The Spark

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

UAW leadership takes union dues, but temps go without union rights

Aug 7, 2006

The United Auto Workers, once proud of its heritage of sit-downs and other struggles for workers’ rights, has now agreed to let DaimlerChrysler keep up to 2000 workers as full-time temporaries for the next two years at Chrysler’s Belvidere (Illinois) Assembly Plant.

The workers will never acquire seniority or status as regular Chrysler employees. Their pay will stay at 70% of regular pay for as long as they work. After seven months, they will gain only bare minimum hospital, surgical, and medical benefits.

Whenever the company is done with them, or dissatisfied with them in any way, out they go without further ado. Did a worker come in late one day? It’s the foreman’s choice if they go or stay. Was a worker injured? Were they sick? Was there a family emergency? Sorry, you’re out, bring in a new body!

Not to mention what may happen if a temporary fails to bring in the foreman’s doughnuts and coffee at the proper temperature!

The new workers, in exchange for having temporary work without any of the usual union rights and protections, must – pay union dues!

Yes, Chrysler has co-operated with its UAW “partner.” Chrysler will make sure the union’s treasury does not suffer, while the UAW leadership agrees that about one-third of the workers at a traditional assembly plant will not have traditional union protection.

But this deal will allow the temps one thing: the right to vote on UAW-Chrysler contracts!

In fact this will amount to a greater pressure for future concessions.

At each contract, workers are told that their jobs are in jeopardy unless concessions are made, especially, these days, concessions which impose new and greater costs on retirees for health care. The UAW leadership has agreed to such concessions at Caterpillar, Detroit Diesel, GM, and Ford, but has so far met too much rank-and-file resistance at Chrysler.

At contract time, the dues-paying temps will be offered a carrot, a false promise of possibly extending their employment – IF the proper concessions are voted in. Concessions to be taken, no doubt, from retired workers and also from those active workers still making full wages.

How will the temporary workers vote? Especially if they have seen precious little evidence of anyone in the union, retirees or active, standing up for them?

The deal at Belvidere is a clear conspiracy of Chrysler and the UAW leadership against all parts of the workforce, temporary and active and retired.

But together every part of that workforce could benefit from their strength in numbers – if they find a way to make common cause against their common enemies.