Jan 22 2011
Aug 27 2010
Original article, Struggle by Indianapolis GM workers raises crucial issues, by Jerry White via World Socialist Web Site:
A year after the United Auto Workers union collaborated with the Obama administration in the restructuring of the auto industry and the assault on auto workers’ wages and living standards, determined workers at the General Motors Indianapolis stamping plant have rebelled against the UAW and taken a stand to defend the right to a job and a decent wage.
Jun 02 2009
The nauseating sensation of being in a surreal, waking dream is becoming the daily reality of the Obama Administration. Unlike the crude affront to sanity that was the Bush nightmare, the dominant feeling of the Obama era is the insidious feeling that things are not right, but that everyone is pretending that they are.
Consider the GM bankruptcy. This historic event has been ignored by the stock market, which actually staged a rally. The arithmetic of massive auto industry job losses and wiped out government investments is obvious, but nobody wants to run the numbers. Instead, all we hear from the press is numbing, repetitive assurances that everything is going to be fine. Obama sends in a handful of inexperienced functionaries to apply crude measures to hold the remnants of GM together for another year or two, and we are supposed to believe that we are going to get an automotive technology renaissance.
This is government by bull$hit, not a new era of competence. When FDR took things in hand, he gave the people straight talk and new structures staffed by competent people. Obama is blowing smoke and dodging accountability. We have seen this pattern in the financial “rescue,” as Geither and Summers ducked, weaved, and dodged around every issue. Now we are seeing it in industrial policy.
If the Bush administration did not give us an adequate lesson in the pernicious consequences of wishful thinking and ideological fantasies, we will certainly learn this lesson under Obama. Liberal fantasies are no less pernicious than those of conservatives. Reality will not be denied for much longer.
Jun 01 2009
cross-posted at the Orange Site
It’s final. GM files for bankruptcy tomorrow morning.
I would like to take a moment to let all the UAW members know how much I appreciate the strides they made for many of us in the work force.
As UAW fades, so does a path to U.S. prosperity
For decades, unionized manufacturing jobs have been considered the surest path to middle-class prosperity and realizing the vaunted American dream for blue-collar workers.
The United Auto Workers helped make that dream a reality.
“We created the middle class in America,” said Olen Ham, one of the few surviving members of the 1937 “sit-down” strike in Flint, Michigan, which won the first union contract with General Motors Corp.
Later contracts brought paid holidays, pension benefits and health insurance, enabling blue-collar workers to buy cars and homes and to send their children to college.
May 27 2009
So there’s a lot of conversation out there about car dealerships being told they won’t be selling cars for Chrysler and GM any more.
The idea, we are told, is to save the auto manufacturers money by reducing the number of dealerships with whom they do business.
I don’t really know that much about the car business; and I really didn’t understand where these cost savings would come from, but I was able to have a conversation with the one person I do know who actually could offer some useful insight.
Follow along, Gentle Reader, and you’ll get a bit of an education at a time when we all need to know a bit more about these companies we suddenly seem to own…and about the closure of thousands of local businesses that will make the news about our bad job market worse.
Mar 31 2009
Hat tip to Armando this morning…
Eugene Robinson writes in an op-ed piece at WAPO today:
Both the credit crunch and the reluctance of consumers to spend what money they have left are the direct result of Wall Street’s atrocious misbehavior. Yet the administration’s plan for rescuing the banking sector involves generous inducements, big subsidies and the opportunity for wealthy investors to become much wealthier while assuming very little risk. There are reasons for structuring the bank bailout this way, and there are reasons to take a get-tough attitude with the auto companies. But the juxtaposition is galling — and, for many autoworkers, potentially devastating.
“We cannot continue to excuse poor decisions,” President Obama said yesterday as he laid down the law to Detroit. But it’s hard to reconcile that declaration with policies that seem to excuse, if not reward, unspeakably poor decisions made on Wall Street.
I can’t argue with the administration’s decision to force GM chief executive Rick Wagoner to resign. It was encouraging, even, to see the White House employ that kind of muscle, given the fact that the president now has to oversee so much of the economy. But shouldn’t the first public flogging have involved one of the bankers who got us into this predicament? On Friday, the day when Wagoner got his walking papers, the biggest cheeses on Wall Street went to the White House for a cordial meeting. All still had their jobs when they left.
Our tough-love message to the banks: Would you mind, possibly, lending some of that money we gave you? If it’s not too much trouble, that is. And would you like another pillow?
Mar 30 2009
The White House says neither GM nor Chrysler submitted acceptable plans to receive more bailout money, setting the stage for a crisis in Detroit and putting in motion what could be the final two months of two American auto giants. President Barack Obama and his top advisers have determined that neither company is viable and that taxpayers will not spend untold billions more to keep the pair of automakers open forever.
