Disgruntled Autoworkers #6
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.