The Spark

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

The workers gave in once, so GM comes back for more

Jan 16, 2006

The ink was barely dry on the retiree health-care concessions to GM, when GM told reporters it now wanted the union to give up even more, again before the union contract ends in 2007. GM’s CEO, Rick Wagoner, specifically pointed to doing away with the Jobs Bank program, which temporarily provides for workers when GM eliminates their jobs.

In fact the UAW already allows GM to pay much less into the Jobs Bank program. The last figures to come out showed that GM’s Jobs Bank “owed” jobs to about 6,800 workers – who had not been provided the work that was promised.

One would think from all the talk that GM was in really bad shape. Yet, on the same day that Wagoner spoke of a new round of concessions, GM announced it had really set a record for worldwide sales in 2005! GM’s worldwide sales in 2005 were its second best in history, 9.17 million units. And CEO Wagoner also told the press, “our core business is not at all bad.”

No, GM is demanding a second round of concessions because the UAW officials agreed to the first round. And the workers who opposed those concessions weren’t strong enough to force an open discussion about them, nor to monitor and control the vote, to make sure the voting really reflected their interests.

To stop the attacks, the workers will need to rise to the occasion and fight back. Workers can trust only themselves.

Before the first round of concessions, the UAW pretended to do an “independent” accounting by hiring the investment firm of Lazard Ltd. In fact, Lazard is one of the big, old Wall Street investment houses that has every interest in getting the workers to take more concessions.

If there are company books to be audited – and there are! – only workers’ own committees can be trusted with the job. Committees in each plant could document plant production and expenses. Delegates from each plant could meet to compare figures, to see how much is really spent and made on production – and how much is wasted and spent on other things!

No, it’s only workers who can be trusted to make a true examination of the state of any corporation.

In the same way, no one but the workers themselves can be trusted to make sure their interests are represented when any talks go on with the companies. Any negotiations should be done in the open, monitored by workers and workers’ delegates, everything taken down word for word and reported.

And when decisions are to be made by the union, those decisions need to be made openly. Workers can gather in local halls to examine their options and talk it all over, face to face. They can make decisions together, so that everyone can see for themselves how things really stand.

We’re going to have to fight against giant companies like GM if we want to stop the concessions. The first thing we need to do is to make our own decisions, learn who we can trust, and learn to fight together as one.