Jun 3, 2002
What did Bush know and when did he know it? The uproar surrounding recent revelations sparked Congress to open not just one, but two investigations into what the Bush administration and the U.S. security services knew about the September 11 terrorist attacks.
So what will Congress look into? Will it look at all the ties between the U.S. security services and the terrorist networks that carried out the attacks? Will it look into how the U.S. government helped to set up, finance and even glorified at one time these terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, as “freedom fighters”? Will Congress even investigate the long-standing business ties between some very prominent U.S. families and those who helped front the terrorist groupings? There’s certainly dirt swept under the rug which today covers over the business ties between the Bush family and the bin Laden family.
This is where an investigation might start. Of course, if Congress would go where the facts led, it would then find itself looking into the bloody role that the U.S. government has played not only in the Middle East, but all over the world, from Central and South America to Africa to Asia. It would reveal the U.S. government’s use of dictatorships, death squads, terrorist groups against poor people, workers and peasants whenever they try to organize for a better life. And such an investigation must condemn U.S. imperialist domination over the poor countries of the world and their laboring populations.
In other words, it’s an investigation that Congress won’t ever carry out. Instead, we can expect only more of the double and triple talk which has marked this whole affair.
No – it’s worse than that. Because Bush has grabbed hold of these embarrassing revelations about him and his administration and turned them around against the population. He tells us that the “oversights” which led to September 11 can only be overcome by expanding the FBI’s spying on people in this country. And this same Congress, which pretends to be investigating Bush, is ready to give its approval.
What Bush has in mind can be seen in the role that the FBI played during social movements in the past. During the black movement of the 1950s and 60s, for example, the FBI and other police agencies gave tacit encouragement to the Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groupings. The FBI stood aside, supposedly powerless, as the groups it had encouraged assassinated activists, blew up churches with children in them, burned down peoples’ homes. But the terror that these groups sowed had its origin in the secret police agencies. The FBI joined with the local police to gun down Black Panthers. It directed terror against both the rank and file and the most prominent leaders. Remember how the FBI tried to break Martin Luther King, through blackmail and threats against him and his family. The FBI was proud of its famous “Cointelpro” program, whose stated aim was to “eliminate” the activists of that day.
The movements of the 1960s were strong enough, however, that they finally forced the government to back off a little and even pretend to completely do away with some of the most blatant programs, like Cointelpro. In effect, for many years the fight of black people in the 1960s was a protection for the entire population.
Now, however, the Bush administration wants to “ease” limits on government spying. Bush is saying openly that any low-down tactic is justified.
The terrorism that the U.S. government engenders is not just meant against people abroad, but against the majority of the population in this country first of all.
Jun 3, 2002
For the last three months the Detroit airport has been run by a newly constituted authority. The seven member board controlling the authority is made up of four members appointed by outgoing Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara, two by outgoing Governor John Engler and one by the Wayne County Commissioners. McNamara is a long term Democrat whose name adorns the new 1.2 billion dollar Northwest terminal. He is supposedly a bitter enemy of Republican Governor John Engler.
The airport director, Lester Robinson, said the state wanted the airport to “operate more like a business and not a political toy.” A study showed that political contributors to McNamara’s election campaigns received 86% of the value of the 44 new airport contracts in 2000. Since the new deal gives McNamara majority control of the airport while also giving Engler a cut, it seems like the two politicians from rival political parties find it easy to unite in a distribution of the booty.
Jun 3, 2002
In early May, a Senate investigating committee questioned executives from BP Amoco, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil and Marathon Ashland about whether they contributed to high gas prices. Of course, the oil company executives insisted they did NOT contribute to high prices, blaming oil suppliers, natural disasters and those mysterious “market” forces.
In fact, the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee already had internal company memos on hand which showed that over at least a ten-year period, executives wrote memos to each other about how they could manipulate oil supplies so that prices would rise.
