Tag Archives: Autoworkers

Building for May Day Amid Capitalist Carnage in Detroit

DETROIT, April 6 — “Why are we marching? What are we going to get out of it?” she asked. A PLP member responded, “We’re marching to build a movement. We’re marching to show the workers in NYC, and those we bring, that there’s a movement growing that’s out to overthrow this system and fight for communism, equality, no bosses and no profits.”

“YES!” shouted the American Axle worker from the couch. “That’s what we need!”

That exchange captured the mood of the May Day committee meeting here last week. Bringing a busload of workers and youth to march on May Day will be our answer to the overwhelming racist oppression that has laid waste to Detroit and stolen the future from our youth. This is our answer to the bankers and auto bosses who grab billions in salaries and bonuses while destroying jobs and boarding up homes.

Here, more than 50% of all black males are unemployed and the jails are full. There are no supermarkets or movie theaters but there are curfews against our youth and plainclothes cops harass students inside the schools. Forty thousand homes are boarded up, more empty homes than homeless people, because under capitalism if the bosses can’t sell it for a profit, it can’t be used, no matter what the need.

We met in the shadow of GM world headquarters, while the Obama auto task force, led by two former investment bankers, was forcing chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner into a retirement worth about $23 million. With the global financial crisis deepening, the federal government is taking direct control of the fascist restructuring of the shrinking auto industry. GM was given 60 days to come back with a bigger list of plant closings and job cuts, and still more wage, health care and pension cuts from the UAW. Chrysler was given 30 days to form a partnership with Fiat. These conditions must be met in order to get more government money. If not, both companies will be forced into that financial chop shop known as bankruptcy court.

The ruling class is using Obama to whip the auto industry into fighting shape after having been routed on their home turf. CEO Wagoner’s ouster means an even more fascist crackdown on GM workers who should realize they are in great danger. GM’s pro-capitalist UAW “partners” will be asked to deliver even deeper wage and benefit concessions, including retiree health benefits. The message to the workers is clear: if you don’t give it up, we’ll take it in bankruptcy court. Many illusions that auto workers have in Obama are being challenged, if not smashed.

Fiat said it was eager to merge with Chrysler, especially after Obama said he would bless the deal with $6 billion in federal aid. G.M. said it would “take whatever steps are necessary to successfully restructure the company.” So far, all is quiet at UAW headquarters at Solidarity House, as these miserable low-lifes finally face their own mortality. They hitched their wagon to U.S. imperialism 50 years ago, and now they are feeling every bit of the decline of their masters.

Unlike them, we shed no tears for the bosses. We will build a new communist world on their graves. We fight for the laid-off truck driver and his family, the high school students, the hospital, county and hotel workers, the American Axle worker and his partner and their 8-month old baby boy. After the four-month American Axle strike in the winter of ‘07-’08, two-thirds of the workers lost their jobs, and wages were cut in half. At the ratification meeting at King H.S., workers tore up the contract and shouted down their leaders. One year later, the flicker of communist revolution still burns. This May Day it will burn a little brighter.

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Workers Put Brakes on Ford/Russia

LENINGRAD, Nov. 21 — Over 1,700 workers have struck the Ford factory in Vsevolozhsk near here. The workers are demanding a 30% wage increase and a 6½-hour night shift. They had staged a one-day warning strike on November 7, the 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Currently, workers make between 16,000 and 25,000 rubles ($600-$1,000) monthly.

Workers won a 14% wage hike after a strike here last February, in a one-year contract that expires February 28, 2008, but they decided not to wait until then to strike Ford again. This strike follows an August walkout in Togliatti against AvtoVAZ, Russia’s largest carmaker, which is owned by the biggest Russian weapons exporter on the world market. Some AvtoVAZ strike leaders were fired while the factory director became Togliatti’s mayor.

Auto workers aren’t the only ones stirring in Russia. On November 9, the newspaper Nezavisimaia Gazeta reported “a gathering strike movement in the country….For four days, dock workers at the oil port in Tupas [on the Black Sea] were on strike. Currently, the workers at Ford are carrying out a warning strike. Next week, dockworkers at the seaport [here] are threatening to shut down operations.”

Fifty percent of Russian families with one child live in poverty. The number grows to 65% of families with two children and 85% with three children. The real numbers are really much higher because the official poverty line is set far below the level that allows people to eat properly and meet their needs. In capitalist Russia there are four million homeless people, three million destitute and five million abandoned children.

The sharpening class struggle in Russia reflects the growing attacks on the international working class by the bosses worldwide as they intensify their competition for markets, resources and cheap labor. Auto workers are in a unique position to build solidarity globally, but this requires communist leadership. U.S and Russian auto workers met together in an international conference last spring and we’re attempting to forge that unity, one of the building blocks to communist revolution.

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Auto Workers Strike Navistar War-Truck Production

CHICAGO, IL, Nov. 25 — Since Oct. 23, about 4,000 workers, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW), have been striking over unfair labor practices against Navistar. Over 500 of those workers, in UAW Locals 6 and 2293, work just outside Chicago building the MaxxPro engines for the blast-resistant trucks used by the U.S. military in Iraq. The MaxxPro chassis is built in Garland, Texas, and the trucks are assembled in West Point, Mississippi. Both plants are non-union.

Navistar is using scabs at the Melrose Park engine plant here, with a wink and a nod from the UAW leadership that boasts, “Our commitment has always been to both the membership and the company because we, the UAW, know we need each other to be successful, but I am not sure the company agrees.” No solidarity rallies have been organized or attempts made to stop the scabs. In fact, the company was able to increase output and meet its October production targets despite the strike, delivering 140 MaxxPro blast-resistant trucks for the Pentagon’s mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle program. Navistar has orders for almost 3,000 MaxxPros, more than any other supplier, and plans to build 500 a month by February.
Navistar, encouraged by the massive concessions just granted to GM, Ford, Chrysler and Delphi, is taking a hard line with the workers and the union leaders. As with the other recent contracts, the union is asking for some “guarantee” of work over the life of the new contract, but Navistar is forming a joint venture with a major auto producer in India and is unwilling to grant guarantees.

PLP will be organizing support for, and attempting to build some ties with, Navistar workers on strike against this war profiteer. One good way to solidify ties would be uniting to physically stop scabs from entering the plant.

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