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

A Fighting Leadership

Oct 12, 2015

Workers at Fiat Chrysler voted heavily to reject the proposed UAW-FCA tentative agreement.

Many of them made it clear that they did not believe any promise made by UAW leaders – not after learning that the promise made by UAW leaders in 2011 that second tier workers would begin to move up this year was nothing but a lie. A big, fat lie.

The rejection was overwhelming, 65% “NO.”

UAW leadership was quick to announce new negotiations; then announced a strike call for just a little more than 24 hours away; then at the last minute came back with a new contract – that is, new promises!

Was there really something new in it?

Certainly, they put a tiny bit more money where workers could see it in this new version. A few second-tier workers will soon make it into the first tier – those with seven or eight years seniority. A few more, those with five or six years may make it by end of this contract.

But there are very few with eight or seven or six or even five years seniority. Remember what happened to the auto industry after the financial collapse of 2008-11. Hiring was almost at a standstill. There aren’t all that many two-tier workers with enough seniority to benefit from this change. For all the others, they got only another promise: in the next contract, the one negotiated in 2019, they might finally make it.

Lied to once, who is so foolish to believe what liars say the second time?

The biggest hook in this contract, just like in the first version, will come in health care costs. And that’s harder to see. The negotiators may have gotten rid of the “health care co-op.” So Chrysler and the UAW leadership will decide how to cut health care. And an old letter (C-14) authorizes them to do it. It’s a letter that’s been in the contract, and it has been used before – in 2000-01 and in 2005, when they imposed deductibles, increased co-payments on doctor and hospital visits and prescriptions, and dropped doctors and plans.

By voting for this contract, workers would be giving a blank check to Chrysler’s boss, Sergio Marchionne, and the UAW’s top man, Dennis Williams, to make the new cuts in health care they decide on.

So now what? Chrysler workers who don’t want to sign a blank check, who aren’t ready to put their trust in people who lied to them before, will vote “NO.”

After decades of saying “yes,” decades of swallowing concessions, auto workers finally already said “NO” once. With that vote, they declared that their lives and their children’s lives are more important than company profits and Sergio Marchionne’s big houses.

But voting “NO” once is not enough. It’s obvious these scoundrels didn’t listen to what the workers were saying the first time.

So, then what? Go back and vote NO again? Well voting “NO” is never enough, no matter how many times you do it – not unless you make it clear you mean it. That is, not unless you use the forces you have.

Going out on strike would not be enough either – not if that strike is left in the hands of the very people who negotiated this contract. It is apparent that the leaders of the auto workers union at the very top level don’t want to lead a fight – and can’t! The only fight they are leading is a fight against the workers, lining up with Chrysler (and Ford and GM) to do it.

So if auto workers want something better than this contract, if they want everyone at the same, higher wage level, and no tricks and trade-offs on essential health care benefits, they will have to take the fight into their own hands.

The first thing – and this is essential – workers who want to fight have to get together with all the workers around them, all the workers in their own plant. Already that sets up a network leading out to other plants, because everyone knows someone else working at Chrysler, someone in their family, among their friends, in their neighborhood.

Once workers get together, it doesn’t have to take long to decide what they will do.

But wouldn’t UAW leaders be opposed to such an action? Well, of course.

The leaders of the UAW, like the top leaders of all the unions today, are the assistant guardians of the capitalist economy – an economy that has piled up those masses of profit, precisely because the workers’ standard of living has been driven down.

So, yes, workers, if they want to fight, need a new leadership, a fighting leadership. But they can develop that leadership. In the course of organizing their own fight, workers can push aside all those leaders who put the company first. Then they will be able to find the leaders they need.