Tag Archives: Auto

‘Big 3’ Would Solve Auto Crisis on Workers’ Backs

DETROIT, MI, November 18 — The recent Congressional hearings on a possible $25 billion bailout of GM, Ford and Chrysler reflect the depths of the global economic crisis. The Detroit Big 3 auto bosses are clinging to life, despite shedding more than 150,000 jobs and getting billions in wage and benefit concessions from the workers in the 2007 contracts. Auto sales in October dropped to an annual rate of 10.8 million vehicles, the lowest in 25 years.

There are roughly 240,000 Big 3 workers, although only about 140,000 are UAW members, a 50% decline in three years and shrinking with every plant closing. This crisis shows that capitalism can’t meet the needs of the international working class and must be overthrown with communist revolution.

The effects of this crisis have an especially racist character. A large number of black and Latino workers will lose their jobs and their health insurance, leaving them open to drastic cuts in public services, all of which will further decimate their neighborhoods in cities like Detroit, Flint, Chicago and others. Our response to this crisis must be expanding the base for CHALLENGE and PLP among auto workers, while moving them into action against the system.

The more the UAW leadership allies itself with the bosses, the worse things get for the workers. With mass layoffs industry-wide, GM, Ford and Chrysler workers can unite with Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and BMW workers facing the same attacks. We can also reach out to millions of workers in parts-supplier plants, union and non-union.

But that won’t come from the UAW leadership that rides on the same corporate jets to sit beside their masters and beg for a bailout. We can form unemployment committees in our local unions and shops and unite across borders and across company lines.

Three million jobs are tied to the auto industry as well as the pensions and healthcare benefits of almost one million retirees. All this is at risk as GM burns through over $2 billion a month in cash reserves, having lost $20 billion from January to September. If GM goes under, it could take Ford and Chrysler with it, raising the possibility of a “foreign-owned” auto industry, as in Mexico and Canada. What was unthinkable a year ago is now possible.

Also, U.S. auto makers are not as critical to war production as they were 70 years ago. A “defense” industry has emerged with companies like General Dynamics, Navistar, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin at its core (Chrysler sold its tank plant to General Dynamics about 20 years ago). GM, Ford and Chrysler produce no weapons of war now, despite decades of U.S. military aggression. In a future World War against a major imperialist rival, many “foreign-owned” auto and supplier plants could be converted to war production virtually overnight.

If there is a bailout, it will likely come as the new Obama administration guts the basically worthless auto contracts. SUB pay (Supplemental Unemployment Benefits) is almost sure to go, and wage-cuts are imminent like those imposed on the parts suppliers, especially the bitter three-month strike at American Axle.

While some bosses may perish, the racist profit system will survive. We have no interest in waving the bosses’ flag or sacrificing for their profits. We need to fight back and refuse to pay for the bosses’ crisis, while building a mass, international PLP to lead the fight for communist revolution.

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‘Market Reality’ Fascism Hits Axle Strikers Jobs, Wages Cut in Half

DETROIT, June 1 — The recent sellout contract signed between American Axle and the UAW is a perfect example of how capitalism works and where its priorities lie: destroying the lives of thousands of workers and turning U.S. industry into a low-wage haven. The immigration raids spreading throughout the Midwest and Southwest are no accident. They’re aimed at terrorizing ALL industrial workers, immigrants, undocumented or citizens, into accepting even lower wages. A worker who falls for any kind of racism is betraying his/her own class interests.

Axle workers are the latest victims of this fascist attack. The Axle bosses say the new contract “addresses market reality.” (NY Times, 5/29/08, and all following quotes) After their 87-day strike, this is how that “reality” hits the workers:

• Within a year, 2,000 of 3,650 union jobs will be eliminated.
• “Wages and benefits would be cut at least in half.”
• “Most new work will be going outside the United States.”
And this is how “reality” meets the company’s bottom line:
• “It expected to save about $300 million a year under its new contract.”
• “American Axle…lined up $1.4 billion in new…business for the next five years and…85 percent of it would be sourced abroad.” (“Operations in Mexico and overseas helped the company earn $37 million in 2007.”)
• Wages in Axle’s new plant in Guanajato, Mexico will be barely $1.50 AN HOUR.

What about the union? The bosses say the UAW “jointly addressed” this market reality “in this new set of agreements.” Yes, it “addressed” more than half the workers onto the street and cut the wages and benefits of the remainder more than half. To say the company has the union leadership in its hip pocket is putting it mildly.

