From the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, updates, information, news, analysis, and organizing materials in solidarity with workers of the world.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

UAW members strike International Truck and Engine over unfair labor practices

For Release: Tuesday, October 23, 2007

UAW members strike International Truck and Engine over unfair labor practices

CHICAGO - More than 4,000 UAW members at 11 local unions in six states are on strike as of 5 p.m. today against International Truck and Engine, maker of Navistar trucks, in response to the company’s unfair labor practices.

“International Truck and Engine has shredded our agreement, shipped our work out of the country and trampled our nation’s labor laws,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “When UAW members are on strike for justice anywhere, they have the support of UAW members everywhere -- and our entire union is standing shoulder to shoulder with our members at ITE.”

“Our bargaining committee came to these negotiations with every intention of reaching an agreement,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Heavy Trucks Department. “But it takes two sides to reach a deal -- and it has unfortunately become apparent that management at ITE is not yet willing to work with us to negotiate a fair and equitable contract.”

The company has violated U.S. labor law, said Holiefield, by making unilateral changes in the terms and conditions of employment, ordering an illegal lockout at the company’s assembly plant in Springfield, Ohio, and refusing to provide the UAW bargaining team with information necessary for negotiations.

“ITE executives moved our work to Mexico and to nonunion plants in Texas, canceled our supplemental unemployment benefits and ignored our job security program,” said Holiefield.

The UAW has filed unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board regarding ITE’s illegal conduct.

“We’re prepared to return to the bargaining table at any time,” said Holiefield. “If the company is willing to abide by the law and respect our hard-working members at ITE, we believe we can resolve our differences.”

Workers on strike include members of UAW Local 98 at the ITE Indianapolis Engine Plant; Local 226 at Indianapolis Casting Corp.; Local 2274, who are ITE clerical and technical workers in Indianapolis; Local 2911 at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Engineering; Local 402 at the ITE Springfield Assembly Plant in Springfield, Ohio; Local 658, who are ITE clerical and technical workers in Springfield; Local 6 at the ITE Engine Plant in Melrose Park, Ill.; Local 2293, who are clerical and technical workers in Melrose Park; Local 472 at the ITE Parts Distribution Center (PDC) in Atlanta; UAW Local 119 at the ITE PDC in Dallas, and Local 1872 at the ITE PDC in York, Pa.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Focus on Ford

The Struggle continues

With a tentative Chrysler contract going through the ratification process now, the Big Three auto negotiations now shift to Ford. Many in the business press are hyping the poor financial situation at Ford and egging them on to go for even greater concessions than those given at GM and Chrysler. (See: Auto pact: the good, the bad and the ugly for our take on the GM settlement, that also seems to apply to the Chrysler deal)

There is no way to predict the outcome at Ford or if there will be a strike. Nor can anyone tell what kind of strike might happen, though the nature of the strikes at GM and Chrysler sure seem to indicate a quick one if at all. Regardless, the Ford workers still need and deserve our support. They still need messages and resolutions of support. And we still need to spread the word about the significance of building solidarity and awareness of their struggle. The solidarity of others in labor and the community and the willingness of the autoworkers themselves to fight is echoed in the Communist Manifest: “Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lie not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

UAW reaches tentative agreement at Chrysler

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and UAW Vice President General Holiefield announced today that the UAW has reached a tentative agreement with the Chrysler Corporation.

The strike against Chrysler at 11 this morning, following the expiration of an extension to the current labor agreement, will be recessed immediately. UAW Chrysler workers will be notified by the corporation to report to work on their next available shift.

“This agreement was made possible because UAW workers made it clear to Chrysler that we needed an agreement that rewards the contributions they have made to the success of this company,” Gettelfinger said.

“Once again, teamwork in the leadership and solidarity in the ranks has produced an agreement that protects jobs for our communities and also protects wages, pensions, and health care for our active and retired members,” said Holiefield, who directs the UAW’s Chrysler Department.

Details of the agreement are being withheld pending ratification votes by UAW Chrysler workers.

Chrysler workers on strike! Their fight is our fight!

45,000 members of the United Auto Workers are now on strike against Chrysler. The new private equity fund owners of Chrysler may well take an even harder stance than General Motors did in negotiations. Chrysler is demanding much bigger cuts. These kinds of equity fund bandits are known for “flipping and stripping” the companies they buy to turn a quick profit. This is a struggle for the whole working class and all progressives.

Some ideas:

Get the word out as far and wide as possible and urge support for the strikers in your unions, churches, and community organizations etc. The autoworkers are fighting for us all. Write a quick letter to the editor of your local paper explaining why Chrysler’s demands to cut wages, retiree benefits and health care will hurt all workers. Ask for support for the autoworkers union in their fight to save their jobs and the communities that depend on them.

