US Ford workers defy union leaders

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Left Turn Left Turn's picture
US Ford workers defy union leaders

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

[url=http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/11/07/no-heard-round-world-us-f..."A 'no' heard round the world": US Ford workers defy union leaders[/url]

Quote:
By November 1, United Auto Workers (UAW) members at Ford had overwhelmingly rejected contract modifications, in voting that concluded - not coincidentally - the day before Ford announced new profits. This was the second set of modifications to the UAW-Ford contract proposed this year. The first were voted up in March, but the members saw these as a "giveback too far."

 

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The coming result of the vote was clear from the early count, ending in a 70% No vote among production workers and 75% No among skilled trades, for an overall 72% No vote, according to a letter to the membership from Vice President for UAW-Ford, Bob King. (UAW Solidarity House has released only percentages, not a national count. Only an internal union appeal extracted a count in 2005.)

 

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The national contract rejection sprang from factors ranging from a sense that Ford had come back for concessions a time too many, to rebellion by lower-level union officers in touch with the rank and file, to a presence of radicals, including socialists, in some key plants. It is the first time a national auto contract was ever voted down by a majority of the membership!

remind remind's picture

hmmmmmmm.............

triciamarie

Quote:
Despite efforts at international solidarity against union concessions at Ford, the Canadian version of these concessions has been adopted by vote of the Canadian Auto Workers union by 83%. Today international union solidarity is required for any comprehensive fight for jobs, pay and working conditions.

Unionist

triciamarie wrote:

Quote:
Despite efforts at international solidarity against union concessions at Ford, the Canadian version of these concessions has been adopted by vote of the Canadian Auto Workers union by 83%. Today international union solidarity is required for any comprehensive fight for jobs, pay and working conditions.

Yeah, with all due respect to the U.S. brother who wrote this article, here's how he describes the concessions the Ford workers rejected:

Quote:
The concessions just voted down were to last until 2015, i.e. through the new contract still to be negotiated for 2011. They included severe limitations on the right to strike, a six-year freeze on new-hire pay that had already been cut in half, and the reduction of skilled trades classifications. The argument of the company and the union leadership was that these measures were needed to “match” the labor cost savings at the bankrupt Chrysler and General Motors corporations.

I think, in the interest of honesty, he should have pointed out that no such concessions were given by Canadian workers - whatsoever. In fact, the "half-price new hires" was approved and ratified in the U.S. before the current recession began, and was never accepted in Canada.

Whatever we may think of the concessions the CAW gave (and they were deep), they never instituted a two-tier wage system like the U.S. workers did. "International solidarity" at that time would have been a greater disaster than ever. I remember the first time the UAW gave concessions to Chrysler, in the early 1980s, when Lee Iacocca sold them a bill of goods about Chrysler being on the brink of bankruptcy. The Canadian section refused to follow the "pattern", saying Chrysler didn't need gifts fromt their workers in Canada. This was one of the precipitating factors in the 1985 split and formation of the CAW.

It is arrogant and ignorant statements like these which make the building of true international solidarity - that is, solidarity where the U.S. labour movement is an equal partner rather than the king of the roost - all the more difficult to build.

 

remind remind's picture

Thanks for the overview unionist, knew something was not quite correct in the accounting......

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

That's true.  Canadian autoworkers have only very recently been engaging in concession bargaining.   In the U.S., there's a history of concession bargaining that goes back decades.

It was concession bargaining, and the UAW's Detroit headquarters interference in Canadian negotiations that lead to the CAW splitting from the UAW back in the 1980's.

In any case, it's nice to see the U.S. Ford workers taking a tough stand.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

Here's a good article on the concessions by the CAW at Ford Canada.

 

[url=http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/nov2009/caw1-n03.shtml]CAW rams through concessions at Ford Canada[/url]

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The "no" vote in the US would, the CAW recognized, encourage Ford workers in Canada to rebel against the CAW's attempts to impose further concessions. And the rejection of sellout contracts by workers on both sides of the border would immediately raise the prospect of a common struggle by North American Ford workers against all wage- and benefit-cuts, layoffs and plant closures.

Such a joint struggle would constitute a mortal threat to the CAW bureaucracy. It has based its entire strategy on providing the Detroit Three with lower labor costs than those at their US plants, what CAW President Ken Lewenza has touted as the "Canadian advantage."

autoworker autoworker's picture

In Canada, modular assembly has been systematically outsourced (whatever the current symantics) to low cost suppliers (less than half price, actually, when total costs are factored)) while outside contractors are now performing duties that were recently done in house (janitors, for example).  Also TPT's (students, mostly) are now working every day (so much for 'part-time') 

That being said, the question remains:What's next?  It's true that the UAW has followed the path of least resistance, for some time.  But with U.S. healthcare and so-called 'legacy' costs being what they are, could their predicament have been different?  Now the CAW is facing similar pressures vis-a-vis pensions and benefits, and is looking toward government to backstop their liabilities, while Ontario is facing record deficits, and middle-class taxpayers are ready to revolt, American style. 

