The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

The Arbitration Trap—Don’t Disarm Facing Your Enemy

Aug 22, 2011

Some people say that auto workers will not be able to stop the companies’ concessions drive this year because of a no-strike arbitration clause agreed to by the UAW in 2009 for the 2011 contracts at Chrysler and GM.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That’s exactly how the 2011 contract will play out if GM or Chrysler workers respect the 2009 arbitration clause, believing there’s nothing they can do about it.

We can hear Bob King right now, saying, as he presents a lousy new contract for a vote, “It’s the best we could get–otherwise it goes to arbitration, which will produce a worse deal.”

UAW bureaucrats also tried to get this clause attached to concessions the union wanted to push on Ford workers in the fall of 2009. But Ford workers didn’t cave in facing that pressure then–they refused to ratify the deal. And GM and Chrysler workers don’t have to go along with it.

What would Bob King say if GM or Chrysler workers had the temerity to vote down the contract anyway? Would he call for a re-vote, threatening arbitration if they didn’t change their vote? You bet he would–that is, he would if he thought he could get away with it. And would he send it to arbitration if he couldn’t con them into a “Yes” vote? He sure would–if he thought the workers would accept the arbitration.

But all that finally depends on what the workers do, doesn’t it? Do they make the auto bosses and the UAW bureaucracy understand they aren’t going for it?

Contracts written on a piece of paper have no weight unless all the parties respect them.

Workers know full well how little the bosses respect the contracts they sign. For the past 22 years, GM, Ford and Chrysler have been breaking one promise after another about keeping or increasing jobs.

And workers know how little the UAW top leadership respects the workers’ decisions–overriding them, for example, when workers voted against the old Modern Operating Agreements at some Chrysler plants or the Competitive Operating Agreements at some GM and Ford plants.

When Ford workers voted down the second 2009 concessions, UAW leaders immediately threatened to push through a re-vote–until they heard the reaction and realized that Ford workers would tear them up!

So why, today, should GM or Chrysler workers respect this lousy piece of paper extorted from them in 2009 while the government held the bogus threat of a fake bankruptcy over their heads? Tear it up! Why should any worker agree to disarm in the face of their enemy?