Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seize the auto plants

Don’t Bail Them Out, Take Them Over

By Stanley Heller

There’s an old story about a man who comes home and finds his wife in
bed with his best friend. He pulls out a gun and points it to his own
head. His wife starts laughing and he says, “Don’t laugh. You’re next”

The point is when we’re upset we sometimes take actions that we don’t
think out properly.

Casino Capitalism has crashed and when the Lords of Detroit come to
Uncle Sam (by private jet) asking for another $25 billion people are
understandably outraged. The gut reaction is, “Not another bailout.
Let the S.O.B.’s go under.”

The problem is if the Big 3 auto go under there will be millions
unemployed, quickly. The Center for Automotive Research estimates that
if the three companies shut down 3,000,000 jobs will be lost in the
first year. Three million!

Now forget for a moment about the devastating impact to the people
thrown out of work. If this was 1998 and auto went down, it would be a
nasty shock but the economy would recover. But now we’ve been
staggered by a terrific slump in housing, a worldwide credit freeze,
and a worldwide recession. To add to that mix a US Midwest collapsed
into an industrial black hole is a recipe for turning recession into a

Some say if the Big Three goes bankrupt those terrible 8
0lavish” labor
contracts can be redone to make the companies competitive.

Let’s take a look at the contracts.

In 2008 General Motors, paid its production workers an average of $28
an hour. That would be a base of about $56,000 a year, based on a
2,000-hour work year. That’s scarcely a princely sum. Add to that
$12,000 a year in health care premiums (because the backward USA
doesn’t have national health care). That brings the cost to GM up to
$34 dollars an hour. Add money set aside for pension and GM’s cost
goes up to a final total of $41 an hour. (A recent retiree made
$30,000 a year in pension. Nothing fantastic there, probably what
teachers average.)

GM’s biggest burden is “legacy” costs, pension and health-care payment
for retirees. GM has 2.5 retirees for one active worker. On this the
United Auto Workers can be criticized, not for getting these benefits,
but for thinking the auto workers could enjoy these benefits in
isolation. Instead of turning into “realistic” Democrats they should
have stayed union militants and spearheaded a real fight for
single-payer national health care and better Social Security.

This year GM forced a lousy contract down the throats of the UAW. New
hires pay the price. They’re going to get $14 an hour in base pay and
get reduced benefits. Second class workers, indefinitely. P
lus health
care for retirees is being done in a new way. Instead of GM paying for
you health insurance, GM will fork over a one time payment of money and
thereafter the union would pay for health care from this fund (from
which they have to depend on the stock market to keep healthy!) With
this drastic cost cutting at the end of the new contract worker costs
could be no more and perhaps less than the Asian car companies in the

It’s easy and traditional to blame pampered workers if you’ve never
actually worked in an auto factory (Back a few years ago a jury
acquitted an auto worker who killed his boss on grounds that the man’s
working conditions had driven him crazy). Not many are talking about
the Big Three blunders in buying up the Saab, Fiat, Suzuki, Daewoo,
Jaguar, Volvo, and Land Rover brands and or their adventures in the
happy world of High Finance or their SUV mania

Working people would have to be mad to sit by while auto workers are
reduced to menial wages. It would reduce everyone’s pay. This country
is immensely rich with (apparently) unending credit from other
countries. The money is there for another way.

That way wasn’t in view at the Congressional bail-out hearing. The
hearings were a PR disaster for auto. People saw through the claims
that prosperity for the car companies was just around the corner. Th
saw a bailout as only delaying the inevitable.

As far as I can see there are two paths. One is to be “realistic” and
support the auto execs as they come up with a new plan, one with even
more devastating cuts in worker pay and benefits. The other is to
reorganize the industry from top to bottom as public enterprise. I’ve
never worked in auto, but I offer these suggestions as a way to get
auto workers and other interested people into thinking how a successful
“Uncle Sam Motors” might be run.

1. The US would takeover the Big Three and turn it into one company to
be run as a car/bus/transportation money-making business.

