Some of the more astute and honest commentators on the “bailout” of the American auto companies announced Friday by President Bush have pointed to a critical aspect of the plan to shut plants, wipe out jobs and bring the wages, benefits and work rules of United Auto Workers members in line with those of workers at nonunion foreign-owned companies in the US.
One of the first moves that an Obama administration cold make is to pass single payer. That would get the US automotive industry in line with most of the rest of the world in not shelling out hundreds of millions to billions of dollars to the insurance industry (btw, to me at least, it’s strange we call insurance an industry). Single payer’s not only good for the car makers, it’s good for the entire country. I wonder when we’ll see it?
“The result,” writes Warren Brown in Saturday’s Washington Post, “will be a smaller General Motors and Ford in America, a bigger and more robust GM and Ford overseas, and barring the birth of a truly international labor union, a United Auto Workers that is a union in name only.”
Ah, the crux of the situation. When is a union, which for whatever reasons is unable to look after the members of said union, actually a union?
Brown goes on to say that the “restructure-or-perish talk” from all sections of the political establishment, from Bush and Obama to congressional Democrats as well as Republicans, is “justification for helping the car companies continue doing what they have been doing all along-downsizing and, in the process, hastening the effective demise of the UAW.”
The duoparty has no interests in having a strong labor movement to contend with. It wishes us, whether we are poor, working or middle class to be obedient sheep. Does the UAW (and any other union) wish to fight the dictates of the bosses? And will the workers, whether poor, working or middle class, be willing to stand against such dictates if their unions refuse to do so?
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger personifies the transformation of the UAW. He evinces no trace of class consciousness. The notion that the organization he heads represents a constituency whose social interests are opposed to those of the corporations is beyond his intellectual ken. He views the crisis in the same basic way as the auto bosses, the major shareholders, the bankers and their political representatives in the Democratic and Republican parties.
Read the rest of the article, and grieve (I’m sure a few will jump up and down for joy).
As always, such a demise, should it happen, offers the chance to build a new mass movement. There is ‘hope’ in that, I suppose. With workers being treated badly, and their unions not being of any help, rage will build. The question is if that rage will be squandered individually, or will it become part of a movement of workers, not matter their class, towards fighting the bosses and the duoparty.