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

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Voice of an American Axle Worker

I received this e-mail from the wife of an American Axle worker last night, a letter her husband wrote. This is the voice we so often don't hear from a media spinning what's best for the corporate CEO's, what will make Wall Street stronger rather than what the people walking down Main Street need to survive and live a comfortable life. Workers don't ask for much, just a fair wage and a decent job. Evidently the corporate leadership think that's too much to ask for. For us, the voices of the workers are the ones that should be heard above all others, and I invite anyone else affected by this strike to share their thoughts also. E-mail them to, or submit a comment to this site.

Below is a copy of a letter that my husband has written to Dick Dauch and the Shareholders of American Axle. .
I ask that you share this letter. Whether it be online or your website.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

It is no secret that AAM and the UAW are at odds with the new contract. It is no secret that the rumors, of the proposed contracts, are going to hurt thousands of families. And, it is no secret that we, as AAM families, simply can’t stand for it.

AAM states the Detroit facilities are losing money. Consequently, it is our fault and we need to take a pay cut to adjust their profits accordingly. Well, I wonder if Mr. Dauch knows how his plant is mismanaged and that he is misinformed by his management. There are quite a few costly issues with the Forge. Issues that have been discussed with management numerous times. Issues that could save AAM considerable amounts of money. He needs to come down to the floor and speak with the men and women that work hard for him and honestly know the” ins and outs” of their machines and departments. He would hear honest opinions and thorough suggestions that would better productivity. It would change his idea of what his workers really do and in time will even see better profits. I guarantee it!

Processes are not clarified. Like re-run steel; steel is scrapped after it is run through the induction heater twice. No documentation supports this action. The Quality Supervisor states steel can be run through more than twice. Usually this steel is scrapped. Many racks of this steel are scrapped annually. How much money is lost on a whole rack of good steel being tossed out.

We had a period of time where no Preventative Maintenance had been performed on the Upsetters for many years. Employee’s are blamed for these machines not running or when we can’t obtain a quality part.

Supervisors just want to be a boss. It’s all about clicking with the Upper Management and covering their own rears not the hourly employees. Supervisors just want to look good for Dauch and Upper Management. We have been told, on Numerous occasions, when Dauch walks through the plants, to just keep the machines running even if we are only making scrap. They think they are showing Dauch that we are “running strong”. Dauch needs to walk in Unannounced. He will see the real way his plant is being run. It is like a dog and pony show if they know he is coming through.

Shotblast and Bender Operators become supervisors. An Agricultural Engineer running the Upset Department? Finance people become Area Supervisors and then Plant Managers? How can a 3 month Supervisor tell a 14 year vet what to do and how he should do it? Who would you want to teach you on the workings of an Upsetter; Management with a degree that has nothing to do with Manufacturing or an employee that has been running and repairing that machine for 14 years? These people have no idea the skillfulness and intricate modifications that are done to produce a quality part. Some of these modifications are needed due to the lack of preventive maintenance mentioned above.

There has been “big money” wasted on past processes that we don’t use anymore. Example: We implemented a new tagging system that failed TWICE. How many hours were wasted organizing and building this system, TWICE? How much in materials wasted, TWICE? By the way, we aren’t using this system …again. Yet, you won’t listen to the suggestions that will really save you money. Like the scrap mentioned above, or cutting small rubber mats out of the big used rubber mats to save money. Why buy small ones when we can reuse big ones? How many thousands of dollars would that have saved over the years? Somehow Management doesn’t think it’s a good idea! Who makes these decisions? I want to see them on St. Aubin begging for their jobs. These are some of the reasons why we feel we are being set up for failure. Imagine the money saved if someone listened to us years ago. Really, years ago.

AAM spent $150,000 to develop a class that would train and instruct us on how to run and repair an Upsetter. 4 people took the course (I was one of them) and there were numerous errors in the textbook and on the video. This is a training video and there is a safety violation RIGHT ON THE VIDEO! It is a shame that an hourly worker is looked at as disposable and useless. It is ironic that the same employee is the one who is correcting your textbook and has to educate the “teacher” on the finer points of Forging.

We have gone for years without the proper tools. At one time we had them. Then Management took them and threw them away because they were going to “re-do” the system. We have never received replacement tools. This causes much more down time and consequently money is wasted…again.

As we all know, Toyota is an important client. Then why is the quench protection for Hino shafts barely operable? Equipment is broken. The process is hardly documented; as we have been instructed to do. The whole process needs to be re-evaluated. Good parts are continually being scrapped in large quantities. Modifying this process would save a lot of money for AAM and maybe even Toyota.

