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March, 2006

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Finding their voices, workers take up struggle against Delphi/GM attacks

By the Flint, Michigan People's Tribune Correspondent Delphi protesters

FLINT, Michigan - February 9, at the Great Sitdown Anniversary Celebration, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger gave a fiery speech. He warned Delphi that any attempt on their part to seek court action to dissolve UAW contracts "would be a mistake," that the "UAW would not back down from a fight" and that "we will draw strength from the Sit Downers." These words were met with standing ovations and cheers from the packed house audience of both active and retired workers.

Since that day, the Delphi Corporation has opted to delay it's planned February 17 action to void labor agreements, with a new cut-off deadline scheduled for March 30. Delphi vows that if a decision has not been reached by then, they will go to court on March 31 to deep-six labor agreements. But workers know that the postponement is not necessarily a sign of progress like some would like us to believe. We know that sitting back waiting for the collective bargaining process to resolve this crisis is courting defeat. We will continue to find other means of fighting back. Some developments in this area include:

Delphi protestersPicket, March, and Rally at UAW Local 651 in Flint, Michigan (see flyer on this page).

UAW Local 599 in Flint mobilizing for a March on Washington, soliciting organizers through a postcard campaign.

IUE-CWA Union, which represents 8500 Delphi workers (primarily in Ohio) has scheduled a Strike Vote for March 12. They have taken the position that they will not wait to see if the corporation will seek court action to wipe out their contract. (They are the second largest union at Dephi.)

One GM assembly plant Shop Committee in Michigan has declared to their membership that if there is a strike, they WILL NOT use SCAB parts and will SIT DOWN if they have to.

Delphi protestersWorkers at Tower Automotive factories in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana voted to authorize strike action by their unions. These include the UAW, United Steelworkers, and the IUE-CWA. (Tower, which makes vehicle frames and other parts for several auto companies, declared bankruptcy in February 2005, but filed a motion in January to cancel labor contracts.) The court was expected to rule as this paper went to press.

In the new, dynamic, technology-driven global economy, autoworkers are becoming more and more disposable. Retirees and those laid off are especially vulnerable and are regarded as beasts of burden by the company. No longer needed to produce cars and trucks, a shrinking workforce in general - and in particular retirees, whose pension and health care benefits are what the analysts refer to as "legacy costs" that are "crippling" the Big Three. Also under assault is the Jobs Bank program, a safety net for laid off workers, negotiated in the 1980s to discourage lay offs. Yet, Delphi went to the bankruptcy judge to secure unprecedented bonus packages for the top executives -something else that leaves the workers seething. Bankruptcy court is a convenient way for Delphi to do away with these and other hard-fought wages and benefits. Since Delphi is the largest company to ever file bankruptcy and since it is tied at the hip to GM, the stakes here can not be overestimated. History will look back at this period as a turning point in the history of working people. What we do now will determine the outcome.

Delphi protestersDelphi protesters

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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