"Chairman of the DNC Keith Ellison was even spotted wearing a shirt stating, "I don't believe in borders" written in Spanish...According to a new CBS news poll, 63 percent of Americans in competitive congressional districts think those crossing illegally should be immediately deported or arrested. Their endgame is open borders, which has become evident over the last eight years. Don't for one second let them convince you otherwise." Evan Berryhill Twitter @EvBerryhill.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
ANGER! CATERPILLAR WORKERS OUTRAGED AT UAW BETRAYAL!
react with anger, suspicion to UAW contract ratification
By Marcus Day
29 March 2017
Workers have reacted with anger and suspicion to
the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) announcement Monday afternoon that Caterpillar
workers ratified a new six-year contract with the transnational construction
and mining equipment maker. The announcement came after an unprecedented delay
of nearly a day following the vote, despite workers being told that the results
would be available later in the evening Sunday. The union has offered no
explanation for the delay.
The agreement, worked
out by the UAW and Caterpillar after weeks of secret negotiations, faced widespread
opposition from workers and was denounced by many as a sellout.
The union sought to overcome opposition by keeping the contents of the whole
deal concealed, only releasing misleading “highlights” a few days before the
vote. However, even the highlights revealed that the contract freezes the wages
for older workers, includes increased out-of-pocket health care costs, and
sanctions new jobs losses like the closure of the Aurora, Illinois plant that
will cut 800 jobs.
The same day the ratification was announced,
Caterpillar revealed that it was continuing its global attack on jobs apace,
stating that plans for the shutdown of its plant in Charleroi, Belgium had been
finalized. The closure of the factory, which has operated for over 50 years,
will throw some 2,000 workers onto the unemployment lines, adding to the more
than 16,000 job cuts the company has carried out around the world since 2015.
The new contract will cover 5,000 UAW members at
11 facilities in Illinois and Pennsylvania. This number is down by nearly half
since the last contract in 2011.
The UAW did not release any vote totals in its
statement on the results, writing only that “members at Caterpillar voted on
Sunday, March 26th, to ratify their tentative Central Agreement. All local
agreements have been ratified except UAW Local 974 Peoria.” That local, which
is the UAW’s largest at Caterpillar with several thousand workers in central
Illinois, posted on its web site that workers rejected the tentative agreement
by 55 percent. Local 974 officials did not release the actual vote totals
Workers in Peoria were told they would have to
vote again Saturday, April 1, on the local agreement, which will remain
unchanged even though they voted it down Sunday along with the national
If Peoria rejected the company-wide contract by
55 percent, the next largest locals would have had to substantially vote in
favor of the deal for it to have passed overall. Decatur and Aurora each employ
between 700-800 workers, out of a total of approximately 5,000 workers covered
by the UAW-Caterpillar contract.
No percentages or totals have been released for
Aurora, which is targeted for closure later this year. Workers at Decatur
reported that the UAW had announced that the vote was 60 percent in favor
Caterpillar executives quickly hailed the
passage of the deal Monday afternoon. Jon Ginzel, Caterpillar’s director of
labor relations, stated, “Overall, we are happy with today’s vote to ratify a
new six-year labor agreement, which provides competitive wages and benefits for
our employees and their families.”
In a pointed directive to UAW executives in
Detroit, Ginzel added, “We expect the UAW to work closely with the UAW Local
974 to achieve a ratified local contract shortly.”
Many workers took to social media following the
ratification announcement to denounce the outcome, with some changing their
profile pictures to show images of their “no” ballots. “All locals should have
voted this contract down,” wrote Frankie on the Facebook page of UAW Local 751
Others demanded to know the company-wide votes
and raised suspicions over the delay in announcing the results. “What were the
vote percentages, each local has a right to know how the voting turned out, to
leave the membership in the dark for 24 hours and not say one word about what
was going on doesn’t sit well with me,” wrote Gordy.
A worker from the smaller York, Pennsylvania
plant (the only remaining plant outside Illinois still covered by a UAW
agreement) pointed to intimidation tactics by the union in securing a “yes”
vote: “We had an 80% yes 20% no, with the total numbers coming in at 72 yes
votes and 18 no votes. Which wasn’t surprising to me sadly, considering the
majority of people questioning the contract were shouted down, browbeat, and
ridiculed. Good times.”
