Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

United Auto Workers Union (UAW) and "Interest Based Bargaining" (IBB)

Working people are having a hard time understanding why, when they voted so overwhelmingly for peace and social justice on November 7, the Democratic Party has not made any legislative progress--- as promised. The failure of the Democrats to deliver has been at the local, state, and federal levels. Not by coincidence union members are wondering why their unions are not taking up struggles to defend their interests during the collective bargaining process and with employers engaged in another round of plant closings after years of concessions have been endured in order to save American jobs in the auto and manufacturing industries... obviously, "concessionary bargaining" did not provide the claimed results; neither will "IBB" which is no more than an extension of the present rotten political process into the collective bargaining arena.

I had the opportunity to discuss this with a group of UAW members who are employed at Bradford-White in Middleville, Michigan a couple weeks ago where a union leadership supported by the national president of the union, Ron Gettlefinger, shoved what is probably the very worst union contract in American history down the throats of the membership in the name of "saving jobs" and "middle-class" status for the union members. The local president, Terry Delp, was quoted as saying, "We are ready to become the poster child of the IBB process." "IBB" stands for "Interest Based Bargaining;" a "bargaining process" that in essence creates a "company union" where management and union officers including union stewards receive their "training" side-by-side with management and supervisors.

For years now, beginning with Walter Reuther, the UAW has been going downhill in accepting concession after concession from managements while employing the same losing tactics in the political arena; tactics which have not improved living standards for the working class nor protected the jobs of members. All this has been done while couched in militant sounding rhetoric as the leadership fails to bring the membership into struggle with the corporations and their political stooges in state and federal governments.

How has this deplorable situation come to be? First it started with Reuther and his gang joining the Big Three automakers in smashing the militant rank-and-file membership in the UAW. Reuther created disunity in the labor movement as he advanced the idea that he would win health care through the collective bargaining process for the membership rather than through a political struggle that would make health care available to all as was being advocated by most of the CIO unions. Universal, national health care was the rallying point for organized labor coming out of World War II and was the focus of the left in the labor movement. Walter's brother, Victor, shortly before his death, acknowledged that the Reuther brothers had done the dirty work for the corporations, the FBI and the CIA in the U.S. and in international labor movement under the guise of appearing to be "progressive." The chickens have now come home to roost on the health care issue; just as they have on concessions, job losses, and plant closings. Reuther bought into the capitalist system--- lock, stock, and barrel; and, every UAW administration since has bought into this losing proposition with the Gettlefinger administration bowing to their corporate masters more than any others before them.

On the one hand we now hear UAW President Gettlefinger talking big about organizing the unorganized; while on the other hand promoting "Interest Based Bargaining" in the workplace and failing to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for destroying the living standards of American workers as the Big Three take the profits they have gained from the exploitation of American workers and now invest these profits overseas as they exploit workers where wages are even cheaper and government services next to nil. Of course, Mr. Gettlefinger does not acknowledge this inherent problem with capitalism because to do so would mean that employees and employers do not share a common interest in just about anything... in fact, I can't think of an area where employers and employees have anything in common.

Workers won't participate in organizing drives in order to participate in the "IBB" process that leaves them with a "contract" at the mercy of management.

The United Auto Workers have been engaged in a collective bargaining process that put forth the notion that employers and employees had a common interest in bargaining long before this "class collaborationist" Interest Based Bargaining was given its present name. Workers and management never have had any common interests.

In taking the UAW in this reactionary direction the leadership--- from Reuther to Gettlefinger--- gave up the very rights to which working people are entitled: the right to public ownership of industries, a socialist concept that Gettlefinger and company, pun intended, are afraid of. Yet, public ownership is the only alternative available to working people in the face of plant closures like what is taking place at the St. Paul, Minnesota Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant... there quite simply is no other solution to keeping these plants open.

What good does it do to engage in collective bargaining where workers give up a good share of their standard of living in return for "labor and environmental sustainability" which are long-term objectives that obviously don't mean anything if the plant closes?

Now the UAW leadership says it is for "universal health care" but is still playing games with "single-payer, universal health care" just like Andy Stern of the SEIU, the AFL-CIO leadership, and Change To Win. Just as those politicians who the UAW has supported with membership dues in getting them elected has been given a pass on single-payer, universal health care, so to does the UAW leadership give the politicians a free pass on plant closings by not holding politicians accountable to put forward Public Ownership, at least in part, as a joint venture with private capital as the only solution to a plant closing. Let us be very frank... those mill, mine, and plant closings that have been halted through partnerships with the Chinese government are in fact Public Ownership ventures with this socialist government.

Public Ownership of industries has worked well for Chinese workers and it will work well for American workers. But, in order to pursue Public Ownership and begin saving American jobs and the U.S. auto industry this will require a well organized left-wing rank-and-file action movement in the UAW and other unions. UAW members will have to take the lead in fighting back against the present intensified corporate drive to destroy the standard of living of American workers.

