Sep 10, 2007
Union contracts in auto expire on September 14. Auto workers have endured months of unrelenting propaganda, orchestrated by the auto companies.
From every newspaper page and every TV screen, the message blares out: the big multi-billion-dollar corporations, Ford, GM, Chrysler, claim to be in deep financial trouble. Nearly bankrupt! About to sink forever because of – labor costs.
Of course it’s all lies. The actual labor cost in the average new vehicle is just over 8% of its price. That’s right, only eight%! What happened to the other 92% of the costs?
And yet the companies dare to demand concessions from workers.
The companies say their burden of “legacy costs” is breaking them. What “burden?” What did they do with the more than 133 billion dollars of profits they admit making since 1994? And what about all the rest of their loot? They had the money to meet their obligations. But they moved it and cooked the books.
Decent union leaders would expose these corporate lies in public. But top UAW leaders don’t.
Nor do they provide one bit of information about contract negotiations. The company knows what’s being discussed. Only the workers, the ones who will live with the contract, are kept in the dark.
UAW president Ron Gettelfinger avoids addressing UAW workers gathered at the Detroit Labor Day parade, but just three days later addresses the bosses gathered at the Detroit Economic Club. It couldn’t be more clear whose side he is on.
All of this is a campaign to keep workers anxious, worried, paralyzed.
Well, guess what! Workers have the power to upset the whole applecart. Whatever secret deals are being struck, the workers can intervene and upset those deals.
Auto company honchos and top UAW leaders are aware of the workers’ power. Why else would they resort to this elaborate manipulation and trickery? Ford workers in 2005 nearly voted down the mid-contract wage and healthcare concessions. Past UAW president Doug Fraser later said of it, “Ford was scary.”
For the auto bosses, yes, it was “scary”! Just as it was “scary” for union leaders who tried to push it through. But for those on the workers’ side, the vote was not “scary,” it was encouraging. And it carried weight. That vote at Ford blocked Chrysler from even trying to get the same concessions.
Today, under the guns of the media campaign, workers may start to feel that concessions are coming and there’s nothing that can be done. But if workers made that Ford vote “scary,” their reaction this time can be even more scary.
It depends on how many more workers vote, how many more express themselves strongly and clearly against concessions. How many talk to each other about what they want.
Votes, by themselves, don’t change a lot. But a NO vote can at least let workers express their anger and disgust.