Workers who spoke with
the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter also questioned the legitimacy
of the vote and expressed opposition to the terms of the agreement.
“The union is clearly simply sending us back to
the polls until we get it right,” said Darren, a veteran worker in Peoria. “I
suspect the Local 974 margin was significantly against the contract and the
International won’t stand for such intransigence. I also expect the other
locals’ votes were, at best, close to defeat if not actually defeated and the
results falsified, which might explain the union’s unwillingness to share those
tallies as they might influence the ‘re-vote’ in Peoria.”
Darren referred to the use of lump-sum
incentives in lieu of base wage increases to entice workers to approve the
deal. “It surprises me that it would be that close. However, there are a lot of
older workers at the Mapleton Foundry with enough time to retire who would be
sorely tempted by the $10,000 retirement bonus. I didn’t get the impression the
younger ones were the least bit impressed with the $3,000 signing bonus.”
Other workers in Peoria denounced the deal and
expressed anger at having to vote again. “Just another sellout contract,” said
Bruce. “What’s the point of another vote? They already said it’s ratified.
Never seen this.”
A worker at the Decatur,
Illinois plant told the Autoworker Newsletter, “Well plant-wide
here is so pissed off. When I went to the [union] hall the Friday before asking
for a complete copy of the changes from old to new contract they claimed they
couldn’t provide that, but if I had a certain question I could ask and they
could help. So, I asked again regarding the labor laws saying they have to
provide [the agreement] and they said no one has that information. Only in the
“Personally, I don’t know what happened. The
committee that does the bargaining doesn’t count the votes, but then again, why
wait to release the results? They had the results at 6 p.m. Sunday.
“There was a moment in the Sunday meeting that
just literally about cleared the table. A gentleman my fellow coworkers call
Rambo went to the mic. He wanted a show of hands [from the local officials] on
who was voting for this contract and the reaction was hilarious. They looked
around at each other like school kids. ‘You raise your hand and I will.’ They
all did (bargaining committee only), the other people on the board would not raise
their hands because they knew it was a crap deal. The worst part was they felt
threatened by what our union brother did and sent the guards on him. That was
While UAW has collaborated with its “corporate
partners” since the late 1970s in forcing givebacks on workers, a definite
modus operandi has emerged since the 2015 contracts at Detroit’s Big Three
automakers and agricultural equipment maker Deere & Co. Contract
negotiations are typically preceded by company announcements of plant closures
or mass layoffs and declarations that “difficult market conditions” or
“international competition” even when companies are profitable, require a
further lowering of labor costs. The UAW uses this to browbeat workers
determined to recoup past concessions.
Ignoring overwhelming strike votes, the UAW
keeps workers in the dark and on the job by extending contract deadlines before
it announces a deal, which is generally only the “framework” of a contract, not
a real agreement. It then seeks to withhold any details on the deal, typically
only presenting to workers deceptive “highlights” just before voting. At
Caterpillar, it was a few days before the vote, and at Deere in 2015, not until
the vote itself.
The “union” seeks to further divide first-tier
and second-tier workers and then exploit the economic difficulties caused by
its own past betrayals by offering signing bonuses for workers to “sign” away
their futures. Voting is then carried out in an atmosphere of intimidation and
even when there is overwhelming and visible opposition, the union invariably
says the deal has passed. When workers make accusations of vote rigging and
demand a recount they are ignored.
Only after the contract is rammed through, the
UAW hopes, will workers discover the full extent of the attacks on their jobs,
wages and working conditions.
The universal secrecy, deceit and general
contempt for democratic process points inexorably to the fact that the UAW does
not function as a defender, even in a limited fashion, of workers’ needs.
Rather, as with the rest of the unions, it functions as management’s enforcer
and labor police force to suppress the resistance of workers to corporate
Under both big-business parties, workers have
seen their living standards erode for decades due to the treachery of these
anti-working class organizations, with a sharp acceleration of this process
under President Obama, who worked with the UAW to expand the two-tier system
and slash a new generation of autoworkers’ wages in half.