No doubt, the pressures on the CAW will inrease, as the dollar continues to rise, and the companies continue with their whipsawing tactics that pit union against union, local against local.  It may only be a matter of time before the CAW's Framework for Fairness agreement with Magna becomes a shelf agreement to be applied accross assembly operations, in order to keep with the pattern.

Welcome to the new normal.

triciamarie

Autoworker, you and your dog are a breath of fresh air.

Polunatic2

Concessions often lead to one thing. Demands for more concessions. 

Unionist

autoworker wrote:
It may only be a matter of time before the CAW's Framework for Fairness agreement with Magna becomes a shelf agreement to be applied accross assembly operations, in order to keep with the pattern.

Maybe - but that's what some babblers were predicting two years ago, before the recession and the mass layoffs and the deep concession bargaining that followed in various industries - and no sign of the Magna pattern spreading anywhere yet. So I'm hoping your pessimism is premature.

KenS

radiorahim wrote:
That's true.  Canadian autoworkers have only very recently been engaging in concession bargaining.   In the U.S., there's a history of concession bargaining that goes back decades.

Unionist did already say that the CAW also has done concessions with Ford too [and to make it explicit- for a long time back].

The point was that, not agreement to 2 tier wages.

But its also true that the combination of spreading outsourcing and the existence of the CAW's Framework for Fairness agreement with Magna, is a potential Trojan Horse that can bring 2 tier wages in the back door, plus some gutting of union rights that even the UAW has not "pioneered".

On that score, its worth noting that the signing up of Magna plants has gone nowhere since the deal's signing. I haven't heard anything, but my guess would be that Magna no longer thinks it has to make an accomodation with the union. Their stake in the FFA having been that they saw creeping unionization of their plants, in large part from pressure exerted via the automakers [which has since completely vanished]. So they decided that since they couldn't hold off unions, maybe they could have their kind of union. I suspect they've gone back to thinking they don't have to worry about the CAW. So I don't know where that leaves the FFA as potential Trojan Horse.

I suspect its back to breaking in through the front door.

Ford is doing OK right now. But if the CAW didn't / doesn't open the door for more concessions, disinvestment is no idle threat.

KenS

Quote:
Such a joint struggle would constitute a mortal threat to the CAW bureaucracy. It has based its entire strategy on providing the Detroit Three with lower labor costs than those at their US plants, what CAW President Ken Lewenza has touted as the "Canadian advantage."

I think thats pretty hugely disengenuous.

The "Canadian advantage" is sold as something based in factors like health care costs, currency value and plant productivity.

Unionist

KenS wrote:

I suspect they've gone back to thinking they don't have to worry about the CAW. So I don't know where that leaves the FFA as potential Trojan Horse.

I suspect its back to breaking in through the front door.

Completely agree. FFA was never "total surrender" to Magna - it was a compromise, which Magna probably thinks they no longer need to make. I'm fine with that!

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Ford is doing OK right now. But if the CAW didn't / doesn't open the door for more concessions, disinvestment is no idle threat.

Agreed also - and the labour movement should not only hope, but help the CAW to do the right thing. The concessions they've made were all give-backs of things most workers (including unionized workers) don't have anyway. They must not go the route of the UAW.

And I also agree with your comment about that U.S. article misrepresenting what's happening in Canada. I'm sick and tired of Big Brother telling us how to do our business, especially when His house needs cleaning - or maybe demolition - tout de suite.

autoworker autoworker's picture

Unionist wrote:

autoworker wrote:
It may only be a matter of time before the CAW's Framework for Fairness agreement with Magna becomes a shelf agreement to be applied accross assembly operations, in order to keep with the pattern.

Maybe - but that's what some babblers were predicting two years ago, before the recession and the mass layoffs and the deep concession bargaining that followed in various industries - and no sign of the Magna pattern spreading anywhere yet. So I'm hoping your pessimism is premature.

I hope so. too.  Desperate measures have a way of making virtue out of necessity.

KenS

autoworker wrote:
It may only be a matter of time before the CAW's Framework for Fairness agreement with Magna becomes a shelf agreement to be applied accross assembly operations, in order to keep with the pattern.

Adding to what Unionist already said.

For the FFA to be applied to assembly operations would require them being owned by Magna. There was the fear of that a couple years ago. But the minmal precondition would be fleshing out the FFA from being an agreement to being a working structure. That doesn't happen overnight. And in fact, its stalled from even starting- presumably because Magna no longer thinks they need it.

Magna knows they can't just acquire an assembly operation and whip the FFA out of their back pocket, just because its in the agreement that thay can. And right now its questionable whether even Frank Stronachs ego is big enough to still want to acquire some mangy dog assembly operation subject to the whim of the auto manufacturers. And even if he did, that he would feel he needed any union for it.