The Spark

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

Warren Michigan Truck Assembly:
No Means NO!

Dec 1, 2003

Workers at Chrysler's Warren Truck Assembly recently turned down a local contract proposal by an overwhelming 90% "NO" vote.

Once again, Chrysler and union heads were trying to sneak in parts of what they had once called an MOA (modern operating agreement), which aimed at making it much easier for the company to get more work out of fewer workers. "MOA" had come to symbolize the vast range of concessions Chrysler was trying to push through at the local level, and it stood for everything the workers didn't want. So the company long ago dropped the term, but kept trying to push it through under other forms.

This year, once again, local and international officials agreed with the company to try to impose some of those terms on workers at the Truck Plant.

Workers, when they heard, quickly objected – especially to a provision that would have let the company force workers to take their vacation when the company wanted to close the plant down for maintenance, changeover or anything else. With so few weeks of vacation, auto workers have long looked to the lay-off periods as a second vacation, paid for by unemployment funds. But for their own vacations, they wanted to take them when they wanted, so they could co-ordinate with other family members, etc.

The new contract would have done away with that. Effectively, it took away two vacation weeks. That's what prompted the big "NO" vote – so big that union officials could not even pretend that the agreement had passed.

After the vote, local officials indicated they would take a new vote on the same contract, and this time, they let the workers no, the vote WOULD be "yes."

They began to spread a range of rumors – the main one being that if workers didn't vote for the contract, they would be forced to strike. (It used to be that the union threatened the company with a strike – these union officials, however, think they can use it to threaten the workers.)

In fact, this is a threat that can be turned back against the company – and against any union official who does the company's dirty work. If union officials push a strike, then the workers can take advantage of it for their own demands – and not only to defend their vacation weeks. Jobs at the Truck Plant are overloaded. More workers are needed in every department, more janitors, more hi-lo drivers, more medical relief people. More time off is needed. Violations of overtime restrictions need to be stopped. Etc. etc. etc. Workers, sitting down together, could come up with a list of similar items, hundreds and hundreds of them.

If there's going to be a strike, make good use of it!