AROUND 75 rank-n-file members of the United Auto Workers demonstrated outside the historic Flint East Delphi plant on February 16, 2006.
Workers from Saginaw, Flint and Detroit came out in force to denounce the closing of the Spark Plug & Oil Filter production in Flint and to protest the concessions that GM-Delphi are trying to force on Delphi workers.
As the community drove by the overwhelming amount of honks and cheers from outside their windows sometimes drowned out the actual protesters.
‘Not one dollar, Not one Dime. Cutting wages is a crime,’ they chanted as they marched back in forth.
The protest was supposed to be canceled according to the leadership of UAW Local 651. The weather would be their excuse for canceling the event. They canceled it on Wednesday, launching a press release to the local media.
They spent all day Thursday inside the factory telling people it was canceled and not to attend. There was not even a school closing in Flint on Thursday and the sidewalks around Delphi had been shoveled and made clear early in the morning. So why was the protest really canceled?
These reactionary leaders at Local 651 according to a low level official apparently received a call from the International UAW on Wednesday asking them, ‘Are you with us or are you with them?’ Referring to the rank-n-file movement called Soldiers of Solidarity whose Western Michigan members came out in force to support the protest in solidarity. In other words, are you with the bureaucracy or the workers?
The local hierarchy, despite rank-n-file attempting to work with them, continued delaying the protest for several weeks prior to the 16th. They finally ran out of excuses and decided to outright sabotage the event with less than 24 hours to go.
They didn’t want to protest the closing or concessions.
‘They are trying to take the wind out of the sails of the membership who want to fight back,’ one Flint worker told a reporter.
‘It is like they want control over the membership. We elected them, they are suppose to answer to us,’ another one said.
This sabotage did not set well with the people who came to the protest, the workers who left shift change at the plant or to the membership at Local 651 who worked hard planning and organizing this demonstration democratically.
It would be the tyrannical influence of the administration who would abuse the democratic process and declare the protest over without a single vote cast. Union democracy died in Flint on Thursday.
Where Do We Go From Here?
President Dave Yettaw used to tell us, ‘The UAW is playing checkers while the company is playing Chess.’
I believe confrontation with both the botched union leaders and the corporations at this point is only a matter of time. Many of us can’t fathom an agreement passing which contains concessions after reevaluating our progress over the last few months and our near success with the health care concession at both GM and Ford.
People are waking up to the destructive policies of the UAW Solidarity House and how it is directly related to the decline of union membership. Workers are starting to perceive the historic reality that concessions don’t save jobs. Numerous people around the world are waking up to the fact that once you give concessions they never stop giving.
Once the dog tastes blood, we will have to put him down.
It is safe to say that there is no reason to think Miller is bluffing. Nobody believed he would file bankruptcy and he did. He told the associated press on June 23, 2005 that he won’t seek bankruptcy protection to reduce the company’s massive labor and health care costs.
But, he did.
If anything GM-Delphi and their partners in the UAW have already worked out a concessionary agreement against the membership. What they are doing by delaying these motions over and over again is an endeavor to fatigue the workers in consequence making them more disposed to take concessions.
The corporations meanwhile intend to build up inventory and try to line up as many second source suppliers as feasible for General Motors if and when a strike occurs due to the UAW leadership’s malfunction of controling their membership for them.
I trust that they all are erroneous conclusions as they miscalculate the rank-n-file’s ability to resist. We have seen a colossal decentralized insurgence growing inside the union against the concessions and partnership with the companies.
We observed examples of this development in the treachery at Flint last Thursday. We should all prepare to observe not only wildcat industrial action without UAW bureaucracy approval, but also militants taking control of picket lines. These are very pragmatic possibilities. We should not be astounded when some workers occupy departments or even entire plants.
Maybe I have a different perception than most analysts and reporters having traveled to nearly 12 cities. I have had the distinguished opportunity of speaking for hours with thousands of workers from Delphi directly resulting in trying to answer around 200 e-mails every day that are frequently from workers at UAW-represented companies around the country who are mobilizing themselves.
The overall consensus remains ‘You can’t strip away someone’s way of life through corporate domestic terrorism and not expect a fight.’ I sense a lot of people in the auto industry underestimate the power of just a few determined people and what they can accomplish.
I reference the July 21 Movement in Cuba and what that small group accomplished some 50 years ago. If GM-Delphi thinks they only have to deal with just the UAW Solidarity House then they are seriously mistaken. If the leadership of the UAW assume they know what the membership is in actuality thinking or prepared to do, they would be wise to spend time in communication around the country with the actual workers on the shop floor and not just disconnected local bureaucrats.
It is safe to say Miller is out of his league in the auto industry. He has by no means faced ‘united’ auto workers on the shop floor before. He is accustomed to union bureaucracy and compromise from elected representatives. He won’t get that satisfaction from the workers in the auto industry like he did in the airline and steel industries.
‘We will vote down and fight back anything they bring down to us. No Concessions, Fight to Win! What many analysts fail to understand is that constitutionally the membership of the UAW is the highest authority in our union. We are obligated as members to actively participate and do so without the need of someone’s approval. At the end of the day we heard everything Miller said about us over the last 6 months and we will not forgive or forget this, we will take action if needed.
You better believe American auto workers will be heard and felt around the world when their livelihoods are threatened. The Solidarity House nor GM-Delphi will not be allowed to betray 70 years of struggle without a fight from the genuine workers. What kind of fight that will be shall be determined in the next few months.
As far as most workers are concerned GM-Delphi and the UAW bargained together in 1999 & again in 2003 as one union and one company. By God we better fight together as one union. We refuse to be sidetracked by local bureaucracy sabotage of the membership protests or by getting cut off from the Big Three. We will fight to win until the last man is standing.
There will be a rank-n-file meeting on March 26, 2006 in Youngstown, Ohio. I hope to see all of you there. Look for details to be added to the website soon. Don’t forget that the delays on February 17, 2006 are very likely being used to prevent any problems for the IEB at the upcoming Constitutional Convention in June.