PT masthead
Go to Home page divide Go to Past Issues divide Subscribe divide Go to Links

auto workers

Workers form a rally to try and
keep the Chrysler Sterling
Heights plant open.
General BakerGeneral Baker is an internationally known labor leader, a leader of the auto wildcat strikes in the 1960s, and pioneer of draft resistance during the Vietnam War. He spoke recently in Chicago, Illinois about the crisis in auto. Below are excerpts from his talk:

“The U.S. used to have a car market of 16 million. Last year it was down to 10 million. The industry has to cut annual production by 5-6 million cars. Plants are closing everywhere. A crisis is developing across Michigan. Dearborn is booming because Ford is still open there. Flint is in terrible shape. Hamtramck is still holding on. Highland Park is in foreclosure. The plant in Pontiac is gone.  In Bay City an older guy froze to death because his heat was cut off. A young man was tasered. The Red Cross started helping in Macomb County since the pantries ran out of food.

“It’s a different ball game at the negotiations table now. The cuts have been tremendous. In the Ford deal, the active workers took the hits. Ford forced $7 an hour in cuts. Workers lost their cost of living, vacation, sick pay, and Christmas bonuses. The retirement fund — VEBA — will get paid with stock or equity holdings, which are basically worthless. Estimates are that VEBA will not hold up for six years. At Chrysler, the retirees lost vision and dental care. The company can now put skilled workers on the production line. They have a no-strike clause until 2015. The GM agreement is the same.  Now the government stake will be 72%.  The union gets 17.9%. The bondholders will take the rest. So, it’s a big change.

“The situation is dire. But is hasn’t caused a huge uproar. There seems to be a degree of satisfaction with what has been given. The government has defended the pension and health care of the retired workers — there are 425,000 receiving pensions from GM, and 215,000 at Chrysler — by making sure those items do not go before the bankruptcy judge. The government is afraid to let the auto pensions fail because it might break the whole pension system in America. GE, IBM, AT&T — hundreds of thousands of people — are in the pension fund. The retirees are active, but have no vote and no say in what the union decides. People are preparing to mobilize on single-payer health care. The fight back so far has been at rallies called by the steelworkers. Most of the plants are idle. There is recognition that they still can’t work without auto. The active section of workers is going to be very angry if things don’t turn around.

“We need to explain to people the technological role in this crisis. Most workers are seeing the crisis as a problem of outsourcing. The idea of re-industrializing the country is also being put forward. But, plants are so productive today. Even those that stay open won’t need many workers. GM, for example, is prepared to install 860 robots in its Lordstown, Ohio plant. Ford has 45,000 workers, Chrysler has 35,000 and GM has 65,000. The entire workforce will be half that size when it’s over. You hear news about high-speed rail, and retooling for emission controls. But such advanced production will not involve many workers.

“Chrysler and GM are now government-owned companies. They have essentially already been nationalized. The active section of workers has been beat back so far. They will have to raise the issue of nationalization — in the interests of the people. This will affect all workers, as autoworkers have always set the pace for all of the workers.

General Baker is available to speak through Speakers for a New America. Call 800-691-6888 or email

Ona Kingbird

Ona Kingbird, who has taught for 36
years in public schools, (left) faces
homelessness due to foreclosure by
Wells Fargo Bank. She has refused
to leave her home.
By Ann Patterson

Ona Kingbird is a Twin Cities Ojibwa elder who has taught for 36 years in Minnesota public schools and prisons. As a Red Lake tribal member and bearer of the pipe given by her father, a medicine man, she has preserved the culture of her students at Heart of the Earth school in South Minneapolis. She has provided a home for her family, including her daughter and grandkids. But today Ms. Kingbird faces homelessness due to foreclosure on her house.


During a press conference today held outside her home on the 3900 block of Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis, Ona said, “I paid a lot for this house and I have asked Wells Fargo to work with me in the situation, which they have refused to do. I’m not moving.”
Ms. Kingbird, like so many others, spent years paying off a mortgage through Wells Fargo. Due to confusion and family crisis, Ms. Kingbird’s mortgage payments were being returned to her and not received by Wells Fargo, causing her to fall behind in the eyes of the mortgage institution. Refusing to work with Ms. Kingbird to rectify the situation, Wells Fargo is moving forward on the foreclosure process. Her house was sold in March, via a Sheriff’s sale back to Wells Fargo-the original mortgage holder. She has four months to raise 50 thousand dollars, get a court injunction demanding that Wells Fargo renegotiate her mortgage to an affordable rate, or else she faces eviction.

Twin Cities’ neighborhoods are becoming more and more desolate as home after home goes into forecloseure and occupants are evicted. During this time of economic crisis, financial institutions like Wells Fargo have received financial stimulus packages to encourage them to work with homeowners to renegotiate affordable solutions to the growing housing crisis. So far, homeowners like Ona Kingbird have yet to see the results of this stimulus money, begging the question, where exactly is this money going?

Ona Kingbird has been getting the run-around via the routes that Wells Fargo offers their customers for assistance, resulting in failure. Instead she is turning to organizations like the MN Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (MN PPEHRC) for help. MN PPEHRC is publicly supporting and fighting alongside folks like her to demand a moratorium on foreclosures in order for mortgage companies to renegotiate affordable mortgages with affected homeowners.

By refusing to leave her home, Ona Kingbird now joins a list of six other families who are also resisting foreclosure and the destruction of their neighborhoods. PPEHRC Organizer Cheri Honkala says, “These neighbors should serve as inspiration to communities across Minnesota and the country who wish to stay in their houses rather than be destroyed by banks like Wells Fargo.”

Raise money from local groups, churches, and neighborhoods to help cover legal fees.

Join the MN PPEHRC’s Underground Railroad Project to help get signatures on petitions to intervene in her forclosure.

Write and call U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, representatives of the state legislature, the mayor of Minneapolis, and other elected officials.

Demand that Wells Fargo negotiate with MN PPEHRC families losing their homes because Wells Fargo won’t work with them.

For more information or to get involved, see


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551,
Feel free to reproduce unless marked as copyrighted.
Please include this message with reproductions of the article.