The Price of Our Future
By Todd M. Jordan
“Yesterday, was like Christmas in the plant,” said the President of Local 292 in Kokomo this morning according to a group of workers. Christmas for who, Mrs. President? I’d have to say it is more like April Fool’s Day and the joke’s on the membership.
Enough is enough to the offensive created by auto industry executives and their intention of taking back all the gains workers have struggled to achieve. We should refuse to accept an offer that will impair the person working next to us and that could eventually endanger our own security in retirement.
The membership as a whole should have been allowed to vote before this “buy-out” agreement was brought to the membership to accept or refuse on an individual basis. Perhaps the majority didn’t want everyone to leave, perhaps they did. Regardless, we are being denied democracy by our union officials when an agreement is made without our input, especially when it is an agreement vital to our future and seriously undermines our future. Negotiations in dark boardrooms are destroying the United Auto Workers union.
This agreement should not be brought to the membership unless approved by the majority, period. Some workers in the plants now are afraid to accept this offer and perhaps they should be for many other reasons. By rejecting the offer they will not have the support of their union officials and at the same time they would be selling out the younger workers if they accept it.
Local 292 officials have been all over the factory for several days now trying to push people out the front door (or back door I should say). Fear is the driving force for Local 292 leaders and the union bureaucracy as a whole that works with corporations to pit older workers against younger workers to get whatever they need. The union officials do it every single election here in Kokomo.
We should refuse these buyouts, defend our jobs and fight for our future—not sell out. We can stand together now in solidarity before it is too late for all of us or we can walk away betraying 70 years of struggle and our futures.
Local 292 Officials Have Accepted Defeat
The President of the United Auto Workers Local 292 was quoted in the Indianapolis Star today saying, “There’s a very good reason to do this. If the company doesn’t survive, none of us has jobs.” She has accepted defeat and refuses to fight to save our jobs, our wages, our benefits and our future. She cares only about herself and her ability to retire. I just hope retirement is as safe as she seems to think it is.
In the same article, the Local 292 Shop Chairman with 44 years seniority says, “Any fool can cause a strike.” This being the Chairman who said recently in the Kokomo Perspective that retirees should not have the democratic right to vote ,and uses membership dues money to attack anyone who disagrees with him through handbills and the Local’s shop newsletter.
Where do you think this Chairman will be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? Appointed to the Region or International? It’s clear to us that he got his, now he is done. This is what he is really saying and doing. What he really means is that he doesn’t want to fight, he wants to just quietly fade into the history books with what he has and suggests everyone else follow his lead. Our future is being sold out and these union officials have accepted defeat without a fight. Don’t forget what they told us, “wait and see.”
Autoworkers around the world deserve a raise, not concessions, not to be pitted against each other and not to be bought off. Millions of dollars have been vested into training and skills for American workers who are now being sold out by an Attrition Agreement that the bureaucratic officials of the UAW support. Instead of defending these jobs they are working with management to cut them.
Meanwhile, our factories are being robbed of investment and our profits sent overseas to build billion dollar factories so the company can pit us against workers overseas to drive everyone’s wages down. Remember their slogan “Buy American”? That has worked real well for the membership hasn’t it? Wrong! It has only destroyed our ability to build solidarity with other workers across the world.
These “buyouts” are simply a way to mitigate membership resistance to concessions and lost jobs. How much is your future worth? Will retirement really mean security for anyone? Not everyone is willing to be bought off and not everyone is even eligible to retire. What happens to those left behind?
The UAW has accepted defeat and is negotiating a peace agreement that will further degrade younger workers. The only way to halt this corporate offensive is through mass direct action of working people. To halt and throw back this corporate offensive the policies of the labor leaders have to be rejected before it is too late. The labor leaders are obviously totally cowed by the corporations and their offensive. In fact our labor leaders collaborate with the bosses offense regularly, as we see with these buyouts. They accept the argument that profits are God and wages and conditions and lives must all be sacrificed to keep them up.
Direct action and solidarity is needed!
The model must be built in the spirit of the great general strikes and mass direct action in Minneapolis, Toledo and San Francisco in 1934, the great sit-down movement in 1936-37 and the great civil rights movement of the 1960s. This is not an end of an era as the corporate mouthpieces like to claim. We must work to rule in the plants, hold mass demonstrations in the streets, engage in mass occupations of the plants. These are what are needed to begin to halt the employers’ attacks, not “buyouts.” These are the roots of the UAW and what the entire labor movement was built on. It was not built by cooperation, selling out or by giving up. Working people should resist and refuse to go back to the poverty of the past. We should fight for what is ours and for what is justly right. This is why we will be protesting Delphi’s CEO who is speaking in Detroit on April 3, 2006. I encourage you to join us.
Such an offensive strategy on the part of all of us in Delphi would inspire and draw the attention of autoworkers and all workers throughout the U.S., union and non-union alike and for the attention of auto workers abroad. This would make possible the building of direct links plant-to-plant, industry wide on an international basis. This would allow for a mass, direct-action, fight-to-win strategy, internationally.
The place to start is to build direct-action, fight-to-win committees in every plant and every local. The union leaders should be doing this but they will not. We must do it ourselves. The addiction to profits and greed must stop ruling our lives. I will not and cannot be bought off. I hope you will stand with me because I’m going to fight for your job with or without you. See you at the protest in Detroit.
—Future of the Union, March 24, 2006