Nonetheless, executives continued to blame price increases on suppliers of crude oil, even though these corporations are themselves the suppliers of the crude oil through the deals they make with the petroleum exporting countries, not to mention through their own holdings in this country. The price of a barrel of crude oil had fallen by November to as low as $17.45 per barrel. Nonetheless, prices at the pump fell very little and from the beginning of this year on, the price of gasoline has been going up and up and up – reaching $1.50 per gallon in many markets.
And what can we expect from these Senators who pretend to look out for us, as they ponder this so-called new information? Expect a nice new study.
A week after these hearings made the news, the Federal Trade Commission said it was going to start collecting information on the price of gasoline at all the gas stations in the United States to determine why prices spike up. They should have a report ready to tell us what we already know ... in about another ten years.
Jun 3, 2002
Numerous state governments are claiming that they are facing a “budget crisis.” Governors across the country are calling for cutbacks in state programs, as well as for layoffs of state workers and cutbacks in their pay, pensions and health programs. The governors usually cite the decline in the economy for the “budget shortfall.”
There is no doubt that the states are taking in less money than in previous years, but much of this has to do with tax breaks voted by the politicians for the wealthy and corporations. In 1997, Clinton signed a law reducing the federal estate tax, which was further reduced under Bush. This is a tax paid by only the richest two% of the population. State governments are expected to take in 1.8 billion dollars less in estate taxes next year alone as a result.
Corporate profits tax revenues going to the states are also sharply down. One major reason for this was the Economic Stimulus Package passed by the Congress following the September 11 attack and voted for by almost all Democrats and Republicans. It reduced the taxes corporations will pay to the U.S. government by 35 billion dollars a year, letting them charge off rapid “depreciation” of their new investments. Most states with a corporate profits tax tie the amount to that on the corporation’s federal tax form. The government of Illinois estimated that the state will lose 240 million dollars in corporate profits tax next year due to this change in the U.S. law. Other big states will have similar losses.
In recent years politicians have been working overtime cutting corporate taxes and reducing taxes on the wealthy. This is what has created “budget crises” in states around the country.
These crises are totally of the politicians’ making. No state worker need be laid off or have their pay or benefits cut. No social program serving the poor and workers’ families has to be cut. No public services should be scuttled. These fake “budget crises” can easily be overcome by ending corporate welfare and putting back taxes on the wealthy.
Jun 3, 2002
Gas prices shot up the week before Memorial Day and came back down on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Just an ordinary holiday weekend when most of us are off work and driving somewhere. Selling that larger volume of gas at much higher prices let the oil companies make a quick killing.
Of course, oil execs explain gasoline price increases in terms of “supply and demand.” According to them, prices go up when supplies are too short to meet the demand.
If there had been a shortage, it would have taken place AFTER the weekend when the tanks were drained. Prices might then have risen due to a gasoline shortage – if it were true that prices relate to “supply and demand.”
In fact, what “supply and demand” actually means is oil companies and gas stations demand whatever price they can get away with and we’re supposed to supply it.
Jun 3, 2002
USAir is claiming it must find 1.3 billion dollars or the company will go under. And it is demanding the workers come up with 3/4 of that amount.
Management says it has had big losses in recent years. But why should workers believe what the bosses say? Every day we hear still more companies admitting to falsifying their books.
Unless the workers themselves were the ones to monitor all the books – all the income and outgo of every part of the company, including its hidden subsidiaries – all its dealings with the banks, etc., workers have no way of knowing what the company’s situation is. And they certainly have no reason to accept what the company says.
But even if the company’s claim were true, so what?
The labor of USAir workers over the years created massive profits, which enabled the stock holders who own millions of dollars of shares to draw dividends and get big gains on the stock market by selling USAir stock. The banks and wealthy bondholders received interest payments from the profits created by the workers. Top management has been able to draw its million dollar salaries.
If there’s no money today – and that’s a very big if – it’s because these parasites already bled the company dry, because management made the decision to let them do it. If the company really needs 1.3 billion dollars, let management get that from the people who bled USAir dry.
If management can’t do that, let the company be taken over by the government, with no golden parachutes to execs, no compensation to stockholders, no loan repayments to the banks, nothing to these parasites that stole the wealth. Let the government use the money that it put aside for loan guarantees to keep the company working and fully maintain the workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions.
