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June, 2006

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Auto giants re-organizing and re-tooling: What About Us?

Disposing of thousands of autoworkers, one way(bankruptcy) or another (severance packages)

By Claire McClinton UAW members and supporters participating in the April 29 “March for the American Dream” in Lansing, Mich. PHOTOS/DONATED TO THE PEOPLE’S TRIBUNE

As of this writing, the fate of the American autoworker in this dynamic global economy is playing out in a New York courtroom. A judge is deciding whether to grant a motion by Delphi to dissolve union contracts. Delphi says it wants to pay workers $12 per hour, but if GM offers to make up the difference, they'll pay $16 per hour. The UAW response was to seek strike authorization from the membership -- which was overwhelmingly passed by 90%. If the motion to dissolve contracts is granted, a strike is all but inevitable. (Analysts assert that a strike at Delphi could shut GM down in 24 hours). In turn, GM (in what looked like a show of desperation) asked the bankruptcy Judge to postpone it's decision and give the parties (GM, Delphi, and unions) more time to negotiate. Delphi opposed the request and the Judge denied GM's appeal.

Labor's Position

UAW members and supporters participating in the April 29 “March for the American Dream” in Lansing, Mich. PHOTOS/DONATED TO THE PEOPLE’S TRIBUNE The unions' response to this volatile situation is critical. The strike vote has been taken -- the rank and file have spoken loud and clear. They're ready to fight. This gives tremendous leverage to the UAW. But the union has some things going against it. Mobilization of rank and file preparation for a strike has been weak. For instance, at a recent regional meeting of delegates and alternate delegates in preparation of the Constitutional Convention, there was barely a mention that we are in the middle of a historic battle and what kinds of strategies union members must employ to be victorious. Furthermore, most local Unions have cancelled meetings for the summer, including the Delphi East local where Delphi CEO Steve Miller has vowed to close or sell. This same plant is taking job applications, which rumor has it may be in preparation for a strike. A successful UAW Convention must become in fact a Strategy Conference with real answers to the following questions:

(1) WHAT KIND OF CONTRACT ARE WE GOING TO HAVE COME 2007? More concessions and give backs to make the company competitive? With massive numbers of workers taking severance packages and leaving the company, are our pensions and Health Care packages secure?

(2 )WHAT KIND OF UNION ARE WE GOING TO HAVE ??? In the era of the disposable worker driven by the hi-tech revolution and the demands of the new global economy, will our union be an organization that collectively bargains the demise of its members thru buyouts and unprecedented cuts in wages and benefits OR will the union become an instrument for social change, championing the cause of its members, the community at large and our children -- the future members???

(3) After answering the two previous questions, finally, WHAT KIND OF AN AMERICA ARE WE GOING TO HAVE??

From the Editors

We have to wake up to the reality that the companies and the government won't help us. The time is absolutely ripe to think and fight outside the box. If we're willing to struggle for it, a new America based on a cooperative society is possible where there is public ownership of the giant corporations.We can have an America where no one need worry about job security or health care, where we the people make the decisions, not a handful of billionaires who are beyond public accountability. There is no going back to the old way of life. Technology and globalization have eliminated that possibility. We have to move forward to something new if we're going to survive and thrive. The workers of the Rust Belt have a history of struggle. If they visualize a new future, they will play a leading role in changing society.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
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