A Tall Order from a Tall Union Man

Thousands of Michigan protestors at the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan to attempt to stop the passage of right to work laws by Governor Snyder.  Photo/DaymonJHartley.com

Thousands of Michigan protestors at the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan to attempt to stop the passage of right to work laws by Governor Snyder. Photo/DaymonJHartley.com


I told myself I was done kicking dead horses, sleeping giants, and inanimate movements. And then Right To Work For Less came to Michigan like a fiery cross staked in front of my house.
At the capitol in Lansing, Michigan the day Right To Work For Less was signed into law, thousands of union staffers working on the clock, and local union officers collecting “lost time” wage reimbursements chanted, “Veto! Veto!” As if the governor who invented the Emergency Manager law to overthrow democratically elected city councils and revoke labor contracts would decide that Right to Work For Less wasn’t fair.
Laid off construction workers in hard hats milled on the capitol lawn like cattle agitated by the smell of blood. They’d already felt the prod of too few jobs and nonunion wages. Retirees like myself flocked from all over the state scared ****less by the realization: we aren’t safe, we’re next.
King, the president of the UAW, told Crain’s Automotive News that Right To Work For Less was not a threat to the UAW because his members are loyal to the union. ..and that “90 percent of UAW-represented autoworkers in right-to-work states have chosen to stay in the union.”
I’m not a statistician but I do know my autoworkers and I do check my sources.
It’s true. At factories in Right To Work For Less states where the majority of UAW members transferred from plants up north with the golden handcuffs of top tier wages and pensions very few workers pull their cards.
What should we do when Right To Work For Less comes to our state or a union president gets in bed with the boss?
First and foremost, we must speak the truth. It doesn’t help to pretend the institution of Labor isn’t infected with opportunists who claim we can cure the afflictions of capitalism with a heavier dose of capitalism.
A union is forged in trust and camaraderie. … Working with someone who collects the benefits of a union contract but doesn’t pay dues is like working with a scab. It must leave a bad taste in one’s mouth and that poison is the boss’s intention.
After the UAW lost a long bitter strike against Caterpillar, union members, as part of the new contract, had to go back to work with scabs. I asked George Cornwell, a veteran in the struggle against Caterpillar and a Blue Shirt from UAW Local 974, “How does one deal with a scab?”
“You get close to him,” George said. “You’re at his side all the time. You go to break with him. You go to lunch with him. You become his best friend because as soon as you abandon him the boss will take your place.”
That’s a tall order from a tall union man but fellowship, not animosity, is what it takes to build a labor movement that can thumb its nose at Right To Work For Less and scour the carpetbaggers from the halls of Solidarity House.
This article is excerpts from the full version at autoworkersunderthegun.blogspot.com/. The author is a  retired UAW member and author of Autoworkers Under the Gun from Haymarket Press. Email GreggShotwell@aol.com/

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