by Bill Onasch
‘Partners’ Win Second Try
The first Tentative Agreement between the UAW leadership and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was shot down by the ranks–by a 2-1 margin. It was the first defeat of a Big Three national TA in a generation. But while this venting of disappointment was widespread it was not very organized or focused. Though an indicated first step, rejection alone is not a solution. An alternative program needs to be advanced.
Former dissidents, such as those in New Directions and the Auto Caravan, who once had influence in some Big Three Locals could have played a role in shaping a policy attractive to the naysayers. But those oppositionists are now mostly retired—some migrating to sunnier new locations. The fragmented rejectionist majority could not pull together a viable alternative on the fly through social media.
At least months of advance preparation on the shop floor around clear objectives is required. That is the perspective encouraged by the leadership of more adversarial unions like the Chicago Teachers Union and National Nurses United. But in the top-down structure of the UAW such initiatives have to come from below.
In this absence of a unified opposition, the Administration Caucus bureaucracy that has ruled the UAW without interruption since the days of Walter Reuther was able to recover from a stinging defeat. After retaining—at members expense—a prominent public relations firm they were able to work with their company “partners” to quickly craft a new deal. It was a grab bag of putative additional raises for some, spread out over eight years, offset by new immediate concessions to management. Little, if any, new money was on the table.
Not seeing credible options, the package was accepted as the best that can be done. The swing in the second vote was as dramatic as the previous thumbs-down. Seventy-seven percent of production workers, 72 percent of skilled trades, and 87 percent of salaried workers voted in favor of the second TA.
Now UAW officials turn to General Motors–who just reported record Third Quarter profits. Larry, my Detroit Chrysler retiree friend who has become our honorary Big Three correspondent, sent along an article from Automotive News that opens,
“The UAW’s new contract with Fiat Chrysler will set the pattern for how first General Motors and then Ford Motor Co. fix the divisive two-tier wage system at their factories, said sources familiar with the negotiations. The UAW has no plans to resuscitate Tier 2 hiring caps at GM or Ford, aiming instead for the approach taken at FCA US that guarantees lower-paid Tier 2 workers an eight-year ladder of predetermined annual raises until they reach full wages of $30 an hour, the sources said.”
A few weeks ago, 7,000 UAW workers at Ford’s Claycomo plant in suburban Kansas City came within a few hours of going on strike–nominally over stalled negotiations about local conditions, but likely also a warning shot across the bow in coming national bargaining. The plant is a principal source of the new F-150 pickup which has been the company’s most profitable product. The local agreement was satisfactorily concluded JIT–just in time.
This reminded me of a bigger unexpected rebellion of Ford workers six years ago. Unlike the other two Detroit companies Ford did not go the bankruptcy route. That meant they didn’t get all the advantages of the draconian take-backs imposed on GM and Chrysler workers by the Obama White House. Ford and the then UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, agreed that was unfair and submitted an urgent contract reopener with give-backs to keep Ford competitive in the spirit of pattern bargaining. They thought it would be a piece of pie.
But alas for the “partners,” the ranks rejected it big time. Claycomo’s 92 percent No was edged out by negative 93 at Dearborn Truck. Even Gettelfinger’s home local in Louisville—where he had made a personal appeal—mustered 86 percent for rejection.
I’m not predicting a similar revolt now at Ford or GM. But another Larry, better known by his nickname Yogi, once offered the unassailable wisdom, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”
Theocratic State Attacks Women’s Health and Privacy
No, I’m not talking about ISIL or Saudi Arabia. The reference is to Christian, not Islamic extremists. The state they control is Texas. They utilize state power in a holy crusade against what they preach is mortal sin—birth control. Considering themselves righteous, they don’t shrink from engaging in criminal conspiracies and violations of the US Constitution. Their kindred souls in Kansas have resorted to bombings of clinics and murder of a doctor inside a church they don’t respect.
Citing video doctored by well financed crooks who fraudulently set up a dummy corporation just to gain camera access to Planned Parenthood officials, Texas inquisitors have not only moved to cut off Medicaid funding to the group providing a wide range of health services for low income women; they are also ordering the clinics to surrender confidential patient medical records–including their names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers.
The Texas Inquisition knows full well Planned Parenthood has broken no secular laws and maintains the highest standards of outpatient medicine. Several states have investigated the bogus claims of the video fraudsters and dismissed them. The Texas attacks are calculated to harass and intimidate those doing what is–in their fiery eyes–the work of the Devil.
The dedicated staff and volunteers of Planned Parenthood will stand their ground. But many poor women will now be reluctant to use what is often the only affordable health care available in their area. I don’t know much about sins but in my book what the state of Texas is doing is a despicable crime that should be exposed, denounced and fought by every decent person of any or no faith.
Disastrous Loss In Canada
I’m not gloating about the victory of the Kansas City Royals over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. The two best teams were well matched and provided exciting baseball. I have nothing but admiration for manager John Gibbons and his talented players.
But the parliamentary elections held last Monday north of the border are a different kettle of fish. In the 2011 elections the NDP—Canada’s version of a labor party—under the leadership of the late Jack Layton won a stunning second place finish to become the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The boss Liberals—roughly equivalent to US Democrats–were reduced to a minor third party. Polls at the beginning of the 11 week election campaign this year showed the NDP—now led by Tom Mulcair—leading the pack.
But the front runner ran a lackluster campaign that led the Socialist Caucus in his party to advance the slogan Vote NDP With No Illusions. The Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, son of a popular Francophone former Prime Minister, pledged big government spending programs to stop Canada’s slide in to recession–while Mulcair promised balanced budgets. Trudeau also skillfully tapped antiwar sentiment by declaring he would withdraw from joint participation with the US in the war against ISIL. When the votes were counted, the Liberals won a gain of 150 seats giving them a majority to govern alone. The once favored NDP lost 59 seats plunging them back to third place.
There are, of course, many similarities between this disastrous loss and the debacle suffered by the British Labor Party in elections in that country last Spring. The British defeat sounded Taps for the funeral of Tony Blair’s right-wing “New Labor.” The British party is beginning to return to its working class roots under emerging socialist and trade union leadership. It’s too early to tell how the ranks and supporting unions will react in the NDP.
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