As the Caterpillar contract betrayal reveals,
the assault on workers will continue and increase under President Trump, who
has pledged to slash corporate taxes, eviscerate social programs, and lift all
restraints on corporate profit-making. Far from giving the UAW pause, it has
instead sought to form a de facto alliance with the billionaire president,
promising to support his reactionary “Buy American” nationalism, which pits American
workers against their brothers and sisters in other countries in a race to the
If workers are to halt the destruction of the
gains won over generations of struggle, a new strategy is needed, one that
opposes the corporatist and nationalist program of the UAW and other
company-controlled unions. In every factory and workplace workers should elect
rank-and-file committees, democratically controlled by workers themselves and
committed to fighting for the interests of workers, not the profits of the
These committees should establish lines of
communication with other sections of workers—at Deere, the auto companies, with
Illinois state workers, teachers and others, in the US and internationally—to
organize an industrial and political counteroffensive to defend workers’ social
rights to jobs, wages, pensions, health care, and more.
“I think it’s a set-up with the union and Caterpillar”
Caterpillar-UAW deal: Workers denounce information blackout
By Marcus Day and George Marlowe 21 March 2017
With less than a week before a March 26 contract ratification vote, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is maintaining an information blackout on the content of its tentative agreement with Caterpillar, the Peoria, Illinois-based construction and mining equipment giant.
The deal, announced last Wednesday, comes in the face of a growing determination by workers to fight against the relentless attacks on jobs and living standards, as evidenced by the 93 percent vote in favor of authorizing a strike. Despite this, the UAW ordered its members to continue working past the expiration of the previous contract on February 28.
The UAW is remaining silent because it does not
want rank-and-file workers to have time to study the
details of the deal and build up momentum to defeat
the latest union-backed sellout. Instead, the UAW
plans to release self-serving “highlights” just three
days before Sunday’s ratification meetings.
Anger among workers at both Caterpillar and the UAW has been simmering for years, particularly following the 2011 UAW-negotiated contract, and is now reaching a boiling point. Even though the company experienced near-record profitability at the time of the previous contract negotiations, it extracted massive concessions from workers through the connivance of the UAW, including a wage freeze for older workers and attacks on pensions and health care.
Caterpillar continued its brutal campaign of layoffs and plant closures over the weekend, announcing that it was closing a plant that employs 75 in Elkader, a small town of just 1,200 in northeastern Iowa. Janice Walkers, a company spokesperson, coldly noted, “The actions taken today will help optimize current and future manufacturing operations and leverage the existing support structure in order to make the best use of manufacturing capacity.” She added, “Caterpillar knows this is difficult for its employees and their families, but steps must be taken to position the company for long-term success.”
Reporters for the World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter recently spoke with workers at the Aurora, Illinois, Caterpillar plant in the outlying Chicago suburbs, and distributed the statement “UAW-Caterpillar deal: An anti-worker conspiracy.” The statement asserts that workers have the right to study the full contract—not just the marketing “highlights” cherry-picked by the UAW—and that they must have at least two weeks to discuss the document and organize opposition to the company’s demands.
“The thing is, we don’t know what’s going on,” said Mike, a worker with 12 years at the plant. “I think it’s a set-up with the union and Caterpillar. We got to go into the contract vote, and we don’t know what was offered, what Caterpillar turned down, what even the union brought up. We don’t know anything. So all they’re going to say is, ‘Take this.’
“Everything that Caterpillar does is ‘in the contract,’ they [the UAW] always say, and it’s stuff that they’ve never done before. My question is, how many blank pages do you all have in there?”
Mike discussed the continual deterioration of working conditions at the plant. “We have no sick days. If you’re sick, you have to go the doctor. Even if you have a headache or something, you can’t just call in without going to the doctor.”
A young worker with six years at the plant said, “The union sucks. They haven’t told us anything. I don’t know what’s in the contract. All I know is we’re supposed to receive some kind of highlights of the contract a few days before we vote.”
Steve, a worker at the Caterpillar plant in Decatur in central Illinois, spoke with the Autoworker Newsletter by telephone, saying, “I think your article was spot on. A lot of people agree with what you said, that the bargaining committee is hiding what’s in the contract because they know we’d vote against it if we knew what’s in it. I think the only reason they’re releasing the highlights is because so many people were pissed off and complained.
“I’ve been there over 20 years, and it’s gotten worse and worse day by day. In the last contract, our insurance practically doubled. I lost my pension last year and got thrown into a 401(k). We get treated terribly, and there’s no end in sight.”
