Disgruntled Autoworker # 28 April 06'
33rd UAW Con Con Revisited
As a visitor to the 33rd UAW Constitutional Convention in 2002, I expected to see democracy in action. What I saw during the course of the next four days was a dictator (president) exerting supreme control over the entire proceedings. On day one I thought I’d see a flurry of activity as resolution after resolution was submitted by delegates and then heatedly debated before being accepted or rejected by the widest of margins, or a few votes. Instead, I saw, or rather, I heard speaker after speaker from the government, other unions, or some foreign country bend everyone’s ear with feigned enthusiasm about subjects nobody else seemed to care about either, considering the noise level on the floor. During the first two days, a total of eleven resolutions were chaired between extremely winded psychobabblers.
As per the UAW’s constitution, resolutions were submitted to the International three weeks prior to the convening of the convention to allow the powers that be time to decide if said resolutions would be accepted or rejected. The dictators will accept a resolution if it’s beneficial, like increasing their salaries, or reject it if it’s detrimental to their all empowering dictatorship, like a one member/one vote resolution. Detailed scripts will be written for the accepted resolutions, complete with power point presentations, which the Chair will then present to the delegates over the course of the convention’s four days. Delegates will not submit any resolutions from the floor.
If this were a democracy, all resolutions would have been submitted in real time to allow the Chair and the delegates the opportunity to grasp the significance and/or ramifications of them at the same time. For example, the spontaneity of a resolution for one member/one vote would at least be submitted, not rejected by the dictators prior to the convention, and its merits would then be heard by those in attendance. If the resolution was still rejected, the seeds of its significance and benefits to the membership may be planted in the delegates’ minds and mature to fruition in subsequent conventions.
Opposition to the resolutions was scant, except when seventy-five million dollars was siphoned out of the strike fund and placed in some bogus emergency operations fund. However, the voices of opposition were ignored, and then immediately drowned out by an orchestrated parade of picketers who, on cue, successfully trumped the dictators’ theft by marching around the convention center while the band played happy marching tunes. If this were a democracy, there wouldn’t have been the need to fast-track the seventy-five million dollar resolution, and then use subterfuge to drown out those who opposed it.
The nomination and election of International Executive Board (IEB) members were scheduled for the third day of the Convention. I was awe struck when I walked into the Convention Center. The cavernous room was decked out in a festive atmosphere. From wall to wall there were thousands of colorful floating balloons and placards on sticks on the backs of folding chairs that proclaimed Ron’s Team, which was in reference to Ron Gettelfinger, who was running for president, and who, like the sitting president and his predecessors, was pre-selected by his predecessor. A tradition that has allowed the administration caucus to perpetuate its one party slate for six decades, which began with Walter Reuther, who must surely be spinning in his grave at the way democracy, or the lack thereof, has bread contempt for today’s pro-corporate union leaders by an increasingly diminished, disheartened, and disgruntled membership.
As for Ron’s Team, they are five Vice Presidents and twelve Regional Directors, the majority of who ran for another term, or were pre-selected by their retiring predecessors, most of whom, like Ron, don’t have a clue about the issues facing the workers they supposedly represent. Conspicuously missing from the colorful collage before me was any reference to opposition candidates. There wasn’t one balloon or placard that proclaimed the name of anyone challenging Ron or any member of his Team. Without opposition candidates, they all won by acclimation. An uncontested election is not democracy, nor is it an election, not according to Webster’s dictionary; it’s a coronation, the continuance of a dynasty, or to be more precise, the perpetuation of a dictatorship.
The IEB has professed repeatedly throughout its history, and several times during the convention, that the UAW is a democratic union. Obviously the dictator caucus has a twisted concept of the term. Why wasn’t there a challenging candidate or a caucus? There are plenty of members who are qualified, but that’s not the problem. The problems arise during the ascension through the ranks. In order to challenge at the International level, one must first rise up through the local’s ranks; it’s not a requirement, but more of a prerequisite.
During the last twenty years, the majority of the union’s local administrations have become clones of the International’s dictator caucus, primarily due to meddling by International dictators in order to head off any challenges to their rule that may develop at the local level. For example, if a candidate becomes a credible threat to a member of the local dictator caucus, said member would have his life and all its ugly scars put on display to discredit them. If no scars could be found, they would be created. If necessary, International dictators will intervene and fabricate charges to oust a candidate should he win, like they did Gene Austin, Shop Chairman of local 594, who was ousted because he chose to be a watchdog for his membership, not management’s lapdog like International and local dictators.
All things considered, it could be argued that challengers could also use dirty politics like the dictators, but what’s the use? Should one lower themselves to their level, they’d be no better than the dictators. Besides, it’d take forever to spread democracy from the bottom up due to interference by International dictators. Reforming the dictator caucus is not an option, its been imbedded with the corporations for far too long, and collectively, they’ve succeeded in undermining and suppressing dissention with their anti-solidarity anti-democratic fear-mongering joint cooperation policies. International and local dictators have essentially become traitors, not only to their memberships, but to the American labor movement. When the unions have been decimated with the help of, and because of the ignorance and selfishness of its dictators, it’ll be open season on the wages and benefits of the rest of America’s middle class.
On the last day a resolution to amend Article 8 was approved that requires locals to submit resolutions six weeks prior to the convention, instead of three. Apparently three weeks isn’t enough time for the International to pick and chose which resolutions they’ll reject. Also, a resolution to amend Article 11 was approved to increase the salaries of International Reps from $14,000 to $19,000 depending on rank. Saw that one coming from a mile away. And then, at the end of the day, 4:30 pm to be precise, a total of 60 resolutions were bundled together and fast tracked, knowing full well that no one would challenge them at such a late hour, as if it would matter if anyone did, given the events of the last four days.
Odds are the upcoming 34th Constitutional Convention will mirror the 33rd. The dictator caucus will pick resolutions that will solidify their dictatorial rule, increase their salaries, and siphon millions from the strike fund, while rejecting resolutions they deem threatening, like one member/one vote, or a resolution to elect all International and local collective bargaining positions.
Barring a revolution or a coup, Gettelfinger and his Team are expected to reign for another four years, thereby perpetuating the betrayal of the membership. How much longer the union’s membership in GM, Ford, and DC will remain complacent and allow the betrayal to continue is anybody’s guess. If they don’t band together in greater numbers and join the Soldiers of Solidarity movement that is currently fighting for their wages, benefits, and pensions in Delphi corporation, they’ll lose something equally as valuable, their dignity.
For a more detailed description of events at the 33rd UAW Constitutional Convention, read my report at; http://www.disgruntledautoworker.com/dis/08.html and, to read Delegate Gregg Shotwell’s Live Bait & Ammo reports, go to; LBA32 and LBA38 It would be in the best interest of all delegates and alternates to read these documents to prepare for the expected, and unexpected, at the 34th UAW Constitutional Convention.
In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom