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Join the Auto Worker Caravan to Washington, D.C.

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Join the Auto Worker Caravan to
Washington, D.C. — Monday, December 8

Send-off Rally in Detroit — Sunday, December 7

Auto workers from the Midwest will be in D.C. on Monday, December 8 to say the Big Three bailout shouldn’t be made on our backs.  Executives from the Big Three, dealerships, and auto suppliers have made their voice heard in the Capitol.  Now it’s our turn.  Auto workers will tour D.C. to speak withmedia and members of Congress abouttheir ideas for a stronger auto industry.  If you can’t make it to Washington, come to a rank-and-file rally and send-off inDetroit this Sunday from 2 pm to 4 pm.

 DC Meeting Location — Monday, December 8

Time: 9:30 am

Location: Lutheran Church of the Reformation

212 East Capitol Street, NE

Washington, DC 20003

(between 2nd and 3rd)

Contact: Mark, 413-896-4726 (onsite)

Street parking is available.

Who We Are:

We’re an ad hoc group of concerned auto workers and supporters from Big Three plants and suppliers across the United States.

What We Think:

The UAW has agreed to give more concessions back to the Big Three, even though weakening auto workers’ benefits and contracts will not save the auto industry.  Auto workers have already made billions of dollars’ worth of concessions in recent contracts. We need real reforms, not a plan to take more out of the wallets of auto workers.

Auto workers are taking the fall for management’s poor decisions.  Our wages and benefits make up less than 10 percent of the cost of a car — while the companies spend frivolously.  U.S. auto workers at foreign-owned auto companies don’t receive defined pension benefits, nor do the vast majority of American workers.  We need to preserve the benefits fought for by the UAW and secure these benefits for all workers.

Send Off the Caravan on Sunday, December 7

Auto workers from the Midwest will be in D.C. on Monday, December 8 to say the Big Three bailout shouldn’t be made on our backs.

To get involved or for more information:

Web site: www.autoworkercaravan.org

Email: info@autoworkercaravan.org

Phone: Wendy Thompson, 313-892-7974

For media inquiries:

press@autoworkercaravan.org or

Tiffany Ten Eyck, 313-842-6262

What We Need to Tell Washington!

As auto workers, we are not just thinking of ourselves.  Congress needs a comprehensive plan not just for the auto corporations and auto workers, but a new national industrial policy that supports and expands the middle class and addresses the economic and environmental crisis that the entire nation faces.  We see this crisis as an opportunity to lay the foundation for a decent life for the next generation of all Americans.

  • Save Auto Workers’ Jobs and Communities.  The U.S. Congress and the incoming Obama administration should commit themselves to save auto workers’ jobs and communities. The auto industry still stands at the center of the American economy, directly employing over two million people and indirectly affecting the lives of millions more.
  • Transform the Auto Industry.  Congress needs to establish a new national industrial policy that will transform the auto and other industries.  We need to expand our efforts to produce fuel-efficient automobiles and electric cars, green energy technologies such as wind turbines, and mass transportation such as light rail and high-speed trains.
  • No Investment without Representation.  It’s our money, so we want accountability.  The U.S. government or other levels of government should have a say, providing public control when either financial assistance or tax abatement is provided to corporations.  Just as we say, “No taxation without representation,” so we should say, “No investment without representation.”
  • Strengthen the Union to Help the Recovery.  Unions and union contracts protect wages and benefits and work against the deflationary crisis which confronts us.  Unions and their membership should be protected.  Every study by the U.S. Labor Department and by academic researchers over the last several decades shows that unions raise wages and that higher wages have contributed to a robust economy.
  • Employee Free Choice Act(Card Check) should be extended to any plant, subsidiary, or subcontractor which benefits from federal or other government assistance.  Employee Free Choice would make it possible for non-union workers to join unions, to negotiate contracts, and to fight for higher wages to put money back in circulation.
  • A National Single-Payer Health System.  When pressed, the Big Three concede that a national health plan would bolster their bottom line, as it does now in Canada.  GM alone provides health coverage to a million people — workers, retirees, and families.  The rescue of the auto industry should be linked to the creation of a national single-payer health system like the “Medicare for All” proposal in HR 676, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you had an opportunity to address Congress about the Auto Bailout as a rank & file UAW member, what would you say? 
Would it go something like this?

I am not testifying before Congress today to request that American taxpayers loan Detroit automakers 25 billion dollars so they can close factories and permanently layoff thousands of workers.  I am not here to support the Detroit automakers’ intention to import half the vehicles they sell in the United States as do foreign competitors like Toyota, Honda, Kia, Nissan, Volkswagen, and Mercedes.  I am not here to advocate that American workers compete for the lowest wages in the world.  Quite the opposite.  I think we should compete for the highest.

I stand before you to advocate for a national industrial policy that supports and sustains the expansion rather than destruction of the middle class.  I stand before you to advocate for an industrial policy that strengthens our economy, strengthens our national security, and makes the American Dream of a higher standard of living attainable for an ever expanding number of citizens.  I am here to advocate that Congress recognize that the working class is the backbone of this nation, that the success of our nation as a whole depends on the health and wellbeing of our most valuable natural resource, the American worker.