Today the government talks about giving USAir loan guarantees. No, use that money to guarantee jobs.
Jun 3, 2002
Congress recently passed a huge so-called farm support bill with votes from both Democrats and Republicans. President Bush has signed it into law.
This bill will cost almost 200 billion dollars over the next 10 years. It will dramatically increase subsidies on large staple crops like soybeans and wheat, introduce new subsidies on crops like lentils and peanuts, and re-establish previously eliminated subsidies on crops like honey, wool and mohair.
International monitors estimate that of every $1 in U.S. farm revenue, about 25 cents already comes from existing government subsidy programs. This new farm subsidy bill will almost double the overall level of U.S. agricultural subsidies.
Like other farm bills before it, this subsidy bill was advertised in Washington as essential to save America’s small farmers from bankruptcy. But it will do nothing of the sort, just as past so-called farm support bills have done nothing of the sort. In fact, by building up the big agricultural corporations, the subsidies have helped wipe out the small farmer.
Three-quarters of all the subsidies paid under this latest bill will go to the biggest and richest 10% of farmers – most importantly to the big corporate farmers who sell most of their crops to huge agribusinesses such as Cargill or Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) that then export much of this huge output to other countries.
What this bill is designed to do is help the big U.S. agribusinesses take over many more of the world’s markets for agricultural products.
Oxfam, a London-based international relief organization, recently estimated that because of existing government subsidies, the U.S. has already been selling surplus wheat on world markets at prices 46% below the cost of production, and corn at 20% below costs. With the sharply increased subsidies in the new farm bill, it is expected that millions of poor farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America will now be driven into bankruptcy by U.S. government subsidized agricultural products. This will extend and reinforce the domination of world agricultural markets by U.S. agribusiness, while helping small farmers in the U.S. virtually none at all.
Big farm agriculture in the U.S. is indeed very efficient. It is capable, if properly organized, of providing food for almost the whole world’s population, even while using methods would not destroy the environment. In a world economy organized to meet the needs of ordinary people all over the globe, U.S. big-farm productivity could be harnessed to help end world hunger.
It’s the mark of how degenerate capitalism is that this bill will do just the opposite – over time increasing world hunger by eliminating the meager livelihood of millions of poor farmers in other countries.
Jun 3, 2002
The following is excerpted and translated from an article from Lutte Ouvriere (Workers Struggle), the revolutionary group in France with whom we share political perspectives. In it LO answers those who criticized it for running candidates who “can’t win.”
Political commentators and leaders of the governmental parties are surprised, indeed they complain, about the large number of candidates in the coming legislative elections. According to them, most of these candidacies are useless because they have no chance to be elected; worse even, they are harmful, because so many candidates will simply divide the vote, preventing democracy such as they conceive it from working. But the legislative elections, just like the presidential elections which just took place, are anything but democratic in the true sense of the term....
The candidates elected from each district represent only a minority of those who have voted in the district. That means that the majority in the new Assembly will not in any way represent the majority of the voters, and still less their opinions and their interests.
Once elected, the Assembly deputies cannot be controlled by their voters, who must wait for the next election to discipline the deputies for what they did or didn’t do. The deputies can turn their backs on their electoral promises, when they aren’t so vague as to be meaningless....
This democracy isn’t deformed by an excessive number of candidates but by all the barriers thrown up to prevent the voters from being represented by men and women who really defend them and who won’t be afraid to denounce what’s done in the Assembly or in its corridors: the deals and the combinations, the lies but also the pressures that a powerful wealthy elite exercises over the political world. They have a much greater say over who will be elected to the parliament and in the government than do the electors.
This electoral system, which was established by de Gaulle, prevents representatives of the revolutionary communist current from being elected. It prevents the representatives of the men and women workers, of the unemployed, of the not-well-off retired people, from making the popular revolt heard inside the Parliament. The democracy of which the party leaders and commentators speak is a truncated democracy, closely supervised. In order for a really democratic representation to exist, representatives of the people should be elected by proportional representation at the level of the country. Moreover, the voters should have the power to recall easily and immediately those they elected and who didn’t keep their word.
