The Spark

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

Giving away the store

May 8, 2006

“We are changing the way we do business.” With these words, a UAW region 1A representative explained an unprecedented “shelf” contract to give up concessions on wages, classifications, jobs, break time, personal days, the eight hour day and overtime pay – starting five and nine years from now!

This UAW leader wasn’t waiting to see how much “trouble” DCX and the Chrysler Corporation may claim to be in, five and nine years from now. He was ready to give away the store in advance. And he was not the only one.

The “shelf” agreements were forced through votes at rushed membership meetings at Chrysler engine plants in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Trenton, Michigan. Workers were pushed to vote instantly on giving Chrysler this future bonanza after seeing only a one-page summary and hearing union officials threaten that their plants would close if they did not vote yes immediately.

Parts of the new agreements are to begin at Trenton in the year 2011, for workers in a new engine plant to be built beside the existing one. The full agreement will come into play in 2015, after current engine models are discontinued.

Only 600 of the current 1200-plus Trenton workers will be allowed to transfer to the new plant. Management will be allowed to pick which workers transfer. All janitorial and other off-the-line work will be outsourced. Any skilled tradesmen hired will have to cover the work of all trades.

Four ten-hour days will be mandatory. Workers can be forced to work 11.5 hours per day if needed. Overtime will not be paid until after a worker puts in 40 hours per week. Break time for a ten-hour shift will be reduced from today’s 58 minutes down to 24 minutes.

New hires will not be paid full rate – whatever that will be! – for five years. The attendance policy will be changed to match the strictest in the industry. Fewer union representatives will be available for workers.

And these are only the highlights that top union officials admitted they had agreed to.

This is the latest step backwards, produced by the UAW’s policy of giving concession after concession to management. Just like every concession before this, it increases the speed of the race to the bottom.

No worker is safe so long as concessions policies are pursued. And no worker can put their trust in union leaders who push through such deals.

The drive for concessions will be stopped when workers – union activists as well as rank-and-filers – decide they will fight. Period.