Go out to the picket lines. The key states that have significant plants on strike are Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin. In these states we need to contact other unions, Jobs w/ Justice, and community organizations to organize visits and caravans to these critical picketlines. A list of the key production plants in these states is listed here.

Send message of support to the UAW, or by e-mail:

And of course read the Peoples Weekly World for more coverage of the strike. For an in-depth analysis of the GM contract, see “Auto Pact: the good, the bad and the ugly” below.

Three big cheers for the Teamsters, as with the GM strike last month, they again very quickly promised to honor the picket lines. You can find the complete press release here.


As of 11 a.m. this morning, Chrysler workers are on strike. Updates will be posted soon!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Auto pact: the good, the bad and the ugly

By Scott Marshall

The wages and working conditions of union autoworkers have always set standards for all manufacturing. These in turn have put upward pressure on wages and benefits for all workers. But in today’s political and economic climate, major contract negotiations in the manufacturing sector are hell. Thirty years of corporate/right-wing attack on labor law and workers’ rights have taken an enormous toll. Capitalist globalization, with its frenzied export of capital and jobs, has greatly weakened union leverage. In 1979 General Motors employed over 400,000 autoworkers in the U.S.; today that number is less than 80,000 and shrinking. US autoworkers productivity is higher here than any where else in the world. Labor cost is about 10% of the cost of a vehicle. About 25% of the auto workers in the US are in unions. Thirty years ago labor was about 25% of the cost and 90% of the assembly workers were in the union. Add in the environment of corporate greed, fraud, flimflam and corruption evidenced on Wall Street in the current mortgage and financial crisis, and you have essential context for evaluating the GM/United Auto Workers settlement.

The good

When over 73,000 UAW workers walked out last month in the first national strike against General Motors in over 30 years, they showed courage, militancy and spirit. Within minutes, spontaneous solidarity erupted across a broad section of labor and the working class. The Teamsters stopped moving parts, and that led to quickly closing plants in Canada and Mexico. Caravans of supporters, other unions and just folks showed up on picket lines bearing refreshments and support. The AFL-CIO, Change to Win and major unions responded with pledges of support. This was not just trade union solidarity. Everyone in labor, and many beyond, knew that the GM workers were on the front line for us all, and were ready to back them up.

The mostly bad

The GM contract is a setback for autoworkers and for the entire U.S. working class. Its worst feature is a two-tier employment system that will mean new hires will get about half the wages of senior workers, and worse benefits. With huge cash buyouts of current workers and the expected retirement of about a third of current workers in the next five years, the second tier could become the main tier by the end of the contract. This is a real sharp setback for younger workers who will soon be the majority. What kids will want to follow their parents into auto for half the wages and fewer benefits?

The disunity and the unfairness of it all has great potential to weaken the union even further, especially on the shop floor. Further, union auto jobs have been an important path out of poverty for African American, Latino and women workers in particular. A two-tier system will greatly undermine this kind of opportunity.

The health care part of the agreement also has great dangers. It shifts responsibility off of GM and onto the union. This sets the workers up for crisis. Recession, stock market crashes and rising costs can leave the workers with greatly increased costs or totally uninsured. Not to mention the problems of the union being a “player” on Wall Street – talk about conflicts of interest! Letting this giant international corporation renege on its health care responsibilities will certainly lead both union and nonunion companies along the same path.

These kinds of concessions from the union will make it hard to organize new members.

The UAW leadership has underestimated the union’s strength and its members’ readiness for a fight. At the same time it has overestimated GM’s real vulnerabilities. The U.S. auto market is still essential to GM. Unfortunately, this agreement follows a long established pattern of assuming that it is better to “go along to get along.” For the last 25 years, concession contracts have claimed to provide job security. But as soon as the job “guarantee” is signed, GM and the other auto companies start whittling away for the next contract. Keeping promises to workers is not part of their creed. As UAW President Ron Gettlefinger said, the workers can’t give enough and the company can’t take enough.

The race to the bottom never stops, so autoworkers need to get off that bus. Keeping GM “competitive” is just yada-yada for “keep GM profits up and let the workers bear the costs.” Stopping this GM drive requires the power of the membership. That has to be prepared and mobilized. It requires reaching out to all of labor and the working class, not pursuing a go-it-alone strategy.

It should be clear to all that the failed strategy and tactics of struggle in the auto industry of the last 30 years will not work today. New strategy and tactics have to be based on the very new conditions of a globalized auto industry. They also have to be based on the reality that so much of the U.S. auto industry is unorganized. The power of a union is its members and its numbers. And increasingly, that power is in global labor alliances that can match global giants like GM. Labor’s power is not measured only by the wisdom and determination of its leaders, but real leadership wisdom and determination is required to win in this new world.