Nevertheless, these elections will at least permit popular discontent to show itself. Lutte Ouvriere (Workers Struggle) is presenting men and women candidates in all the districts of the country in order to let this discontent against the policy applied by the left as well as by the right be expressed. Without such a candidacy, some of this discontent would inevitably be pulled into voting for representatives of an openly anti-worker party, directed by the billionaire Le Pen, who campaigns on anti-foreigner, indeed racist, themes.
Jun 3, 2002
In recent weeks, Indian and Pakistan have both threatened to use nuclear warheads against each other.
How do two of the world’s poorer countries have nuclear weapons to threaten each other with? They were helped by the big nuclear powers.
Almost from its beginnings India’s leaders moved to develop a nuclear weapons program, attempting to buy technology from such countries as France and Belgium. This the U.S. opposed. However, the U.S. government didn’t mind the Indian government purchasing nuclear reactors from the U.S. – like the two from General Electric okayed for sale in 1964. The U.S. also sold India “heavy water” which could be used in its nuclear weapons program.
But this created problems for the U.S. with Pakistan, which was its ally in the region from the early 1950s. The U.S. had military bases there, and it sold or practically gave Pakistan’s military regime enormous amounts of conventional weapons. And when Pakistan began working on nuclear weapons, the U.S. government allowed it to buy a nuclear reactor from Westinghouse. It also brought hundreds of Pakistani scientists to the U.S. to give them the training they needed.
In 1974, India tested one of its nuclear bombs, signaling to the world that it had developed such weapons. Since then, there had been no testing of nuclear weapons until 1998, when the two countries, involved in yet another dispute, both set off nuclear test explosions in May.
Obviously a nuclear war would be catastrophic for both countries and more widely the region. But their conventional wars have killed and wounded and displaced millions, causing enormous devastation for their populations at the hands of rulers who use war as a policy.
Jun 3, 2002
At one time, the Indian subcontinent fed itself, and it had a thriving textile industry which produced enough for the country and for export. While the area contained more than 500 little mini-states, with millions of people practicing various religions other than the majority one of Hinduism, wars between groups were not the norm. But Britain’s century and a half of colonial domination over the entire Indian subcontinent depended on its ability to pit one group against another.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, British control and laws ruined the local weavers in order to make a market for the expanding English textile manufacturers. For the next century, British colonial rule assured that profit would go to British landowners, companies and administrators in their Indian empire. The population would remain – outside the palaces – poor, uneducated, with no rights.
World War II broke the bonds of the British empire around the world. In the Indian subcontinent, which had seen a real movement for independence, Britain feared that it could be tossed out. So Britain set out to grant independence, but in a fashion that could only favor British political and economic interests, even when colonial rule disappeared.
Britain, which had long encouraged and manipulated ethnic and religious divisions, moved to exacerbate this situation. It reinforced the organizations, both Muslim and Hindu, which were carrying out a kind of “ethnic cleansing” against other people. And, in 1947, Britain split the country in two: one part was to be Muslim, and one Hindu.
Muslims were to live in Pakistan, whose two chunks were carved out of India. Millions of Muslims who had been living in other parts of the Indian subcontinent, were forced at gunpoint to flee to the new Pakistan, and millions of Hindus living in what became Pakistan were forced to relocate within the new borders of India. Almost immediately after the 1948 declaration that established two separate countries, bloodshed broke out over this policy, costing as many as half a million lives immediately, while millions more were displaced to live in desperately poor refugee camps.
Even worse, the British fixed the borders of Pakistan as a country split in two from its origins. A huge piece of India separated the east and west portions of what was supposedly one country by over a thousand miles. Subsequently, the leaders of East Pakistan and West Pakistan were encouraged to fight a low-level war throughout the first decades of their country’s existence, with Indian aid going to East Pakistan. In bloody warfare, another new country was created by December, 1971. East Pakistan, which had few resources and no industry to speak of, became Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries on earth.
