The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Federal Government Attacks the Unions

Sep 8, 2019

During the last week in August, FBI and IRS agents raided the home of current United Auto Workers (UAW) International Union President Gary Jones and the home of retired President Dennis Williams, along with other UAW locations.

These agencies gave the media just enough detail to paint a picture, rolled out over the past two weeks, of graft, and corruption. The media added flashy details – “money being counted in garages,” “pots of money!” and mixed it up with the Chrysler investigation from months ago – to make a spicy meatball.

Now, mind you, to date, there have been no charges, no indictments filed against either UAW President Jones or Williams. And there may not ever be. But clearly, the government had an interest to create a “guilty until proven innocent” situation.

Is it a coincidence that this was done with less than three weeks left before contract deadlines between the UAW and GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler? Not on your life. What better way to break down the union and demoralize the workers in front of a fight with the bosses?

Clearly, the U.S. government is eager to intervene in the affairs of the auto workers’ union. Perhaps they fear that the political and economic situation that workers find themselves in could lead to fights and strikes. Vicious attacks of the bosses are backing workers into a corner. There are many in the government who want to get rid of the unions completely.

Of course, as in other major organizations, some members of the union become corrupted. Workers experience the daily insults of the work environment, all of the unfairness set up by concession contracts, and little success in mobilizing fights that lead to any, even small, victories. On top of all that, it really burns for workers to hear about perks and privileges that do exist in the union, let alone allegations of real corruption and graft.

But thinking that these federal agencies are “the good guys,” believing that they have the workers’ interests in mind – THAT is a mistake.

Past federal interventions in the unions have hurt the working class. Just over 20 years ago, Ron Carey was pulled out of the presidency of the Teamsters Union after leading a militant, successful strike of United Parcel Service (UPS) workers against the massive hiring of temps at lower wages and benefits. In a strategic move to prevent additional strike action in the hauling sectors of the Teamsters Union following the victory against UPS, the government challenged President Carey, blamed him for corruption that had occurred under the previous administration which was openly run by gangsters, and removed him from office. Twenty-five years of federal oversight of the Teamsters Union led to the robbery and destruction of many Teamsters’ pensions.

Labor records of the 1950s show a time when federal officials and representatives attacked and removed the most militant socialist and communist leadership from the unions across the nation during the McCarthy witch hunt – in purges that crippled the unions for decades.

This current activity of the federal agencies constitutes a real attack – against the unions, the only organizations the working class has today, and against the working class in general. These federal agencies represent the bosses, Wall Street, the capitalist class. Do we really think they want to “clean up” the unions for the workers?

Yes, of course there are problems in the union, first and foremost with the policies of partnership with the bosses. This is a real reason to be critical of leadership, and a real reason to challenge the direction of the union. Where has “partnership” gotten us but a race to the bottom; concession after concession; tiering that has torn the union apart?

But this is our problem to manage, and workers have the capacity to manage it. If we don’t clean our own house, it won’t get done.