2. It would make US cars competitive by increasing new car bumper to
bumper warranties from three years to 10 years.

3. The government would provide high quality health care for all auto
workers and auto worker retirees. It would be a model program, the
prototype for single payer for everyone.

4. For at least a year there would be no layoffs of auto workers.
Spread the work around. Let workers who are not producing cars use work
time to figure out how to turn things around, how to make better cars
and vehicles.

5. Current Boards of directors would be dumped and a new one would be
created , 40% elected by production and white color workers, the rest
chosen by the government. The company books would be open to the =0

6. Product lines would be reduced especially the macho gas guzzlers.
The Hummer would be allowed to sink into the mud. The wasteful
practice of making a new model each year would be ended.

7. The company would figure out ways to make buses of various sizes
that people would be happy to take, comfortable and with plenty space
for packages and/or Segways or any number of other transport options.

A bailout of financial and social failure would prolong the agony and
discredit future government action. We need to think out of the box,
out of the factory, out of the corporation.

Only the very radical is possible.

Stanley Heller is a school teacher, a union member for 39 years and
creator of the website He can be reached


Greg DeOrnellas to me
show details Nov 21 (5 days ago)


Hi Tom, Gettelfinger should have pointed out that a secure middle-class is crucial to the demand side of our nation`s economy.Middle class UAW workers purchase goods and services from a variety of businesses as well as contribute income and real estate taxes.When a manufacturing plant packs up and leaves the USA heading towards a foreign country people not only lose their jobs but the entire region where that plant was located suffers a drop in prosperity as well.The products that were made may return as cheaper priced imports{not the case for automobiles} for US consumers but everything else is a loss.Everyone who testified in Washington D.C. did an average job at best.They should have stressed how this Government assistance was a loan and would be paid back to the Treasury with interest.Finally Tom the private jet issue is a 'Red Herring' it is good business practice for a large International Corporation to establish a business that leases planes back to the corporation for tax purposes and business efficiency.So,Mulally can just walk through an air port without getting blasted by comments and stares,right?So, it is cheaper to buy out the entire first class section of a commercial airliner,right?I give up Tom,people hate each other.It is only $$$$ that keeps us functioning.Before you go and chastise my attitude keep in mind one ancient prophesy, 'The Battle of Armageddon'.Good Luck.You are all decent intelligent people in your group.I respect you all but the average person is a brainwashed lemming.It is hopeless.Good Luck

Friday, November 21, 2008

Unions & Poverty

Here's a link to the poverty situation in our country. While it is important to fight for the middle class and family-owned business it is also part of our job to fight for the folks who have less than most of us.

This fight means getting better jobs for all and it is the fight that brought my union, the UAW to the fore of the American Good Fight. The UAW has abandoned that fight for Solidarity and the modernist corporate UAW is now being held up for much ridicule.

People should know that the UAW once fought for everyone, fought for a better society and world for all.

We have said for quite a few years that the ultimate judgement on a union is not what it is doing for the corporations but for the poor. And it is a shame, that when you visit Detroit, or Cleveland, or any of the former industrial cities that you can see poverty on every street corner. That is the fault of big unions gone wrong.

Beyond the auto bailout and hopefully a reorganization of auto production that will allow all the workers ownership and control of product design and quality, we need unions like the UAW to return to their principles and virtues that once made them so great and good for America. If they refuse to do that then we need new unions based in the good of the old. That good came from OUR families, not the corporate mafia.

Check out this site and see how bad off we really are because the unions not only departed from Solidarity, they attacked it.

Solidarity and cooperativeness, not competition, is what we need.

Look back and you can see Solidarity works!


General Strike

In today's Daniel Howe's piece (below) Danny says Ron Gettelfinger forgot where he was the other day in that silly thing in DC.

Gettelfinger forgot a lot of things. Most importantly that Unions are for fighting jerks like the Ultra Rich and winning a Solidarity Society.