In the decades after independence, both India’s and Pakistan’s leaders – no matter which political parties were in power – encouraged a policy of hatred and murder based on religious differences – a policy which today would be called “ethnic cleansing.”
Certainly, the respective rulers of India and Pakistan have long made use of these divisions to line up their own impoverished populations behind them – and in the most despicable fashion. But they were simply acting on the ground British colonialism had prepared.
The populations of both countries has paid the price.
Jun 3, 2002
What is behind this latest threat of war between India and Pakistan for control of Kashmir?
As with all the wars and conflicts between India and Pakistan, this one is not independent of the role played by British colonialism, and afterwards the role played by both British and U.S. imperialism. To maintain its colonial rule over this vast and rich region, Britain played on the divisions between the Hindu majority and Muslim minority. In the years since independence, the Indian and Pakistani regimes have been pawns of the big-power conflicts in the area, with both being armed to the teeth, at different times, by the different imperialisms.
Kashmir, at the center of the current war-mongering, symbolizes the broader situation. Originally characterized as an “independent” country, its population was Muslim, but its ruling family was Hindu, and so tried to link Kashmir to India. Borders have been drawn and redrawn. Between the wars, the “border skirmishes” and more recently the terrorist attacks, its population has lived in a quasi permanent warlike situation.
Underlying the current confrontation over Kashmir is the U.S. war in Afghanistan, with the Indian and Pakistani regimes each trying to exploit their own advantages from the war. On the one hand, the Pakistani regime is trying to take advantage of renewed U.S. support, especially since the U.S. government has depended so much on Pakistan in the Afghanistan war. But this regime, which itself had many ties with the Muslim fundamentalists who made up the Taliban, has at the same time made use of the Al-Qaeda who fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan, and then up into Kashmir. On the other hand, the Indian regime claims that, like the U.S., it is carrying out a fight against terrorism – thus justifying what it does, not only against whatever Al-Qaeda and Taliban troops might be there, but also against the population. Both regimes have massed more and more troops on the borders of the Kashmir region, threatening once again to involve the people of the larger area in a new bloodbath.
Both regimes are run by dictators (whether they happen to have risen to power through formal elections or not) who have little real support from their own peoples, who are forced to live in deep impoverishment and misery. Both regimes are using the current threat of a conflict, just as they did in the past, to divert the discontent of the population and to reinforce their hold over the population. And both regimes have used religious fundamentalists in their own country to help inflame the population against another people, rather than against the regime.
Will the current bellicose posturing lead to a real war, with all the devastation that implies? It certainly could. In the absence of organizations with roots in the population, which aim the people’s anger against their own rulers, these regimes may be able once again to involve their populations in a bloodletting which, the regimes hope, will reinforce their hold for another period.
These wars have never served the interests of the people who live in this vast area, nor will another one.
Jun 3, 2002
On May 29, President George Bush, sitting next to brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, announced that the federal government would spend 235 million dollars for seven state-owned oil and gas leases off the Florida coast, as well as privately owned mineral rights on land adjacent to the Everglades National Park.
What a deal! – for the Bush brothers, that is, just a few months before Jeb stands for re-election as Florida’s governor and with George’s hero image getting a little tarnished.
The deal will put money into the Florida state treasury at a time when Florida, like every other state, is facing a so-called budget crunch. And it lets George appear like a protector of the Everglades and the Florida coast.
Of course, this is the same George W. Bush who proposed to hand the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve over to the big oil companies.
Who does he plan to give the Everglades to?
Jun 3, 2002
A city coalition on drugs began a new campaign this spring which is supposed to fight the use of illegal drugs. By the city’s own estimate, there are 60,000 drug addicts in Baltimore. Less than five% of them receive any kind of drug treatment.
Baltimore, like every other city, experiences thousands of drug transactions weekly, including violent crimes leading to thousands of arrests which clog the courts and the prisons. Hundreds die each year in drug-related shootings.
