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

UAW Attacks Its Secretaries’ Union

Nov 14, 2011

UAW members often accuse their leadership of acting too much like a business. It certainly looks that way to the members of OPEIU, which is the union of the secretaries and clerical workers employed by the UAW.

In 2010, the UAW reopened its contract with the OPEIU (Office and Professional Employees International Union) and cut 4.5 million dollars out of their wages and benefits. The UAW said it was either the cuts, or layoffs.

In early 2011, the UAW again threatened layoffs–unless the clerks and secretaries increased their work week by 2.5 hours with no increase in pay. Again the OPEIU agreed.

Now in late 2011 the UAW again demands layoffs–unless a big number of office staff take early-retirement buyouts.

A clerical worker told the Detroit News, “We keep giving and giving, but they keep coming back at us with the threat of layoffs.” And in fact part of the “giving” has been job eliminations–more than 140 jobs out of 400 have been cut since 2009, and the UAW now wants another 100 gone.

A vice-president of OPEIU commented, “We know times are tough, but they’re spending like the Housewives of Beverly Hills.” She mentioned hiring small armies of consultants, spending on foreign travel, and remodeling Solidarity House. Certainly, the secretaries and clerks are the essential labor force for handling all the union’s paperwork, bill paying, and travel plans–so they do know exactly which closets hold which skeletons.

But the worst damage to the UAW’s membership would not be the exposure of its leadership’s financially frivolous ways. The worst damage would be the disappearance of the only part of its staff with experience in proper filing of required paperwork, meeting deadlines, and keeping records in good order.

An attack on the clerical staff is also an attack on the membership; an injury to one is an injury to all.