As we go to press, the UAW has just ended a nation-wide strike against GM. The two-day strike galvanized the autoworkers and their communities giving new hope. In cities like Flint, with its high unemployment, and growing poverty, workers from all over the community jumped into the fray, joining the picket lines as if to say, "Thank God, somebody's fighting the powers that be."
The auto barons claim they don't negotiate contracts in the press, yet for months leading up to the talks, they launched a public relations campaign decrying legacy costs (also known as Retiree benefits and Pensions) as a drag on their competitiveness. The headlines of one Detroit newspaper asked how the auto giants were going to "tame the Healthcare beast." The retirees who can no longer produce cars and trucks have become a beast of burden to the corporation in the dynamic global economy. It was no surprise then that health care would become the sacrificial lamb in the corporation quest to secure profitability. GM came to the table looking to set up a VEBA (Voluntary Employee Benefit Association). VEBA is a trust fund set up to pay for health care. The company would pay one lump sum that the union would manage and the company would no longer be responsible for health care.
The strike was called at 11:00 AM on Monday September 24th. At a 12 Noon press conference that same day, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger stated that that the parties had pretty much agreed on the controversial VEBA, but that the company wanted even more draconian take-aways. It wasn't enough that the UAW agreed to end health care as we know it -- GM wanted even more. More job elimination. More plant closings. More depressed wages ala Delphi. More outsourcing. More PROFITS!! They never get enough. Pushed over the edge the UAW called the strike.
Everybody in GM walked out. In past strikes certain plants such as Warren Tech Center were exempt from striking because of the critical work they do there. But the talks had deteriorated to the point that all hands went on deck. Everybody went out.
The strike was a short one and from what we're hearing as of this writing the tentative agreement is one that will not pass easily. Too much was given back to the company. However, we can come away from the strike as brief as it was with a renewed sense of struggle to continue to fight for the quality of life that the workers of this country have earned and deserve. One of the ways that the corporations are destroying the middle class is through the abandonment of healthcare. We must take up this fight with the same intensity and zeal as we did on the picket lines. The struggle continues.