| GM workers in Brazil in support of the strike | MR Online GM workers in Brazil in support of the strike. Source: UAW.

Fight for all or lose it all

As the U.S. labor movement enters a period of potential revival, it is critical that labor activists know the hostility they will face not only from employers and government but also from labor bureaucrats. And given this, what strategies and tactics will be most successful. This excellent essay by Gregg Shotwell nicely complements the recent article by Thomas Adams: “A tale of corruption by the United Auto Workers and the Big Three American automakers.”

I can understand the fear and trembling union bureaucrats must feel as the guillotine of Right to Work For Less sows and scythes its way across the working class consciousness. If workers aren’t required to pay for services they don’t respect, it’s quite likely deadheads will roll and no one will miss the toll they charged for lip service.

Now that the “Jointness” program—that laundromat where corporate money is washed and rinsed and funneled into UAW officers’ pockets—has been exposed as a scheme to keep UAW negotiators “fat, dumb, and happy”, perhaps there is an opportunity for real union members who live by the code of the old religion, Solidarity, to rise up from the ashes.

If you want to predict the future, don’t speculate, study the past. In light of the knowledge gleaned, examine the present. The history of the future is planted, not buried, in the here and now.

The fate of the UAW hinges on contract negotiations because unions can’t organize workers without solid evidence that life in the union is better than life on your own. Nonunion workers want raises, pensions, job security, better working conditions, and more autonomy in the workplace. The UAW barters away these gains yet wonders why nonunion workers don’t want to pay union dues.

I interviewed pro union and anti union workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga, KY in 2014. Pro union workers had more bitter and trenchant critiques of UAW organizers than anti union workers because they had more contact with spurious organizers. Pro union workers told me that UAW organizers banned and slandered the most popular rank and file organizer in the plant. Why? He was a troublemaker. The old UAW didn’t fire troublemakers, they hired troublemakers. The new UAW is afraid troublemakers will tip over their golf carts. Every appointee in the UAW owes loyalty to the office rats who promoted them, not the factory rats they feign to represent.

UAW negotiators sign confidentiality agreements with their business counterparts before bargaining. This parody of confidence corrals the rank and file in a cordon of silence studded with omen and disdain.

At every UAW Bargaining Convention delegates, elected by their respective local unions, advocate goals for upcoming contracts, but it’s a dog and pony show. No delegate at a bargaining convention ever expressed interest in two-tier, temporary, or contract workers. Elimination of Cost of Living Adjustments [COLA] was always taboo. Raises, rather than profit sharing, was the standard placard union members carried. Hell, I have a UAW pin from 1979 that says MEMBERS WANT COLA ON PENSIONS [and] A SHORTER WORK WEEK.

I hired into GM in 1979. Ninety days later I earned equal pay. I wasn’t temporary or second tier. I was a full fledged UAW member with all the rights, privileges, and benefits. I was glad to pay union dues. I felt proud to pay union dues. Inflation soared in the eighties. Our wages rose with inflation because we had COLA. Non union workers got their pockets picked and never understood who did it. Every year their wages were worth less while the wages of UAW members floated like buoys on the rising tide. I learned early that COLA was worth more than a one time bonus. COLA accrued, and effected not only our weekly paycheck but Social Security and pension.

Raises compound and accrue like principal capital. Whereas every drunkard’s mother knows a bonus is spent before you know where it went. Besides, the slogan profit sharing brings a snicker to Wall Street that rolls like uninterrupted thunder through the investing class. Capitalists don’t share profit with the working class. Capitalists conceal profit from the working class. That’s not opinion, it’s the magic of arithmetic in the hands of the bossing class. How else can anyone explain that, as Sam Gindin said, “GM was paying their top executive and point-person in the announced plant closures more each day than an assembler working 40 hours, day-in, day-out was paid in a year in wages plus ‘profit-sharing.’”

On the scaffold that erects capital profit sharing is a ruse as old as Methuselah. Anyone who ever punched a time clock knows that wages don’t cause inflation. Wages chase inflation.

