Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Work in the Factories

A Report on the Atlanta Conference

UAW “Leaders” Won’t Take the Offensive

The upcoming 1973 auto workers contract negotiations and the UAW’s current “hit and run” strikes, once again calls into question the willingness of the UAW leadership to wholeheartedly fight for the workers. International UAW bureaucrats represented today by Woodcock and Mazey have over the years given away many of the workers’ most effective weapons for fighting the big auto companies, winning economic gains, and defending democratic rights.

The UAW leadership followed right behind the other union misleaders by forfeiting the right to strike except when the contract expires or when health or sanitation is the issue. The “no-strike clause” states that labor and management agree to keep militancy down by not allowing wildcats, slowdowns, or work stoppages during the life of the contract. These are the workers’ most powerful weapons and without them they are hamstrung.

It is no wonder that so few grievances are settled in the workers’ favor. To take these weapons away from auto workers who are up against one of the most powerful sections of the ruling class is outright collaboration with the companies by the leadership.

Discrimination is a major area where the mis-leaders have failed to represent and protect the rights of workers. While there are over 250,000 black auto workers, 121,000 are concentrated in the lowest paying categories, with only 8,000 in upper strata. In 1967, four out of five workers laid off were black. In their southern plants GM and Ford have long had separate seniority lists for black and white workers. A 1961 ruling against this changed this policy only in words. By 1966 only 9.7% of Southern auto workers were black and they held even worse jobs than black workers in the North.

In 1969 women constituted only 8% of all auto workers compared to 28% in manufacturing as a whole.

In economic issues the UAW leadership’s record is just as bad. An escalator clause that would automatically increase wages-as the cost of living increased was established in 1948. In 1967 a “cap” or maximum of 2% increase was placed on the clause even though the cost of living has risen 9% at times.

Though the leadership made militant grumbles in 1970 about “fighting to the end to defeat mandatory overtime” in the Big Three, the 10-12 hour day and the six-day week is still standard in most plants.

Other clauses in the contract considerably weaken the workers bargaining position. Twenty years ago GM and UAW leaders agreed to a security clause. GM drew up the security rules, now listed in the contract which punish workers by immediate dismissal if broken. The worker must then go thru outside sources (lawyers, courts) to reclaim his job. The 90-day probation period is also used to intimidate workers. Since UAW agrees not to represent the workers for 90 days, it gives the company a golden opportunity to speed-up and add on work.

In order to keep control of the union, Woodcock and the executive board reactionaries have restricted democracy in the unions. They gave retirees, a conservative bloc which in some plants almost outnumbers in-plant members, the right to vote in plant issues as a wav to manipulate elections.

In the upcoming auto struggle, the fight for a one-year contract is one of the best ways to prevent Woodcock-company collaboration. ’This fight should be taken up within the ranks of the UAW in order to give the workers more participation and to weaken the wage-freeze efforts of the government. In the face of the company’s all-out attacks on the right to strike, the fight for a one-year contract will help sharpen rank-and-file resistance. The sharpening struggle within the UAW against the policies of racial discrimination, undemocratic unionism and sellout anti-strike collaboration on the part of the leadership will only help the workers defend themselves against the attacks of the company and the government.