Disgruntled Autoworker
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Observations #32
April 2004

Double Standards

We’re all aware of the Plant Closing Moratorium in the 2003 UAW-GM National Agreement. It cemented in stone that the Baltimore Assembly Plant would stop production of the Astro and Safari Mini Vans and close its doors at the end of the 2005 model year.

Then came the persistent rumors about downtime, and us building only 9,000 05 models and closing around September or October of this year. If you’ve been an employee of GM for any length of time, you know that rumors about production schedules and Plant closings are a fact of life.

And when it comes to squashing rumors, we’ve learned that the GMUAW Joint Newsletter, the Baltimore Assembly Times, isn’t very reliable. In the March 1st issue it stated that rumors about downtime and an early demise for the Truck Plant were false. Four days later the Plant Manager stopped production to tell us the Plant will shutdown for the week of March 29th.

Which makes me wonder about our early demise. With white-collar workers transferring by the boatloads, you’d think the Plant was closing tomorrow. Meanwhile blue-collar workers are being denied transfers and forced to go down with the ship. Seems to me we have a double standard here.

Just before the March shutdown there were rumors about downtime in April and May. And now that we’re back we’re hearing rumors about downtime in June and July. I’ve said this before and I know I speak for the majority when I say, “I believe management and the Gobs start these rumors to add to our confusion, and to keep us uncertain about the future until they do close the doors.”

During the shutdown management wanted all newly created Coordinator 1A’s to attend classes for 4 days, of course they’d be paid short workweek. There was such an uproar about it that management decided to make it voluntary, but there’s no guarantee classes will be voluntary should there be downtime in the future.

Having become 1A myself, I fail to see the logic in making us come in during downtime. Coordinators attended classes during work hours. Why should 1A’s be treated differently? Isn’t this another double standard?

I spoke with a few 1A’s who volunteered to attend classes during March’s shutdown. They said classes in Small Work Group (SWG) charts and graphs, and Maximo, were geared more towards brainwashing than instruction. I was also told all of the instructors are Appointees.

Great, management used suck ups to teach suck ups to be bosses in Per Diem school, now they’re using suck ups to brainwash 1A’s too. I don’t know about other 1A’s, but if I get the impression that suck ups are trying to brainwash me, I will give them a piece of my mind.

And speaking of suck ups. While I agree with the Gobs decision to remove Per Diems from the Allison List since they’re no longer paying union dues. I don’t understand how they can give ex-supervisors appointed positions, because once a supervisor always a supervisor. They may be paying dues, but new suck up or ex-suck up; their loyalties are still with management. And that, in my opinion, is another double standard.

I know not all coordinators are “Yes Men,” but we do have quite a few who take their positions way to seriously. I’ve heard complaints from around the plant about how some coordinators will silence their SWG members with a wave of the hand or by just putting up a finger. Or if they hear 2 members talking, they’d interrupt them by asking, “Do you have something you want to share with the Group?”

Apparently some coordinators need a dose of reality. A union member cannot give another union member orders. They are not bosses. Remind them that they can train people or chair a meeting, but they don’t have to act like Gestapo. We’ve got enough problems with management, and piss poor representation by selfish union officials; we don’t need our problems compounded by coordinators on ego trips. Get a grip and relax guys.

Besides, everybody knows SWG meetings are a joke. They were designed to brainwash the membership, period. All you need to do is read any one of management’s Absolutes to see that. They want to shove that crap down out throats until we choke on it, but as soon as you turn around, they do just the opposite. Who do they think they’re fooling? Their motto isn’t focus, focus, focus. It’s ship it, ship it, ship it.

There are coordinators and members who are trying to do a good job, but that’s not what management wants. They want you to do what you’re told and keep your opinions to yourself.

Just before the shutdown a coordinator told management about a potential problem. After the shutdown he noticed the problem wasn’t corrected, he told management again and was ignored. The problem escalated and as a result, we got an early out Tuesday the 6th.

Another coordinator was told to hit a motor with a hammer every morning to get it to work. When that stopped working, they rebuilt the system, but didn’t replace the motor until it seized up hours later. And some coordinators instruct their coworker only to have management repeatedly supersede their instructions.

A supervisor gave a member at a verification station a direct order, he said, “Do not enter defects into the computer.” The job description says otherwise, but what’s a member to do in a situation like that? Going over the supervisors head only leads to more problems, so you do what you’re told.

I attended a coordinators meeting and voiced my opinion that the Plant Manager’s Challenge to have SWG members brainstorm ways for the Group to cut cost, was not our job. If there is any brainstorming to be done, it should be done by management. Saving the company money is their job, not ours. What do they want us to do, eliminate more jobs so CEO Rick Wagoner can rake in a few more million?

We’re supposed to resolve our differences in the SWG meetings, and the same is true of coordinator meetings. However, instead of setting an example by expressing his opinion of my opinion in the coordinator’s meeting, the supervisor of the meeting came down to my workstation an hour later to browbeat and intimidate me for being opinionated. Then he slaps the table hard to show dominance like an Ape beating on his chest, so I slapped it too, just to let him know that I don’t give a damn. If I have something to say, I’m going to say it.

Management’s double standard “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude is wearing thin. They want us to abide by their rules and simple-minded Absolutes, but they don’t. And they say they want our opinions and ideas, but when we give them, they ignore us or look at us like we’re stupid. And they have the nerve to say we have bad attitudes. They’re the ones with an attitude problem.

My committeeman said, “Life is going to get a lot rougher around here before they close the doors.” He said it so nonchalantly, like it doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t affect him and his Gob friends. And I’m sure it won’t because they enjoy the benefits of ‘double standards’ too.

Look around, wherever you see a good job, chances are someone politically connected to management or the Gobs are on it. Like management, the Gobs have inside information on when good jobs become available, and since they don’t have enough appointments for all their friends, they’ll tell their remaining friends what classifications to put in for.

And chances are the person getting that good job is lazy, they lack ambition and have an, ‘I’m better than you’ attitude, they don’t work well with others and they’re anal-retentive. And if that’s not enough, they have diplomatic immunity. They’ll get away with doing a half ass job, while we get our stones busted. If the rest of us worked like them, the Plant would have closed a long time ago.

Life may indeed get a lot rougher before they close the doors, but that doesn’t mean we have to take it. We can and should make life rougher for management and the Gobs too. Question management whenever you disagree with what they’re saying, and don’t let them double talk their way out of it. And refuse to recite their Absolutes. They can’t fire you for refusing to recite something they don’t practice.

And put the Gobs to work whenever possible. Have them write up your boss for working the line, even if he’s just tightening a screw, it’s not his job. Look for things to write up like health and safety issues, and don’t let them talk you out of a grievance if you feel you’re right. Let them know you’re on to them. Just because they want to go down without a fight, that doesn’t mean we have too.

Depending on when GM closes the doors, chances are we may not have a Shop Committee election next year. Even if the doors stay open until July of 05, it doesn’t make much sense for the Local to spend money for Chairman, Zoneman and Committeemen elections if they’re only going to be in office for a couple of months.

However, whether we have Shop Committee elections or not isn’t important. What is important is we will have Executive Board Elections. And since the Truck Plant has three times the number of eligible voters than Allison and Murray combined, we control who gets elected.

The continued shake up of our Local’s Executive Board will soon be at hand. Call it retaliation, revenge, or whatever you want; I call it justice, for “Failure to Represent.” We will have the last word.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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