Companies likewise sign confidentiality agreements with the UAW, but they don’t take the gag order seriously. Instead they take the liberty of advertising their admonitions in the press, aggrandizing potential investments, and advising with a chuckle that concessions save jobs just like tax breaks for corporations trickle down to the working class. That old saw about job creation and concessions has worn the blade of its contention as raw as an old dog bone in an empty dish.

Fewer workers make more vehicles but the gain in productivity has been rewarded with speedup, multitasking, and longer hours. Damn the scurrilous litany of corporate propaganda that proclaims concessions equal job security, tax breaks for the rich equal raises for workers, and cooperation with the bossing class equals success for the working class.

Corporations demand parity with non union companies because the UAW has failed to organize any transplants. Why? Nobody trusts UAW bureaucrats. For good reason: they are in the companies’ pockets. They don’t bargain for workers’ benefit, they bargain for the companies’ benefit, they bargain for their own benefit.

During the UAW’s Bargaining Convention in March 2015 GM and Ford publicly expressed interest in a third-tier wage. Some analysts thought this was merely a pencil pusher’s version of saber-rattling. Too many talking heads think history is twitter. They have the memory and sound bite of mocking birds. They repeat whatever they are told, repeatedly, until you pound your head on the pavement just to stop the bloody torment of repetition. Physical pain is a reprieve from mental torture: for a moment it enables one to forget you are working for less than the cost of living, the cost of being human.

UAW President Dennis Williams publicly advocated to end two tier in 2015. He lied. Tier work proliferated, expanded, and advanced.

By October 21, 2019 Jane Slaughter wrote in Labor Notes, “I count 10 tiers in the new proposal, and I am undoubtedly missing some.”

If you want to predict the future, ignore the chatter. Examine the UAW’s history of concession bargaining. Then, look for a similar pattern in the present. Contractual concessions is the gift that keeps on giving. Such is the golden rule of the new UAW’s testament: the only way to stay “fat, dumb, and happy” is to get someone else to bend over for you.

Examine the history of UAW office rats in coercion with the company. In the 1990’s, Ford began outsourcing jobs to Johnson Controls, a nonunion auto parts manufacturer. In 1997 the UAW, with the complicity of Ford (who “was quick to point to its relationship with the union when it announced it would not take scab parts from Johnson Controls“), organized the outsourced jobs at lower wages than Ford paid for the same work. Then, UAW President Steve Yokich, “grinning like a Cheshire cat,” claimed an organizing victory.

Company union partners called this contract “win-win.” Workers called it, shenanigans.

GM and Daimler Chrysler helped UAW President Ron Gettelfinger claim a similar organizing victory at Johnson Controls in 2002. The outsourcing and organizing of jobs from Big Three automakers at lower wages became a pattern for the UAW. It helped the union avoid the embarrassment of negotiating two-tier wage agreements but gave their company partners major cost savings.

As the outsource and organize tactic ran its course, the UAW agreed to spin off Delphi from GM and Visteon from Ford—a new set-up for a new step-down.

The two-tier cavalcade turned into a turkey parade which culminated in 2007 when the Big Three won second tier wages for new hires and made a forward lateral pass of retiree health care to UAW officers via VEBA—a trust for health care benefits that retirees never trusted, for good reason. Historically, every VEBA the UAW negotiated failed. Larry Solomon, a former Caterpillar UAW Local President, warned UAW members.

In the past, VEBAs proved costly to UAW workers. The union set one up with Detroit Diesel in 1993 that cost company retirees dearly when funds in it ran out in 2004. It happened again to Caterpillar retirees in 2005 who’ll see their out-of-pocket costs triple by 2010, and the sky’s the limit after that.” Larry Solomon worked at Caterpillar for 34 years. He said, “The UAW better be very careful about this Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association that GM is pushing. For years, we were told by Caterpillar that we were getting an invisible paycheck in the form of free healthcare for the rest of our lives. Then, just as I was retiring in 1998, they put a VEBA in place. The fund ran out in 2004. So now, me and the wife are paying $200 a month for coverage in addition to all kinds of out of pocket expenses we were never supposed to deal with—and those expenses are likely to rise. Other members of the union have begun a lawsuit.

After the spin-offs came bankruptcy at GM and Chrysler, [ Karen Healey said in a speech to the Economic Club of Lansing, “Bankruptcy doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did.” She said that it had become “a cottage industry.”] a business plan that GM and Chrysler banked on to cement wage regression, end COLA, and implement profit sharing which substitutes company fealty for solidarity.

The seeds were planted long ago, but the transition from the UAW as a social movement union into a corporate union was finalized in 2009.

Fast forward five years: In September 2014, the UAW promoted the contract at Lear in Hammond, IN as the end of two-tier. A pinch of truth and a pound of bullshit.

One hundred and twenty workers from the Lear plant were outsourced and reorganized at wages below the new standard. The UAW-Lear contract was hailed as a solution for two-tier and an organizing victory. How is it that the new song and dance always sounds so eerily familiar?

In 2015 UAW President Dennis Williams echoed the membership’s demand to end two-tier, but the historical pattern in UAW bargaining signaled bait and switch, not equality. Indeed, tiers multiplied. The play of words between two parties whose goal is the same—competition between workers and cooperation with bosses—should not be taken at face value.

Breweries insinuate through advertisements that beer drinking is a sport that attracts pretty girls to couch-potatoes. Beer makers and professional sport leagues have the same goal: keep couch-potato eyes in the dark and fleece them pink and bald as new shorn sheep.

If we believe the sloganeering of International UAW officers, we may fall victim to the same bait and switch we did in the past. The trend in UAW contracts is increasingly selective and divisive rather than collective. The implementation of multiple wage tiers, temporary, flex, and contract workers not only shatters the foundation of union culture, it discourages organizing. Who wants to join a union that divides rather than unites workers? Corruption aside, who wants to pay union dues for a nonunion contract? If we want to organize we need better contracts, attractive contracts, not contracts equal to non union standards.

In 2019 UAW members struck GM. The resounding rationale from the rank and file was equal pay for equal work: an end to multiple tiers and permanent temps. I admire them. They stood with their shoulders back and their chins up despite the treachery of the office rats at Sold Our Dignity House. In 2019 rank and file UAW members did what we old timers should have done in 2003. Current rank and file UAW members understand in their bones what Jerry Tucker meant when he said, “Fight for all or lose it all.”

If anyone can put the backbone back in the UAW, it’s the rank and file on the shopfloor today. The cut of their jib resembles our founders: fierce, stubborn, implacable, unafraid.

UAW bureaucrats are interested in their own comfort. For example, VEBA, a medical benefit trust for UAW retirees, is a boon to nepotism. The VEBA was negotiated at a loss for retirees. The VEBA couldn’t possibly fulfill the promise, but it ensured an abundance of desk jobs for friends and family of International UAW officers. On top of that it wasn’t legal.

A union cannot legally represent retirees because retirees don’t work, don’t pay union dues, and don’t vote on contracts. In order to justify this illegal action the UAW set up two retired UAW members as stalking horses to file a lawsuit against GM. The lawsuit was not a legitimate lawsuit because there was no conflict. Both parties—GM and the UAW—had already agreed on a settlement. They simply needed the court to recognize the UAW as a legal representative of the  retirees. Two loyal but naive retirees were pimped as stalking horses.

