Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Support Ford Strikers, Elect General Baker

First Published: People’s Tribune, Vol. 3, No. 21, October 1, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Without much fanfare and the usual miitancy which accompanies most strikes, UAW struck Ford Motor Company. Although the strike vote at every Ford plant was overwhelmingly in favor of a strike, the auto workers find themselves in a situation where they were forced to strike. With a backlog of 96 days worth of cars, Ford initiated and planned this strike by making contract proposals so outrageous that the workers had to strike. Every auto worker is aware of what lies ahead. With the car market glutted, the prospects of more severe lay-offs than the ones in 74-75 hang heavy over the heads of all auto workers. Why has this situation arisen? What can the workers do about it?

Because the basic motive of the capitalist system is the extraction of surplus value, profit, the capitalists are always finding new ways to increase their profits. In the course of doing this however they run into contradictions. On the one hand the way to increase profits is to lower your price so that you sell more commodities. In order to do that you must use advanced technology which uses less labor power, and at the same time rationalize your labor power so that each worker produces more. One of the ways in which the auto industry, for example, has done that is by moving their plants to areas of the world where labor costs are far cheaper. For instance in Brazil where workers make approximately $92 a month, or Soweto, South Africa where they make even less a month. Another way in which this is done is by speed-up on the fines. Every auto worker has felt the recent speed-up on the lines, and its effects, increased accidents and deaths. However the more workers the capitalists lay-off and the more products they produce, creates a situation where the market is glutted, because there are far more products than people to buy them. This is what took place during the 74-75 crisis. From the time that the worst of that depression was over and to the present time, the capitalists have again rationalized their labor, and laid-off more workers, and glutted their market. Ford Motor Company needed this strike. They need to sell the thousands of cars which sit idle on their dealers’ lots. They can’t sell the cars they’ve produced, so why should they produce any more? The answer is they won’t. And so they presented the UAW with proposals which took away the hard-won benefits of the auto workers. When they have unloaded the necessary amount of cars which will allow them to begin production again, then they will be in a position to present the UAW with “better” proposals and more than likely the strike will end.

What Can The Auto Workers Do?

One important step that the auto workers can take is to fight for local autonomy In their union, a right taken away by the International. Local autonomy would allow the union on a local level to strike, not only at contract time, but against various tactics by the employers, anytime. For instance had the auto workers had this right, they could have struck Ford when the speed-up began the beginning of this year. This way they could have hurt Ford before it had a stockpile of cars. The way in which the UAW chooses its strike target, allows the particular auto maker involved to know ahead of time. One of the reasons the UAW struck Ford this time, was because it was Ford’s turn and Ford knew it. Aside from the objective motion of capitalism towards overproduction, the subjective factor was also present. Ford was able to ready itself for the strike.

What else can the auto workers do? One of the most important weapons of workers during the 1930’s and 40’s was the secondary boycott. A secondary boycott entails picketing the place where the particular products are sold. For instance in this case the retailers’ lots. In order to really cripple Ford and make them negotiate seriously, why doesn’t the UAW set up picket lines around every retailer of Ford products? Why, because the Taft-Hartley Act has outlawed the tactic of the secondary boycott. Among all its reactionary passages, Taft-Hartley has taken away to a great extent the right of workers to strike and really affect capitalist production.

As we begin to really examine the situation we can see that the workers are caught on the one hand by the capitalists themselves who can force strikes upon the workers in the capitalists’ benefit. On the other hand the government, working hand-in-hand with the capitalists pass laws which cripple the workers ability to effectively fight the capitalists. Is there an alternative?

The UAW is waging a good fight. Their demands are just demands, and the workers must unite around them. It is clear that in order to save the workers from future lay-offs the overriding question of the strike is cutting the work week at the same pay. The UAW has correctly placed the question on the table. But aside from continuing the fight on the picket line and holding out to win this strike, the workers must involve themselves in the political process of this country. Their employers most certainly utilize the political apparatus in this country to their advantage, the workers must also. In the 9th District in Michigan, where hundreds of auto workers live, General Baker, Communist Labor Party candidate, is running for the state legislature. Gen, who is a Ford worker, can represent the interests of the workers in government. No other politician is running on a platform which includes the demand for the repeal of Taft-Hartley. The workers must support General Baker, they must vote for General Baker so that they can utilize the political apparatus to fight in their interests. General Baker is running against a man whose wife sits on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Commonwealth. Right next to her sits Edward Cole, Vice President of General Motors. George Edwards, Gen’s opponent, represents not only the banking interests but the interests of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Not only can Gen speak out against the vicious anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, which includes justification for “right to work” laws, but he can speak out against the runaway shop, which has already left thousands jobless. He can speak out against “right to work” laws which enable the capitalists to move to the Negro Nation and the Southwest where there are no unions, wages are significantly lower, and the workers are kept in line with the billy club, the shot gun and the lynch rope. General Baker can call on his fellow workers to support the workers of South Africa, whose blood runs throughout the streets of Johannesburg and Soweto. He can show the workers how their interests are completely tied to those of the workers in the colonies, where death from overwork is commonplace. Just last week Argentinian workers, under the threat of death, struck all three auto makers, 20,000 strong in protest of miserably low wages and working conditions. General Baker can be the auto workers’, rubber workers’, garment and steel workers’ spokesman. The auto giants have their spokesmen in the legislature, the auto workers must also. The workers must understand that in order to fight and win, they must utilize every form at their disposal.

On November 2nd, vote for General Baker. General Baker supports the Ford worker’s strike, not only because he’s an auto worker, but because he is a communist, who understands the desires and needs of the people and who has dedicated his life to the realization of these needs.