Disgruntled Autoworker
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Disgruntled Autoworkers #6
October 2001

Traitors in the UAW

UAW President Stephen P. Yokich spoke at a rare news conference at the UAW Solidarity House headquarters in Detroit. Flanked by his lieutenants, Yokich said the UAW will continue to sign up casino and university employees and workers in other non-automotive fields as union members.

An April 6, 2001 Detroit Free Press article quoted Yokich as saying, "Some people question the wisdom of this." He said of the nontraditional organizing drives, "The wisdom is very simple. We have to change with the changing times."

For people in the automotive field who don't understand Yokich's wisdom, I would like to offer my interpretation and comment on another statement our president made in a recent Solidarity Magazine interview.

Before I begin, I would like to establish the fact that the UAW's leadership has been a rigid, single party political system for the last twenty years with its presidency passed on to self-appointed successors. Therefore the UAW is not the democratic union it was originally intended to be by its founders. Today the UAW is governed by a Dynasty, a select group that bars all others from participating, save those of the same ilk. Yokich is the Dynasty's current appointed dictator.

The UAW has been steadily losing members over the last twenty years; at our peak in 1979 we were a million-and-a-half strong. Today the UAW's membership stands at less than 728,000 members.

The cover of the June 2001 Solidarity Magazine states, "You don't belong to the UAW, it belongs to you, so help make it grow." Now I'm confused and I become even more confused when I read Yokich's response to a question in the same issue. The question was; "What's the importance of organizing?" Yokich responds, "Organizing is the life blood of this union. If we don't continue to organize, there will be a natural shrinkage of this union."

"Natural shrinkage" is what Yokich calls what's been happening to our membership over the last twenty years. It seems to me it should be called abandonment, because the Dynasty has done nothing to stop the corporations from slashing and burning their way through our locals by pitting us against each other like common dogs for Living Agreements that aren't worth the paper they are printed on. There should be solidarity between locals and the only competition should be for ball games, not the dog-eat-dog atmosphere that is shrinking our membership by entire locals at a time.

If, as Yokich says, "Organizing is the life blood of this union," then why is the Dynasty letting the opportunity to increase our automotive ranks slip through their hands? They're failing to make inroads at Japanese-owned Toyota plants in Buffalo, W. Va., Georgetown, Ky. and Princeton, Ind., which together employ 11,000 people. The Dynasty has also failed to organize Honda's 13,000-worker complex in Marysville, Ohio, Nissan's nearly 6,000 employees in Smyrna, Tenn., and 2,000 workers at the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala. And they also appear to be abandoning Independent Parts Suppliers who were once 75% union, and are now only 15% and shrinking.

Instead the Dynasty is focusing on organizing casino workers, university employees and hospital workers around the country. Workers who would be better represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to name a few. Unions more suited to their situations. Having the UAW represent teachers is like having the AFT represent autoworkers; one knows absolutely nothing about the other.

The Dynasty and their Propaganda Magazine want us "to help make the UAW grow" by organizing workers in the non-automotive field so there isn't any disruption in their collection of union dues when they abandon us. Yokich's very simple wisdom is this: He wants us to replace ourselves as dues paying members. I don't think so.

I cannot, in good conscience, go out and lie to potential non-automotive members about how good life is being a member of today's UAW. Instead, I'd be compelled to tell them about the cutthroat competition that is forcing us to out-concede each other for weaker and weaker Living Agreements in order to survive. Or about other hardships and injustices the membership has endured since the Dynasty took control of the UAW, especially in the last few years under Yokich.

In all honesty, I feel it would be my duty as a UAW member to inform potential members about Local 594's multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit against GM and the UAW that alleges officials of the International and local Dynasties used striking employees to extort money from GM by prolonging the 1997 strike by two months so they could secure jobs for family and friends.

Or about Ford management and local union officials misusing the BE/CISD Committee to discipline union members at Locals 136, 849 and 879. Members were put out on psychological medicals for exercising their right to free speech by exposing corruption, and they're not allowed to return to work until they pass a series of psyche evaluations, thus destroying their credibility and any threat they may pose to incumbents in local elections.

Or about Local 2195: Workers claim family and friends of union and management officials were given false starting dates that gave them more seniority than workers hired at the same time.