If figures lie and liars figure, what’s a Gettelfinger? The answer begs the question: who truly, honestly represents workers? The choices are preconfigured like elections in a one party democracy Tom Adams PhD, a retired UAW-GM member, in his dissertation “UAW Incorporated: The Triumph of Capital,” cited: “The Public Review Board (PRB), the UAW ethical oversight body, described the International UAW as a “one-party institution like many national governments in which a single-political party controls the government and the officials who formally make and administer those laws are selected entirely by that party.” For several decades, “the lines of demarcation between party, the Administration Caucus, and the formal governing body, the International Executive Board (IEB), have become blurred, for 100 percent of its personnel are, and traditionally have been, members of the Administration Caucus.” Reuther’s political machine rewarded partisan loyalty and undermined internal democracy. Opposition activists who challenged UAW policy were crushed—sometimes violently. 12

So where do we go from here? What do we learn from history?

UAW members must take the lead if we want to overcome that giant sucking sound coming out of Solidarity House, the headquarters of UAW leadership. Don’t confuse protests and slogans with direct action.

Workers are on the front line of the profit and loss struggle. Not because labor is a major cost factor, but because labor is a primary creator of value. We can make it and we can break it. The solution isn’t pie in the sky, we only need to recognize what we hold in our hands: the presence of our future.

In May 2015 at the GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri forty-one UAW members refused, with the backing of local union officers, to follow management’s orders to work outside their job description. They stood up for the contract. The workers stood up for their contractual rights, and management fired them.

Back in the day there wouldn’t have been any discussion when forty-one workers were fired. Production would have slowed to a gut-shot crawl: one car less for each worker fired. The code, “41 for 41,” would have spread like a virus infecting every twist and turn, lift and tote, down the line. As word spread, other plants would have rallied the job action with rival slowdowns. Who’s the best at doing less?

We need to know where we came from, and how we arrived in the position we are now, if we want to determine independent direction and goals. My prescription isn’t mysticism, it’s more like deer hunting with an old fashion bow and arrow: study, aim, shoot. Bow hunters track and study deer patterns months in advance of open season. They know what they are going to do long before they begin.

The word sabotage “was first used officially by French labor organizations in 1897”. The French word sabot means wooden shoe. The term sabotage originates from the French expression “Travailler a coups de sabots,” meaning “to work as one wearing wooden shoes,” that is, slow and clumsy. In the 1915 pamphlet, “Sabotage,” Elizabeth Gurley Flynn wrote, “Sabotage is not physical violence; sabotage is an internal industrial process.” [Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology]

Work to Rule, “an internal industrial process,” is a slowdown based on compliance with management’s rules and withdrawal of workers’ knowledge and expertise. Since bosses are the

ones who get paid for superior intelligence, let them figure out how to fix every problem. Work safe, and make quality, not quantity, the top priority.

For example: the machine stops. The boss says, “What’s wrong?” I say, “I don’t know.” He asks the job setter, who replies, “”I don’t know.” He asks a skilled tradesman, who replies, “I don’t know.” Then we all look at the boss, and he starts sweating because he knows that we know that he knows that he is the only one who really doesn’t know.   Now who’s boss?

In his forthcoming book about the rise and fall of Buick City based on his dissertation, “UAW Incorporated: The Triumph of Capital,” Tom Adams relates a story about solidarity and direct action.

I started at the Buick foundry in Flint in 1976. I was a kid, just nineteen. I didn’t know anything. Flint foundry workers were the roughest group of folks I ever met, but they were also the most solidarity-driven people I would ever know. I learned a lot.

One steamy summer afternoon Lyle, the substitute foreman dispatched me and another apprentice on a ‘search and rescue mission’ of a disabled fork truck at the north end of the foundry. At the scene of the accident hydraulic fluid was all over the floor. The steel uprights and forks were laying forty feet away from rest of the vehicle. The severed halves of the tilt-cylinders and torn hydraulic hoses bled fluid from the truck’s troubled corpse. It looked like it had hit a land mine. One of the nearby machine operators slipped over to deliver a message the millwrights left behind. ‘If there are any questions, we’ll be at the White Eagle.’

The White Eagle was a popular watering hole on the fringe of the Buick complex. That’s where we found the millwrights and a couple of cold beers. When we returned to the truck shop the boss was waiting for us. Lyle was one of those supervisors who took every opportunity to assert his authority. He lectured us and then declared, ‘You’re on notice.’

