The Spark

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

Issue no. 1060 — June 25 - July 23, 2018

Editorial:
Border “Protection” Is a Trap for All Workers

Jun 25, 2018

All the justified outrage from a large part of the population about separating children from their parents led Trump to change course. He said he wouldn’t do it anymore.

But – in his typical fashion – right after saying it wouldn’t happen anymore, he set out to prove that he was right in the first place. He insisted that immigrants endanger all of us. And to demonstrate this, he put families on display whose children were supposedly killed by undocumented workers. And he talked about the “death and destruction caused by people that shouldn’t be here.”

This was all a show. A really big show to defend a really big lie.

It’s a lie that violent crime increases when the number of immigrants living illegally in a community goes up. Every statistic on U.S. crime shows that undocumented immigrants, as well as documented immigrants, are less likely to commit violent crimes, including murder and rape, than native-born U.S.-ers. (See the journal, Criminology, March 2018.)

Trump uses figures that he makes up. Total, complete fiction. And, he is doing this from the White House, as President of the United States. Supposedly it gives him credibility.

Trump says those crossing the border are criminals. No, they are crossing the border to have a better life – or a life, period. That’s their only “crime.” And that’s a crime only because immigration was criminalized.

Trump is making propaganda. He has an agenda. And his agenda is not to keep us safe from those who would cross the border. He wants to make the U.S. a safe place for billionaires, like himself, to make tons of profits off workers.

Trump uses national borders and nationalism as a way to convince workers of the idea that what matters, what defines people, is nationality, not class. He wants us to believe that we have more in common with a billionaire who has declared bankruptcy six times–six times–just to weasel out of paying wages to his workers!

We have nothing in common with this president or with his fellow billionaires, or with their agendas. We don’t live in the same neighborhoods. We don’t send our children to the same schools. They are ones exploiting us.

To believe for even one second that Trump’s wall will protect us is a huge mistake. A wall will not stop the bosses from cutting jobs. A wall will not stop the bosses from cutting wages, retirement, health care. Strong borders will not protect us from the biggest criminals – the bosses.

The only thing that will protect us is a unified fight for the things we all need, a unified fight by large portions of the working class together. But Trump’s poisonous propaganda splits us up, dividing immigrant workers from native-born workers.

Unless we organize, unless we fight, we have no way to defend ourselves from the exploitation of the bosses. To believe the lies about immigrants would disarm us, at a time when the bosses everywhere have stepped up their attacks on us.

For nearly 40 years, the bosses have attacked us. Slashing jobs, wages, retirement, health benefits. All the things a person needs to have a decent life. And they mean to step up these attacks. They want us to continue to produce all the value in this society, but for the benefit of the bosses who own everything.

Our only answer to these attacks is to fight. And that means starting right where we are. In whatever workplace, we start organizing ourselves and fight. It may sound like it is not big enough to change things. It’s not. But others will see the logic and make fights in their workplaces. The fight will spread.

Our safety depends on each other, on organizing, on our ability to fight together for a better society.

Pages 2-3

What Poverty Means in Chicago

Jun 25, 2018

If you live in wealthy downtown Chicago, also known as the Loop, your life expectancy is 85 years.

But if you live in impoverished West Garfield Park, just a few miles away, your life expectancy is just 69 years. That is lower than Syria, even in the middle of its civil war, or Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world.

According to a recent study, people in West Garfield Park die from diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and other treatable diseases. Unlike people in the Loop, residents of West Garfield Park are more likely to lack decent health care and healthy food, and they face much more stress in their daily lives. In short, people in neighborhoods like West Garfield Park die from the same basic reason as people in underdeveloped countries: poverty.

For the poor, even in this rich country, the capitalist system is murder.

Who Protects Kids?
Not the Chicago School Administration

Jun 25, 2018

A big expose by the Chicago Tribune found that over the last ten years, there have been hundreds of cases of sexual assault by Chicago Public School employees, including security guards, teachers, and coaches. It’s unclear from the reports if sexual abuse is more common in Chicago schools than anywhere else. But with sexual assault and abuse rampant throughout society, it should come as no surprise that it happens in the schools.

