The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

UAW leaders push a race to the bottom at Ford

Sep 4, 2006

At the end of August, the UAW leadership called Ford local presidents and shop committee chairs to a Detroit meeting about Ford’s so-called financial problems. After the meeting, local leaders aimed communications at their memberships, repeating Ford’s lies about needing more concessions from its workers.

The bulletin from Ford Local 600 leaders sets the example of complete surrender to the Ford point of view. Repeating Ford’s arguments without question, it declares the local’s readiness to give up whatever Ford might demand. Pretending that workers at Rouge are in a competition with other Ford workers, they tear up the union’s very reason to exist. Workers unionize in order to stop companies from pitting them against each other, not to help the companies do this.

For workers to accept Ford’s “competitive” baloney means accepting a race to the bottom – a race to the harshest conditions and lowest pay that Ford and the other bosses can devise.

Companies are more “competitive,” that is, more profitable for their owners, when they exploit workers harder.

Since Chrysler declared its so-called “bankruptcy” in 1980, all the companies have cried “competitive” without let-up. Workers have paid a bigger and bigger “competitive” price every day in a faster and faster pace of work, fewer and fewer jobs, fewer and fewer rights. The new concessions at Ford show there is no bottom limit.

Company lies don’t stop being lies just because union officials repeat them.

UAW officials repeated the lie that Toyota has no retirees and therefore no pension costs. No! Ford and Toyota pension costs should be the same. Companies are supposed to pay into pension funds while workers are working, in order to be able to pay out benefits when workers retire. The big U.S. companies either have vast pension surpluses that are hidden by fancy bookkeeping – or else they have stolen the workers’ retirement money outright and used it elsewhere!

The union leaders claim that healthcare expenses for the U.S. auto companies makes them “uncompetitive” with Toyota. If the companies wanted to be “competitive,” they could long ago have used their power to get national health care passed and remove the problem completely. If they did not, it was the choice of their stockholders – who are also big holders of insurance and medical and drug company stocks. It was their choice to try to tie workers to one company for life instead of allowing workers the freedom to change jobs without worrying about losing health-care benefits.

Workers made none of those decisions – but now the workers’ leaders are telling them they must pay with concessions for the fallout from the bosses’ choices.

In fact, the Local 600 leaders have a long history of telling workers they must give up concessions to save jobs – only to have workers lose those jobs because of the concessions.

Beginning in the early 1980s, workers in the steel division took the first of the concessions. Thousands of jobs were cut and huge work rule concessions continue to this day.

The “Save the Mustang” campaign in 1992 contained more work rule concessions to “save jobs.” Those concessions made jobs disappear and work get harder. The “Rouge Viability Agreement” in 1997 gave yet more concessions. Again, jobs disappeared and work got harder. Now another “site-wide competitive structure” is in the works – if the officials are allowed to do it. And again jobs will disappear, and again work will get harder.

Isn’t this history plain enough by now? “Competitiveness” and concessions don’t save jobs! It’s a lie, a damnable lie.

The workers’ only real chance is to fight back against Ford’s plans, and against all those who support Ford’s plans.