May 22, 2006
The UAW took strike authorization votes at its Delphi plants and announced the vote as more than 95% in favor.
Coincidentally, Delphi’s hearings in bankruptcy court were postponed for at least 12 days, under the pretext that negotiations were once again under way.
Both of these events help to position the top UAW leadership as it faces the union’s constitutional convention this June in Las Vegas.
Not that there is any immediate threat to the leadership’s political machine. But at this convention, primarily because of the Delphi situation, more controversy than usual about the union’s direction is expected.
As well there should be controversy! The top union leadership has for many years proposed that the companies’ interests must come first, and workers can only pick up the crumbs that the companies are willing to leave in their wake. Union membership has fallen dramatically under this policy. Workers have been forced to accept previously unacceptable concessions, such as two-tier wage agreements, unlimited work loads, and reduction of break time, under threats from company and union that their plants would close.
In the past year, workers have been hit with several particularly telling blows that underline the futility of this union policy.
The UAW leadership reneged – and allowed GM and Ford to renege – on past promises of fully paid health-care premiums for retirees.
The leadership signed engine plant agreements with Chrysler, at Dundee and Trenton in Michigan and at Kenosha in Wisconsin, agreements that promise to impose basically non-union conditions on workers, in exchange for the UAW retaining formal recognition – and dues money.
And the leadership is in the process of helping GM impose such conditions on 24,000 Delphi workers, as Delphi proceeds through a sham bankruptcy.
These dramatic plunges toward the bottom are nothing but the logical extension of the “co-operation,” “partnership” policy the union has pursued more and more openly since 1980.
The postponement of the day of the court decision on Delphi – a decision which will certainly side with Delphi – means the issue remains formally undefined until after the convention. The strike vote therefore provides the leadership with a halo of resistance and militancy that it can carry into the convention – without actually producing any results.
There certainly will be no results except further and deeper concessions, so long as the UAW has a national leadership wedded to its policy of corporate “partnership.”
Workers who want more than just the bottom of the barrel will have to find others who feel the same way. They will have to take up a fight against this three-way partnership of government, companies, and union leaders conspiring and co-operating to push them down.