So what is this magic campaign, which supposedly will eradicate the problem? An advertising campaign: huge billboards all over the city with one word, “BELIEVE.” And a four-minute video has been produced, showing how drugs affect a child in Baltimore. “BELIEVE” ads are seen on TVand heard on the radio stations.
BELIEVE, and you won’t feel the need for drugs: so goes the myth. In other words, under the guise of fighting the scourge of drug addiction, they try to reinforce one of the most reactionary prejudices on the population.
Just BELIEVE. It won’t make all the poverty and violence disappear. It won’t create housing for the city’s poorest residents in the 14,000 vacant buildings it has boarded up. It won’t allow the schools to start educating the children of Baltimore, schools in which only one-third of fifth graders read at grade level. It won’t stop the more than 70% of high school students who drop out.
But, for capitalist society, which creates all these evils, a “BELIEVE” campaign has a real advantage. It suckers the victims of capitalism into bearing its evils stoically. How ironic – drugs do the same thing.
Jun 3, 2002
In mid-May, phony electricity sales by CMS Energy Corporation came to light. This company owns Consumers Energy Company, which provides gas and electricity to 3.2 million customers in Michigan. The company was forced to admit that its trading unit had booked five billion dollars in so-called power swaps. The chief trader, Tamela Pallas, bought electricity and resold it simultaneously, while chalking up the sales. This is considered legal activity, although federal regulators “frown” on it. Interestingly, while this was going on, CMS’s auditor was none other than Arthur Andersen – which became infamous for covering up fraudulent activity for Enron. CMS now has a new auditor, and a new chief executive officer since William McCormick was forced to resign.
People in Michigan may have thought that the energy crisis that hit California in the winter of 2000 and the scandal of Enron was far removed from them. Think again! In the 1990s, CMS used the profits it made as a regulated utility company to expand into unregulated businesses, and it took advantage of the federal deregulation of the energy business, as have other utilities around the country, in order to raise its revenues. It’s likely that CMS’s power swaps helped boost the price of electricity consumers had to pay.
The new chairman of CMS is Ken Way, not the Ken Lay of Enron. The name may be slightly different, but CMS too was up to Enron-like double dealing.
Jun 3, 2002
Dozens of Coca Cola drivers, plant workers and salesmen in Dallas have been marching with bullhorns and getting on talk radio, revealing a scam carried out by Coca Cola Enterprises for years.
Workers who brought back unsold Coke from wealthier areas were ordered to use Windex cleaner to take the expiration date off the bottles and to put the old cans into boxes with new dates. The expired Coca Cola was then sent over to poor neighborhoods, usually predominantly black ones, throughout the North Texas area. Sometimes the Coke was up to 90 days past expiration. Workers who protested were threatened with discharge.
This is a company which has a “real thing” for profits.
Jun 3, 2002
The governor of Maryland and the Department of Business and Economic Development want the tax-payers’ thanks for their latest deal: bribing Giant, the largest grocery chain in Maryland (108 stores), to build it’s next warehouse... in Maryland!
The governor dipped into the state’s “Sunny Day Fund,” for a one and a quarter million dollar incentive package, in addition to offering a training grant, a job tax credit, and road improvement money, all of which total close to two million dollars.
How amazing! A giant corporation has to be bribed to build a warehouse where it makes good business sense to build it: near its headquarters, truck depot and food distribution center.
Just let a corporation hint it will go elsewhere, even when it makes no sense whatsoever, and its political cronies throw money at it. Everybody likes presents, of course. But everybody doesn’t get them from our tax funds – just big corporations do.
Jun 3, 2002
On May 23, the Defense Department released documents detailing nerve gas and germ warfare agent tests conducted on Navy ships between 1964 and 1968. The experiments were supposed to determine how quickly poisons sprayed on ships could be detected and how rapidly they would disperse, as well as the effectiveness of protective gear and decontamination procedures in use at that time.
In three of the six tests, sarin, a nerve gas or VX, another nerve gas, were sprayed on a ship. Another test used a toxic germ known as SEB. Another used a supposedly harmless germ designed to simulate a deadly one, but that was later found to be dangerous itself.
