GM strike: a question (off-list)

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Mon Jun 29 22:38:49 PDT 1998

On Tue, 30 Jun 1998, Richard Gibson wrote:

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

"Not corrupt" was Doug's characterization, not mine--although I don't think the UAW is more corrupt than most mainstream institutions in our society. The International is not corrupt in the sense of deliberately selling out the membership in exchange for bribes, unlike the UMW under Tony Boyle. I can'ts peak for particular union locals, which may or may not be corrupt in that sense, although again I think most are not. The UAW bureaucracy is excessively and improperly influenced by a desire for respectability and for securing its own privileged position within the working class. I don't call that "corrupt," which implies conscioua malice. I call it bureaucratic, and that's a risk any large organization runs. The UAW need democratization and rank and file militance. But its limitations are those of the blind rather than the evil.

My point in contrasing the UAW with the old Teamsters and the old UMW was not a matter of corruption, although both those outfits were corrupt in the strict sense. It was to highlight the difference between a bureaucratically limited organization and one that is technically speaking a racketeering enterprise in the RICO sense. Unlike those unions, the UAW has not been hijacked by a criminal conspiracy. It is not a puppet of the mob and never has been. It is not even a particularly backwards union, politically, as US unions go; on the contrary. Now given the state of US unionism taht may be a weal recommendation. But these matters are comparative. The IWW is simon-pure and class militant as hell, and confined to a handful of printer's coops, bookstores,a nd a few West Coast canneries.

> 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 undemocratic. I do not believe, however, taht Solidarity House has ever loosed thugs on anyone. Again I can't speak to what some local union officers may or may not have done. Yeah, the UAW is a hell of a lot better than the Teamsters. If you can't distinguish between being ignored or outmanouvered in a parlaimentary trick--and I know UAW officers sometimes play those reprehensible gains with rank and file dissidents--and being murdere or mainedd, as happened to Teamster dissidents in the old days, you have lost all sense of reality.

> 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.

Now you are privy to the secrets of Yokich's office. What evidence do you have that the UAW wants to concede to GM in the Flint strike?

> 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).

And how is it a debacle? Seems to me you are declaring defeat before the battle is half fought.

If they have a coherent
> plan for a fight in this strike, none of their third tier leaders know
> about it.

Well, haven't they shut down GM?
> Reform the UAW? Well, Solidarity tried that with the Temasters, and had to
> call the police and feds to carry it off.

Listen, you piece of shit. This is libelous. In the first place, "Solidarity" did not call in the police and the feds. The police and the feds came in all on their own. If "Solidarity" had called up the authorities, it is, moreiver, quite unlikely that they would have responded, since, last time I checked, we don't run the federal government and they aren't particularly friendly to socialist organizations. In any case, the retaking of the Teamsters Union was the work of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a militant rank and file caucaus in which Solidarity members are active, but which is not run, dominated, controlled, or manipulated by "Solidarity." The TDU _opposed_ federal action and certainly opposed the federal action the feds had in mind. By dint of effective organizing, the TDU managed to win a democratic election in the union that defeated the old guard.

By the way, I don't think there is anything wrong with the federal government acting to halt a criminal conspiracy, such as the one that had taken over the old Teamsters. Ideally one wants the government to bust hoodlums and keeping them from robbing honest folk and interferingw ith politocal struggle. The interaction of the feds and the TDU produced a good outcome in the Teamsters back in 92.

Are there more class conscious
> self actualizing Teamsters today? Perhaps. Could there have been more still
> if Solidariy took a different tack. Perhaps.

And if Solidarity pushed just the rightset of buttons would it have started the great proletarian revolution and put us on the path to the radiant future? Perhaps. So, down with Solidarity! which has betrayed the workers cause by not doing this. Sheesh, what an idiot.

The Teamsters may have
> actually been more vulnerable, brittle, than the UAW--whose legally
> endorsed caucus system (perhaps won by UAW legal?)

Couldn't tell you. If it was challenged in cour for before the Board (The NLRB), UAW Legal would have defended it. That's what lawyers do, represent their clients, in this case, the union.

makes it damn near
> impossible for activists to gain ground.

Tell me about it. New Directions has beden strugglingw it this for years.

> 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...

Good luck.


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