This swindle follows the pattern set by the Big Three automakers and the union. GM just announced that one-fourth of its workers, 19,000 (adding to the 34,410 who left in 2006), are taking the company-offered buyout. Of these 19,000, JPMorgan auto analyst Himanushu Patel “predicted GM won’t replace 15,000…and will hire 4,000 [at half the pay] for total annual savings of $2.1 billion.” (Associated Press, 5/31)
Forty years ago, UAW President Walter Reuther was acclaimed for signing a contract with a “guaranteed annual wage.” Hundreds of thousands of laid-off U.S. autoworkers can now testify that the only “guarantee” under capitalism is job- and wage-cuts for workers and maximum profits for the bosses. And the racism of the bosses and UAW hacks has hit black autoworkers even harder, devastating cities like Detroit and Flint.

Since 1999, Michigan has lost 143,000 auto jobs — 45 percent of the total lost nationwide.

No matter what gains  workers make through bitter struggle, when capitalism’s market asserts itself — through global competition, the drive for maximum profits, economic crisis and the needs of imperialist wars — the workers wind up at the bottom of the heap. After all, the bosses control the government and this state power is used to enforce the laws of the capitalist market. That’s why PLP says this system can’t be reformed. “Market reality” won’t permit it.

The only lasting victory that can be won from the Axle workers’ three-month battle is for the workers who bought and read CHALLENGE and came to PLP’s May Day events to join the Party in building a movement that aims to eliminate this system and its profit-driven markets so workers can hold state power and use it on behalf of the working class. Our goal is to establish a communist society in which workers come first and there is no “second” — profits, bosses and their labor lieutenants will be buried six feet under.

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Axle Strikers Holding Fast Despite UAW Sabotage

DETROIT, MI, April 18 — Workers and students from Chicago drove here to picket in solidarity with the American Axle (AAM) strikers. Originally we planned to join a giant solidarity rally, but the UAW leadership cancelled it, angering the workers. But when we said we’d come to meet the strikers anyway, the  workers made us feel right at home.

On strike for seven weeks, the 3,600 workers are fighting company demands to cut wages from an average $25/hr to $14/hr, convert company pensions into 401(K)s and eliminate 1,000 jobs. The strike has mainly affected production of GM pick-up trucks and SUVs. One worker told us, “AAM has diversified and we supply other car giants like Toyota.” But scabbing supervisors have maintained some level of production of Toyota axles. Chrysler is unaffected since their parts come from Saltillo, Mexico, where workers make 70 cents an hour!

The strike has caused layoffs of 25,000 GM workers and thousands more in the parts-supplier plants. One worker told a story about the bosses bringing charts to a meeting to show workers who they were competing against. Of the nine names listed, seven were AAM-owned factories in other countries. He left the meeting saying, “We’re in competition with ourselves!” AAM is a global corporation with plants from Mexico to China. This worldwide battle among the bosses for markets, resources and cheap labor (imperialism) is behind the AAM strike.

While talking to the workers, distributing water and CHALLENGE, every car driving by honked their horns in support of the picketing black, Latin and white workers. They’re not hopeful of any agreement coming soon. Many said they would vote against any concession contract. “We’ve already been out here this long, there’s no point in caving in now,” said one.

Meanwhile, the UAW international leadership has taken the negotiations away from the local, attempting to force the same sell-out contract they’ve signed with the entire auto industry.

With Detroit facing decades of racist cutbacks and decay caused by the retreating U.S. auto bosses, it’s easy to see the source of the anger in the eyes of these workers. They speculate about how big a buy-out will be offered and how management will try to eliminate the most senior, highest-paid workers.

Several years ago AAM tried to implement a 2-tier wage system. Detroit workers rejected it but the contract passed after the company threatened to close the Buffalo, NY plant if they didn’t approve it. When they voted “yes” the plant was closed anyway. Some of the laid-off Buffalo workers ended up at the Detroit plant and are now standing among the strikers as living reminders of how AAM lied.

When we asked workers whether they’d take the buy-out, some immediately said, “No.” Some were undecided. Younger workers said they’d take it, and either look for work, open a business or go back to school.

Now that GM’s supply of unsold cars is dwindling, there may be pressure on AAM to settle, but GM wants this wage-cut as much as AAM. The major assemblers have been pressuring the parts suppliers to slash wages and cut costs so they can buy cheaper parts. That’s why they created this system of outsourcing decades ago.

All the workers thanked us for our solidarity. We invited them to May Day and obtained contact information.
The struggle against wage slavery lasts many lifetimes. The system cannot be fixed. As one worker said, “You cannot reform evil!”

Workers, and work itself, should not be a commodity with a price tag. We should contribute what we can and receive what we need. But it will take communist revolution to build that world. Let the AAM strike remind us why we fight for communism, and strengthen our will to fight!

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