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Delphi Auto Protests in 2006

By Claire McClinton

With the announcement of record breaking losses ($38.7 billion for 2007), automaker GM is doing what any other self-respecting corporation does in the global economy — get rid of more jobs and find new sources of cheap labor. After unloading 30,000 plus jobs in 2006 with special attrition/buyout packages then, this time the newly negotiated union contract provides a new opportunity to slash wages. This is what an analyst said after passage of the recent agreement:  “We suspect that GM will be back before too long with an agreement of an attrition program geared to induce current non-core workers to retire so they can be replaced with new tier two at about one third the costs.”(Credit Suisse auto analyst Chris Ceraso, in a note to investors back in October 2007).

The analyst was right. GM has rolled out massive attrition packages with hopes to unload thousands  of workers  and bring in new hires at $14 per hour (versus $28 per hour) a la Delphi. This same new worker will not receive a pension or retiree Healthcare (something we won in 1949). Using the carrot (beefy supplemental packages) and the stick (make life so miserable on the factory floor that you can’t wait to get out of there) is all part of doing business to ensure profitability.

Gregg  Shotwell, a labor activist, describes the mood in his newsletter Live Bait and Ammo #103 since the contracts passed:

“Workers are stressed. Pressure is relentless. Management adds tasks to jobs already overloaded, speeds up the line, raises rates, runs rampant over work rules, violates seniority rights, disregards production standards, harasses, intimidates, and disciplines. When members call out the union and demand a grievance, more often than not, the rep says “They can do that. You’re lucky to have a job.”

The urgency with which GM is moving older workers  out along with transferring retiree Health care into a risky trust fund (VEBA) has created a profound sense of insecurity, fear, and powerlessness  among autoworkers.  More and more,  there is the realization that the middle class dream we once realized is slipping away and cannot  be saved at the bargaining table.

In the meantime,  Detroit’s Wayne County leads the nation in home mortgage foreclosures. In recent weeks,  thousands of homeowners have attended workshops,  hoping to stave off  the disaster. Said one woman attending the event: “I don’t want to lose my house. I don’t want to live on the streets….I don’t want to live with six people in a two bedroom house with my mother.” Certainly, the lion’s share of the mortgage crisis in Michigan is tied directly and indirectly to the loss of jobs in the automobile industry. Yet, the labor movement seems to have forgotten the Unemployment Councils of the 30’s, who moved evicted families back into their homes.

Those union leaders who believe that the needs of capital must be met first before wages and benefits can be secured for the workers will continue to go to the bargaining table and come back empty handed. Some of us are waking up to the realities that we must take up these battles on our own and are joining such efforts as fighting for universal health care, moratoriums on foreclosures, abolition of two tier and more.
More on these efforts next time.

From the Editors

Another horrible massacre of youth — this time at the University of Northern Illinois — has occurred.  Eighty people a day die of gun shot wounds in our country and twice as many are seriously injured. Isn't it time,  in the name of humanity,  to change a culture and an economy that gorges itself on the blood of our children? Isn't it time to think about the roots of this daily slaughter? To this end the People's Tribune reprints our editorial of November, 2006:
Violence against our children has its roots in a society that promotes profit over human well -being.

"Ten naked little boys, between six and twelve years old, tied together,  two and two,  by their wrists,  were all fastened to a long rope and followed by a tall,  gaunt white man,  who, with his long lash,  whipped up the sad and weary little procession,  drove it to the horse-trough to drink,  and thence to a shed,  where they lay down on the ground and sobbed and moaned themselves to sleep." Frances Seward,  wife of Lincoln's secretary of state,  wrote this statement (quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals") after witnessing a group of slave children driven to Richmond to be sold.

Today,  147 years later,  the world looks in horror at an America where children are shot at or slaughtered in their schools.

As the professional liars for the ruling class scramble to their damage control posts, they are careful to avoid any discussion of history or environment.  They try to present these tragedies as the doings of unbalanced individuals.  All the damage control in the world cannot obscure facts.  An African proverb states, "Tell me where you have been and I will tell you where you are going."

Madeline Albright,  former secretary of state,  was once asked to comment on the fact that 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the US-imposed sanctions. Her curt reply was, "It was worth it." To whom was it "worth it?" Not to the American parents trying to raise their children to respect humanity. Not to the families huddled in dark houses facing the winter without water,  heat or electricity.  Not to the families that wander,  homeless and destitute, through the dank alleys of our cities. It was worth it to Halliburton,  to the industrial-military complex, to the purveyors of war and death who have gained control of our government.

The American economy is stabilized by war and war  production. Today, as 140 years ago, the goal of that economy is profit — not the well -being of humanity. To continue the seemingly endless but profitable wars, the government must present the tough guy — the killer — as the American hero.  President Bush's call to "kick ass" added mightily to the role model presented to the youth of the country. The short cut to become that hero — that celebrity — is to kill. To stop this slaughter of the innocent,  we must change the psychology of the country. We cannot change that psychology without changing the economic and social system.

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