The sailors were supposed to be informed of the dangers involved, to agree to voluntarily participate and to be provided with protective gear. But as the Pentagon now explains it, it’s “uncertain” whether safeguards were used.
“Uncertain” – what a polite way to say the sailors weren’t protected.
There were apparently many other such tests, too. So far, reports on only 12 of 113 secret tests that were carried out have been de-classified by the Pentagon. And these reports were declassified only because of pressure from ex-servicemen and their families who say they have suffered health damage as a result of the tests.
In the 1950s, Army troops were exposed to deadly radiation from atomic explosions without being informed of the dangers involved and without their consent. During Desert Storm, U.S. troops were exposed to nerve gas without being informed of the danger, and were given medications that had not been fully tested.
For decades, the U.S. military command has clearly felt free to use its troops as human guinea pigs. This isn’t surprising. During its wars, the U.S. military uses the troops as cannon fodder.
Jun 3, 2002
Stephen P. Yokich retires after six years as UAW president. If one word marks his tenure, that word is “partnership.” Under Yokich, the UAW promoted with an unusual degree of frankness its “partnership” helping to make employers profitable, so that benefits would trickle down to the workers. Yokich promoted flexibility in relations with the companies, that is, the willingness to give up on-the-job protections that workers had gained, allowing companies to downsize, lay off, and speed up the work force, supposedly as a way to protect jobs.
One auto analyst said that Yokich’s two main accomplishments were making relations with GM less hostile, and not opposing job cuts at Chrysler. Peter Pestillo, past head of labor relations at Ford, said that Yokich did a superb job of “selling” the need for restructuring (that is, massive layoffs) to local unions.
What have been the fruits of these “partnership” efforts, from the workers’ viewpoint? Another 100,000 UAW jobs disappeared during Yokich’s time, even though his six years were years of economic boom and record profits. And no major “transplant” automaker has been organized. Just last October, Nissan workers in Tennessee voted 2 to 1 against unionizing. Apparently, they did not find appetizing the fruits of the UAW’s “partnership.”
The Yokich legacy may be one for industry to applaud. But workers need a different legacy!
Jun 3, 2002
The UAW is slated to choose Ron Gettelfinger to replace Stephen Yokich, its retiring president.
Of course, this is not really a new face. Gettelfinger has been a UAW vice-president for years, and in the top echelons for decades. He is a bureaucrat who has moved up in the bureaucrats’ fashion – by not opposing established policies.
His support for the union’s “partnership with management” policy was very public during the disaster at Ford’s Rouge Plant in Dearborn, MI. In 1999, the Rouge powerhouse exploded, killing six workers, injuring 17, destroying the powerhouse. One of the first voices raised in Ford’s defense was Gettelfinger’s, praising Ford’s safety record and praising the Ford family’s sympathy for the victims. In fact, it was impossible to tell the UAW’s responses from Ford’s own.
Many grievances by Powerhouse workers, about the exact problems that caused the explosion, had gathered dust in the UAW’s own files. Gettelfinger was vice-president of the UAW’s Ford department. These grievances were ignored by a system under his responsibility – and he has never yet indicated a problem with that!
Furthermore, insurance company reports, dating back many years, were disclosed. Ford’s own insurance companies had criticized the lack of safety equipment on the furnaces. In fact they criticized Ford’s disabling of the safety equipment that did exist! Here was the smoking gun that proved not only negligence but deliberate, willful misconduct on Ford’s part. But from the man charged with representing workers’ health and welfare – nothing but a willingness to help Ford sweep six killings under the rug, all in the name of the “good relations” the UAW enjoyed with Ford.
Gettelfinger has also bragged that the union worked with Ford to save the Rouge. That is, he supported the increasing speedup on the line, the elimination of more and more jobs, giving Ford more and more productivity at workers’ expense.
Since this sort of “partnership” has been a constant feature of UAW policy, most clearly spelled out from the 1980s, it is not hard to predict what workers will get under the new guy: more of the same!