The sting is stung. United Auto Workers” piecard Shawn Fain, the Big Three Auto Bosses, and Democrats like the war criminal Joe Biden, touched noses, shared grins and a wink, declared the fraudulent UAW contracts ratified by the rank and file. Now they go back to harsh exploitation as usual.
The mainstream huzzahs for the United Auto Workers’ strike and subsequently ” All ratified” agreements range from NPR to CNN to a long piece in the New Yorker, “the Future of American Labor Politics,” by Dan Kaufman (November). All cheer on a fictitious “resurgence of the labor movement.”
I will focus on the New Yorker piece which is much longer and more exhaustive than the electronic happy news.
Kaufman’s essay is a moving human interest and historical piece, but the author, enthusiastic for official organized labor, got a lot wrong.
The UAW, led by President Shawn Fain, conducted a “stand up” strike, which the author poses as a continuation of the founding sit-down strikes of the thirties. There is a short, classroom-friendly, documentary about the Great Flint Sit-down Strike, “With Babies and Banners,” linked here: https://www.youtube.com/
That’s continuation-of-the-thirties thesis is wrong. The sit-downs seized control of the processes and products of the plants, always in contention in any work place.
The stand-ups conceded both.
The founding UAW believed the union and employers had contradictory interests.
The entire US labor movement believes in “partners in production,” the unity of labor bosses and Big Bosses “in the national interest.”, Contrary to the author, all US unions are all what was once know as company unions. The centrality of Marx’s class war and imperialism is long forgotten, erased by a terrible education system which eradicates history, and the counterfeit unions themselves.
Kaufman praises Shawn Fain’s devotion to Walter Reuther, past UAW president. Actually, Reuther was a progenitor of “Partners in production,” following the racist, nationalist, sexists American Federation of Labor’s origins from its earliest days in the late 1800’s.
The leaders of the Flint sit-down were Socialists and Communists who also formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Anti-Marxist Reuther drove them out of the UAW. He also led the UAW divide and conquer tradition.in striking only striking one auto company at a time, never a mass shut-down.
Shawn Fain degraded even that failed maneuver which was designed to exhaust those on strike, wear them down, until they were ready to accept a Quisling contract.
William Serrin, then a Detroit Free Press reporter, later a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, witnessed this process in person and described it in “The Company and the Union. (1973). Serrin quotes one worker: “the Company and the Union; they’re the same.” The stand-ups followed this pattern.
Moreover, Reuther played a central role in betraying the 1960 Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party on behalf of the mainstream, Jim Crow, Mississippi Democratic Party.
The stand-ups never involved more than one third of the auto workers and, only briefly met that minimal number.
The stand ups pit workers against each other, which the New Yorker author sidelines. Those on strike oaid a measly $500 a week, and those at work, making regular pay–though on a multi-tier level , Note that the UAW has an eight hundred and twenty five million dollar strike fund.
The union bosses view that, not as a STRIKE fund, but their bank account.
Shawn Fain who famously wore an “Eat the Rich” shirt, makes more than $200,000 a year–add a nice expense account
Most media outlets declared the multi-tier wage system, instituted with a vengeance during the financial collapse of 2008 (along with wage concessions and no-strike clauses and degraded pensions’) to be eradicated. That is simply not true. Joint programs, easy proof of company/union collaboration, are written all over the new contract. And, they were a major source of the UAW corruption which landed so many UAW hacks in jail.
Moreover, the UAW bosses (other than the dozen former officers in jail) didn’t stand up. “International” representatives continued to collect salaries three to five times those of the average worker.
The UAW contract, with a 25 percent raise over four and a half years is hardly a victory. It doesn’t make up for all the concessions (which obviously do not save jobs) made since the combined government, management, and labor boss’ attacks after 2008 and is unlikely to beat inflation.
The UAW hacks proclaimed they would win a shorter work week with no cut in pay, and restored pension benefits.
None of that happened. Medical benefits remain mired in a “trust,” a Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA). VEBAs lift the expense and trouble of providing real employee health benefits from the Big Three and have long been a source of UAW corruption (https://labornotes.org/2018/
With the same mantra, UAW piecards, including vice presidents, joined the Big Three bosses in threatening workers with the loss of jobs, and plants if the rank and file voted “no.” Plants will move south or out of the US! Forget that Democrat Bill Clinton’s NAFTA made this so easy.
Making these wage and benefit concessions to bosses have never saved jobs. Like feeding blood to sharks, they only want more.
As with most UAW ratification votes of the past, few outside the inner circle ever saw the full contract. Rather, the UAW typically circulates a Summary, usually stocked with mis-information. It is unlikey that the New Yorker fact checkers even had time to review a full contract.
In the period since 2008, the auto bosses enjoyed booming profits, after being bailed out by a government (bi–partisan action) that socialized losses and privatized profits. GM president Mary Barra took home a raise of forty percent to nearly $30 million., $28,979,570 last year.
The average auto worker makes $28 an hour (BLS) and frequently works forced overtime. Injuries, exhaustion, and illness (especially when covid spread in the plants) take a heavy toll.
Would the union bureaucrats cheat on ratification votes? History says most certainly. The Ford Rouge Local 600 (where I once worked) is notorious for vote rigging, And, rather than vote in union halls, the rank and file were routinely requited to vote in the plants, under the Big Bosses cameras.
Joe Biden, the ‘union president,” momentarily joined a picket line and immediately praised the ratified contract.
He enjoyed mutual admiration from Fain who, like the entire history of the AFL-CIO, is now firmly embedded with US imperialism (and the CIA, see the work of Kim Scipes online and in book form, “The AFL-CIO’s Secret Wars Against Developing Country Workers”) \
This, today, means, aligning the UAW with the Zionist war on all of Palestine. .
It also means Fain will herd the UAW members into voting booths next year where they will choose the lesser of very vile options–two heads of the same snake-and once again away from the spot where workers, collectively, have real power: the point of production.
Last, what the author does not grasp is the scam that been conducted in what passes for unionism–the union bosses sell the pacified labor of the rank and file to the big bosses in exchange for guaranteed dues income, off which the labor bosses live very well.
One victory the UAW touted early in contract talks was guaranteed collection of dues. When the American fascist Henry Ford, who used violence to defeat UAW organizers, learned the dues collection process, he said, “you mean I will be the union’s banker?”
Fain claims he will take his “aggressive” organizing project to the non-union auto plants, mostly in the south. He is likely to fail.
That work force, for a variety of reasons (including not wanting to add another layer of enemies) has repeatedly rejected the UAW’s lures. They could, as an alternative, form independent unions, where union leaders recognize contradictory worker/boss relationship, are paid the same wage as the average worker, go on strike with the ranks, etc. but that too is improbable now.
The UA, lpng losing members, has diversified away from auto, organizing dies from highly (miss) educated graduate students in colleges and universities (who, too late, find themselves trapped in a spider’s web of betrayals) and state employees, like Michigan Local 6000
Until workers grasp the levels of enemies (government, management, and labor hacks) they have, and act as the founding sit-downers of the UAW, they will continue to lose. The many treacherous stings will eat them as in the children’s classic, “The Spider and the Fly.”