In any case, many of the administrators who heard about these abuses acted, not to protect children, but to make the problems go away – for themselves.

Some students who told authorities about abuse report that they were made to feel like criminals. One said she was asked what she was wearing, as if this 14-year-old student might have been “asking for it!”

A coach at another school was found to have raped a student repeatedly. When the student sued the school district for negligence, since they hired the coach despite his criminal record, the district’s legal department tried to defame the student.

Another teacher who was fired for molesting a student was allowed to quietly resign and move on. This let him get another teaching job in Florida, putting more students at risk.

A priority of anyone working in a school should be to protect the students. The vast majority of adults – teachers and others – working in schools understand this.

But for CPS administrators, the number one goal, apparently, was to protect the CPS administration – at the expense of children’s safety.

Drug to Help Headaches
– Or Create Them

Jun 25, 2018

The FDA just approved a new drug to treat migraines. One of every nine people in the country is estimated to suffer from migraines, so we all know someone who might benefit.

The drug makers Amgen and Novartis plan to charge $6,900 for the drug, that is, $575 per month. How many insurance companies will allow that? How many people can pay for it? Not many.

So a drug with the potential to relieve considerable suffering for millions of people will reach only a few of them, thanks to the price.

Is this humane? Is it even reasonable? No, but it’s ordinary in a society based on profit.

Prince George’s County, Maryland:
Mall Cop Assaulted a Teenager

Jun 25, 2018

A security guard at a Maryland mall grabbed a handcuffed 15-year-old girl by the neck and slammed her face down on a chair. Briana Commodore laid unconscious for several minutes on the food court floor. She suffered neck injuries and a concussion.

The situation was so violent that several people captured the ordeal on their cell phones. When Commodore’s older sister arrived on the scene, she too was placed in handcuffs.

Commodore does not deny that she was in an altercation with other teens at the mall. But when the mall cop attacked her, she was already restrained in handcuffs.

The mall shop owners no doubt put pressure on the guards to keep groups of young people in check. They are young, they don’t have much money, if any, to spend in the stores. And there is the fear that groups of teens hanging out at malls frighten away potential paying customers.

So where exactly are young people supposed to go? It’s not like there are any neighborhood community centers for them to go and be with each other and do constructive activities together. What are they supposed to do? Go to the hospital after being brutalized by mall cop thugs?

Capitalism has no answers to this problem.

California:
PG&E Found Responsible for Wildfires

Jun 25, 2018

Electric power lines caused 12 devastating wildfires, which killed 18 people and burned down hundreds of homes in northern California last fall, according to CAL FIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection). State investigators concluded that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) had not met its obligation to maintain power poles, trim trees and keep the land around power lines free from vegetation.

Hundreds of homeowners have already filed lawsuits against PG&E, and experts say the company’s legal liability may end up exceeding 15 billion dollars.

In response, PG&E has gone onto the offensive. California lawmakers said that PG&E has “warned them” that, if held liable, the company may file for bankruptcy – which can be translated as, “Hey, I need a bailout.”

In a statement, PG&E blamed the fires on conditions caused by drought and severe heat – as though California doesn’t know drought and heat. It’s just an excuse for the company’s inadequate safety system. But instead of proposing to fix its system, PG&E suggests “legislative solutions for all Californians, as we collectively seek to meet the challenge of climate change.”

In plain English: PG&E wants the population to pay (yes, one more time!) – this time for improving its electricity grid, which the company has not kept up to “meet the challenge” of the times we live in.

But if PG&E is not even fit to provide safe, reliable electricity to the population, why should this company be allowed to keep the profits it makes?

Police Officer Kills 17-Year-Old Black Student in Pittsburgh

Jun 25, 2018

Hundreds of people have been marching and blocking streets in a Pittsburgh suburb to protest the June 19 fatal shooting by a police officer of Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old black high school student. Video shows Rose shot three times in the back, just seconds after he got out of a car, faced with a cop with his gun drawn.