But American taxpayers are supposed to keep spending untold billions more to keep those predator banks on Wall Street open forever, aren’t they, Barack. GM and Chrysler aren’t viable according to you and your fiend Tim at the Treasury Department, but those big banks that imploded and turned America’s financial system into a black hole of toxic debt are still viable. Yup. They’re as viable as it gets, they’re so viable they only need a trillion dollars every few months so they don’t China Syndrome themselves right through the planet, blast the Great Wall of China into rubble on the other side, and soar off into space to boldly go where no Masters of the Universe have ever gone before.
Let’s summarize what’s been happening, shall we? The big banks tell Barack to jump and he asks them how high. They tell Barack to fetch a stick and he fetches a stick. They tell Barack to hand them another trillion dollars and lay back down by his dish like a good dog, and he hands them another trillion dollars and lays back down by his dish like a good dog.
Feb 28 2009
Auto workers across the US are voting on proposed changes to 2007 UAW-Ford contract, which attacks the jobs, wages and benefits of 42,000 current workers and 186,000 retirees and dependents. The ratification process is scheduled to be completed by March 9.The Socialist Equality Party is calling for a rejection of this betrayal by the UAW and the mobilization of auto workers industrially and politically. We encourage auto workers and supporters to download and distribute this statement as widely as possible.
Ford workers should reject the sellout agreement negotiated by the United Auto Workers union and fight to mobilize the strength of all autoworkers against the attack on jobs, living standards and working conditions.
The deal signed by the UAW, coming on the heels of the 2007 concessions, will destroy the achievements of decades of struggle.
The agreement will eliminate cost-of-living raises and the lump sum bonuses the union said would offset the wage freeze it accepted in the last contract.
The UAW also agreed to eliminate overtime payments after eight hours, reduce break time and cut two paid holidays. The Jobs Bank will end and supplemental unemployment benefits will be capped at one year, just as the auto companies embark on an unprecedented wave of plant closings and mass layoffs.
By allowing Ford to fund half of its retiree health care obligations with virtually worthless stock, the deal ensures that 186,000 retirees and their dependents will see their health benefits slashed and their premiums and co-pays raised by thousands of dollars.
Autoworkers are not responsible for the crisis in the auto industry. They had no power over the decisions of the corporate executives and Wall Street investors who sacrificed the long-term health of the industry in order to boost share values and amass staggering levels of personal wealth.
The working class is not responsible for the breakdown of the capitalist system, which has created the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s.
For the last three decades-starting with the 1980 Chrysler bailout-autoworkers have given up one concession after another, culminating in the 2007 contract which cut wages in half and eliminated employer-paid pensions for new-hires. Now, UAW members are to work for the same or even lower wages than non-union autoworkers at the US plants owned by Toyota and other international companies.
Once again the UAW bureaucracy is claiming that massive concessions are needed to “save jobs.” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger says that without the concessions, “Ford cannot survive on a long-term basis.” But none of the “job-saving” contracts signed by the UAW has stopped plant closings and mass layoffs. Since 1978 nearly three-quarters of a million autoworkers have lost their jobs. At Ford, the hourly workforce has shrunk from 174,000 to 42,000.
General Motors has already announced plans to wipe out another 47,000 jobs, including 21,000 hourly and salaried positions in the US, and close 14 plants in North America and Europe. Chrysler and Ford are preparing their own downsizing plans to meet the drastic decline in car sales.
The money robbed from workers in previous concessions contracts was not used to bolster the health of the industry, but to fund stock buy-backs and other measures to boost share value and funnel billions into the bank accounts of corporate executives and big investors.
All the talk about “shared sacrifices” by the auto executives is a fraud. Ford CEO Alan Mulally is to take a cut in his base salary that will leave him with the “modest” figure of $1.4 million-some 28 times the pay of Ford workers. In 2007, Mulally’s total compensation package, mostly from bonuses, stock and stock options, came to $21.6 million.
He and the rest of the top executives will eventually recoup their “sacrifices” by reaping vast profits from a “restructured” auto industry, having dumped their pension and health care obligations, driven out higher paid veteran employees and hired new workers at half the wages.
The new concessions will be used to establish a lower benchmark for the next round of concessions demanded by GM, Ford, Chrysler and other global corporations. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ford will be “free to seek additional concessions from the UAW if GM and Chrysler-which must secure concessions to comply with terms of their government bailout loans-get better deals or file for bankruptcy.”
The Obama administration is functioning on behalf of the most ruthless sections of finance capital, which see this crisis as an opportunity to fundamentally and permanently shift class relations in the US. They aim to put an end to the so-called “middle class worker” who attained a modicum of economic security-a home, a pension and a college education for their children. The attack on autoworkers will be widened to encompass the entire working class.
This is clear from the collection of Wall Street bankers and asset strippers Obama has selected for his auto task force. They include Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a key architect of the Wall Street bailout, and White House economic advisor Lawrence Summers, who was treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. Both have opposed all but token restrictions on banks that receive taxpayer bailout funds, and both lobbied against limits on bank executive pay that were included in the stimulus bill passed by Congress.
They will be advised by Steven Rattner, a mergers and acquisitions expert who runs a multi-billion-dollar private equity firm, and Ron Bloom, another Wall Street financier. Bloom helped protect the interests of the steelworkers’ union bureaucracy as it worked with various financial sharks to “save” the steel industry, leaving tens of thousands of workers without jobs or pensions.
