The Spark

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

“They Are Busting the Union”

May 4, 2009

The top UAW leadership agreed to the contract with Chrysler, which demanded severe concessions from the Chrysler workers. Then they agreed to give up the union's right to strike for six-and-a-half years, giving an arbitrator the right to further push down wages and benefits.

But they did more than just agree. They scammed the workers to help impose these bitter concessions.

The top UAW leadership rarely spoke up to challenge the lies and attacks on auto workers by the media or the Bush administration during Congressional hearings. Nor did UAW leaders protest when Obama, who won the election with the support of the UAW, demanded further concessions from auto workers.

The UAW leadership did, however, pressure workers and local union leaders to accept these concessions. And they went along with the maneuvers engineered by Obama’s task force to scare the workers into surrender.

The basic terms of this contract were settled on February 17, when the UAW reached agreements with Ford, GM and Chrysler. The additional issues with Chrysler, including more takeaways from retiree health care, were settled on April 10, after Obama demanded them. Then everyone sat back while the news media ran scare stories about bankruptcy. Finally, the task force added the final blow on April 27 – the requirement for binding arbitration.

The leadership immediately announced they had a settlement. With the government deadline looming, they rushed the vote through in two more days, pretending that if workers didn’t ratify, Chrysler would go bankrupt. Workers ratified it on April 29.

THE VERY NEXT DAY, Chrysler declared bankruptcy anyway. The day after that, Chrysler lawyers were in court with the bankruptcy papers already prepared. It was a set-up, prepared many months before. And not one member of the union bargaining committee leaked a word of this scam to rank and file workers. Not a single one exposed this craven surrender!

For many years, top UAW leaders argued that if workers gave up and sacrificed to help “their companies,” they would come out ahead in the long run. Well the long run is here and now. Those earlier workers who fought and sacrificed to improve everyone’s standard of living must be turning over in their graves. Concessions have decimated the workers’ standard of living they fought for.

The reaction of some workers to the Chrysler contract was that the binding arbitration will bust the union. Well, this leadership, President Ron Gettelfinger, Vice President General Holifield, the Chrysler Bargaining Council, they have busted this union.

But a real union can be brought to life. A real union can be built by workers who understand that working people can defend themselves by fighting, by workers who put themselves forward to organize that fight, just the way the union was built before.