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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Statement from the Communist Party, USA

End the Auto Crisis: Build Mass Transit

Public Ownership to Save Jobs and the Environment

Union auto workers are fighting for their lives. For us the fight to defend the United Auto Workers union (UAW) and its members is immediate. It is estimated that over three million jobs are linked to the jobs at GM, Ford and Chrysler: including workers in parts supply, dealerships, steel, rubber, and many other supporting industries. Bankruptcy would have devastating effects on communities where these workers live. Whole regions rely on their purchasing power and the loss of taxes for local and state governments would cause an even bigger crisis. Bankruptcy will also destroy the pensions and healthcare for millions of retirees.

We join with labor and all its allies in demanding immediate action by the federal government to guarantee the loans needed to save these jobs. We are actively engaged in the growing fight to build solidarity and support for the burning demands of the workers and their union.

Even if/when bridge loans are given to the Big Three, the companies have announced there will be further plant closings and say they will permanently shed tens of thousands of their workforce. They do this while continuing to move production out of the country. GM has manufacturing operations in 32 countries around the world. And while the auto companies complain about competition from lower wage countries, they in turn threaten workers in Mexico, Thailand, South America and elsewhere to accept low wages as a condition of work.

Everything unions have fought for throughout our history is being challenged. Republican senators are demanding that unionized workers tear-up their union contracts and work for non-union rates. A forced bankruptcy would destroy the contracts of the UAW. Automotive jobs have been a pathway to a better life for all working people and their loss would hit African American and Latino workers particularly hard. Black workers in particular are more concentrated in auto than other industries.

To solve the economic crisis we need to put more money, not less, into the hands of working people. Republican attempts to force the UAW to take cuts will increase the wage gap; it is a continuation of Republican trickledown economics that voters rejected in the November election. These are the same economic policies that created the present economic crisis. It would lower the purchasing power of auto workers and would create a downward wage pressure on all workers

If we agree that the auto industry is too important to fail, both in terms of our nation’s transportation needs and the need to move away from reliance on fossil fuels, then it is too important to be left in the hands of the CEO’s.

And at the same time, given the overall economic crisis and the underlying failures of unbridled corporate greed and mismanagement, it is the time to look at more basic solutions also. Demands for public and government oversight raise the issue of democratic public ownership of the domestic auto industry.

The United States government could buy all the common shares of stock in General Motors for less than $3 billion. The worth of the companies is less than the aid they want from taxpayers. If the public provides the capital, why do decisions remain in private hands? Representatives from the unions, from engineers employed in the industry, from government, and the communities and states where the plants are located, are best able to make the key decisions. Representatives from management itself should have input but not control.

We have an economic crisis, but we also have a crisis of the environment and the two are interlinked. We face global catastrophe and the profits before nature philosophy of the auto executives is a major roadblock for building a “green,” sustainable industry.

Cities all over the country are looking at the need for mass transit: from rail to subways, and buses. Public demand for environment friendly cars is also growing. We should demand that unemployed auto workers in Detroit and Michigan are put to work building all of the above.

Public ownership can work! From our postal service, to social security, to our public school system, Medicare, police, fire, and military, public ownership has been successful. In the early 70’s the government took over a rail system in crisis, fixed it and then years later sold it to private owners at a profit.

The changes needed in our infrastructure to build and sustain the environmentally friendly cars of the future will require public money so why should the ownership of the companies remain in private hands?

In addition:

* We need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to spur union organizing and to increase the wages and buying power of working people.
* We need National Health care, pass HR 676 – health care is a human right and it should be removed as a bargaining chip.
* We need an international minimum wage to stop the whipsawing of workers from one country to another.
* We need a law to stop tax breaks for companies that outsourcing our jobs.
* We need to get behind President-Elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus and public works jobs program.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Workers occupy factory - demand justice

By John Bachtell and Scott Marshall
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 12/06/08 21:38

Scott Marshall
Melvin Maklin, one of the sit in strikers at Republic Windows brings out chants of, "Yes We Can" when he tells the crowd, "We have a new president. He says, Yes we can."
Chicago – “We’re here to demand our rights,” said Manuella Rivera in a gentle but firm voice, “and we’ll stay until we get justice.” Rivera, a 58-year-old window assembler is among workers at Republic Windows and Doors who have been occupying the plant since Dec.5 when it was shut down.