Police at first tried to say the car Rose had been riding in was involved in a drive-by shooting. But in fact, this 17-year-old honors student was riding in a jitney cab, that is, an unlicensed taxi, the poor-man’s Uber.

Then “sources” reported there was a video showing Rose shooting a gun during a drive-by shooting just minutes before he was killed, and that there was gun residue on his hands. But the police department was forced to admit in an official statement that those reports were false – there was no evidence Rose was involved in any drive-by, nor did he have gun residue on his hands.

Caught out in these attempts to blame the victim, the police fell back on their last resort argument. The Police Superintendent said that shooting a fleeing suspect could be justified if he posed a threat. This is the usual police way of asking – if he wasn’t a criminal, why did he run? And if he ran, wasn’t he a criminal, a threat?

Well look what happened to him! Isn’t it obvious why he ran? When you’re facing a member of a murderous gang, known to have killed dozens of people who look like you, and he pulls his gun – wouldn’t you run? Rose just had the misfortune not to have been able to run fast enough to escape the cop’s bullets.

Michael Rosfeld, the cop who shot Rose, had been on the East Pittsburgh police force only ten days. He had been pushed out of his last police job at the University of Pittsburgh after prosecutors discovered “discrepancies” between his sworn statement and evidence in an arrest he made. Yet this “testilying” didn’t stop the East Pittsburgh police department from hiring him.

The murder of Antwon Rose was exposed only because many black people are ready to protest racist police killings. Without protests, and more, these murders would just be swept under the carpet. Disruption of business as usual is the only thing that makes authorities place any limits what-so-ever on police brutality.

Pages 4-5

Outrage:
Holding Children Hostage for Political Gain

Jun 25, 2018

After Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents caused a huge outrage, the administration now says it’s reuniting families. But officials admit they don’t know where all the children are, they don’t know where all the parents are, and they don’t know which children belong with which parents!

Parents have been deported to Central America without their children, and without even being told where their children were. Children were sent thousands of miles away to New York, Illinois, or Michigan, without their parents knowing about it. One judge at an immigration hearing exploded at U.S. officials: “If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?”

At least 2,700 children were stolen from their parents by the U.S. government since October and about 2,400 “tender age” kids under 12 years old, some as young as just a few years, were held in makeshift detention camps. One whistleblower revealed the inhumanity of these conditions by leaking a recording of small children in one of these shelters crying inconsolably for their moms and dads and aunts. Pediatricians warned of permanent damage to already traumatized children.

This was not the first time the U.S. government separated immigrant families. It happened under Obama, and Bush. But it’s the first time a president was so blatant about it, bragging even.

Trump was using these children to get his own way. Before he backed down, he even said it – he wouldn’t stop taking the children unless he got an immigration bill that “MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch and Release, Visa Lottery and Chain [migration], and go to Merit Based Immigration.”

And as if that vile political extortion wasn’t enough, even after Trump finally agreed to stop separating families, he bragged at a rally in Minnesota: “We haven’t let up. We’re very, very powerful at the border. We’re gonna need the wall.... We need to stop people from pouring in.” As if stealing children was “powerful!”

This coward brutalized children so he could pose as a strong man for what he hopes will be an electoral base attracted to such behavior.

Donald Trump’s Big Trade Tariff Adventure

Jun 25, 2018

Since the spring, the Trump administration has imposed a wave of tariffs on 1,102 imported goods, from aluminum and steel, that is, the building blocks of basic industry, to consumer items like washing machines, solar panels, and LED lighting.

Do these tariffs signal a real change in U.S. trade policy? Or are they one more instance of Trump grandstanding, playing to the chauvinism of his America First voting base?

For all the furor Trump’s rhetoric has produced, it is much ado about little. Even if the tariffs that Trump has announced take full effect – which is doubtful – they will hit only a very small portion of the roughly three trillion dollars a year in imports into the U.S. As Stephen Gallagher, managing director of Société Générale, explained, “... right now it’s more of a temper tantrum on trade, as opposed to a real war,” (Wall Street Journal, June 19), although, as Gallagher points out, there is always the risk that it could develop into something much bigger.