Steve said the plant employed about 1,200 when he first started. “Now there’s just about 700. They were maxed out on temps, I think at about 20 percent, when times were booming. Then they got rid of them all when the mining downturn happened. They say they’re going to start hiring again soon, and it’ll be all supplemental [temporary workers] again.”
The UAW has opposed any struggle to protect workers against the thousands of layoffs Caterpillar has carried out since the commodities slump began. While the 2011 UAW contract covered roughly 9,500, the Decatur Herald and Review has reported that the current agreement will apply to just 5,000, nearly a third of what the UAW membership was at the company in the early 1990s.
“The UAW is guilty of misleading its members. We pay dues to the UAW for their support but the only thing they care about is how many dues-paying members they have.”
Steve referred to the experience of the 1994-1995 strike, the betrayal by the UAW, and the role of Dennis Williams, then a UAW Region 4 official and now the national UAW president. “He’s a weasel. He’ll sell you down the road to make his job better. I remember him sitting at a meeting with the other members of the executive, and he was telling everybody, ‘This is what you have to take.’ People were livid. We were in a gymnasium, and the back doors were open and you could see cars idling ready to swipe the officials out of there if things got out of hand. It was like something out of a movie.”
While the tentative agreement with Caterpillar was being announced last week, Williams wasappearingonapanel at the shuttered Willow Run auto plant with President Trump and Ford CEO Mark Fields. Williams promoted the UAW’s reactionary “Buy American” campaign and Trump’s economic nationalist agenda, both of which strive to pit workers in the US against their class brothers and sisters in other countries, while also seeking to subordinate them to the profit interests of American corporations.
“Caterpillar and the UAW seem to be in bed with each other, and the unions are big business too,” Steve continued. “When you look at the salaries of the officials, it’s out of this world.”
David, another worker at the Aurora plant, said, “The UAW is carrying out a complete blackout and we aren’t being told anything. My father started working here 22 years ago and he hasn’t gotten a raise since 1994. He’s basically making half the money he used to make as a machinist. With this new contract, it may be three or four years before he gets his own pension. He’s worried about money and retirement.
“We have a right to study the whole contract. The UAW canceled the one meeting we were supposed to have and it was done specifically so nobody could ask any questions. I think it’s BS but it’s typical. This is what they do. The UAW didn’t even tell us it was a six-year contract. We heard that from the newspapers here.”
David also spoke about the Caterpillar tax fraud investigation and the role of both big business parties in defending the interests of the ruling class. He said, “The investigation into Caterpillar shows what corporations do. They will try to make as much money as possible and the laws benefit them. We make the tractors and we make the money and they get the profits off us. Middle management will also make all the money they want to off us. They take the money and run. They don’t care about us, they just care about money.”
Caterpillar is seeking to use its vast wealth and political connections in attempt to circumvent fallout over accusations of blatant tax fraud and the IRS’s demand that the company pay over $2 billion in back-taxes and penalties. Last week, it was announced that the company had hired William Barr, who served as US attorney general under George H.W. Bush and later as general counsel to telecom giant Verizon, to lead its defense case.
“We have been getting screwed by the top 1
percent for the past 30 or 40 years,” David
continued. “Donald Trump scares the crap out
of me. But look at Obama: he said every man
and woman would be out of Iraq and
Afghanistan. It never happened. Both parties
take the money from the same people. They
owe the same people favors. It doesn’t matter
who wins. I’m getting screwed.
“Look at the police now. They are militarized and you can’t even protest anymore. The ruling class wants to take away whole chunks from us. At some point, it will get to the breaking point, when they grab too much power, and they will push everybody to a full-blown revolt.”
As attack on jobs escalates, AFL-CIO chief pledges to “partner” with Trump administration
By Jerry White 4 March 2017
Friday was the last day of work for 1,300 General Motors hourly employees at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. Less than a year after being hired and promised full-time positions by GM and union officials, the workers are out of a job. Medical insurance is running out at the end of the month, and there are few prospects for decent jobs in a city where 117,000 workers are unemployed.
The job cuts in Detroit provide a far more realistic picture of the US economy than soaring stock markets or the Fed officials’ fantasies about “full employment.” Yet the layoff of 1,300 workers was not even deemed newsworthy by the local media. It also did not rate a mention by President Trump, who has appointed GM’s CEO to his corporate advisory board.