It was painful watching this hat-in-hand guy speak for the late great UAW, a Union that, more than any other, was organized to win a better world for all.
What a joke it was watching the Big 3 cake eaters slobbering in front of the DC war-mongering cake eaters. The Commanders of the U.S. War On Workers get lectured on efficiency and wages by the Directors of the $Billion-buck- a-day War On Iraq! But we can bet it was all a game. We can bet that Chrsi Dodd was drinking with the Big 3 Shots minutes after the show. Chirs or $43 million-in-less-than-a-year Al Mullaly may have even paid for Gettelfinger's Shirley Temple. What contempt these people show for us!

(Corp-paid union officials have to go now. It hasn't worked. Corp-directed unions don't work. Hopefully, one of the strings attached to the deal will be that UAW members return to paying their reps. Perhaps Ron could work for the lowest wage he bargains for UAW workers. Maybe the Local reps could even go back to working real jobs on the line until they checked into union business to file a grievance. Maybe the Local reps should go back to walking the line once a month to collect dues. I think this would be much better than having reps lolling around their offices bitching about the workers. I also believe the good reps - the ones who know they work for us - would like this. )
We need to return to The Good Fight for the Common good! If America ever needed a thoughtful, battling, Solidarity Labor Movement it is now. If America ever needed a General Strike it is now. We should be fighting for the 8-hour day. We should be demanding a good job for every American who wants to work. We should be demanding ownership and the reinstatement of family business. The UAW should unite with the Longshore Workers and pay the dockers' wages while they strike against every slave-made product coming into our country. The Teamstsrs should strike against every scab product produced in America.
Let the stuff rot and rust on the docks until we win GOOD JOBS FOR ALL!
I think even Mitt Romney might get it then.
And certainly then, every kid would have a happier future. The troops could come home to a country that still contained their jobs.



Friday, November 21, 2008
Daniel Howes: Commentary
Symbols behind loan smackdown

Congress didn't officially tell Detroit's automakers to "drop dead" Thursday, but it came close.
Around 11 a.m., the industry lost its staunchest defender, Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, to an intraparty squabble symbolizing a war between liberal Democrats tied to anti-Detroit environmental groups and more conservative members allied with the United Auto Workers in the Rust Belt. The environmental wing won.
An hour later, General Motors Corp. Chairman Rick Wagoner says he was encouraged to see on the TV news that the so-called "auto state senators," led by Michigan's Carl Levin, D-Detroit, had reached a bipartisan compromise that would speed a publicly financed $25 billion in "bridge loans" to the automakers.
Two hours later, there was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying no, not yet. Detroit's CEOs, fresh from their lackluster performance in the world's biggest political fishbowl, would need to submit plans to Congress demonstrating their viability in exchange for the cash.
Talk about a smackdown. Prepared testimony, two days of hearings before a national audience and the Congress of the United States essentially says "not good enough" to Detroit's automakers. Then it says committee chairs with the names Dodd, D-Conn., and Frank, D-Mass., will bless -- or reject -- your turnaround plans, effectively setting the course for the American-owned auto industry for years to come.
Yikes. But Congress also said this: You didn't bolster your credibility this week as much as you need to if you want a bailout. We'll give you another shot at this because we're in power and we don't want you to go bankrupt. So don't screw it up.
Big Three needs to dig out
As scary as this is for what it says about the a) deep, potentially fatal sickness afflicting Detroit's automakers and b) the deeply sickening injection of politicians and their arcane agendas into business planning, it shouldn't be entirely surprising. The Big Three bosses mostly bombed in two days of testimony on Capitol Hill and their near-term financial prospects are even worse.
Instead of giving skeptical members of Congress good reasons to green-light plans to approve billions in direct loans to GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, the CEOs muffed questions about their pay -- and that was just the beginning.
United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger forgot he wasn't talking to a Michigan Legislature accustomed to the union's '70s-era riffs on "sacrifice." This is a country where 7.5 percent of the private-sector workforce is unionized, hardly evidence of a majority.
But the CEOs? They muffed it worse, first by walking into a cheap political trap about the use of corporate aircraft. They failed to show how their companies would revive with the help of taxpayer money. And they showed a stunning misunderstanding of symbolism in an overtly political arena.
Symbols matter in bailout
"The importance of substance is critical," GM's Wagoner told The Detroit News on Thursday, "but the importance of symbol is, as well. We understand that."
Now? If these guys want to coalesce their troops and, perhaps, some of the general public around their government-financed rescues, they'll need to get serious about publicly eliminating some of the perks that most of corporate America lives without. They'll send a message and -- gasp! -- save some dough in the process.
Where was Ford Motor Co.'s pledge to close its executive dining room? Why didn't General Motors Corp. pledge to suspend its executive-car programs, complete with free gas and insurance? Did any of the CEOs even consider flying to Washington on Northwest Airlines, preferably in the back of the plane?
Probably not, but I'm guessing they'll be reconsidering after the blowback this week.
Daniel Howes can be reached at (313) 222-2106 or or Catch him Fridays with Paul W. Smith on 760-WJR.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Union Buddies