A written reprimand could end the skilled trades career of an apprentice. Lyle was the stand-in for the regular foreman who was on vacation. Lyle had recently been promoted from the shop floor to foreman and was anxious to prove himself. Lyle was resented by the production workers as a suck ass who would do anything to get on supervision. Skilled trades especially loathed him. They felt Lyle didn’t know squat about skilled trades and being placed under his supervision was an insult. Those three words, ‘You’re on notice,’ set off a cascade of events that brought the pouring lines to a halt. When the pouring of hot steel stops, it means thousands of dollars down the drain. It’s like stopping an assembly line. School was open and the lessons were about to begin.

To the untrained eye everything appeared to be functioning normally in truck repair. Everyone in the repair bays was busy disassembling trucks, but no trucks were reassembled. The more urgent problem was in the battery shop. When a truck driver came in for a fresh battery, the ‘Battery man’ installed a barely-charged battery which soon died. Within an hour, there more than a dozen trucks were waiting in line for fresh batteries. Less fortunate fork trucks stalled on the plant floor and had to be pushed back manually. Within two hours, the iron pouring lines shut down. Foundry operations ground to a halt. That’s when the plant superintendent appeared in the truck shop accompanied by a dozen irate foremen.

White shirts were everywhere. I didn’t know what was happening. A heated debate ensued. After a few minutes of shouting, arm waving and finger pointing, a redfaced Lyle stalked over to me and the other apprentice. ‘You’re off notice,’ he shouted. He left the truck shop and wasn’t seen again. Within a half-hour the trucks were running and foundry operations returned to normal.

Power respects power, not punks. As long as production was maintained at maximum levels, forty-one workers in Missouri hung in the shadows of the gallows.

When the bosses fired forty-one workers they committed sabotage by their own definition, not ours. They committed a deliberately destructive act designed to cover up their own incompetence and malevolence. When faulty ignitions and air bag malfunctions are covered up resulting in lost lives; when information is concealed or is intentionally misleading; management is guilty of sabotage under the terms of their own malicious definition. When multinational corporations claim bankruptcy in the United States and protect their foreign operations from liability, they commit a premeditated, lethal act of sabotage which is not “an internal industrial process”  intended to leverage negotiations, but rather a deliberate exploitation of innocent civilians—shareholders, consumers, and both salary and hourly workers. Corporations routinely commit the most heinous acts of premeditated sabotage. Corporations don’t slow down, they kill for profit.

Labor Notes lauded the grievance settlement in Wentzville as a victory for solidarity but noted, “All 41 were brought back to work, kept their specific jobs, and were put on 18 months’ probation. No back pay was awarded up front, though the union says it will continue to seek it.”

It’s always good to see workers reinstated, but the settlement was hardly a victory. Without back pay each worker was essentially fined about two thousand dollars (lost pay) despite the fact that management, not workers, violated the contract. As part of the grievance resolution break time was cut. Previously, workers got two twenty minute breaks and an unpaid thirty minute lunch. Now they get a sixteen minute break, a twenty-four minute break, and the unpaid lunch comes after work. Yes, that’s right, lunch break is after work, so eat on the job or the toilet.

A “straight eight” used to mean workers got paid for a thirty minute lunch. Now they have to eat on the job with dirty hands. Instead of resolving the dispute with direct solidarity actions, the UAW negotiated for each individual worker of the “41” to return to work with a target on their back for the next eighteen months, and helped the company intensify jobs regardless of basic human needs for rest and nourishment. The UAW’s apparent goal was to help the company gain speed-up.