Then there are safety issues. There is plexiglass in the windows of an overhead crane. OSHA standards require shatterproof glass. Maybe I should mention the Upset crane that doesn’t have brakes. The list can really go on and on. Safety issues are ignored until we are fined or somebody gets hurt. 2 ½ years it took to put a mirror inside the bay door of the Upset department so Hi-lo’s won’t injure people.

These are just some of the issues in my department. I know there are issues in other departments as well and those employee’s could share a wealth of suggestions too.

While Mr. Dauch, was at Chrysler, he was quoted as saying “We would go in, stop operations, and talk to people” You felt it was important to hear what the workers had to say. Why not now when it is YOUR OWN company? Who better to give you insight on the struggles or successes on the floor? It has been said that you are purposely ignoring these issues because you want the Forge to fail. We know you want to shut it down. And who better to blame than the hourly employees that manufacture these products. I don’t want to believe that. Who in their right mind would want any part of their company to purposely fail? But how can such a shrewd businessman let all of this go on under his nose and be none the wiser?

I don’t need to quote all AAM and Dauch’s profits,. We have heard it many times. We all know about his large salary, bonuses etc while the company lost 222 million dollars in 2006. We are all aware of the bonuses of Upper Management. But not one of them are willing to take a cut. Do you even consider the consequences your actions are going to have on our families? 3600+ people will lose their homes and maybe even their cars. Some of your employees have spouses or other family members here too. So, in their case you are affecting two salaries in one household. In our situation, my wife has already taken a pay cut similar to the one we have heard you suggest. We simply can’t do it again. I am a forth generation Forge employee. I have worked for your company for 14 years. We have built a life around AAM and our pay. You can’t just take 60% of our pay and benefits and not expect a fight. What is left after I pay benefits with $11.40 an hr? How can I support my family with that? How would you support your family with that? With gas going to $4.00 a gallon, how can I even drive to work on that?

If you cut our wages the way you want to, you will have to offer a lump sum “buy out” or “buy down”. I hear you don’t want to do that. This almost seems impossible to believe. Are you so callous as to leave all these families bankrupt and homeless? I know it sounds extreme but it is very true.

I must quote Dauch again. In an article, from Krannert School of Management, Dick Dauch stated: (referring to a story that he reads to his employees “every year”)

“Have a Love Affair
You say you love me, but sometimes you don't show it.
In the beginning, you could not do enough for me.
Now you seem to take me for granted.
Some days I wonder if I mean anything to you at all.
Maybe when I'm gone you'll appreciate me and the things I do for you.
I'm responsible for getting food on your table; for the clean shirt you wear; for the welfare of your home; for the thousand-and-one things you want and need.
Why, if it weren't for me, you wouldn't have the car you drive.
I've kept quiet and waited to see how long it would take for you to realize how much you really need me.
Cherish me ... take good care of me ... and I'll take good care of you.
Who am I? I'm your JOB!”

What happened to those thoughts? And in the same article, when speaking of your contribution to our local communities, you stated “ …we do have a social conscience.” Where is it? It is going to be my kids you are helping out, in the Girls and Boys club of America, if you continue with this charade.

With all this said; I have to say I know you have a negative opinion of the hourly worker. You feel that we are all replaceable and dispensable. I can assure you I am not. I am that worker who gives 110%. I go over and beyond. My Supervisors never have to tell me what to do because it is already done. I am never someone who says “that isn’t my job”. I can run and problem solve an Upsetter better than most people on the floor and any Manager that has come through this plant in my 14 yrs. I gave you 14 years of dedicated service and I deserve the respect as such.

In Solidarity

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Axle Strike Update

American Axle strikers solid

Article and photo by John Rummel

Inside UAW Local 235 in Hamtramck, across the street from the largest of the struck American Axle plants, Ray Wood, President of UAW Local 14 at the GM powertrain in Toledo was speaking to Local President Adrian King and Vice President Bill Alford. “Whatever you need….we’re only an hour away, when they mess with one, they mess with all of us, we’re family.” Wood had just traveled up from Toledo and his local had brought a bus and car caravan of union members to walk the picket lines.

Wood said the Toledo local is in local negotiations (those taking place following last fall’s national contract) and told King and Alford “solidarity, that’s what it’s all about” We’re going to be there for the long haul as well.”

“That’s a war wound, brother,” said Wood while looking at the large cast on Alford’s leg and ankle, both broken while falling on the ice picketers have had to deal with through much of this strike.

