Tag Archives: Ford

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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Ford Contract Icing on Auto Bosses’ Cake

DETROIT, MI November 7 — The new 4-year Ford-UAW contract follows the GM and Chrysler contracts in slashing wages and benefits for new hires and setting up a union management health fund (VEBA) that will take about $20 billion off Ford’s list of liabilities. Ford workers hired under the new contract will start at $14.00/hour and after two years reach their full rate of about $15.50. With cuts in pension and health care and other benefits, new hires will make about one-third of their senior brothers and sisters.</p>

The union leadership has sunk to the bottom in bailing out the auto billionaires––the legacy these sellouts will leave for future generations.

Workers are paying the price of the growing challenges to U.S. auto bosses by the European and Asian competitors, who are building more plants in the U.S. while GM, Ford and Chrysler shut down factories. The world’s auto billionaires shift production to China and India, driving down wages around the world.

After rank and file workers almost derailed the Chrysler deal, Ford and the UAW leadership had to throw Ford workers a bone. Six of the 16 plants scheduled to close were taken off the chopping block temporarily, in order to muster enough votes to ensure passage (although three of the six plants are set to close before the end of the contract). This sent Ford stocks sinking.

An automotive analyst with Lehman Brothers wrote, “Ford may have vowed to keep open underutilized plants,” a move that further angered Wall Street which is already unhappy with the auto bosses’ slow pace of plant closings and slashing wages. Another analyst for Morgan Stanley said the two-tier wage system and trust will save Ford $1.5 billion to $2 billion in cash by 2011, but noted the “absence of additional capacity [factory] closures.” (Detroit Free Press 11/7)

As with any “job security guarantee” in auto, all bets are off when the U.S. economy slumps from the crisis in sub-prime mortgages and soaring oil prices. The U.S. auto market is falling sharply with production scaled back for the fourth quarter and next year not looking any better.

After the GM contract was ratified, GM announced it was canceling shifts at three assembly plants and wiping out more jobs with another round of buy-outs. Five days after the Chrysler deal was ratified, Chrysler eliminated another 11,000 jobs, on top of the 13,000 previously announced (one-third of the workforce), justifying the good instincts of those who voted “NO.” Thousands of Chicago Ford workers are currently on a three-week layoff and many more cuts are coming, including more buyouts.

Right now, we’re a long way from reversing these attacks on the international working class. But the response of Ford workers to our modest efforts in this contract fight and around fighting racism with the ‘Jena 6’ campaign shows that we are slowly but surely rebuilding the revolutionary communist movement in auto. CHALLENGE distribution is creeping up and there is more interest in what PLP has to say. Most important, personal and political ties are being forged that will lead Ford workers to join PLP and fight for the political leadership of the industrial working class.

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New Auto Contracts: Great Leap Backwards

DETROIT, MI October 11 — If the tens of thousands of black youth marching in Jena, La. on September 20 was a glimpse of revolutionary potential — the future — then the 2007 auto contracts are a grim reminder of the long, dark night in which the working class finds itself without revolutionary communist leadership.

the same day the four-year UAW-GM contract was ratified, Chrysler and the UAW reached a new agreement. Ford’s next.

A two-day “strike” at GM and a 6-hour “strike” at Chrysler give new meaning to the term “staging a strike.” These actions were called to rally the membership behind a transformation in auto that will be a Great Leap Backwards for generations of industrial workers. More than one-fourth of the workers never struck because their plants were already on temporary shut-down due to a huge backlog of unsold vehicles.

The media is focused almost exclusively on the transfer of health care from the auto bosses to a union-run trust fund. This lifts almost $100 billion in health care commitments from GM, Ford and Chrysler which they can now claim as profits. But the real news lies in the rollback of wages and benefits for workers about to be hired.

Starting wages at GM, Chrysler and soon Ford, will be slightly over $14-an-hour, the 1990 rate — when a gallon of gas was 80 cents! For the moment, new hires at UAW factories in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio will earn less than non-union workers at Honda, Toyota and Daimler plants in Mississippi and Alabama! Healthcare, pensions, work rules and job security will further decay.

The London Financial Times reports (10/17) that while under the old contract a GM worker cost the company $78 an hour in wages and benefits, under the new contract, a new worker will cost $25.66 an hour. Three-fourths of the workers under the higher rates will retire in the next four years.

Creation of new multi-tiered, “non-core” workers will drop wages and benefits even further. At Chrysler, 11,000 of the 45,000 current jobs are “non-core.” Wages will sink and many jobs will be farmed out. The UAW agreed to the elimination of more than 100,000 jobs and more than 40 plant closings at GM, Ford, Chrysler and Delphi a year before contract talks even started. These union leaders worked hand-in-glove with the bosses and never fought the racist layoffs which initially fell most heavily on black workers. This laid the basis to hit white workers as well. Racism hurts all workers.

All this results from the sharpening competition among the world’s auto billionaires, as well as the collapse of the old communist movement. In this period of heightened conflict and increased attacks, workers have no mass revolutionary center or leadership to guide them in the class struggle. This is the bosses’ greatest weapon in their ability to survive every threat, challenge and crisis.

Even against these odds, more than one-third of GM’s workers rejected the contract. The union left Ford for last because they expect the most problems here, from both the company and the workers. Chrysler and Ford workers should reject these contracts and begin organizing joint strike actions and a mass march on Solidarity House. We should appeal to auto workers worldwide to support our struggle.

From Baghdad to Soweto, from Bogotá to Detroit, the bosses and their flag-waving union leaders are getting away with murder. They want us to believe the answer lies in one election after another. But the answer lies in the patient, steady building of a mass revolutionary communist movement.

We will turn the tables on the bosses when industrial workers make communist ideas mass ideas. By fighting the bosses and union leaders on this contract, increasing the readership of CHALLENGE and deepening our personal and political ties with our co-workers, we are paving the road to communist revolution.

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