World Labor

‘A Feminist in a Burkah’?

By Greg Shotwell

In LB&A #80 I wrote: “At the Con Con [UAW Constitutional Convention] Gettelfinger highlighted the UAW’s “success” at gaining a non-voting position on the creditor’s committee which endows us with as much status as a feminist in a burkah.”

One reader responded: “Even though Burkah is very patriarchal, it does not prohibit you from being a feminist.”

I agree. A woman in a burkah may be a feminist, but my point is: the system that imposes a burkah is like the system that imposes a gag order, or more specifically in our case, “non voting” status. A woman in a burkah may be a feminist in her heart but her rights and privileges are limited and full participation is restricted.

Fashion, or an imposed dress code, is not the measure of a feminist and/or a dissident. A union official in a three-piece suit and wing tips is not necessarily more free than a feminist in high heels and a bikini. They both look like mannequins—Ken and Barby. I think a dissident is measured by struggle not attire, and a feminist in a burkah is certainly waging a brave struggle against all odds.

Gettelfinger acted like it was a success story that the UAW scored a spot in the peanut gallery. The UAW should be protesting the GM-Delphi fraud in the streets, but that avenue is left to SOS. The Concession Caucus prefers to sit quietly in the non-voting section for good reason: the CC believes in not voting. That is why we got the SAP [Special Attrition Plan] instead of a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement we could all vote on.

The UAW hasn’t achieved a positive impact in court. The judge routinely approves bonuses for the very executives who are guilty of fraud and incompetence. The UAW has not challenged the fraud at GM-Delphi. The UAW only complains to the judge that granting bonuses to executives will make it harder for them to sell the members on wage cuts.

I think our latest Delphi-UAW safety pamphlet says it most succinctly. On the bottom of the pamphlet is a picture of a golden building inscribed “GM-UAW Center for Human Resources.”

The UAW has become a human resource arm of the corporations. The Concession Caucus conned members into taking an early retirement from a bankrupt company so as to flood the plants with replacement workers. These temporary workers pay union dues and therefore have the legal right to vote on the contract, and yet they can be released at any time without any reason and have no seniority rights. They make half as much money and have no benefits. The Concession Caucus delivered exactly what the boss ordered.

What temp workers want most of all is to become permanent. They want stability, a job they can rely on. How does a temp become permanent? By pleasing the boss. Favoritism and nepotism, not seniority, rule. Temp workers are not to blame. The Concession Caucus bears the onus of responsibility for the conditions of their labor.

I don’t know if any feminist would chose to wear the cloak of anonymity but I do know that some union members choose silence and inaction. They aren’t ignorant.

As I wrote in LB&A #80, “The judge agreed it was best to keep us in the dark... [but] even potatoes grow eyes in the dark, and Lord knows, we’ve got more sense, if not motivation, than a root cellar full of spuds.”

The potato heads don’t need a dress code. They aren’t going out.

And On August 11 Delphi will petition Judge Drain to revoke union contracts. Delphi wants to stop paying for retiree health care. Delphi wants to cut wages and impose anti union work rules on the shop floor. Ultimately Delphi wants to dump the pension but they are waiting until after the GM Benefit Guarantee expires in October 2007.

SOS will picket the Delphi Headquarters in Troy, Michigan to protest the Moral Hazard of rewarding executives for fraud and incompetence while concurrently penalizing honest labor.

Protect Workers!

Protect Pensions!

Demand Equal Rights For New Hires!

Two Tier Is Anti Union: Equal Pay For Equal Work!