According to the Wall Street Journal, one scenario being considered is to drive the auto companies into Chapter 11 bankruptcy so they can sell off their profitable assets to big investors and dump their health care and pension obligations into the bankruptcy court.
At the same time, the White House is reserving the power to recall the government loans to GM and Chrysler and throw the companies into bankruptcy if workers carry out any strikes or walkouts.
The UAW is complicit in this attack. In exchange for its collaboration, the UAW will reportedly receive hundreds of millions of shares in common stock from Ford, making it the single largest shareholder in the company and qualifying the union bureaucracy for a seat on the board of directors. This will give the union a direct financial incentive to increase the exploitation of its own members.
The fact that the UAW is a union does not make it a workers’ organization. It has long since ceased defending the interests of the workers from whom it collects dues. For many years it has striven to reposition itself as a business enterprise so that the income and privileges of the union bureaucracy could be separated as much as possible from the fate of the workers it nominally represents.
Together with union-management corporatism, the UAW has promoted “Buy American” nationalism and anti-foreigner chauvinism to block any unified struggle with autoworkers in other countries, while demanding ever greater concessions in the name of making Detroit “competitive” with European and Asian automakers. The outcome of this policy is a fratricidal struggle pitting workers from different countries, states and even factories against each other.
Autoworkers must reject the blackmail being carried out by the auto bosses, the Obama administration and the UAW and launch a struggle to halt the destruction of their jobs and living standards. Such a struggle must be organized independently of the UAW through the setting up of committees of rank-and-file workers in the factories and of working people, youth and the unemployed in the communities.
A decisive stand by autoworkers will generate massive support from working people in the US and around the world, who are looking for a way to fight mass layoffs, home foreclosures and the continued bailout of the financial aristocracy.
Ford workers should launch a national strike and urge all workers at GM and Chrysler to join the fight, along with the tens of thousands of workers in the auto parts industry and non-union transplants. A special appeal should be made to workers in Canada, Latin America, Asia and Europe to join US workers in a common fight in defense of jobs and living standards.
This industrial fight must be guided by an entirely new political strategy and perspective. The crisis in auto is part and parcel of the failure of the capitalist system in the US and around the world. The only alternative that represents the interests of the working class is the fight for socialism.
This means mobilizing against the Obama administration and breaking decisively with the Democrats and Republicans-two parties of big business that are united in their efforts to make the working class pay for the crisis.
Workers need to be organized as an independent political force to advance their own solution to the crisis. The auto industry must be taken out of the hands of the corporate executives and financial speculators who have driven it into the ground, and transformed into a public utility, democratically owned and controlled by the working people themselves.
The trillions of dollars squandered on the Wall Street bankers must be recovered and used to retool the auto industry to build safe, affordable transportation, in cooperation with autoworkers around the world.
This is the socialist and internationalist perspective fought for by the Socialist Equality Party. We urge autoworkers looking for a way to fight the assault on jobs and living standards to take up the struggle for a socialist future and join the SEP.
Dec 15 2008
My oh my, what an interesting week, and I don’t mean that in a good way. From our trade deficit to our automakers on the brink of joining our domestic consumer electronics firms, things aren’t looking all that swell. The latest indicators are showing, at least for November, what has been on everyone’s mind, the economy. Some are saying, though that things will pick up, that the recession began a year ago and we’ll come through it by 2009. We’ll see, when the average worker is able to stop worrying not just about making rent or that mortgage payment, but also putting food on the table, then I’ll agree. Globally, like the United States, things for now look dim. And like I said, the figures show it…which leads us to the Numbers!
Dec 09 2008
I have a hard time suffering fools. How dare anyone who has been in the Congress or the Senate for the last eight years criticize the big three. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
These corrupt and incompetent fools have mismanaged this country into bankruptcy. Instead of oversight, they gave the same people who ripped off the system another 780 billion tax payer dollars without any plan or strings attached. If anybody ought to resign because of gross mismanagement, it is the fools in DC.
Dec 06 2008
Amazing, simply amazing. For the past two days I’ve been watching these hearings on the automakers, and find myself more aghast than anything else. Actually, it’s more than that. I think I’ve had this almost sickening feeling, a feeling where anger is meshed in with a humiliation and sadness. It isn’t just the automakers that has been the cause of this, but that they symbolize how far we’ve fallen.
Nov 25 2008
Greetings folks, first day of the workweek, and welcome to another edition of Manufacturing Monday. I had planned to put this out earlier in the day, but had to deal with a turkey situation (hint: dogs); plus other holiday-related madness. So anyways, we got some good stuff for you today. First on our highlighted list is a story on GM’s board. Then we got two industrial-esc jobs updates, first on coal then in green-collar world. Finally, I want to finish off today’s edition with something special, a music video! No…not me singing, but a reader sent it to me and thought you should all see it. So a shout out to Amber for bringing this to my attention, you rock! And with that we go to…the Numbers!