The Spark

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

Workers Protest Lake Orion Outrage

Oct 25, 2010

More than 200 auto workers and retirees demonstrated at Solidarity House, the UAW headquarters, on Saturday, October 16. They protested GM’s plan to force Lake Orion Assembly workers to return to work under a 60/40 two-tier wage system – and the deal made by the UAW leadership preventing the Lake Orion membership from voting on it.

“Solidarity” House leaders pretended they didn’t have to take a vote because the contract modification in 2009 included the term “innovative labor agreements.” They say this was a blank check for the leadership to give the companies changes in the contract with no further vote needed or allowed. Even workers with 10 or 11 years’ seniority may be forced back to work at $14 or $15 an hour! Or else be forced to take a job 250 miles away in Lordstown, Ohio.

Not only Lake Orion workers but GM workers from across southeastern Michigan, even Ford and Chrysler workers, came to express their outrage. Every contract has hidden weasel words like “innovative labor agreement” or “living document” that endanger every worker, just like at Lake Orion.

The picket and rally was vigorous and well noticed. Many drivers blew horns in support, and some pulled over to shout encouragement or talk for a bit. A Detroit fire truck crew gave the picketers a long, loud salute. Neighborhood folks walking along the sidewalk were friendly.

The rally was called by a Lake Orion worker out of simple anger and frustration. One Lansing worker caught the mood when he said, “I didn’t know if I would be the only one here. But I knew I had to be here.”

Past and present union reps and activists spoke in support. Among them, Greg Clark, who represented the Indianapolis workers who had just voted NO and enforced their NO; and Gary Walkowicz, who represented Ford workers who, for the first time ever, forced the UAW leadership last November to respect a NO vote on a national contract.

After the speeches, the sidewalk fairly hummed with intense discussion in many, many groups of four and five.

Workers made their own signs to express themselves clearly. “We are the union!” “Is my family 50% less valuable?” “I can build a two tier vehicle. Do you want it?” “Ford voted No, Indy voted No, Lake Orion didn’t vote.” One sign carried the handprints of a worker’s children. A retiree from Indiana brought a button-making machine and helped picketers and their children make buttons to wear.

All these personal messages spoke loudly to the silence from behind the locked and guarded gates.