happy autoworkers- Not so at Saturn

Richard Gibson rgibson at pipeline.com
Sun Jul 12 23:35:28 PDT 1998

First I want to say that I appreciate Michaels stats---and the comments which they draw down. As to the dart at my little thought---

Good to see that Michael buys the initial thoughts and wants to suggest that grievance procedures are either outside the AFL-CIO union's devotion to the protection of capital, or that grievances are perhaps a way to mediate the tensions in the workplace in ways other than going to court. Maybe. IF one uses the grievance procedure as an organizing tool to demonstrate that an injury to one is an injury to all. But AFL grievance procedures are not designed to do that. In fact, they are designed to move the dispute away from the work place, out of the hands of the workforce, into bogus procedures which the labor movement routinely loses--and more often just dumps.

I got fired a lot. The only times I lost was when I was being represented by the AFL. When I finally got fired at Rouge, my committee man (yup --man)was sitting with the boss, already having agreed on my dismissal. Got my other jobs back with back pay. While I always was in some union or another, i found ways to represent myself, and I'd mention Duty of Fair Rep from time to time. I found that the best thing to do was organize the workplace and threaten shutdowns. The second best thing was to dodge the grievance procedure--the later stages always being held in the hands of some AFL hack who cared and knew nothing--and get into court. Nothing like a good Detroit jury. One can also creatively mix remedies (UCB hearings can become evidence later---so can Civil rights hearings--tho the entire remedy world seems to have shrunk a lot.) Beats the less than 30 percent arb win rate of the AFL---of those few greivances they pursue.

If I was still in the plants, and had a grievance, I would be doing a lot of extra-legal self help things to make sure that I got what I needed, despite the grievance procedure.In the grievance procedure, I would be bringing my friends. And if I got fired, the first place I would want to be would be court, arguing about my property right to a job, with lots of pals in the courtroom. I would not be happy to be all alone except for my AFL rep, in a AAA office, waiting for an arbitrator to wake up. I'd give my lawyer her 1/3 for a win, better than suffer that same fate of lost income, lost home, etc., and have the union lose--or give away-the case

Your point about the social construction of justice is quite good. We need some of that. I see the UAW leaddership, after voting themselves new four year terms and 72,000 pay rates for international reps (plus 3 percent raises and COLA each year) in Las Vegas, still came home to Detroit to find itself on strike. Some friends and I are going to try to construct some justice on July 25th in Flint, in a demo in support of the strike. UAW locals seem to be reluctant to join because they haven't been given permission from Solidarity (sic) House. We will try to insult the bosses in Flint--just the bosses of capital, and not their lieutenants. All are welcome...

I think I have been a little more flippant here than makes me proud. For that I am sorry. I will try to do better. I do hope, again, that on this list we talk to each other with the understanding that each of us has, from time to time on important thing, been wrong--and that we might have some thing to learn.

best r

At 03:47 PM 7/12/98 -0700, you wrote:
>At 06:28 PM 7/10/98 -0400, Richard Gibson wrote:
>>They are collecting dues, protecting capitalism, living fairly well,
>>exercising some authority and feeling powerful, investing, building a body
>>of literature to immortalize themselves and controlling labor schools to
>>protect themselves---same old stuff...best r
>>ps...the union movement wins only a tiny percentage of grievances. In this
>>arena, unorganized folks are sometimes better off--having direct access to
>Have you ever pursued an employment issue in the courts? If you had, I
>don't think you would so glibly assert that unorganized workers are better
>off. To begin with, they have recourse to the courts only on issues of law.
>Much of the injustice that is the daily diet of workers is not illegal --
>there is no law against it. That which is is hard to prove under the best
>of circumstances, and few workers have the resources and time to pursue the
>cases that could be proven. Even if you can find an attorney who will take
>the case on a contingent fee basis, the process will take years and in the
>end, the attorney will get 1/3 to 1/2 of the final award. In the meantime,
>if fired, you get to suffer all the consequences, plus live and relive the
>injustice in every step of the legal process, while the employer writes off
>his legal expenses as a necessary cost of doing business and has ample
>resources to outlast you and force a meager settlement that is valued at a
>fraction of your losses.
>Justice and dignity are not constructed individually. They are socially
>constructed and if they are to be meaningful, they must be socially won and
>defended. Arguing that individual action through the courts is superior to
>collective action at the site of the injustice turns the notion of justice
>on its head and makes it prisoner at the same time to a system of legal
>jurisprudence that is inherently (and often explicitly) biased to favor
>Perhaps your level of education, professional expertise, individual
>personality, and intelligence give you some immunity from the worst
>viscitudes of the typical workplace. Maybe you just believe all that rugged
>indivdualism crap. But for most workers who do not enjoy those privileges
>or illusions, the reality of the workplace makes your prescription pretty
>empty if not insulting.
>In solidarity,
>Michael E.
Rich Gibson Director of International Social Studies Wayne State University College of Education Detroit MI 48202

http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/index.html http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/meap.html

Life travels upward in spirals.

Those who take pains to search the shadows

of the past below us, then, can better judge the

tiny arc up which they climb,

more surely guess the dim

curves of the future above them.

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