Socialist ViewPoint and analysis for working people

January/February • Vol 6, No. 1 •

The Lawn Jockey’s Lament

By Gregg Shotwell

“There are huge disparities in this country and around the world in what people can expect for mowing a lawn versus managing a huge business.”—Steve Miller [Steve Miller, is Delphi’s new CEO and “turnaround specialist”].

My friend and coworker Holly Philips told me a story the other day. He said that Stalin instructed his generals to impose some drastic measures on the villagers. The generals said they didn’t believe the villagers would ever stand for it.

“Sure they will. Bring me a chicken,” Stalin said.

Stalin then proceeded to pluck the chicken’s feathers out one by one.

The chicken squawked and squawked.

When he was done plucking the chicken, Stalin said, “Give me some chicken feed.”

Then he demonstrated how the plucked chicken would eat out of his hand.

I got news for Mr. Miller. He might pluck my feathers but I’ll be damned if I eat chicken feed out of his greasy fingers. I’d rather bite the dirty plucker. Miller wants Delphi to succeed on his terms at our expense. In order to succeed he needs GM business and the meek compliance of UAW members.

One question: What’s in it for us?

Humiliation and chicken feed?

Might work for the hens but I don’t think it’s gonna motivate Bubba.

Mr. Miller doesn’t understand what could happen to Delphi’s prime customer. He lives in his own little world with his train set and his plastic lawn jockeys. Meanwhile, there’s nobody here on the Animal Farm but us chickens, a few roosters, a cat named Struggle and a dog named Strike.

I have been warned that neither Delphi nor the International Union like the idea of rank and file members getting together for a meeting on November 6, in Grand Rapids, MI.

What is Delphi going to do about it? Take our pension? Take our health care? Cut our wages? Delete vacation days?

What is the International Union going to do about it? Not represent us?

Whatever strings the Good Old Boys may have had on us, they severed a long time ago. And many of us would just as soon cut the crap out of some chicken plucker’s grass.

At an upcoming rank and file meeting in Grand Rapids, MI, we need to discuss a strategic reaction to the chaos Mr. Turnaround Specialist has created. We need well-organized, collective, direct action to clip his putting green smooth as a baby’s ass.

Now I have heard many people kick around the idea of decertification. I can understand the anger, but there are two points and one blunt object I want to make in that regard.

1.) It’s not a decision to make rashly. Without a union we are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act; we wouldn’t have Weingarten Rights (representation); we could get fired for nothing; no collective action would be considered “protected concerted activity”; distribution of literature would not be allowed on company property; all company policy would be imposed unilaterally.

2.) Decertification is not impossible if you have another union waiting in the wings as the mechanics at Northwest Airlines did when they decertified the IAM and joined an independent union, the AMFA. If members decide that decertification is the best route, it will take time and meticulous planning to achieve a smooth transition.

3.) We don’t have time to decertify. Bring it up later if you want, but today there’s a wolf in the hen house and we have to cut and bag his ugly grass.

I have also heard many people kick around the idea of a lawsuit against GM and/or the UAW. Once again, I can understand the anger. I am one ticked off lawn-mowin’ chicken. But lawsuits take an enormously long time. Attorneys get paid by the hour and they are masters of the slow down. Furthermore, if legal action is a long-term goal that the group is willing to pursue, I recommend that you file in another state. It is very hard to beat GM or the UAW in Michigan.

Neither of these solutions will meet our immediate needs which is to resist the concessions that Delphi and their counterparts in the corporate state are imposing on working people. They want to push working conditions back to the thirties. Maybe we need a thirties sort of response: a sit down, a stand up, or a bunch of field hands armed with sickles and scythes.

Our short-term strategy should focus on the immediate threat and how to counter it most effectively. We need to assess our strengths and weaknesses in each locality. We need to assess the enemy’s strength and weakness as well. Miller plays a good game but he needs to make money for his backers. He needs to keep things clicking smoothly as a well-oiled rotary blade. The engine of commerce requires synchronized movement. Miller may own the green but we chickens are pushing the mowers.

For the long term, we should acknowledge that the corporate state can withstand a revolt quite easily. For genuine change to occur we need a broad-based social movement. “A movement begins when large numbers of people having reached the point where they feel they can’t take the way things are any longer, find hope for improving their lives in an action that they can take together,” (Grace Lee Boggs, Living for Change). To that end we should recognize that the crisis at Delphi is not unique, it is commonplace. All working people are threatened by the direction of the corporate state. We need a counter movement.

The illusion of partnership fostered by union bureaucrats has been shattered. The corporate-state has declared war on workers. Miller, the pasty face poster boy of the corpo-state, wants to take everything away from us. He wants to bust the union, break our spirit, and humiliate our human dignity.

In turn he expects us to groom his grassy knoll.

Todd Seibt of the Flint Journal wrote, “Miller has taken other companies through the bankruptcy/reform grinder, and brought fresh sausage out the other side.”

But what if things don’t work according to Miller’s recipe? What if the grinder breaks? What if there aren’t any spare parts in the crib? What if the meat is too tough? What if a bone gets jammed in the gears? What if he chops his finger off and can’t find it? Would he sell the sausage, or eat it himself?

Miller is one of those “My way or the highway” guys. You’ve met them on the playground. They’re big and merciless. They give you no other option than to gang up on them and cut their mother plucking grass.

The “Shot in the Arm” website can be reached at:

UnCommon Sense, November 2005

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