Melvin Milkin, one of the sit-in strikers spoke for all the workers when he vowed they would stay in the plant until they receive the estimated $1.5 million in severance and vacation pay and health benefits they are owed.

The company, maker of vinyl windows for the home construction market, has employed 300 workers, including 250 unionized production workers at the factory for 48 years. United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110 represent the workers.

Republic closed the factory with three days notice when they were refused a $5 million line of credit by Wall Street behemoth Bank of America (BA). BA is chief investor and has been effectively controlling finances at the company. The abrupt closure was in clear violation of the WARN Act, the federal law requiring employers to give 60 days notice of a mass layoff (Illinois state law mandates 75 days) or pay the workers and continue their health benefits for that time.

The action outraged workers because BA recently received a $25 billion bailout package from the federal government, but evidently decided it wouldn’t go to keeping manufacturing operations running. When the company skipped a meeting with UE and BA on Dec. 5, the workers were furious and unanimously voted to stage a sit-in.
“The government gave $25 billion to BA. They are supposed to work with businesses to keep them open, not shut them down,” Lalo Munoz, 54, told the World. Munoz, a machine operator, has worked at the plant for 34 years.

Workers are sitting-in around the clock in groups of 50. They report things are very calm and well organized inside. “We are taking care of everything,” said Munoz. “We are keeping the machines in good condition so that maybe we will keep working.”

“The workers feel they have nothing to lose,” said UE organizer Leah Fried. “They were waiting to hear something all day (Friday). When management didn’t show, they decided to stay.”
Fried said the workers were thrown on the street the same day the US Labor Dept. announced job losses of 533,000 for November. Many have families, have no hope of getting a new job and now risk losing their homes.

“More than 300 people are working here, and what are we going to do now?” Vicente Rangel said. “We don’t get any single benefit. They are even telling us they are not guaranteeing payment for the week we just worked.”

Many of the workers are originally from Mexico and Central America. They traditionally save up vacation time to return to their home countries with their families for an extended time.
According to Republic, BA instructed the company not to make the vacation, severance and health benefit payments. Fried said this is a clear violation of federal law. And since BA has refused to say anything about the workers pay, “the workers are prepared to fight all the way,” she said.

Solidarity has been pouring in. A steady stream of visitors has been bringing food, coffee and money. On Dec. 6, 200 unionists, religious leaders and community activists joined the Republic workers at a rally called by the Chicago Interfaith Workers Justice Committee.
A sign in the crowd said, "Bank of America: You got bailed out - we got sold out." and "$Billions for Bank of America, $0 for workers."

Lalo Munoz told the rally "this fight is not just a fight for the 250 workers in the plant. It is not just for our families but it is also for all the workers in this country." The crowd broke into chants of “yes we can - si se puede” several times.

Other speakers included James Thindwa of Chicago Jobs with Justice, Richard Berg, Teamsters local 1743, Larry Spivack of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District 3 and Joe Isobaker of the Service Employees International Union.

A delegation of the Communist Party USA's Religion Commission holding a national meeting in Chicago responded to the call for solidarity and attended the rally.

Also giving solidarity was Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) who had arranged the Friday meeting. He said it was “the work and creativity of these workers that made this company. This is work they are entitled to be paid for. They are owed it and under the WARN Act they must be paid for it. That’s federal law.”

“I believe somebody just didn’t wake up last Tuesday and decided to simply close the plant down. I believe they knew this was going to happen and wanted to walk away and didn’t want to pay the workers the 60 days they are owed under federal law and the 75 days under Illinois state law, Gutierrez told the rally.

There is some speculation the plant is being closed to move out of state where it can reestablish operations at lower wages without the union. The factory sits on land sandwiched between new upscale developments and was sold to J. Wrigley Co. in 2006.

Carl Rosen, Western Vice President of UE called for all out support for a rally at Bank Of America, 231 S. LaSalle street at 12 noon Tuesday Dec. 9 in Chicago demanding that they free up money to republic window to pay the workers if no agreement is made to pay the workers in negotiations scheduled to resume on Monday.

For solidarity make checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, and mail to: 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607.

Messages of support can be sent to For more information, call UE at 312-829-8300.