Alford said people are coming out of the woodwork to offer support. This coming Monday, UAW local 412 from nearby Warren is sponsoring a solidarity rally and BBQ lunch for strikers. King and Alford said locals from GM, Chrysler and Ford are bringing everything from pizza, pop, and chips to a dump truck of wood to keep the barrel fires going on the picket line. The local Subway’s donated party trays but Alford said there’s still no Hamtramck Polish sausage – made locally and some of the best in the country – hint! hint!

One step inside the local hall or a walk outside on the picket line quickly shows the determination of the strikers. Morale of members is high, said Alford. They show up on time for picket duty and do not miss their four hour shifts. Some do eight or more, coming in every day. Older guys who have been here 30, 40 years are still coming in here to walk the line, said Alford.

President King said the local is taking steps to help workers who may be having financial problems. One UAW local will be holding workshops to help people with mortgage or credit problems. A welfare rights organization has offered assistance to those needing help with utility payments. The union is identifying couples where both work at the plant and may be in need of special help and are beginning to find locals who will sign up for an “adopt a worker program” for strikers who are having financial problems. This is the solidarity that makes victories possible.

Now in its fourth week, with 29 General Motors plants all or partially shut down and 40,000 workers being affected, the pressure mounts on American Axle to negotiate in a straight forward manner with its 3,650 striking auto workers. Although making over $37 million in profits last year, American Axle is still seeking huge wage and benefit cuts. American Axle’s chief executive, Dick Dauch, has set up eight non-union plants in the United States, Mexico, Poland, Scotland, India and China.

Automotive News estimated that in the years 2003 through 2006, the CEO received $58 million in compensation. Because the company has provided no data to justify the harsh cuts, the union has charged it with unfair labor practices. UAW president, Ron Gettlefinger, has said talks have been a “one-way” street of company demands.


Thursday, March 20, 2008



FLOC supporters celebrate the renewal
of the historic labor contract with the NCGA,

covering some 7,000 agricultural "guest workers"
in the South.

In 2004, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO and the North Carolina Growers Association signed historic labor contracts covering some 7,000 H2A "guest workers" and 800 growers in the South. This historic agreement provided important new rights and protections for "guest workers" coming to the U.S., including a grievance procedure which guarantees worker's voice at the work site.

In February, FLOC and the NCGA renewed this contract, which furthers the rights and protections of these workers. New features include provisions for workers to apply for jobs through the union based on their seniority and for the elimination of all recruitment fees to come and work in the U.S.. Other features include processes to facilitate faster resolution of grievances and greater cooperation in filing and processing worker compensation claims for on-the-job injuries. The NCGA and FLOC have also agreed to collaborate to bring more growers under the labor contract, to the benefit of both growers and workers.

These contacts between FLOC and the NCGA are historical in being a model transnational labor agreement.

Long-time FLOC supporters remember when the second set of farm labor contracts were signed in the Midwest. The renewal of a contractual relationship signaled a commitment by all sides to work together to guarantee worker rights and to increase productivity. FLOC looks forward to continuing relations with the NCGA and its growers in finding ways to benefit all sides in the production of agricultural products.

For more information, go to the FLOC website at

Monday, March 17, 2008


Just in from the Metro Washington Council, AFL-CIO Union City:

Safeway's heavy-handed idea of negotiating is to hire strikebreakers while their workers are still in contract talks. You can help Safeway and Giant's working families win a just contract that provides them with the living wage, fair and affordable healthcare health coverage and pensions they deserve.

Let your local grocery workers and their managers know you care! Whether it's handing your checkout clerk a support card, sending a letter to your local store manager or joining an outreach day, every action makes a difference. Click here to let us know how you can help!

Time is short: the contract between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 and Safeway and Giant expires at the end of the month: Click here to take action now!

Good jobs and good benefits help build strong communities. Please forward widely.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

American Axle Update:

American Axle workers
stand strong

By John Rummel

Workers at American Axle in Detroit are doing their best to stand up to the wage and benefit cuts that have swept auto. From the snowy picket lines to the local hall across the street from the plant, the mood is upbeat. Going to the union hall last Friday we took a couple dozen donuts and copies of the PWW. From coffee, to donuts to cut wood for barrel fires (local police gave up trying to have the fires put out) strikers are appreciative of anything brought to them.

The local is a beehive of activity. Picketers do four hour shifts and have to cover almost a dozen gates. On the picket line they talk about how they’re fighting for a decent standard of living for all working people – and they are. Come on out, they will welcome your company and support.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Labor leaders slam politicians who ignore the ‘real’ problem with NAFTA

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — As trade issues took center stage in the Democratic primaries March 4, the AFL-CIO Executive Council, meeting here, criticized politicians and the media for handling the trade problem as a “separate and secondary issue that can be treated with small tweaks in trade policy or worker displacement programs.”

