standard screening procedures.
One indication of the catastrophic implications of the assault on health care is a recent study showing that since 1998, the death rate for middle-income white Americans age 45-54 has risen sharply, resulting in half a million deaths, comparable to the 650,000 Americans who have lost their lives from AIDS since 1981. Researchers point to suicides and substance abuse, driven by increasing financial stress, as the main contributing factors. The ACA will only increase the number of such tragedies.
The implications of Obamacare go far beyond those buying insurance on the ACA exchanges and extend to all segments of health care. The legislation is serving as a model for the assault on employer-sponsored health care coverage as well as the bedrock government-run programs Social Security and Medicare.
Today, approximately half of all Americans receive their health care coverage through their employers. Employer-paid health benefits was an important social gain wrested from the corporations by the struggles of workers in the aftermath of World War II and has been central in raising the living standards of working class families.
But the workings of Obamacare aim to destroy these gains. As Ezekiel Emanuel, a close ally of Obama and key architect of the ACA, predicted in 2009: “By 2025, few private-sector employers will still be providing health insurance.” These plans will give way to vouchers handed out to employees to purchase coverage on insurance exchanges, either those set up under the ACA or others.
In the current contract struggle of US autoworkers, the drive by the auto companies and their union partners to dismantle the “cradle-to-grave” medical coverage won by autoworkers and retirees is in line with the Obama administration’s policy of shifting health care costs to workers.
The recent budget deal between Obama and congressional Republicans rolls back a significant provision in the ACA, the requirement that businesses with more than 200 workers automatically enroll their employees for health insurance. And while employers are basically absolved of responsibility for providing insurance, fines for individuals for not obtaining insurance will rise substantially in 2016—to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is higher.
Paul Ryan, the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives, has advocated transforming Medicare into a voucher program and partially privatizing Social Security. That he is now presented as a “moderate” unifying force by the ruling elite and the media is an indication of how far to the right the political establishment in America has veered. The foundations are already being laid for the dismantling of Medicare and Social Security.
As the real content of Obamacare becomes clear to millions of workers and middle class people, who suddenly discover that they cannot get access to drugs or doctors and standard medical procedures are no longer covered by their insurance plans, there will be an explosive growth of social opposition.
The third year of the Affordable Care Act is the occasion to call the reactionary legislation by its rightful name: a health care counterrevolution. The only rational and progressive solution to the health care crisis in America is to replace the privately owned and controlled system with socialized medicine, in which the health care industry is nationalized, restructured, and placed under the democratic control of a workers government. This will make possible the provision of quality health care for all as a basic social right.
Wealth of America’s super-rich grows to $2.34 trillion
By Nick Barrickman
3 October 2015
Richest one percent
controls nearly half of global wealth
it’s been in the 33 years that Forbes has
racked American wealth.” Forbes makes note
that the wealth threshold was so high this year that 145 billionaires failed to make the list.
employees. Bezos joins several others in the top 15 notorious
for low-wage exploitation, including four heirs to the Wal-
Mart retail empire, James, Alice, Christy and Samuel Robson
Walton, and Phil Knight, chairman of Nike Inc., whose $24.4
billion fortune is extracted from his international network of
sports apparel-producing sweatshops.