Nov 5, 2007
We are facing danger, every bit as much as the people of New Orleans were in danger just before Katrina hit.
The auto companies, GM and Chrysler, with the help of the United Auto Workers top brass, have forced through a new contract that destroys at one blow the hopes of retired workers, active workers and young workers yet to hire in.
Every worker, every family in the country will suffer the consequences of this contract – unless a fight for survival begins.
The wage level for most new autoworkers will be less than half the wages of current workers. Their medical care and pension benefits will be – whatever they can save up.
The few easier jobs that current workers thought they could move into when they got older, allowing them to make it to retirement, were effectively wiped out in one blow.
Health benefits that retirees believed were promised for life have been thrown away in a Wall Street VEBA scheme, every bit as dangerous as the mortgage schemes Wall Street pushed on the country.
The wages, benefits and conditions won by auto workers have always set the bar at which other workers aimed. Bosses had to take their wages and benefits into account when deciding where to set everyone else’s pay scale – for blue collar and white collar alike.
The bosses will still take that into account. But today they can be emboldened to slice everyone’s pay, cancel everyone’s benefits. When auto goes from $28 an hour to $14 in one blow, those earning $14 today will soon face demands for cuts to $9 or $10 an hour – and then down to minimum wage.
The biggest dam has burst, and bosses everywhere will lose no time trying to take advantage. In a few years, Katrina will seem like a small thing by comparison.
Unless a fight for survival begins.
The first workers in position to fight are the Ford workers who, as we write, have not yet accepted this attack. If they are able to pull together quickly enough, getting out the information about the disasters concealed in this contract – and if there are enough militants among them ready to stand up and lead a real resistance, then they can throw the first block in the way of the bosses’ plans.
It will be something other workers can build on, including the workers at GM and Chrysler.
But no matter who starts the resistance, nothing but a strong response from the working population can stop the wholesale collapse of wages and living standards across the country.
It has become a matter of survival.