Or about Local 685: Over 150 workers signed a petition asking for a federal investigation of local officials, alleging they were paid by the automaker for hours not worked in return for ignoring safety complaints.

Or about Local 2209: Several workers complained to the FBI that local officials were paid for hours they didn't work.

Or about Local 51: An investigator with the Labor Department conferred with a former top local official to get documents alleging financial improprieties and nepotism.

Or about Local 549: The Labor Department took the local to court to overturn the election of its president. The Labor Department won and oversaw a new election.

And then there's my Local: Our president was promoted to Regional Rep after selling us out with the most appalling anti-union pro-corporate contract a president could manipulate his membership into, a "Non-Expiring" Living-Agreement that turned the clock back four decades on the rights and working conditions of the membership.

Last, but not least, the plight of Local 2036 in Henderson, Kentucky is the icing on the cake: Local President Billy Robinson and his dedicated members are being chastised for going out on strike and staying out for over three years, because they "refused" to sell out all they had fought for over the years. In the meantime, their company, Accuride, the largest manufacturer of steel truck wheels (for GM and Ford) in North America, hires scabs to replace them.

In the beginning, the Dynasty supported the strikers, but 18 months into the strike they flip-flopped when it became apparent the strikers were determined to stand firm. The Dynasty placed local 2036's finances in receivership and denied locked-out workers strike pay and medical insurance, because they continued to reject countless contract proposals that were no better than the first. This further devastated the strikers, resulting in economic ruin for some, medical hardships for others and for some, suicide.

It took a massive nationwide email campaign and the presence of union activist on the steps of Solidarity House to convince the Dynasty to restore strike pay (doubled to $350) and benefits 14 months later. The Dynasty came under sharp criticism from Local 2036's president and union dissidents from around the country who said the Dynasty had broken promises to support the strikers throughout their labor dispute.

And now, over 42 months later, the Dynasty is barring Local 2036's president from running for reelection because of a bogus technicality. Workers are still locked-out and replaced by scabs.

Again the Dynasty turned their backs and abandoned fellow autoworkers while at the same time they are adding insult to injury by attempting to organize 30,000 Kentucky state employees right under striking members noses, state employees who would be better represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME). Which begs the question: Why is the Dynasty stealing workers from other Unions? They're not content with destroying solidarity between our locals; now they're trying to destroy solidarity between the various trade unions.

All this is the result of UAW leadership run amuck since it was stolen twenty years ago and turned into a Dynasty. When they're not extorting the corporations for their own selfish gains, they're promoting local presidents for selling-out, or they're rescuing companies whose local unions refuse to sell-out, situations that could happen to any local, anywhere in the country, at any time. No wonder individuals and locals nationwide are forced to turn to outside authorities like the FBI and the NLRB.

No, I will not help organize the unorganized for the UAW, not until democracy is restored. Without one member/one vote, our Union's leaders are not accountable and I fear conditions will only get worse. Mysteriously missing from their redesigned website is the line, "The highest authority in the UAW is the membership." That obvious omission is further proof our union's leaders have set themselves apart from the membership. Instead of leading the union and promoting it's advancement, they're ruling over it for the advancement of the corporations.

Yokich and his lieutenants should be charged with treason for crimes against the membership. Specifically for the continued hijacking of the UAW's International leadership, dereliction of duty, abandoning the membership, destroying solidarity between locals and for encouraging and promoting corruption in our locals. All of which is destroying the pride and dignity that was once a badge of honor for UAW members.

Its common knowledge that Yokich and his lieutenants will not initiate one member/one vote to restore democracy in the UAW, because they know we'll vote them out in a New York minute.

Forget about Government intervention. "We, the membership of the UAW" must deal with our traitors ourselves. We need a revolution within the UAW to take back what is rightfully ours, "The UAW Leadership."

We, the membership, the highest authority in the UAW should tear down the walls of Solidarity House and together rebuild it, one solid brick at a time, in the name of union democracy. And we should do it before "they" appoint the next president/dictator.

Someone, UAW Solidarity Coalition members or UAW New Directions Movement members, set a date for this revolution and I'll be there with as many members of my local that I can muster.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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