Jun 22, 2009
Twenty-seven years ago this month, on June 19th, 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American, was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Detroit. His killers were a supervisor who worked at a Chrysler plant, and his laid off step-son.
The two had earlier yelled racist insults at Chin when they were all at the same bar. They thought he was Japanese, and one of the men had yelled, “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work.”
During the depths of recession in 1982, plant closings, layoffs, and big concessions were all blamed on imports, including supposedly, “foreign” oil, and in Detroit, foreign cars. This view was pushed by everyone: the news media, politicians, the companies. These lies were also spouted by the UAW, even as they helped ram concessions after concessions down workers’ throats. Some union officials even organized workers to smash Japanese cars with sledge hammers in PR events for the media.
This racist and ultra-nationalist climate, in its extreme, contributed to the death of Vincent Chin. But for the corporate bosses, it also served to disarm workers and divert them away from organizing against the very U.S. companies that were responsible for closing plants, imposing speed-up, and cutting wages and benefits, while they maintained their profits and rewarded their CEOs.
Today, faced with an even deeper crisis, this kind of propaganda is rearing its ugly head again, and again being pushed by the union apparatus. Today, for example, the United Steelworkers Union, in open partnership with United States Steel Corporation, has launched “Keep it Made in America” rallies and bus tours, with the support of some UAW officials wherever the rallies take place. Once again, this anti-foreign, whether it’s anti-transplant, or anti-Mexican or Canadian worker propaganda, is being used to divert workers’ anger here about the loss of jobs and decent wages and benefits.
Today, workers need not be side-tracked or diverted once again by this nationalist and racist garbage.