The Spark

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

General Dynamics:
This is a good time for a strike

Oct 22, 2001

On October 15, over 800 workers at three General Dynamics Land Systems plants in Lima, Ohio; Sterling Heights, Michigan; and Eynon, Pennsylvania went on strike. One of the issues apparently is the health care benefits for retired workers. These benefits had been given up as a concession to the company years ago when the bosses claimed it was in bad financial shape. They promised to return the concessions when the company’s situation improved.

The company’s profits did improve drastically. Just to make the point very clear, General Dynamics announced two days after the strike began that its sales went up half a billion dollars compared to the same quarter last year, while profits went up to 230 million dollars for the quarter, compared to 204 million last year. General Dynamics’ Chairman stated, “This was another very good quarter. We had revenue growth of 21%... Earnings were matched by strong cash flow from operations. We won significant new work in all of our business groups, completed two important acquisitions, and pushed (the order) backlog to a record high of 30 billion dollars – an increase of 6 billion dollars in the (last) quarter.”

Nevertheless, General Dynamics continued to refuse to return the retirees health care.

Al Logie, a mechanic at the Sterling Heights plant, said there was only one vote against striking in Local 12. “They should have thought about that when they gave our benefits away,” he said. Another worker said, “There’s no health care for retirees after they retire. We try to buy health care, but when you get to be 50 or 60 years old, no one wants to sell you health insurance... The contract ran out, we had to go.”

As soon as the strike began, the patriotic cries started: “This is no time for a strike.” Just as with the Minnesota state workers, the bosses’ apologists rushed to make use of September 11 to try to convince the workers not to defend themselves.

It’s the most disgusting hypocrisy to see a military contractor like General Dynamics use this argument against its own workers, pretending to care about the victims of September 11, in the very same month that they boast about how much profit they are making off of all the wars the U.S. is carrying out.

If any sacrifices are to be made, it’s up to the big corporations to make them, not the workers. It’s a good time to strike.