Disgruntled Autoworker
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Disgruntled Autoworkers #5
July 2001

"Dynasties in the UAW"

Being an employee of General Motors and a member of the UAW for 25 years gives me the right to comment on what I perceive to be a threat to the union that I, at one time, felt proud to be a member of. The threat I speak of is not from the corporations, nor is it from the growing number of dissidents within the UAW itself.

The threat is from the very leaders of the UAW who were elected by "delegates" to uphold the pride and dignity of the membership. The threat began over twenty years ago when Douglas Fraser was president. It was Fraser who conceded our personal paid holidays. Then, in 1982, he formed a partnership with the corporations and together they created joint funds.

In the beginning, joint funds had a noble cause. They were used to retrain thousands of laid-off autoworkers from all of the Big Three auto companies. Over the years the funds have expanded to help members with child-care, employee fitness and training centers, and helped members pay for college, cope with drug addiction and look after the elderly.

Today, there is so much jointness between the corporations and the UAW that almost everything one does; the other is involved with, in one way or another. While some joint programs are still noble, like the joint UAW-GM Make a Wish Foundation, some are ridiculous, like the joint UAW/GM Recipe Book. And others are down right confusing, like the joint UAWGM involvement in NASCAR that further blurs the line between the UAW and the corporations.

It was a NASCAR race on Memorial Day weekend that got my attention and motivated me to write this article. That was the first time I saw Jerry Nadeau's (#25) car. I felt both pride and shame when I saw the UAW's logo predominately displayed on its hood with Delphi's corporate logo underneath it. As the race wore on, so did my union pride, turning more towards shame, because the more I thought about it, the more it upset and angered me that our UAW's leaders formed "another partnership" with the corporation to put that logo there.

I love NASCAR racing and nothing will change that, but, as of Memorial Day, I will forever watch it in a different light. I'll root for my usual drivers, including Jerry Nadeau, although in the back of my mind the question will linger. With over a billion dollars in our UAW's funds, why didn't our union's leaders sponsor a car and race team on their own? In fact, I think it would be a huge boost to union pride nationwide to see a union sponsored car challenging the corporation's sponsored cars, a race within a race, so to speak.

According to Webster's dictionary, a union is an organization of workers formed to advance its members' interest, especially in respect to wages and working conditions. Nowhere in my dictionary's explanation of the word "union" do I see the words partnership or jointness.

Our UAW's leaders should be challenging the corporations on the increasingly deplorable working conditions nationwide that are injuring and demoralizing an aging work force on a daily basis, "not" entering into partnerships or joint programs that have absolutely nothing to do with the advancement of the union.

Our UAW's president recently stated in June's Solidarity Magazine that the UAW is a social movement. From my position on the shop floor, I have to agree with president Yokich; there is definitely a lot of socializing going on between the UAW's leaders and the corporations.

We no longer have union leaders who are; of, by and for the membership; we have union leaders who have not only crossed the line separating the union from the corporations, they've erased it. They care more about their relationships with corporate executives than they do the membership they are obligated to represent.

For the last twenty years, our UAW's leaders have turned the presidency of the UAW into a "Dynasty" by keeping the leadership within their tight circle of friends. This insures that their partnerships with the corporations continue unabated. This selfishness by the UAW's leaders has spilled over to many of our locals, creating mini-dynasties.

Joint programs like health and safety, quality network, human resource development, and joint training, etc. are responsible for the increased dissention among the membership in many of our local unions nationwide. Because the positions made available through the joint programs are filled by appointment, and the vast majority of appointees are family and friends of the Dynasties, past and present.

If you hang out in a bar owned by the former president of our local's Dynasty for example, you'll increase you're chances of getting an appointment. If your fortunate enough to be the sibling or best friend of that same former president, you'll be appointed to an International position, in spite of the membership's objections.

A classic example of the selfishness of the current UAW's Dynasty was the 1997 strike at GM's truck plants in Pontiac, Michigan. The strike began over substandard staffing levels that prevented members from taking vacations; a worthy cause. Yet, the Dynasty turned the strike into a personal matter.

A lawsuit filed by members of local 594 during the summer of 2000 alleges the Dynasty prolonged the 87-day strike by two months so former local 594 Chairman Jay Campbell and International Servicing Representative Donny Douglas could secure employment for their son and a friend, respectively.

Also questionable are the sons of UAW officials who were hired shortly after the strike ended, the son of James Beardsley, administrative assistant to president Yokich, and International VP Richard Shoemaker's son, who incidentally was promoted to an International Servicing Representative position a year and a day after being hired.

How are we as members supposed to feel proud of the UAW when we hear that one of the few times the Dynasty challenges the corporation is for nepotism and favoritism? It's frustrating as hell to see siblings and friends of the Dynasty get prime jobs after only a year on the line, while the rest of us are forced to work the line for thirty years, under conditions that get worse with each new contract/agreement. No wonder the memberships morale is at an all time low and dissention is at an all time high.

From Fraser to Yokich, the joint programs resulting from their partnerships with the corporations are destroying the very fabric of our union. The UAW's membership has taken a back seat to their selfishness, and not once have they looked back to see that our numbers have shrunk from 1.5 million in 1979 to under 728,000 today and still shrinking. However, if you look at the membership of our Dynasties, it's not hard to see that their ranks have grown ten-fold with family and friends, and still growing, thanks to the joint programs.

President Yokich prides himself on coming from a strong union background and likes to credit himself for creating the New UAW. If what we have today is the New UAW, I would rather have the Old UAW, before the Dynasties. And as for him having a strong union background, that may be, but I think Yokich is getting delusional, because from my observations, he's strayed so far from his union roots, corporate blood is now coursing through his veins.

The cover of the June 2001 Solidarity Magazine states, "You don't belong to the UAW, it belongs to you." If that's true, then the Dynasty won't mind initiating one member/one vote, now, so that we, the membership, nationwide, can have the right to vote in the June 2002 International Executive Board elections.

As I stated in a previous article, "We can no longer afford to leave our fate in the hands of corruptible delegates." The membership must demand the right to vote now, before the Dynasty "appoints the Presidency" to VP's Shoemaker, Gooden, King, Gettelfinger, Bunn or whoever "they" choose in 2002, thus continuing the Dynasty for another three years.

I'm willing to bet a month's salary the UAW's Dynasty will not initiate one member/one vote. Not now, not ever, because they know the membership will vote them out for selling out, thereby ending their twenty-year Dynasty and the partnerships "they" have with the corporations.

The UAW is in dire need of restructuring, and that requires the ouster of the President, Vice Presidents and the International Executive Board and all their appointees. It also requires scraping and/or the restructuring of all joint programs, and the appointments that go with them, in favor of elected positions. It's time to end all of the Dynasties in the UAW and get our unions back to their intended purpose of representing the membership and challenging the corporations.

Write a certified letter to the president, and each of the future "successors" to the presidency of the UAW's Dynasty at Solidarity House, at 8000 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, MI 48214 and demand they initiate one member/one vote now, and find out for yourself if the UAW belongs to you or if you belong to the UAW. I guarantee you'll find that the UAW belongs to the "Dynasty," and you, belong to "it."

Until we as individual members of this once million-and-a-half strong and proud union have the right to vote in International elections, we'll continue to have no say in the direction the Dynasty takes the UAW, or what joint programs they have in store for their family and friend's future.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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