GM strike: a question (off-list)

Richard Gibson rgibson at
Mon Jun 29 21:12:20 PDT 1998

If the UAW ain't corrupt, then neither was Plunkett of Tammany Hall, who, in his words, "just seen my opportunities and took 'em".

Those who want to poke into the last big GM strike might read Serrin's "The Company and the Union". Undemocratic, authoritarian, willing to use thugs when necessary, hmmm--sure is better than the Teamsters.

The UAW is in a bit of a bind. Bad as it wants to concede, if it does, it loses the dues income of probably 50,000 gm workers, over time, and loses whatever shards of credibility it has to organize new folks to pay for the men and women staffing Solidarity House.

Yokich and company now return from voting themselves a nice (unannounced) raise and boosting their terms of office to four years (maybe in 2002 people will have forgotten the debacle in Flint). If they have a coherent plan for a fight in this strike, none of their third tier leaders know about it.

Reform the UAW? Well, Solidarity tried that with the Temasters, and had to call the police and feds to carry it off. Are there more class conscious self actualizing Teamsters today? Perhaps. Could there have been more still if Solidariy took a different tack. Perhaps. The Teamsters may have actually been more vulnerable, brittle, than the UAW--whose legally endorsed caucus system (perhaps won by UAW legal?) makes it damn near impossible for activists to gain ground.

Reform or smash the unions? That might be an intersting chat. But I gotta go to N'awlins to try to reform the NEA...wish me luck..and good luck to you Justin and Doug. Folks wanting to read stuff on the nea merger can check my www page...

At 11:21 PM 6/29/98 -0400, you wrote:
>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
Rich Gibson Director of International Social Studies Wayne State University College of Education Detroit MI 48202

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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