But Trump’s tariffs have already produced a huge mess. U.S. manufacturing companies that use imported steel and aluminum have flooded the U.S. Commerce Department with 20,000 applications for product exemptions from the tariffs, claiming that they can’t get the specialty steel or aluminum from anywhere else. But all the budget cuts carried out under Trump and his predecessors has reduced the manpower in the Commerce Department so much that it was only able to process only a total of 98 applications in a period of three months.

Other large U.S. companies, from semiconductor chip makers to diesel engine manufacturers, have also lodged complaints with the Commerce Department about suddenly having to pay tariffs on their own products, given the complex global nature of these companies’ supply chains. To those objections, the Trump administration says that the companies can also put in an application for their products to be excluded from tariff payments ... to the very same undermanned Commerce Department bureaucracy which is already backed up with tens of thousands of applications! In other words, nothing will happen “soon.”

But many manufacturing companies in the U.S. that stood to benefit from the tariffs raised their prices even before the tariffs took effect. Companies producing steel and aluminum in the U.S., for example, immediately raised their prices by 40 per cent.

Is the U.S. the Victim?

Trump’s claim that the U.S. is taken advantage by every other country, especially China, is a complete lie. Even Trump’s own Council of Economic Advisors undercut these claims. In their official 2018 Economic Report to the President that Trump himself signed (no doubt without reading), Trump’s economists explain the trade deficit is not a sign of economic weakness, of “America” being taken advantage of by every other country, as Trump has insisted.

“The United States has been able to sustain a trade deficit in part because of the role of the U.S. dollar to the global economy,” according to the report by Trump’s advisors. “Foreigners are happy to hold U.S. dollars and dollar-denominated assets, which they obtain by selling more goods and services than they buy.”

In other words, because the United States has been by far the dominant economic power in the world since at least the end of World War II, it has been able to impose its currency, the dollar, as the reserve currency which other governments and central banks keep in their coffers, to buttress their own currencies. Moreover, much of international trade (such as oil) is carried out using dollars. Over many decades, this has fueled a steady demand for U.S. dollars all over the world. And it has allowed the United States government to purchase goods from the world market simply by printing money or issuing debt. Foreign countries fund this debt by trading real goods for pieces of paper (or rather its virtual symbols on a computer network), in reality trading something for nothing. Often times, this money never even leaves the United States. This allows United States companies and its government to consume more than they produce and finance their investments by borrowing from foreign companies and countries. In other words, U.S. imperialism uses the dollar to drain the wealth produced by workers all over the world.

No, the U.S. is not the victim. It is U.S. imperialism that victimizes the rest of the world.

Manufacturing in the U.S.

Also false are Trump’s claims that foreign competition has undercut U.S. manufacturing. On the contrary, the manufacturing process has simply become more international in scope, with U.S. companies most often dominating the global supply chain and global assembly line. Apple iPhones that are sold all over the world, for example, might be stamped with a “Made in China” label. But their design, development, marketing and software are all carried out in the U.S. And some of its most expensive parts, such as the processors, are also made in the U.S. Thus, most of the revenue and profits stay in the U.S. “Made in China” just means that is where final assembly took place, the least profitable part of the operation. Even cell phones made by Chinese companies, such as ZTE and Huawei, also use the same U.S.-made processors, the guts of the cell phone. So, U.S. companies still grab a big part of the profits from many products that are made by Chinese companies, as well.

Of course, Trump says that he is using tariffs to save jobs lost to foreign competition. And it is true that 5.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost from January 1989 to January 2018, a devastating 30 per cent drop.

But it is ludicrous to attribute this drop in employment to foreign competition, since in that same time period industrial production in the U.S. increased by 60 per cent, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve!

In other words, millions fewer workers in the U.S. are producing substantially more, creating much more wealth for U.S. companies and the capitalist class. That’s the problem.

