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Elections are not the Answer

Started by jobless, February 24, 2008, 04:31:27 am

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February 24, 2008, 04:31:27 am Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 05:53:00 pm by Tony Budak
Live Bait & Ammo #104:  Elections are not the Answer

Re-posted from "Future of the Union"

In 1970 after a  67 day strike the UAW, under the direction of President
Leonard Woodcock, won  full Cost Of Living Adjustment [COLA] and "thirty-and-out"
pension. Woodcock  refused to submit the tentative agreement for ratification
until all Local  Union contracts were ratified. Eager to get back to production,
GM buckled  under the pressure. Local negotiations wrapped up quickly.

In 2007 after  a two day strike the UAW, under the direction of President Ron
Gettelfinger,  gave up full COLA and abandoned pensions for new hires.
Gettelfinger rushed  the ratification and Local Union bargainers were stiff armed.

Under the  leadership of Ron Gettelfinger Local Union negotiations were
systematically  stymied. In Lordstown the International UAW instructed the Local to
stop  negotiations. In Bowling Green management simply refused to negotiate  with
the Local Union because they knew the score: Gettelfinger would break  Local
Union resistance to Competitive Operating Agreements from the top down.  Local
Union bargainers don't rank in the new union order.

Neither  VEBA, nor two tier, nor the new attendance policy were ever discussed
at  bargaining councils or local union meetings. The solidarity busting  "
core/non core" was never heard before. We have a democratic process but  an
autocratic product. That's the hallmark of the Concession  Caucus.

Gettelfinger will impose the restructuring ordered by his bosses  but Local
Union officers will get plastered with spitballs, not him. The  shopfloor is
about to become a battleground. Maintenance and custodial jobs  will be contracted
out as will numerous skilled trades. All "non core" work  from material
handling to sub assembly will be degraded. Senior workers will  be pushed and prodded
to retire. Whoever remains will be targeted for  replacement.

The Attendance Program will make target practice easy. There  are "no excuses"
. When changes were made to the attendance program under  previous
administrations, records were cleared. Everyone started clean. Under  the Gettelfinger
restructuring, records were not cleared. Everyone starts  dirty or gets there
fast. Local Union officials will have no say. They're  pawns in the game about to
be swept off the board by an angry rank and file.  But elections are not the

The problem with unions is that the  representational system has led workers
to believe they can elect someone to  take care of their business. Workers lose
power in the transaction. In the  Con Caucus grievance procedure the first
thing that happens is that the  business gets taken out of the grievant's hands and
transferred upstairs, out  back, or off site. "Just keep doing your job. I'll
get back to  you."

The representational system binds the hands of the rank and file  with red
tape and rigamarole. If we want to protect ourselves on the  shopfloor and reverse
the destructive trend of the Con Caucus, "We will," as  Larry Christiansen
said, "Have to organize the ground out from under  them."

There are some honest and well intentioned union reps. I've worked  with some.
But a Local Union official can't accomplish anything without the  active
support of members. We can't get our rate done early everyday and play  cards under
the boss's nose, and then complain that the rep isn't worth a  **** when
management raises the rate. If management increases the line speed  and we deliver
the extra quota of vehicles in record time, we can't blame the  rep for not
defending us against speed up. We have to defend ourselves. A  union rep without
members who are willing to fight back is worth less than a  rifle without

          The following are personal examples  of shopfloor tactics that won

(1) -     Management informed  us at the last minute that third shift would
have to work the Saturday after  Thanksgiving. Anyone who didn't come in would
lose two days holiday pay. The  committeeman, Jon Quellos, said we didn't have
time for a  'get-back-to-you-later' grievance. On his (you didn't hear it from
me) advice  we all charged into the shift manager's office and demanded he
cancel the  overtime. We couldn't all fit into the office but we made our demand
heard by  raising our voices amd pounding the walls. The boss decided it would  be
better if we didn't work Saturday. No 'get-back-to-you' about  it.

(2) -     A coworker was fired unjustly. Production in the department  slowed
to a crawl. The union rep said that the boss "told me to tell you to  get back
to work." He looked worried which we took as a good sign. Production  ratcheted
down another notch. Since the company had an open door policy, I  requested
that we be allowed to meet with the personnel director. I was told  that only two
workers out of the affected department would be allowed to meet  with
management. We all went to the meeting. There were about twenty of us  crowded into the
room. We blocked the exit. We did all the talking and we  were talking down.
Our coworker was reinstated and the offending supervisor  was forced to go to
charm school.

