Oct 29, 2012
Jerry Tucker, a lifelong union militant, passed away on October 19 in his hometown of St. Louis. The cause was pancreatic cancer.
Jerry made his mark inside the UAW as a voice representing those who tried to maintain militancy and find a way to organize among the ranks.
By 1980, most of the UAW leadership was pushing an openly corporate-friendly “partnership,” under the name of “jointness.” Leaders told the workers that wages and benefits had to be given up, to “save” jobs.
In 1985, Tucker, then assistant director of UAW Region 5, broke with the apparatus to oppose that “jointness” policy.
In 1986, Tucker ran for Regional Director on this basis. The vote went against Tucker but was so clearly crooked that courts eventually overturned it. The election was re-run and he won.
In 1992, knowing the odds stacked against him, Jerry ran for president of the UAW, again as a way to oppose the “jointness.” Many in the leadership may have felt the same as he did. But few were ready to put their jobs on the line. Jerry did. He lost, but he continued to raise these issues with new generations of activists. He never lost confidence in the ability of workers to move mountains, once they are organized and focused on a common goal.
It took 18 years before another challenge to the monolithic UAW bureaucracy was made. In 2010, Gary Walkowicz of Local 600 ran against Bob King for the UAW presidency. He said that the UAW needed a “180-degree turn” away from the policies of concessions and partnership.
Tucker addressed an open letter to the Convention delegates, saying they “should celebrate the occasion. Even with the election outcome in little doubt, they should brush-up on all their largely unexpressed fears and turn this Convention into a no-holds-barred grievance meeting on the UAW’s downward spiral and misdirected allegiance to employers who care only about the bottom line and not the lives and welfare of workers, and make the Cobo Hall proceedings a dynamic, positive exercise in true democratic deliberation and debate.”
After sacrificing his career in the UAW, Jerry Tucker kept up a life of activity, striving to educate new militants and to renew currents of resistance within the union ranks.
“Carry on,” Jerry Tucker would say. “Carry on.”