Trump has made a big deal about supposedly saving steel workers’ jobs, whose numbers dropped by 400,000, or 75 per cent, between 1962 and 2005. But what he covers up is that steel shipments did not decline, according to a study published in the American Economic Review last year. No, what changed was a new technology called the minimill. This meant that one worker is doing the work done by five workers 33 years before. Other studies have shown that there have been similar increases in productivity in other sectors, such as computers and electronics manufacturing. Even textile manufacturing, which was also said to have migrated out of the country, has been transformed in the U.S. into a high tech industry producing enormous amounts of expensive, specialty fabrics with few workers.

These transformations have meant that productivity in industrial production has increased much, much faster than other sectors, including services and construction.

No, it is not foreign competition that is taking U.S. jobs, but U.S. companies right here in this country. U.S. companies have further capitalized on these job losses by forcing those still working to accept lower pay, less benefits, longer work hours, less security – just in order to keep a job. So, rather than competing against foreign workers, workers are really competing against themselves. The more wealth workers produce, the poorer they get.

By all rights, the people who do the work should benefit from it. Rather than eliminate jobs, the work could be spread around, in order to work shorter hours, and get more time off, without sacrificing pay and benefits. But in order to do that, it will take a fight against the capitalists right here, and all their government flunkies, starting with President Donald Trump.

What World Does Nikki Haley Live in?

Jun 25, 2018

Thirty million people in this country lack health insurance. More than half of older workers have no retirement savings, and 140 million struggle to meet basic expenses. Eleven million people in the U.S. cycle through prison or jail every year, and 13.3 million children live in poverty. People here “live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies.” All this according to a recent United Nations report.

But Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., doesn’t want to hear it. “It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” she said. The U.S. is “the wealthiest and freest country in the world....”

Has Nikki Haley seen the children separated from their parents? Does she have any older people in her family trying to survive on just Social Security? No, of course not, because she has never set foot outside her rich parts of town.

The U.S. may be free and wealthy for people like Nikki Haley, but not for the rest of us who have to work for a living.

U.S. Immigration Policy

Jun 25, 2018

Defending his so-called “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigrants, President Trump recently declared, “There are only two options: totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law breaking.”

Judging from his many declarations like this, you would think that Trump wants a fundamental change in the immigration policies of the United States. But in fact, the fundamental goal of U.S. immigration policies has remained the same for decades, including under Trump: Create a large source of cheap labor through the use of threats of deportation and the criminalization of immigrants.

For decades these policies have succeeded in boosting the profits of big and small companies alike by providing an abundance of cheap, semi-slave labor. This is most obvious among the lowest-paid layers of the working class.

The bosses use immigrants not only to provide cheap labor, but they also attempt to use immigrants to pressure the rest of the working class to pull back from demanding better wages and benefits. They try to stoke fear in other workers that their jobs will be given to lower-paid immigrants.

From its very birth, the working class in this country has been composed of immigrants – some who came here seeking a better life, some brought here in chains – plus a few survivors of the wars to exterminate their tribes. The big fights to improve our lives have always happened when those who were struggling worked to overcome at least some of the divisions in our class.

This is still the situation today.

Pages 6-7

Hidden History of Korea’s Division, North & South

Jun 25, 2018

The following is the editorial from Spark’s workplace newsletters, the week of June 18.

So what was the purpose of Trump’s quickie visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un? Only months before he had called him, “a madman who starves and kills his people.” Today, he calls Kim, “strong, a funny guy and intelligent.”

Trump loves to shift gears, keeping the spotlight on himself. But his visit with Kim might be something more than a Trump whim. It might be a signal that U.S. imperialism intends to change its policy toward Korea, North and South.

Whatever happens, Korea’s fate will not be determined by a handshake between a vicious dictator and a reality-show con man. Korea’s fate will be determined, just as it has been for the past 73 years, by the aims U.S. imperialism sets for itself.

