Dec 15, 2008
GM and Chrysler threatened bankruptcy, Ford joined their chorus – only to have a few Southern senators tell the American auto companies to go ahead and do it, just do it, declare bankruptcy.
Obama said workers should give up a few concessions to avoid company bankruptcy and the loss of jobs.
Bush said he wouldn’t let a bankruptcy happen – but workers would have to give up concessions.
The head of the auto workers union said he wouldn’t agree to more concessions – but then he said he would!
And everyone involved in this melodrama was calling for an auto “czar” – someone with the power to “restructure” the industry, that is, to extort concessions from auto workers, and to break contracts with auto dealerships.
It was nothing but an elaborate extortion attempt – a thief stealing up on you with a club, growling in your ear, “Give it up, your money or your life.”
Just like that, except these thieves are holding the club of bankruptcy over the workers’ heads, threatening them with the loss of every job – “give up your lay-off protection, give up medical coverage for retirees, let your wages be cut in half.” Your money or your life!
Are the auto companies in bad shape today? Who knows? They are the ones who keep their own books, they are the ones who decide what to reveal and what to hide. None of us have a seat in the boardrooms when they divide up the money.
But we do know one thing: these companies, linked with the biggest banks in the country – JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, as well as schemers like Cerberus – have drained money out of the auto industry for years. They took the wealth created by the workers’ labor, used it to pay out billions upon billions of dollars in dividends, stock splits and interest payments – not to mention executive salaries, bonuses, stock options and perks.
For years, they pretended the auto companies were losing money producing cars – even while their finance companies and banks were turning hefty profits selling those same cars.
In fact, they were ripping off the wealth created by the workers’ labor, throwing it into the mad speculative frenzy on Wall Street, buying and selling those famous mortgage securities – contributing to this vast speculative balloon that has now brought down the economy.
So if the auto companies have problems today, that’s the responsibility of all those people who lived off the workers’ labor: the executives, the “investors,” the bondholders, the shareholders. Their greed caused the problems. Let them pay the cost.
One thing is sure: auto workers would be wrong to give up a single concession.
Down that path lies only impoverishment and unemployment. Not only for themselves, but for large parts of the working class. If auto workers cave in to the demands for these concessions, every other worker will become a target.
Faced with extortion, faced with the demand for concessions, the workers can have only one answer: NO!