In the last thirty-five years the income of American workers has declined precipitously while prices for health care, education, housing, food, and energy have steadily increased.  Americans are working more hours with fewer vacation days than any other modern industrialized nation.  Even though we are working longer and harder, our incomes are not keeping up with inflation.  Fewer and fewer American workers have pensions or health insurance.  America, once known as a nation that took pride in its expanding middle class, today, has a reputation for degrading workers and pursuing a competitive race to the bottom.

Some members of Congress propose that the best solution for the Detroit automakers is bankruptcy.  They propose that the automakers should dispose of their obligations to retirees, as if retirees were somehow unworthy of the deferred compensation they earned with steadfast loyalty and honest labor.  If Congress sanctions the refusal to honor contracts, it will become a defining moment in the history of our nation, a moment of legislative infamy.

Civil societies rely on trust not treachery.  Civil societies rely on government to restrain predatory capitalists and to mediate class conflict.  If the highest legislative body in the nation endorses contempt for contractual commitments, where will it end, and who can be held accountable?  Such a precedent will not stop with autoworkers.  Every retiree and every working person who hopes to retire will feel threatened by the willful destruction of contractual agreements.

Historically, unions have had a positive impact on our society and our economy.  When unions negotiated improved wages and benefits, they expanded the middle class and set a standard that lifted all workers.  The expansion of the middle class created a vibrant economy that benefited business and government.  Business reaped the rewards of an upwardly mobile workforce.  In turn a growing economy enriched the tax base and allowed government to lower tax rates for businesses and wealthy investors.

When unions negotiated pensions and health care for retirees, it was considered deferred compensation.  Workers sacrificed higher wages in return for a secure retirement.  The companies passed the cost on to consumers, but the companies’ didn’t invest those higher profits in a trust that would provide for retiree health care.  Instead they indulged themselves and their shareholders.  Corporate malfeasance should not be rewarded with a Congressional pardon.

If companies are allowed to break contracts, the debt will be passed on to taxpayers in the form of social welfare.  If government assumes responsibility for all or part of those expenses, it will, in effect, charge the consumer twice.  Once, when he purchased the car, and a second time, when he is taxed to compensate for the companies’ misappropriation.  CEOs should not be allowed to justify increased prices as an incumbent expense of a union contract, then pass on the cost to taxpayers when the bill comes due.

I am a UAW member, but I would be remiss if I did not speak up for our brothers and sisters at Toyota and the other transplants.  The workers at foreign transplants in the United States do not have a defined pension.  They have a 401-k.  They have seen the value of their retirement savings destroyed by unscrupulous and irresponsible financial policies, or the lack thereof, through no fault of their own.  Workers at the transplants do not have health insurance in retirement.  They will be forced out of work by injury or company policy before they are eligible for Medicare.  They too deserve a national industrial policy that respects their service.

Foreign automakers have the advantage of national health care for workers in their home countries, but in the United States they treat workers like disposable commodities.  They work them till they hurt them, then they throw them out the door.

My advocacy for a national industrial policy that ensures retirement in dignity is not limited to union members.  All American workers deserve health care and security in retirement equal to or better than that enjoyed by workers in Europe and Japan.  The United States should raise the standard, not pursue a race to the bottom.

I am not here to ask Congress for a handout, but rather a well-deserved hand up.  It is imperative that we rescue the flagship industry of our manufacturing base.  Our economic health and our national security are at stake.  But it is not fair to bailout the privileged and neglect the plight of the average worker.  Medicare for All as advocated in John Conyer’s bill HR 676 is the one remedy that would unilaterally address the unfair competition that plagues manufacturing in the United States.  HR 676 would help all employers, all workers, and all consumers.

Furthermore, any bailout that is not contingent on job creation would damage our economy.  America needs a vibrant middle class and a revitalized industrial base to stabilize our economy and strengthen our national security.  Any bailout that supports the innovative malaise in our industrial sector or rewards companies for investing overseas while simultaneously breaking contracts with American workers is tantamount to sabotage.

I am not here to apologize for workers who constitute the backbone of America.  We have never failed.  I am not here to beg on behalf of the men and women who fought the wars, built the roads and bridges, manufactured the goods, delivered the services, and transported every conceivable product from its origin to its destination.  I am here to demand the respect and dignity we deserve.

For too long Congress has legislated in favor of capital over labor.  The preference has not served our national interests.  As Abraham Lincoln said in his first annual message to Congress in 1861, “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.  Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.  Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

The Detroit automakers need a bridge loan to survive the current credit crisis.  But another bailout that neglects the working class would be a fatal mistake.  We will not survive the worldwide recession afflicting our economic security if we fail to defend the people who have never failed their nation.

Gregg Shotwell


For more information, go to <www.autoworkercaravan.org>.  To download the auto caravan flyer in PDF, go to <mrzine.monthlyreview.org/auto_caravan_a.pdf>.  To download the flyer with Gregg Shotwell’s speech, go to <mrzine.monthlyreview.org/auto_caravan_b.pdf>.


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