Workers at Ford are organizing to demand a recount of the vote which according to UAW leadership gave a slight 51% approval of the latest sellout over employee payments for health insurance, but which was fraught, according to many who participated in it, with irregularities (Detroit Free Press, December 24, 2005). The workers have presented a lawsuit to prevent approval of the UAW-Ford agreement. The same deal was 'approved' by a 61% vote in GM in November. However, there are signs that retirees are organizing to fight the implementation of the increases in health care charges in the courts. And the deal may very well be turned down by Chrysler-Daimler workers.
These details and others emerging at year's end and at the start of 2006 demonstrate that we are in the presence of a huge growing rebellion among the US working class.
Assuming the charges of fraud are true, what becomes clear is that the existing trade union leadership is being squashed like a grape in a wine press. On the one hand, the bureaucracy attempts to accommodate the desperate demands of the failing industries on the edge of bankruptcy to cut into workers wages and benefits, and indeed, to gut the whole industry; while on the other, the rank-and-file oppose them in frank rebellion, which this union leadership is increasingly powerless to control. With all the pressure the Ford UAW officials could bring to muster, by carrying out numerous acts of polling irregularities, all they were able to get was the alleged 51%! That means that opposition to the health care sellout must have been huge in many plants and sections, despite the pressure of the bureaucracy. Indeed, in the DFP article cited above, Mike, a member of UAW Local 879 in St. Louis, said that “his plant rejected the deal by a wide margin.”
Even without fraud, the vote would be historic: when has the opposition to the trade union bureaucracy in the most powerful union in the AFL-CIO ever had to dispute a vote with the bureaucracy along 51-49% lines? That means, in any upcoming vote, the results could easily be reversed, on health care or any other issue.
This is why the mainstream press is already saying “The close vote raises questions about whether the Chrysler Group ... will get its union workers to approve a similar deal to cut their own benefits.”
This pressure will no doubt lead to cracks emerging within the bureaucracy itself. Indeed, this can already be seen in the case of the still very much alive New York Transit conflict (see article), since two TWU Local 100 board members not only voted against the strike being lifted, but also actually organized the holding of a press conference in Union Square on January 2: “Members of a dissident faction of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 on Monday urged workers to vote against the tentative agreement that ended last month's strike, saying they were opposed to paying for health care and had not been told about a side agreement concerning pension funds. The 'contract agreement serves the interest of the [Metropolitan Transit Authority] and not our members,' said union executive board member Ainsley Stewart at a news conference near Union Square Park. 'This is the biggest give-back in Transport Union history. We cannot allow it to happen,' said John Mooney, another executive board member” (AP, 3 Jan 2006). TWU Local 100 Roger Toussaint is desperately trying to hold together the deal he has signed with MTA, and has been publicly denouncing his fellow board members as “a few disruptive individuals... working hand in hand with MTA.”
Meanwhile, as reported in the last edition of International Worker, Delphi workers are going full steam ahead with their plans to picket the international auto show on Sunday, January 8, an effort which is not only opposed by UAW bureaucracy, but also involves a growing level of organization. Meetings are being held in several states. Buses and car caravans are being organized.
A movement is underway reflecting a qualitative change in the independent, fighting mood of the US working class, a mood which does not exist in a vacuum. The failures and bankruptcies of the capitalist class as they move to gut entire industries comes in the wake of similar huge failures: figuring in a more and more prominent fashion in the US political crisis is the complete bogging down of US forces in Iraq, and the misery inflicted by an incompetent, miserable and racist government in the wake of the Katrina disaster. For US workers, there is no doubt that they are being governed, inside and outside the workplace, by criminals and delinquents. The new element is that they are increasingly being perceived as weak criminals and delinquents, who can be opposed by determined organization.