The Spark

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

Report from State of Michigan workers

Dec 1, 2003

Of 9,278 votes cast, in the state workers' vote on concessions organized by the UAW, 7,143 voted yes on the state's revised demand for concessions and 2,135 voted no. 7,700 more workers did not vote at all.

The yes vote was not a majority vote of the membership. The concessions passed with only 42% of the workers in favor of it.

Many who had opposed the state's concession demands since early last spring were disappointed with the vote. In fact, they can be proud that their activity made the state back off as much as it did.

The demonstrations in Detroit in April 2003 and September 2003 – in the hundreds – then the demonstration in Lansing in October – in the thousands – changed the situation. Those demonstrations, meetings organized in branch offices, and other activities made the state back off from its original demand of $4,100 from each worker, bringing it down to an average of $2,400.

Workers know this is a rotten deal

The final concessions – which take the form of unpaid work days that are to be banked and may be used for leave later on – were referred to as the BLT plan. This plan put workers between a rock and a hard place – either vote yes on BLT, accumulate some leave and keep accruing benefits at the 40 hour rate, or the state would impose 37½ hours with less pay, less benefits accrual and no banked leave.

Faced with a majority of local and international union leadership who argued that the workers had no choice but to accept the concessions, the membership finally voted for what they perceived to be the lesser evil.

There is no need for workers to have bad feelings based on how any one of us voted.

Get ready

A new contract is coming up next year. State workers don't have to wait until then to show how unhappy we are with the governor's concessions package. We can "vote" anew every day through our actions.

First and foremost, we can decide together to do only the work that a reasonable human being can get done in one workday, and stick together. These unpaid furlough days are surely the type of thing that can really throw someone's work rhythm off kilter ....

The governor and the legislators will want more cutbacks similar to what they originally demanded and what they took from exempt workers who aren't in a union. State workers can put up a front now so we don't give up any more. And so we prepare to get back what we lost.