The Korean War

Korea came under U.S. control at the end of World War II. It had been a colony of Japan, occupied since 1910. In 1945, with Japan on the edge of defeat, the U.S. proposed to divide Korea at the 38th parallel, similar to the division of Viet Nam. U.S. troops would occupy the southern half, while troops of the Soviet Union occupied the north. The Korean people had no say in the division.

In 1948, the U.S. installed a puppet military dictatorship in South Korea, using U.S. armed forces to keep it in power. It was to be a U.S. bastion against the rising anti-colonial tide that was sweeping much of Asia, including China and India.

The North established its own state, whose goal became the reunification of the whole Korean peninsula. Soviet troops pulled out of the North. But U.S. troops stayed in the South.

By 1950, the new South Korean military, armed with U.S. weapons, was carrying out a series of provocations and raids against the North at the 38th parallel. Northern troops crossed the parallel and quickly pushed south, seeking to unify Korea through military force. The Southern army crumbled, and the U.S. poured in more troops.

It was the beginning of a horribly destructive war, which raged from the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, up to Korea’s northern border with China, back and forth. In less than three years, three million Koreans, North and South, were killed. The North was left devastated by U.S. bombing, its cities destroyed. (To note: In the midst of this savage bombing, U.S. generals threatened to use nuclear weapons on the North.) Nearly 40,000 U.S. troops died, as did 400,000 Chinese.

China had entered the war when U.S. troops pushed all the way up to China’s border. With masses of Chinese troops joining the battle, U.S. troops were forced back south, down beyond the 38th parallel. It was at that point that the U.S. called for negotiations to end the fighting, reinstating the old division at the 38th parallel. Chinese troops would leave from the North, but the U.S. would stay in the South – which it has done up until today, with major bases and nearly 30,000 troops still there. Korea would remain divided. And the North would continue to pay.

Trade Embargoes, Famine & Nuclear Weapons

In the 65 years since, the U.S. has used its position as the world’s strongest military power to isolate Korea. In 1956, it stationed nuclear weapons in South Korea, aimed at the North. And it used its dominant economic position to cut North Korea off from most international trade. U.S. embargoes starved the North for the supplies it needed to recover from the war, the bombing, and colonization. Its population paid dearly, including in years of famine.

North Korea did not turn to developing nuclear weapons until the U.S., after 2001, tightened trade sanctions against any country that traded with the North. The Northern regime pushed its nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip to get the suffocating trade embargo lifted. U.S. claims about these weapons are pure hypocrisy.

Today, it’s possible that U.S. corporate interests, for their own reasons, might be ready for the U.S. to negotiate a settlement. A unified Korea, under U.S. tutelage, could be an economic beachhead against China. At least, China could be prevented from strengthening its alliance with Korea. Today, we can’t know what will happen. But we can be sure it won’t be in the interests of the Korean population, North or South – nor of the American working class.

Cleaners’ Strike at National Guard Facilities

Jun 25, 2018

A dozen workers from the cleaning crew of 20 at the Army National Guard facility in Arlington in Northern Virginia went on strike in late May. They demand their private employer Didlake let them vote whether to have a union. They want to negotiate issues like health care and pay. As for the working conditions, a striker told reporters, “They give us more and more work. We can't even sit down when we need to sit down.”

Didlake gets tens of millions of federal dollars to clean government and military facilities and run government mailrooms in the Washington, D.C. area. This supposed non-profit hires 2,000 workers with disabilities and provides job coaching under the federal program AbilityOne. In other words, they play on workers’ situation to rake in more money for the company.

The CEO makes more than one million dollars a year while most workers earn only the minimum wage, and little health care.

Organizing and fighting is the way forward for workers. Those at Didlake have started to fight.

Page 8

UAW Convention:
Introduction

Jun 25, 2018

The UAW held its every-four-year convention in Detroit, June 11-14. Many delegates hoped to hear a way forward for the union they work to build. What they got was another scripted convention.

Only two issues created some heat. The first was the renewal of a dues increase passed four years ago. The politically significant part of the discussion focused on whether part-time and temporary workers should be charged the same amount as permanent full-time workers, even though they work fewer hours.