The Detroit job cuts follow more than 2,000 GM layoffs in Lansing, Michigan, and Lordstown, Ohio in January. They anticipate a far greater onslaught as US corporations restructure in response to the global economic slowdown and increasing international competition.
In the US, automakers are cutting production due to a growing glut of unsold cars. Commercial aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which cut eight percent of its workforce last year, announced Friday that 1,880 workers had accepted voluntary retirements. The company said more job cuts are expected in 2017 amid falling orders and tight competition with European-based Airbus, which announced 1,200 job cuts a few months ago. A new layoff announcement is made virtually every day in the retail, banking and technology sectors.
These are part of an international process. On Wednesday, China’s labor minister, Yin Weimin, said the country will cut another 500,000 steel and coal jobs this year. Last year, 726,000 workers lost their jobs in the coal and steel industries, or 40 percent of the 1.8 million jobs the government said would be eliminated in those industries as part of a massive restructuring of state enterprises.
In addition to the job cuts, corporations are seeking to transform their workforces into largely casual, temporary laborers, hired and fired at will, like the Detroit-Hamtramck GM workers.
According to the Government Accountability Office, contingent workers now comprise 40.4 percent of all employees. Under Obama, 95 percent of all new jobs created in the US since the so-called economic recovery began have been part-time and temporary. In the European Union, more than half of all new jobs since 2010 have been through temporary contracts.
The corporations are also accelerating their plans to dump their pensions and retiree health care obligations and continue to shift the cost of medical coverage on to workers. This month, 22,600 retired coal miners or their widows were notified that they will be losing health care benefits on April 30, when funding for their insurance plans expire. More than one million working or retired Americans are currently covered by pension plans that are in imminent danger of insolvency, according to the Pension Rights Center.
The Trump administration, packed with billionaires, is planning to slash corporate taxes and eliminate workplace safety, environmental and labor regulations. In his address to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Trump declared that his government has “undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job crushing regulations.” The increase in military spending outlined in his new budget will be paid for by slashing food stamps and other essential programs, while the ultra-reactionaries appointed to key agencies set their sights on the privatization of public education and the elimination of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
As Wall Street is celebrating the Trump administration’s plans for a massive handout to the corporations and banks, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has pledged that his corporatist and anti-working class organization is “absolutely” committed to partnering with Trump.
Trump’s fascistic rants against immigrant workers and endless claims that foreign countries and foreign workers are destroying jobs and lowering wages is a calculated effort, aided and abetted by the unions, to divide the working class and block a unified response to the escalation of the class war policies at home and ever greater imperialist militarism abroad.
Responding to the speech, Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, told Fox News that the unions were prepared for Trump to “rewrite the rules of the economy,” particularly on trade and immigration policy.
Trump’s speech was the president’s “finest moment,” the union head said, signaling that “he’s about to start doing business rather than playing for the camera—that was a good sign.” Far from condemning the president’s xenophobic and racist slanders against immigrants, the AFL-CIO head signaled his support for an even more brutal immigration policy, including against legal residents.
“I was actually pleasantly surprised,” Trumka said, “to hear him say the system is broken and its legal immigration, as well as undocumented people—he talked about them a lot—but this was the first time he spoke about legal immigration being used to drive down wages. We’ve been saying that for a long time.”
Trumka said that workers voted for the president because “they wanted him to rewrite the rules of the economy—not for the rich, not for the wealthy, not for corporate America, not for Wall Street but for them—and so he’s been a mixed bag on that,” he said. The unions would tout the good things he did and criticize the bad, Trumka said, echoing the lie that trade wars and mass deportation were good for American workers.
“Will we partner with him? Absolutely,” Trumka said. “Will we partner with him to try to rewrite the immigration rules of the country? Absolutely… Using the bully pulpit to say this is your country, this is where you owe your allegiance, this is where you should be investing and building, that is a good thing.”
The trade unions have been a chief conduit for spreading nationalist poison among workers for a very long time. In the early 1980s, as American capitalism fell into decline and its corporations confronted international competitors, the unions promoted economic nationalism to justify their integration into the structure of corporate management and collusion in the destruction of the jobs and living standards of the workers they claimed to represent.
