*UAW keeping workers in the dark as it works to shut down strike against GM*
26 September 2019
With the strike by 48,000 General Motors workers in the US entering its 11th day, the United Auto Workers is continuing to keep striking workers in the dark by refusing to reveal the content of its “negotiations” with GM.
The nationwide walkout is the longest in the auto industry since the 21-day Ford strike in 1976 and the 67-day walkout at GM in 1970. It is part of a global eruption of class struggle, including the resumption of strikes by autoworkers in Korea yesterday.
In perfunctory letter to GM workers released Tuesday, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said, “All unsettled proposals are now at the Main Table and have been presented to General Motors, and we are awaiting their response. This back and forth will continue until negotiations are complete.”
The letter did not say what the content of the “back and forth” is. From the start of official “negotiations” in mid-July, the UAW has not revealed any of the details of its demands. That’s because they don’t have any. Like every other contract over the last 40 years, the terms have been set by corporate management, with discussion centered on how to force workers to accept a new round of concessions.
Strikers at GM's Flint Engine plant
Dittes’ statement that the discussions are at the “main table” rather than sub-committees has led some news outlets, including CNBC, to claim that the parties are close to a tentative agreement to end the strike.
Dittes said the UAW International staff and bargaining committee have “been working countless hours to reach an agreement” and will “continue to bargain this contract until your Bargaining Committee is satisfied that we have achieved an Agreement that properly addresses our Members’ concerns.”
The “concerns” of autoworkers are recouping all the concessions the UAW has handed over, particularly since the 2009 auto industry restructuring by the Obama administration. Workers want to abolish the two-tier wage and benefit system, roll over all temps to full-time positions, win substantial wage increases, restore lost benefits to retirees, and stop plant closings and layoffs.
But the UAW does not agree with any of that. It has colluded in expanding the number of temps and contract workers who earn as little as $11 an hour. As for cutting health care costs, the UAW attempted to push through a Health Care Co-op in 2015 that would relieve the companies of their health care obligations and put the UAW in charge of cutting benefits. This failed only because Fiat Chrysler workers overwhelmingly rejected the contract that contained this provision.
The only information about the content of the issues has been released by GM. After more than a decade of frozen real wages, the company is offering annual raises or bonuses of two percent, even less than the three percent wage increase and a four percent lump sum in the 2015 contract. This would be more than chewed up by sharp increases in health care contributions, which could rise from 3 to 15 percent.
GM is refusing to shorten the eight-year “grow-in” period for lower-wage second-tier workers to reach top pay and wants a sharp expansion of temporary workers who can be hired and fired at will.
“This is all behind closed doors discussions,” a striking Detroit-Hamtramck worker complained. “It’s like inside the plant. You never hear from the UAW officials unless they want to get your vote. Otherwise you never see them.”
The worker, who has nearly 15 years at the plant, also said the UAW has also given GM the green light to employ contract workers at the plant who make as little as $11 an hour. “They are UAW Local 22 members like us, but they work under a separate contract and do all the material handling work that used to be done by workers making top wages. The union told them, ‘You work for $11 an hour or you’re going to be on the streets.’
But is this how it suppose to be