The Spark

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

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....