While the unions have worked closely with the Democrats in overseeing the attack on jobs and wages for decades, they now see income opportunities in Trump’s efforts to entice corporations to “Buy American, Hire American.” This has nothing to do with the interests of workers. Rather, the executives want to restore their lost income through the influx of new dues-paying members, regardless of whether they are earning poverty wages.
The unions are not “workers’ organizations,” but labor-management syndicates that are hostile to the interests of the working class. New organizations of struggle, including rank-and-file factory and workplace committees, democratically controlled by workers and committed to the methods of the class struggle, must be built to resist the coming attacks on jobs, living standards, essential social services and all the basic social rights of the working class.
Above all workers must reject economic nationalism. Workers in every country face the struggles and confront the same enemy: the global capitalist system, which enriches a handful of billionaires at the expense of the broad masses of working people whose collective labor creates society’s riches.
To unite the working class—black, white, native born and immigrant, in the US and around the world—workers must build a political movement, independent of both capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, to fight for international socialism and against the danger of world war.
THE OBAMA WAR ON AMERICA: His OFA Party is Dedicated to Destroying American and Building the Obama Muslim-style dictatorship funded by crony banksters.
Daniel Greenfield, the award-winning Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, believes (OBAMA'S POLITICAL PARTY) “OFA will be far more dangerous in the wild than the Clinton Foundation ever was.”
"Obama is no fool and he understands -- having encouraged Black Lives Matter and the war on police and law enforcement, having facilitated ballooning welfare rolls and doubling student debt to $1.35 trillion, having presided over a flood of immigrants illegally crossing the southern border, and having pushed unprecedented deficit spending that added nearly a trillion dollars annually to the federal debt and doubling that debt in eight years to $20 trillion -- that the U.S. is nearer collapse than at any previous time. And every Marxist knows that socialist transformation first requires collapse of the old order."
“The principal beneficiaries of our current immigration policy are affluent
Americans who hire immigrants at substandard wages for low-end work.
Harvard economist George Borjas estimates that American workers lose
$190 billion annually (DATED FIGURES) in depressed wages caused by
the constant flooding of the labor market at the low-wage end.” ---
Christian Science Monitor
"The UAW and other unions long ago abandoned any
struggle against the employers adopting the corporatist
outlook of labor-management “partnership.” Over the last
four decades, the unions have suppressed every form of
resistance by workers while handing over the hard-won gains
of generations of workers in the name of making US
corporations more competitive and profitable."
Sanders covers for UAW at Mississippi Nissan rally
By Ed Hightower and Jerry White 7 March 2017
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was the keynote speaker at a rally Saturday in Canton, Mississippi where the United Auto Workers (UAW) is campaigning to win recognition at the local Nissan auto factory. Having lost more than 1 million members since 1979, the Mississippi campaign is the latest effort by the UAW to boost its dues revenue by reversing the string of defeats at manufacturing plants in the southern US.
While Sanders and the unions have blamed “right to work” laws and Republican state officials, the chief reason for the defeats is the perfidious record of the unions and their decades-long collaboration with the corporate-government attack on the jobs and living standards of workers. Sanders, who enjoys close relations with the unions, has very deliberately sought to conceal the real record of the UAW.
Bernie Sanders told the rally, “If you are a member of a union in America, you are going to make 27 percent more than a non-union member. If you are a member of a union, you’re far more likely to have paid family and medical leave. If you are a member of a union, the likelihood is that you will have better health care and a better retirement plan than non-union members,” Sanders said.
To the extent that such a differential still exists, this represents the residual of the mass struggles of workers between the 1930s and 1970s. The UAW and other unions long ago abandoned any struggle against the employers adopting the corporatist outlook of labor-management “partnership.” Over the last four decades, the unions have suppressed every form of resistance by workers while handing over the hard-won gains of generations of workers in the name of making US corporations more competitive and profitable.
Today conditions in UAW-organized GM, Ford and Chrysler factories in the North, not to mention auto parts plants, increasingly resemble those at the Mississippi Nissan plant where an estimated 40 percent of the 6,400-person workforce are temporary employees and wages are on a tiered system, ranging from a meager $12 per hour to $24 at the high end.