Management wants workers to comply with the grievance procedure because it works to the company’s benefit. It moves the dispute off the floor where production/profit happens and into the back room where workers have no influence. Union officials want workers to comply with the grievance procedure because it reinforces the power and prestige of union officers. And Bargaining Chairs can garner six figure salaries because they can legally be paid time and a half and double time by the company even for hours they aren’t in the plant. The company doesn’t simply grease their palms. The company has a contractual right to pump lube until the Bargaining Chair’s eyeballs wobble. Who needs a local union agreement ratified when they have a living agreement to let the good times roll?

Workers’ power is not in the back room or in the grievance procedure. Workers’ power is labor which can twist the faucet of profit to a trickle when bargaining leverage is in demand.

After the UAW-GM contract was ratified in 2019 management suspended, Glenn Kage, the Local 2250 President in Wentzville, and other activist members for alleged actions during the strike. Kage said, “This isn’t just about them coming after me, they’re going after union members and union officials all over the country. The intentions of this could not be clearer, they are going after UAW members sending a message that if you go on strike in the future, they will come after you. They are trying to break the union.”

Of course, the International UAW stood down and local workers were too dumbfounded to respond. Who taught the rank and file how to respond? Where could they learn how to respond when management disciplines their president?

When I was an active worker, if management unjustly fired a fellow worker, we made the company pay. We slowed production. Machines broke down and didn’t get fixed. We collected money for our fellow worker who was fired. We demanded mass meetings with the plant manager. We didn’t wait for the slow grind of the grievance procedure. We took direct action and we got results because we hit them where it hurts: profit. That’s what the old timers taught us: direct action on the shop floor.

Direct solidarity actions alone won’t win the long struggle against corporate and political powerhouses but Sam Gindin nailed it when he said, “If workers don’t believe that change is possible because of their experience in the union day to day, forget about politics.”

If you don’t know where you’ve come from, it is damned difficult to understand where you are, or where you are headed. Both the target and the means of hitting the target are obscure, if not invisible.

History is not academic, it’s no more complicated than knowing how to get home from school by yourself. You simply have to put your dumb phone down and pay attention.

In the book Singlejack Solidarity Stan Weir wrote:

Most auto workers today reject the international leadership of their union…. Fraser and his staff, like those of the UAW presidents before him, are experts at outmaneuvering and coercing the ranks into accepting contracts they don’t want, contracts in which ‘packages’ are substituted for improved working conditions. In short, the leadership has become the seller of bribes. (Singlejack Solidarity, page 319)

When Owen Bieber was president of the UAW, Stan Weir wrote:

At the UAW’s 1985 GM Council meeting in St. Louis, twenty-three locals networked on the spot and demanded a national strike vote on the basis of five demands….The delegates went home believing that the strike vote would be called and that they won an important victory. But in the end, the delegates lost because they still believed that their leadership was democratic enough to carry out a democratic decision it opposed. The officials of UAW Solidarity House did just the opposite of the instruction: they placed the original Fremont GM local under trusteeship, seized all of its assets and acted as its official mortician. (Singlejack Solidarity, page 331)

In 1990, former UAW International Executive Board member Jerry Tucker told the Multinational Monitor in an interview:

The New Directions Movement is an outgrowth of the failure of the International UAW to respond to needs of our union membership. It has grown dramatically as a result of what many people perceive as a lack of internal democracy and accountability to the membership and a straying away from the principle of solidarity as a mechanism for union behavior….

The International UAW has no intention of liberating and empowering the rank and file. The International UAW wants workers to knuckle under and accept the yoke of competition between workers and cooperation with bosses—the antithesis of solidarity unionism.

According to the Center for Automotive Research, “Since 2009 in the U.S., management compensation has grown about 50 percent faster than union workers’ income. In the U.S. auto industry, real wages have declined 24 percent since 2003.”

