Mar 27, 2006
General Motors, the world’s largest industrial corporation, has proposed an extraordinary buyout program for every hourly worker at GM and at its spin-off, Delphi.
GM’s stated goal is to shrink its workforce by 30,000 workers over the next few years, and to shrink Delphi’s workforce by up to 18,000. The buyout program comes while Delphi is in court, pleading bankruptcy.
Different offers are made to workers at different levels of seniority. But almost every offer boils down to this: give up a good job at GM, in exchange for a small amount of money and a risky future.
GM wants to pay off this generation of workers to go quietly, so that the auto industry can then install other workers at cut-rate wages.
GM’s proposals force workers to take all the risks about their futures – their jobs, their retirements. GM remains free to do what it wants – to take all the advantages! Take the advantage to break years of “ironclad” promises to retirees, as they did last year. Hire a completely new generation of workers at $12 an hour and few if any benefits – extending the “two tier” structure now in effect at Delphi and other places.
GM’s program represents the whole industry’s intention to dismantle, gut and destroy the job rights and the living standards that auto workers once fought for and won.
Wages and benefits that were won so decisively in auto, by generations of struggle, also extended into wider sections of the working class. Today, so many of those sections have been attacked, so many gains rolled back and taken away that now the corporations, their banks and investors have decided it is time to attack the last bastion.
The bosses want to stop paying for the series of protections won by workers starting in the l930s and expanded up through the l970s. Periodic waves of struggle by the working class, including the near insurrections by urban black populations, all pushed the big corporations to give up what was necessary to calm those struggles.
Pensions, vacations, holidays, healthcare, Social Security, unemployment insurance were won from the bosses in knock-down, drag-out war against the companies and the government that backed them. It was a class fight, not limited to one plant, or one company, or even one industry, but widespread across society, until the bosses opened their fat wallets.
Today, the companies think those days are over and done. They have taken so much from so many workers, they think the working class is softened up. They think we are “shocked and awed” and without leadership. With GM in the lead, the bosses are trying to get away with buying off the last ranks.
But it is not so settled as they may think. The trickery of the bosses, their phony “bankruptcies,” their broken promises, their deceptive offers are more and more clear to parts of the working class. And workers still hold the same power they have always held, and used: the power over production.
The bosses’ profits are completely in the hands of the workers, every hour, every day. No production, no profit. It has always been the fastest way to cut the bosses down to size.
When workers move to use their collective power to choke off production decisively, it will be time for the bosses to make other plans. Open those fat wallets up again. Give us what we need to live – all workers, without exception. Class war. The bosses lose. Pay up.