GM strike: a question (off-list)

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Mon Jun 29 20:21:46 PDT 1998

Justin Schwartz wrote:

>Now, I grant that Legal is sort of isolateed from other parts of
>Solidarity House; we do legal stuff, oddly enough, and don't make policy.
>But I think that the unrelievadely horroble impression of the UAW that's
>being promulgated on this list is misleading and erroneous. Sure, it's a
>rather stick in the mud labor bureaucracy. No, it's not a revolutionary
>organization. Yes, a lot of my comrades in New Directions spend a good
>deal of time eyeball to eyeball with their local unions and the
>International. It's far from perfect. But it's not the old Teamsters or
>MIneworkers or Laborers or the East Coast Longshoremen. It's fairly honest
>and within the blinkered limits imposed by a foolish commitment to DP
>politics, progressive as US unions go--one of the more progressive. It
>needs to be democratized. But it shouldn't be demonized.

I've been yakking around a bit over the last couple of days, as background for a Feedmag piece on the Flint strike, and I've got to say that the UAW deserves lots of demonization on this one. The bosses have permitted locals to strike sporadically over the last few years, and they hindered the Flint local from striking until after the offending stamping equipment was removed from the factory. They're pretending that the strikes are really about local issues when they're really about outsourcing, speedup, and disinvestment - issues which, to paraphrase Schumpeter, go to the very core of the capitalist process. They're doing nothing to get the support of other unions or the general public - even though support, at least across the industrial Midwest, is very strong. (There are so many volunteer pickets that they've set up guestbooks for people to sign in.) In other words, the spontaneous consciousness of the working class right now is that the Flint strike is over issues of great interest to the whole class, but UAW HQ is blowing this opportunity badly. They have no strategy, as I've been saying. Ok, so they're not corrupt. Gee, isn't that a sterling endorsement.


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