A good idea

By all accounts it was GM’s resistance to the union’s demand that it invest in U.S. plants to guarantee jobs that forced the strike. Trying to force GM to commit to and expand its domestic operations opens an important front of struggle. GM’s capital comes from the hard work of generations of autoworkers. The workers very much need to challenge GM’s “right” to invest where it pleases with no responsibility to the people and communities who made all that capital. Unfortunately, the contract gives GM a loophole, saying “market-related volume decline” will guide plant closings and U.S. investment. Hopefully the contract will keep jobs and investments here, but GM should not be allowed to make those decisions alone.

The ugly

Wall Street’s clamor for autoworkers’ blood was truly ugly. It went the gamut from praising GM for finally (sic) getting tough with the union to the mad rant by MSNBC’s Jim Cramer for GM to “break the union.” After the tentative agreement was announced, Wall Street started yammering that the concessions weren’t enough. The ugly, naked hatred of these finance capital pundits is scary to behold. Gone is the pretense of wanting class partnership. Gone is any pretense of fairness or justice.

The struggle continues

This fight isn’t over by a long shot. Ford and Chrysler contracts are still pending and could result in more picket lines. Labor and all progressive movements have to continue to build support for this fight. Even at GM, where it seems certain that the contract will be ratified, the fight will continue.

But ultimately, those of us who understand the broader working class nature of this fight have to redouble our political efforts on issues central to these negotiations. The 2006 election victories against the right-wing Republicans, the energy of the autoworkers in their strike and the determination of labor and progressives to shift power even more in the 2008 elections – these are exciting indications that what autoworkers have lost at the bargaining table can be won in the political arena.

Every candidate for Congress and the presidency needs to be pushed to take a stand on single-payer national health care, on passing the Employee Free Choice Act (there is leverage in having Mercedes, Toyota, BMW, and Honda workers in the UAW) and on industrial policy that mandates re-investment in the manufacturing base of our economy. The autoworkers’ fight is our fight! They have to win so we can win.

Scott Marshall ( is chair of the Communist Party USA’s labor commission. Read the CPUSA Labor Commission Blog at: Photo credit: Melissa O'Rourke

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mad Money’s anti-union tantrum makes me mad

The end of the historic strike against General Motors by the nation’s autoworkers may well signal the beginning of a fight by all workers against a new level of the corporate offensive against our jobs, our wages, our benefits and our very livelihoods.

During the strike, greedy Wall Street fat cats peddled their offensive in the press and on television, and they did it with a sharper-than-ever class edge. It’s no surprise because the autoworkers who went on strike walked those picket lines to defend not just their own standard of living, but to fight also for the interests of all the rest of us.

Visit the People's Weekly World for the full article:

Worry and anger as autoworkers study pact

Many autoworkers, back after their strike against GM, are worried or angry about concessions the company insisted on in the new contract.

United Auto Workers leaders, representing plants across the country, approved the tentative contract on Sept. 28 and union President Ron Gettelfinger said he expects membership ratification by Oct. 10.

The union began bargaining with Ford Oct. 2 and, at press time, had yet to begin talks with Chrysler. Those workers are in a fight whose outcome is far from certain.

Visit the People's Weekly World for the full article:

EDITORIAL: The auto strike

As we go to press, the United Auto Workers has called a time out in its strike against General Motors pending membership ratification of a new contract. It’s expected that the contract will be ratified quickly. While we do not yet know the full terms of the contract, it most likely contains concessions. In today’s political climate, and in the face of capitalist globalization, the balance of class forces often makes it a victory if unions can just hold on.

What may be most important about this first nationwide strike against GM in over 30 years is the quick solidarity it generated from millions of workers around the country. The Teamsters, who haul parts and finished cars for the auto industry, immediately stopped at the picket lines. Teamster solidarity instantly led to parts shortages and plant shutdowns in both Mexico and Canada, where workers also expressed solidarity with U.S. workers. The AFL-CIO and the Change to Win unions at once pledged full support. Spontaneously, around the country workers, unions and even whole communities jumped in with refreshments and solidarity on the picket lines.

This response is a great modern day illustration of a critical idea in the Communist Manifesto: “Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. [emphasis added]”

The instant solidarity went beyond simply trade union unity. It was a much higher level of class solidarity. All the messages of support stressed stopping the corporate attack on working men and women.

Corporate class warfare was most apparent in this strike. Wall Street gloated over the strike with fierce calls on GM to “finally” take the UAW on and smash it. But the autoworkers stood their ground and were even a bit surprised that so much of labor stood ready to fight with them. This GM strike is a hint of the changing mood of the working class.

No matter the contract details, the strike illustrates key points in an emerging political action program for labor: national health care and retirement security; a demand that giant corporations reinvest in manufacturing to preserve jobs and a sustainable economy in the U.S.; workers’ rights and organizing rights. Thirty years of economic and political attacks on labor have taken their toll, but the sleeping giant is awakening.