(3) -     On one occasion I was  suspended for disobeying a direct order.
Management wanted to eliminate a  lugger and I refused to help. The previous week
I was given direct orders to  do lugger work twice in one day. I complied, and
requested call outs (Smile  & File). The union rep informed me that a grievance
would not be filed  because I was not disciplined. When the grievance
procedure failed to  confront the crisis I was left with a choice:   stand on principle
or act  like a scab.         
     In my book obeying an order to help management  eliminate a union job is
no different than crossing a picket line. I was  walked out for balance of the
shift and seven days. While I was out I  continued to write flyers about the
job fight and the flyers were distributed  widely in the plant. Coworkers made a
little donation box labeled "$ for  $hot".   The next day the box was replaced
with one twice its size. The next  day it was three times larger. Management
got the message I was on vacation.  "Don't Roll Over" flyers were plastered all
over the plant. I was back to  work in three days. We saved the lugger job.
The union rep did a good job  once we got the fire going.

(4) -     I observed a coworker in dispute  with a foreman. Naturally I sidled
over to act as witness. Things got heated  and the worker refused a direct
order to move to a different job. As soon as  the foreman left to call out the
union and prepare to walk him out, I told my  friend to quickly go to the job he
had just refused. I called the union rep  on a private cell phone. I explained
that I'd documented the conversation.  The union rep, Dennis Krontz, used the
script to prepare the accused.
      At the disciplinary interview the foreman made his charges. After the
accused  described his scripted version of events, the union rep called me in  as
witness. I corroborated my friend's story, word for word, with three pages  of
neatly printed dialogue which culminated with the worker asking for a  union
call out and an end to the discussion before he was given a direct  order. The
foreman may have liked to dispute our version but he didn't have a  witness or
written documentation to back him up. For the knock out punch, the  union rep
asked the supervisor where the disobedient worker was when he  ordered him to come
to the disciplinary interview. The foreman looked like  he'd just stepped in a
dog's pile.
     "You mean to tell me," Dennis  said, "That you took him off the job you
ordered him to do, so you could  accuse him of disobeying a direct order? 
Looks like harassment and  discrimination to me."

(5) -     Management moved a coworker, (Dennis  Krontz. prior to union
position) off his job preference as punishment for  distributing an article accusing
management of impeding production. The union  didn't do anything. Management
gave me two disciplinary interviews for  distributing literature as well. The
union didn't respond. In my interview I  reminded the foreman that federal law
protects a union member's right to  distribute union related literature. He said, "
We are going to challenge  that law." We went straight to the NLRB and filed
charges. Six union members  signed statements asserting that they had seen
supervisors confiscating our  flyers. Management was forced to return Dennis to his
job preference and post  a notice admitting that union members had the right to
distribute literature  and that management did not have the right to
confiscate our flyers.   [ NLRB  Cases: GR-7-CA-46561-1 and GR-7-CA-46584-1]

(6) -     In February 2006  WOOD TV News in Grand Rapids claimed it was my
fault that Toyota hadn't  decided to build a plant in Michigan. The story was
preposterous but that  didn't prevent the Grand Rapids Press from publishing my
picture with the  headline, "Did this Man Scare Toyota out of Michigan". It was
clearly an  attempt to intimidate. The accusation was baseless and absurd but
the  unemployed in Michigan were feeling rather debased and unobserved
themselves.  When I went to work that night a security guard asked me if I was all  right.
I said, "I'm all right. It's Toyota that's scared."
     When I  went to my machine a couple of skilled tradesmen were already
there. "Your  machine is down. You're not working tonight." The machine didn't
get fixed  until I left the building. The entire line was shut down for the
night. ****  happens. Sometimes so much **** happens it starts rolling back uphill.
      So many people phoned and e-mailed WOOD TV to complain about the fake
news  story that they aired an interview with me the next day to make up for it.
I  got right to the point. "The Delphi bankruptcy is the result of  fraud,
mismanagement, and racketeering." After all, that's why they were  trying to shut
me up. I had nothing to do with Toyota or unemployment in  Michigan.

     One battle won't win the war, but the struggle begins on  the shopfloor.
That's the ground we have to organize out from under the Con  Caucus. Want a
real union? Back representation with direct action.

Gregg Shotwell

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Ronald Krinock

Yes, elections are not the answer.  Direct Action is (one of the answers).