The Spark

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

Ford, GM & Delphi:
Buyout checks will buy bitter fruit

Oct 16, 2006

Under the guise of sweetening retirement, Ford Motor Co. – like GM and Delphi before it – is trying to push out its current work force.

Why? Not because the auto companies need no workers. No, all three of these companies intend to continue producing – as much or more than before – but they want to do it with a much lower-wage workforce in fewer plants.

GM has already let it be known that they want to start hiring replacement workers at $12 an hour – about 35% of the current wage rate. In fact, that doesn’t begin to tell the criminal story – given the reduction or complete elimination of benefits for the replacement workers GM and Ford and Delphi intend to hire.

These companies want a workforce willing to work fast, with outrageous shift times, in order to keep the plants going 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s their new slogan: 24/7, and that’s how they intend to close some plants – by turning the rest into 19th century sweatshops.

These vicious companies pretend to be offering their current workforce a great deal if the workers leave now. In fact, for everyone other than the person who was planning on retiring this year anyway, the workers who take the buyout offers will be giving up more than they get – in most cases, much more. It’s nothing but a dirty scam.

The media say, over and over, that the UAW leaders have done the best they could in a bad situation.

Not true. UAW leaders are only doing the best they can to push the bosses’ scam through. Top union leaders agreed to outsource the easier jobs that workers in the past moved into as they went up in seniority. They agreed to go to three-shift assembly plants. They agreed to let the companies hire low-paid replacement “temporary” workers for at least two years. And some local union leaders are carrying out whispering campaigns in the plants, trying to scare people into leaving, pretending that their jobs and their plants are at risk.

Not only is this an attack on workers currently in the plants – it’s an even bigger attack on their children and grandchildren. If auto workers give in to these threats, if they let the companies turn the whole auto industry into a low-wage industry, what future will be left for the next generation? Those buyout checks can only buy bitter fruit.

The worse thing about this whole rotten deal is that it is being pushed on workers in a way aimed at isolating them from each other, forcing each worker to make his or her own individual choice.

Workers form unions precisely to avoid confronting the company alone, to increase their strength, to rest on the combined forces of their fellow workers. This deal is aimed at cutting all those bonds of organization, of unity and of solidarity.

The top leadership of the union long ago gave up any commitment to solidarity. But there are many workers who haven’t – they opposed the concessions yesterday and they denounce the buyouts today. Workers like this – who understand that the working class has no future if someone doesn’t start a fight against such attacks – will be the basis of a renewed organization of the working class.