Actor and Democratic Party activist Danny Glover, along with NAACP President Cornell Brooks and UAW President Dennis Williams, sought to tie the union’s efforts to increase its base of dues-paying members with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The basic thrust of the argument was that poor wages and conditions at Canton, with its 80 percent African American workforce, are thereby civil rights and human rights issues.
The day before the Mississippi rally, the UAW sanctioned the layoff of 1,300 workers at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. Most of the workers thrown into the streets with the connivance of the UAW were African American temporary workers, including young black women.
The effort of the unions and Democrats to wrap the Nissan campaign in the mantle of the civil rights movement is aimed at concealing the class division that exists between the working class on the one side, and the union executives like Williams who function as well-paid tools for the auto bosses.
It is also part of the historical record that the South became an anti-union haven because the then CIO unions abandoned the struggle to organize Southern workers in the late 1940s and 1950s. The then CIO unions ended “Operation Dixie” to establish even closer ties to the national Democratic Party whose southern representatives enforced the brutal Jim Crow laws against blacks. This coincided with the purge of the socialists who pioneered the building of the CIO in the 1930s and the organization’s merger with the AFL in 1955.
The UAW’s recent efforts to “organize” the European and Asian-based transplants in the South have chiefly been based on appeals to the employers, not the workers. In 2010, former UAW President Bob King urged employers to “re-examine their instinctive resistance to the notion of unionization, and consider some of the advantages of a positive, productive relationship with a union. Unions can and should play a positive role—and the results show the UAW is doing exactly that.”
Indeed, the Detroit automakers are reaping record profits due to the decades of concessions imposed by the UAW, the suppression of all strikes, and the abandonment of the most elemental interests of the working class. As a reward, the UAW controls billions in corporate stocks, seats on corporate boards and enjoys a myriad of labor-management business schemes.
The march follows a rejection by Boeing workers in South Carolina of union representation, a major blow to the labor bureaucracy’s push into the region, which is experiencing a boom in manufacturing. Production workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant likewise rejected a UAW drive in February 2014—despite or perhaps because the company openly campaigned for UAW recognition.
Prior to the Chattanooga vote, the UAW reached a “neutrality agreement” with the VW plant promising that any future contract would be committed to “maintaining and where possible enhancing the cost advantages and other competitive advantages [Volkswagen] enjoys relative to its competitors in the United States and North America.”
The march, which garnered little support, specifically demanded that Nissan sign a neutrality agreement in advance of a union recognition vote at the Canton plant.
Workers at another Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee rejected the UAW in 1989 and 2001 votes. No election has been held at the Mississippi plant in Canton. The union has been trying to pressure Nissan through the French government’s ownership stake in Nissan’s business partner, the Renault Group.
Why should workers at Nissan or anywhere else pay dues out of their hard-earned salaries to organizations that function as tools of management and the Democratic Party?
Workers at the Nissan factory certainly need organizations to fight. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently fined Nissan $21,000 for safety violations at the Canton plant that led to a worker losing three fingers in a July 2016 accident. In November, a production worker at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant died from a crushing blow to the head, which could have been prevented if safety measures during routine maintenance met industry standards. OSHA also cited the Nissan Smyrna plant for similar violations in 2013 and 2015.
To wage a struggle against unsafe conditions, speed-ups, low wages and the lack of job security, workers will have to build new organizations, democratically controlled by rank-and-file workers themselves, and based on the methods of class struggle, not class collaboration. They must be thoroughly committed to the interests of workers, not the profits of the corporations. Moreover, these rank-and-file committees must reject any support to the two parties of big business and the fight for the broadest mobilization to defend the social rights of all workers.
Nissan workers in the US should also forge the closest ties with workers in Japan and throughout the world to wage a common fight against the efforts of the global corporations to force workers into a race to the bottom. That means rejecting all forms of nationalism, which is used by the corporations and the government to divide US workers from their international class brothers and sisters.
Sanders has had long and close relations with the UAW and works with the unions to divert social anger down the reactionary path of economic nationalism. During the 2016 primary election campaign, before telling his supporters to back the Wall Street shill Hillary Clinton, Sanders stopped at UAW Local 600 in suburban Detroit. This was just months after UAW officials rigged the vote to push through a sellout contract at Ford.
Sanders’ so-called “political revolution” has now morphed into open support for Trump’s America First economic nationalism.
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