“To the contrary,” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney declared, “our struggle to compete successfully in the global economy is intricately connected to the other challenges the U.S. economy and working families are facing.”

Describing those challenges, he said, “Nobody needs to tell workers that the economy is sliding into a second recession in seven years, since they never really recovered from the last recession. America’s workers are struggling with decades of stagnant wages, eroding workplace protections, a collapsing housing market, tight credit and rising prices for everyday essentials such as gas, home heating oil, health care and food.

“In this economic environment,” he continued, “it is all the more urgent that we reform our flawed trade policies to put good jobs at the center of a coherent global economic strategy.”

A report on trade presented by the federation’s legislative and policy committee noted that, starting with the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), production and jobs have been shifted out of the U.S. at a faster and faster rate. A high dollar policy, tax breaks for producing overseas, and trade agreements aimed at protecting the profits and flexibility of mobile capital combined to send a powerful signal to business that moving jobs offshore was the right response to tightening global competition, the report said. It blamed Wall Street for encouraging this mindset by balking at financing any expansion of U.S.-based production facilities, instead encouraging “global sourcing.”

Sweeney reminded labor leaders that NAFTA backers said the deal would make the U.S. “competitive” by shifting less capital-intensive production to low-wage countries like Mexico. This was supposed to strengthen the U.S. in its competition with Europe and Asia.

“Fourteen years later,” the AFL-CIO report says, “our global trade deficit has increased more than tenfold — from $70 billion in 1993 to more than $700 billion in 2007. It isn’t just low-wage or labor-intensive production that has moved — we are losing ground in advanced technology products, autos and even aerospace. Tradable services — from call centers to legal research to airline maintenance — are also increasingly being offshored.”

During the first years of NAFTA some economists, and later President Bush, said this was nothing to worry about. They pushed the idea that trade deficits were a sign of American strength, reflecting rapid growth relative to other countries and the attractiveness of the U.S. to foreign investors. Since 1994, $5.6 trillion in international debt has accumulated. The borrowing is necessary to fund consumption of goods and services no longer produced in the U.S.

The report adopted by the Executive Council points to the fact that this hollowing out of U.S. productive capacity has left the country vulnerable in at least three major ways.

First, it has been a significant contributor to eroding real wages for the majority of America’s workers.

“Common sense tells us,” Sweeney said, “that when you put America’s workers in direct competition with low-wage, unprotected workers in other countries, through a combination of lower trade barriers, reduced risk for overseas investors and new technology, then wages for non-college-educated workers in the United States will slide. This ought to be a central concern of every politician.”

Second, according to the unionists, NAFTA encourages assaults on workers’ rights abroad and here at home.

AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff told the World that, “without protection for workers’ rights, the wages and working conditions of the most vulnerable and powerless workers in the world eventually become the standard for workers here. It gives employers the power to face down workers and unions with threats to move production to countries where they don’t have to deal with workers’ demands.” His point is that NAFTA offers companies the choice to produce where they don’t have to worry about employee health, worker safety, wages or the environment.

“We can’t rebuild the middle class here in the United States,” Acuff said, “unless workers have the freedom to choose a union and to bargain collectively for their fair share of the wealth they create. This means passage of the Employee Free Choice Act here in America. But we must also remember that the right to organize in America can’t be adequately protected if the rights of workers worldwide are routinely trampled.”

The third big problem with NAFTA, labor leaders here said, is that as the Bush administration dismantled the nation’s consumer regulatory apparatus, oversight of food and products sent back here by companies that moved overseas was criminally neglected.

The results were unhealthy food, tainted toys, unsafe steel, defective tires and risky pharmaceutical products in our homes and communities. Rather than simply blaming China or other countries, the AFL-CIO report says, “the same unregulated profit drive that leads to violation of workers’ rights and disregard of environmental protections results in companies shirking their responsibility and sending defective products and unsafe food to America’s consumers.”

The resolution approved by the federation lays out a comprehensive solution to the problem of NAFTA and trade agreements in general that goes far beyond anything proposed by any of the candidates now seeking the presidency.

The AFL-CIO’s solution calls for a fight for workers’ rights to form unions and bargain for decent wages and working conditions; universal health care; a secure, universal retirement system, and major investments in education, technology, infrastructure and clean energy.

