The Spark

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

A new face but the same policies

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!