If any worker wants to know where the present "class collaborationist" leadership that thinks of collective bargaining as "Interest Based Bargaining" and where this process will lead to, I would suggest that UAW members look at the "labor-management" relationship (actually it is a management dictatorship) that has been allowed to develop by organized labor and their politicians in the casino industry where casino workers are employed at poverty wages without any rights in the workplace under state or federal labor laws. Already, the building trades unions are sending their members to work in constructing these casinos with the general contractors enforcing health and safety standards rather than state and federal inspectors.

Let us make no mistake about this relationship that exists in the casino industry. Neither Mr. Gettlefinger nor any of the politicians he bankrolls with membership dues has raised any objection to such Draconian working conditions as state legislators have approved casino operation after operation going into business. In fact, Mr. Gettlefinger's favorite governor--- Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm--- has just approved another casino operation for... guess where?... the Middleville, Michigan area! Not a whimper from this international union president about the lack of rights for 1,800 workers who will be employed in this casino. No doubt some former Bradford-White, Delphi, Ford, and General Motors employees will end up working in this casino as these unemployed autoworkers now make up a large share of casino employees across Michigan... all of whom have no rights nor a voice at work in their places of employment. No doubt, Ford workers from the Twin Cities Assembly Plant will be finding employment under similar circumstances here in Minnesota.

Right now, many auto workers and those who have lost their jobs in the forestry and mining industries go to jobs in these casinos under thee most Draconian working conditions in these smoke-filled casinos across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Indiana... so much for "labor and sustainability" when it comes to a collective bargaining process where labor is eager, willing, and ready to go along to get along with "Interest Based Bargaining"... all in the interest of the employer. Perhaps Mr. Gettlefinger would like to discuss health conditions in these smoke-filled casinos that his members will find themselves in. So much for bargaining when it come to environmental conditions in the workplace.

No one should find it strange that both Mr. Gettlefinger and the Democratic Party politicians at the local, state, and national levels in his stable refuse to use the term "working class," but rather, choose to use the term "middle class."

Walter Reuther helped Hubert Humphrey and company, again, pun intended, to destroy the real Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party which had no fear of taking up the question of public ownership of major industries including banking, power generating, auto, forestry, and steel. Just as the rank and file movements were destroyed, so too were the political movements created by these rank and file movements destroyed. This is why working people are so powerless today. The Reutherites can talk all they want about the need to defend in the political arena what is won at the bargaining table... in fact, these are nothing more than mere words without any substance much like President Gettlefinfinger trying to shift to the subject or organizing the unorganized as an excuse for not having to come to grips with massive employment terminations and plant closings... the typical crap by which one evades addressing a problem... by focusing attention on another problem in order to avoid one's lack of leadership and direction where it is really needed; the UAW has a miserable record when it comes to organizing the unorganized these past 60 years.

Empowerment of working people requires working people to organize rank and file movements around issues in the workplace and in their communities... issues that come to mind are peace, public ownership, single-payer, universal health care... real collective bargaining with employers and their politicians from a position of strong rank and file movements... on the shop floor, and in local communities.

Working people are paying a terrible price for sitting in silence as Ron Gettlefinger sits with his finger up his ass as Ford and the Big Three close plants and set themselves up for their largest profit orgy in history at the expense of the working class.

Instead of discussing "Interest Based Bargaining" UAW members would be better off talking about whether or not public ownership might be the way to go.

The President of the UAW Local at Bradford-White responded to a spoiled ballot during the vote to endorse "IBB." The spoiled ballot had written across it, "All members of the bargaining committee should hold their heads in shame and resign." The President had the unmitigated gall to suggest that the person who wrote this across his or her ballot should run for President of the local. One-third of the membership, to its credit, voted against this atrocious "IBB" inspired contract which the Local president says will end the "adversarial relationship" between labor and management. Not so ironically, the Local president and members of the bargaining committee invoke the name of Walter Reuther to the IBB process.

If working people are looking for anything to change in the workplace or the political arena without the participation of active rank and file organizations I would encourage these people to think again because the rank and file workers who organized the unions didn't have concepts like "IBB" in their minds at the time; and, contrary to popular belief and false labor history, it wasn't the Reuther brothers who organized the UAW... they simply were opportunists who stepped into the battle just in time to gain control of the union apparatus others had built up... they and their bunch have been tearing the union movement to shreds ever since with those who pay their salaries getting the shaft... It is time to stop making excuses for these opportunists who have more in common with the bosses than with the workers paying their big salaries.

I would like to hear from UAW President Ron Gettlefinger and the Local Leadership of Bradford-White what they see as a solution to plant closings... if not public ownership; then what? If not single-payer, universal health care; then what?

Every time I walk into a casino and see a UAW member wearing a jacket emblazoned with the UAW logo sitting at a slot machine without one iota of concern for the workers employed in these casinos under such Draconian conditions my heart sinks… knowing, that had the UAW stayed the course as advocated by those rank and file activists like Phil Raymond, Wyndham Mortimer, Bob Travis, Bud Simons, and Bill McKie the UAW would be a much different union today, much healthier and more vibrant, and the membership would be active and immersed in the day to day politics and the life of local communities in a way that justice would prevail.

Perhaps someone will pass this blog posting on to President Gettlefinger so he can find out about the real pioneers who built the UAW and the rank and file action they stood for.