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
Nov 13, 2023
We reprint here a letter written by Gary Walkowicz, retired Ford worker and longtime union militant, which he addressed to Ford workers voting on the new contract.
I worked at Dearborn Truck and Ford for 45 years and I was an elected union rep for more than 20 years. I retired in 2020, so I don’t vote on this contract. But I spent my whole career fighting concessions and a lot of people have asked me for my opinion on this contract.
First of all, there were some pay increases and other gains in this contract, and it is important to recognize why. There were gains made because some workers went on strike and the rest of the auto workers were ready to strike. The same thing happened in 2019. When the GM workers went on strike, there were also some small gains made.
During my years as an elected UAW representative, I always said that if workers want to stop concessions and gain back what we have lost, the only way we could do it is by being ready to strike. I argued this point many times in Conventions and National Council meetings. So, I was glad that the UAW leadership was ready to call a strike in 2019 and again this year. If there were no strikes, workers would have gotten nothing, and we probably would have lost more concessions.
Having said that, I don’t think it is helpful when people are being told that this is a record “historic” contract. I do not agree with that. This contract does not get back all the concessions we have lost. It does not return us to the standard of living that auto workers had when I first started. I think people should look closely at this contract and decide for themselves if it meets the needs for them and their families.
Above all, this contract does not catch up the money lost to inflation. Yes, the 25% total raises are a bigger number than ever before. But workers have lost much more than 25% to inflation. From 2007 until today, inflation has gone up by 47%, according to the government’s Consumer Price Index. The top wage in 2007 was $28.12. Just to catch up, people would need $41.33 right now, not 5 years from now. The raises and COLA in this contract aren’t going to catch people up if inflation keeps rising. Especially with there being less bonus money in the contract and with some COLA money being diverted.
This contract did not eliminate tiers as far as equal pay for equal work and in retirement benefits. Workers hired since 2007 get an increase in their 401(k), but they still don’t get health care when they retire. Paying for your own health care is extremely expensive. I know that those workers are not yet close to retirement, but, sooner or later, there will have to be a fight for that. We can’t let people retire without health care.
I don’t see that working conditions were even addressed in this contract. I think that conditions in the plants are bad and getting worse. I don’t see any changes in this contract to address the speedup, the forced overtime, and the unhealthy work schedules.
I’m not here to tell people what to do, or how to vote. People can decide if they are ready to accept this contract, or if they are ready to fight for more. If people want to fight for more, I believe it would take an all-out strike by everyone.