There’s plenty of pie. The solution lies in the hands of those who wield the pie slicer. Workers denied a pension and a share in the VEBA deserve more, not less than top tier workers. Since 2015 corporations have reaped the rewards of Republican tax cuts. CEOs don’t measure their rewards in dollars anymore. It’s too tedious. They tabulate their compensation by counting  Brinks Trucks backing up to their underground silos. GM CEO, Mary Barra, makes more in a day of golf than a line worker makes all year. When figures lie and liars figure you know you better curl your fingers into a fist. A fist of solidarity, or as they say in the old religion:“If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise.” In 2015 UAW workers learned that consolidation of private health care rather than the fight for universal health care was the biggest failure of the U.S. labor movement. Bargaining for benefits that are provided by the governments of all foreign competitors results in lower wages. GM claims it spends $1700 to $2000 per month for individual hourly employees. The company isn’t paying for health care. Workers pay for private health care straight out of their wage package: $1700—$2000 per month. Put that in your 401-k.  The cost of company health insurance depresses workers’ wages. Unions bargain wages down in order to procure health insurance. In regards to health care Jerry Tucker, the pariah and the prophet of the UAW, said it long ago, “Fight for all or lose it all.” In 2020 the motto still stands. And the rank and file have proven they have the meddle.

Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) “is a national network of rank-and-file UAW members who are organizing to take on their employers, challenge concessions, and clean up the union. One of the group’s first goals is to trigger a specially-called national union convention so they can amend the UAW Constitution and mandate the direct election of top UAW officials through a “one member, one vote” system—just like the Steelworkers, Machinists, and Teamsters have. Just as important, they are using this campaign to build UAWD into a powerful force to transform the UAW from the bottom up.”

A Special UAW Convention will be controlled by the Good Old Boys [GOBs] which is a high hurdle. Nonetheless, the momentum of this rank and file upsurge may spread fast and afford an opportunity for activists to engage fellow members face to face in a conversation about solidarity, accountability, democracy, and direct action.

Besides the movement for one member, one vote, members may also consider abolishing, or demanding transparency in “jointness” programs which are nothing but a conduit from company coffers to the pockets of corrupt UAW officers.

The chances of reforming the UAW from within are—given the strangle hold of the Administrative Caucus—remote. But corrupt practices like “jointness” are not in the UAW Constitution. Jointness is a product of the contract

At the 1998 32nd UAW Constitutional Convention [page 246] Dave Yettaw asked for a report on “this whole jointness scheme”. UAW President Stephen Yokich responded, “David, on your question, that’s a collective bargaining item. This is the Constitutional Convention.”

The corruption will not be resolved by Constitutional amendment because the corruption is a result of negotiations between the Administrative Caucus and the corporation. Furthermore, the contract allows the company to pad bargainers paychecks and pamper them with perks. Jointness justifies paying appointees overtime to sit at their desks and their appointments—these plush jobs—are dependent on supporting the president or bargaining chair who appointed them with the permission of the company, not the rank and file. There are more appointees than elected officials. These clipboard officers walk the shop floor like prima donnas with their panties in a knot and their fingernails clean as a beauty contestant.

The advantage for the rank and file is that contract ratification requires one member, one vote. There lies the fulcrum of power for the rank and file.  The rank and file can refuse to ratify a contract that certifies jointness which is essentially a scheme that promotes cooperation with management goals and launders payoffs to UAW officers

I want to double down on the Sam Gindin quote: “If workers don’t believe that change is possible because of their experience in the union day to day, forget about politics.”

Voting has not solved corruption and weak contracts in the Teamsters. Voting has not prevented corruption in the U.S. government. Voting is passive. The remedy is direct action in solidarity

When workers apply direct action in solidarity on the shop floor to resolve disputes, they feel confident to assert, and have the power to implement the politics they collectively deem proper to exert their rights and privileges as the principle creators of all wealth and the source of all power. Workers fight the wars, grow the food, unearth the raw materials, build, fix, and maintain everything that makes civilization valuable. We can’t live without workers. We don’t need appointees

I am none too swift on social media but I know the back story like the long road home.

If workers wait for the back room deal, every hand they’re dealt will come from the bottom of the deck. Workers’ power is not defined by law or contract. Workers’ power is defined by struggle. We can only win what we are willing to fight for.