The resolution also calls for use of tax and investment strategies that will, when coupled with the other measures, rebuild the U.S. manufacturing base as a core element in restoring the economic power of the working class.

Acuff said these and other solutions are realistic and that “we can move in these directions if we change the nature of who sits in the White House and if we can elect larger worker-friendly majorities in the House and Senate. No single action will solve the whole problem but our resolution on trade policy points us in the right direction.”

It was clear to observers here that the nation’s labor leaders are giving U.S. trade policy a lot of thought. They are crafting a strategy that goes way beyond what some pundits describe as a vain hope to hold onto jobs that are gone forever. Their aim is nothing less than creation of a new manufacturing base and millions of good, new jobs for U.S. workers.

jwojcik @

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Where AFL-CIO stands on presidential race

SAN DIEGO – As the executive council of the nation’s 10 million member AFL-CIO meets here March 4 – 6 to kick off its biggest ever election drive, the federation is not ready to make an endorsement in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Union leaders gathering here, however, want the public to know that this in no way will prevent them from jumping full force into the presidential race before the November general election.

The delay in an endorsement in the contest between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, they say, results from several factors.

First, some of the unions affiliated with the federation support Clinton and others back Obama. Other member unions backed former Sen. John Edwards who is no longer in the race.

In order to make an endorsement federation rules require that unions representing 67 percent of the AFL-CIO’s 10 million members must back that candidate.

Despite numerous labor endorsements for both Obama and Clinton, most of the 56 national unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO have not made a primary endorsement.

“We respect the views of our affiliated unions,” AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said, March 3, “so we have not endorsed.”

Sweeney said, however, that the federation will make an endorsement when we are certain it will lead to the “broadest general election mobilization we have ever made.”

Denise Mitchell, press spokesperson for the federation, said, “We run the biggest political program in the country among our 19.5 million AFL-CIO working family voters.

“Our overriding focus is on Nov. 4,” Mitchell said, “and making sure it takes us in a different direction, not a McCain direction.”

Sweeney said that the federation is “building grass roots committees designed to expose and protest the economic plans of John McCain.”

AFL-CIO Political Committee Director Karen Ackerman said, “In addition to the presidential race, we will campaign in every viable Senate race and for over 70 House seats.” She said that the federation will be involved in over 525 races across the country, counting Senate, House, state legislative, gubernatorial races and ballot initiatives.

‘It can happen here,’ union leader warns

WASHINGTON (PAI) – Continuing his crusade against repressive immigration enforcement raids on workers, United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen declared, “workers cannot sit back anymore and say ‘it cannot happen here’ because it has.”

In a fiery speech before a commission his union set up last year to travel the country and gather evidence on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency raids on worksites, Hansen declared the union campaign’s goal is nothing less than to preserve a key part of the U.S. Constitution.

Specifically, he said, it is to restore to workers protections guaranteed in the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that bars unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

“We now know it can happen to us because it has, in the ICE raids just over a year ago,” Hansen declared.

The government raided six meatpacking plants run by the former Swift & Co., Hansen told the panel, convened Feb. 25 at a hotel across the street from the White House. The GOP Bush regime ordered the raids at the plants where most of the workers are represented by Hansen’s union.

Thousands were rounded up and only 62 turned out to be undocumented. All the workers, nevertheless, were transported, many in handcuffs, to camps, sometimes hundreds of miles away, where they were held for hours without charges and denied food, water, access to toilets and permission to contact lawyers.

The Swift plants were crippled and the raids resulted in the death of the firm which underwent a forced sale to a Brazillian packer.

“Tens of millions of workers go to work every day without a concern or even an awareness that at their workplaces, without any warning, they could be swept up in massive raids conducted by heavily armed government agents,” Hansen said.

“Nothing will stop ICE abuse unless as workers and Americans we say: Work is not a crime. Workers are not criminals and we do not check our rights at the workplace door,” Hansen said.

Teamsters, Kucinich team up vs. union-busting

CLEVELAND — Congressman Dennis Kucinich has gotten behind embattled truck drivers and warehouse workers fighting to recover jobs from a union-busting beer distributor.

When Superior Beverage took over the delivery contracts in the Cleveland area for Coors, Great Lakes, Iron City, Molson, Fosters and some smaller brands on Jan. 7, it refused to hire all but six of the 42 workers, members of Teamsters Local 293, who had worked for the previous company, many for 30 years or more.

This marked the first time in 75 years that any nonunion beer has been distributed to bars, restaurants and stores in Cuyahoga County. The union called for a boycott of the brands handled by Superior and invited Kucinich to attend its Feb. 21 meeting.

Story continues here.