Gary Walkowicz, who was nominated for the presidency in opposition to the traditional leadership, spoke against the unfairness, which not only served to divide workers, but which also induced a growing number of the part-timers to be resentful of the union, even hostile. He pointed out that many of these workers, today part-timers, will be permanent tomorrow, and that their resentment may be fodder in the hands of the workers’ enemies. Perhaps 100 delegates voted against the main resolution.

The second issue was a proposal to raise salaries of top officials, more than $46,000 for the president. And this in a year when the union officials pushed to keep higher dues. One delegate from the floor – a supporter of the current leadership – said he couldn’t vote for this and then face his membership. Maybe 150 delegates voted against, while about 300 supported the increase, out of 900 delegates.

On the basic question of what policy the UAW should have, in the face of the growing attacks on workers’ standard of living and right to organize, there were few people, other than Walkowicz who spoke to the issues. (The letter he addressed to the Convention is reprinted next to this article.) As with previous Conventions, few delegates dared to give him their votes. But there were delegates afterward who thanked him for being bold enough to oppose the leadership and for raising concerns about the direction of the union and its policies of partnership with corporations.

Gary Walkowicz to the UAW Convention

Jun 25, 2018

...I am running for UAW President to say that our union needs to be done with the policy of “partnership.” I will keep running because someone needs to tell the truth.

The big corporations preside over an economy that they drove into a crisis. Then these corporations solved their crisis at our expense – by driving down the workers’ standard of living in order to maintain their own profits.

Instead of proposing to fight back against this attack, the UAW and other union leaderships have continued to follow a policy of partnership with the corporations.

What has this partnership brought us?

In the auto industry, the wage and benefit structure that previous generations fought for has been destroyed. “Equal Pay for Equal Work” is gone, replaced by multiple wage tiers and temporary and part-time jobs. Pensions for new hires are gone, replaced by a 401(k). Most parts jobs have been outsourced to low wage companies. Assembly plant jobs have been lost to speed-up. Alternative work schedules disrupt our lives.

Autoworkers Used to Lead the Fight

Autoworkers once led the fight for working people to have a decent standard of living. Other workers followed our lead. But when we let the UAW leadership open the door for the auto companies to take concessions, we went backwards and other workers have followed us backwards. The standard of living of the working class has been steadily pushed down. More workers are living paycheck to paycheck. Teachers and many others have to work two or three jobs to survive. Young people can only find part-time or temporary jobs. For working class youth, getting a college degree guarantees massive debt, but not a job. Our children will live worse off than us.

This is what happens when you decide not to fight. You go backwards. You invite the corporations to take more.

Now Our Unions Are Threatened

We opened the door, and today the corporations and their politician allies are now threatening the very existence of the unions. So-called “right to work” laws are passed in state after state. NLRB and court rulings make it more difficult to organize unions. Public workers, like our UAW members in Michigan, are having bargaining rights taken away. The Supreme Court rules that companies can force arbitration on workers, preventing class action suits. The Court is about to rule to get rid of “agency shop” protection for public sector workers. Trump, following on what the Obama administration did, just declared war on the jobs, seniority rights, and contracts of federal workers.

Many workers have lost faith in the unions. This is the dangerous consequence of the union leadership’s policy of partnership with the very people who are attacking us.

What’s worse, some workers fall for the vicious ideas that divide the working class, pitting white against black, native-born against immigrant, men against women, American workers against workers in other countries.

It is necessary that the truth be told. It is necessary that we face up to reality.

  • The labor movement and our very unions are at a crisis point.
  • The policies of partnership only served the interests of the corporations and government bosses.
  • To defend ourselves, our families, our children’s future, we have to depend on ourselves – on our ability to fight for what we need.
  • Our ability to fight depends on class solidarity, on our understanding that we are all part of one class, no matter where we work or who we are.

The history of this union shows that we have a different path that we can follow. The working class has the power to defend itself. The working class has the power to fight for what we need....