(Our Local Pres. Rog Terveen, and his "union buddies" were attacked in the Mpls. Trib because Roger asked in an editorial that people consider workers real people.)
Here's an answer:

Roger Terveen's Union Buddies
Put me down as one of Roger's Union buddies. Roger Terveen is a good man. There are not many Union reps left like Roger and that is too bad for all our families and America.
It is refeshing to see even a small reminder these days - where we are ALL now reckoning with the greedy - that there are still Union reps out there who see autoworkers, and all workers as real people.
Unfortunately, the corps and the UAW's porkchoppers pay no heed to the common sense of autoworkers like Roger Terveen. And neither do those who believe that most autoworkers should be ground into dust and those few who survive be assigned poverty wages.
For those interested in human beings, you should know that most of the wage differential enjoyed by autoworkers is not a result of some sort of working class thievery. The wage difference comes from Cost of Living protections against usery. So if we are going to get a handle on COLA we would need to modify interest rates, profiteering and authentic thievery.
But I want to publicly thank Roger Terveen for his courage in defending autoworkers and all working people at this sad time when it is so fashionable to diminish and impoverish us all.
Tom Laney
Union Buddy of Roger Terveen
Retired Ford Worker

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Remembering a True Union friend

Date: 12/16/2000

I would like to share a few thoughts with you all about a friend, Carl Boye, who died Thursday. Most of you don't know Carl but he was an important guy to all of us, to the real labor movement, the real UAW, to our families and communities because he spent his entire life believing in workers and doing his best to kick the capitalists' greedy ass.

It seems like many, many years ago, I considered joining a socialist party and went to see an old friend, Carl, to talk about it. I was a young union rep and frustrated with the uaw's turn to company unionism and I was thinking that lineworkers weren't too hip to the change; that socialists were and that maybe I could find a little more support there.

Carl was really opposed to capitalism and as much in love with working class people as he was disgusted with big business. He worked for Ford before the UAW and was the second president of my Local back in the mid-40's. He was a tough, tough old UAW-CIO type guy who was happiest mixing it up on picketlines when he wasn't driving the bosses nuts at the St. Paul Ford Assembly Plant.

Maybe the CIO type was patterned around Carl or certainly patterned after guys like Carl who believed workers ought to run the show.

He told me he thought going that socialist route was a waste of time even though he was interested in socialist ideas. He never thought communists or socialists really cared about people. He saw them as people who thought themselves more intelligent and better than us. Carl was verrrrry big on common sense as coming from common workers. He was also devoted to democracy and that meant democracy from the shop floor up. He told me that as far as he could see my politics came off the plant floor, that what I was good at was listening and working with lineworkers and "sticking to your guns" which he meant as the lineworkers' guns. He poked a big finger in my chest and said: "YOU DON'T SELL OUT!" I didn't talk back much to Carl either. I always thought he meant that sellout statement two ways, as an observation but also a command - that I didn't sell out but it was an order too, that I better not ever even think of selling out. Much later he told me that I couldn't ever sellout because I was too close to the workers. It was one of the nicest things anyone ever said about me in my entire life because he meant it in the best way.

In Carl's democratic view, if you followed it, you could never sell out, ever, because you always stayed a worker. He told me he thought my politics were better than any party system because I was still willing to fight for what I believed in when I was a lineworker. He taught me to always look for the best Union people in our plant, to stay close to them, to listen, argue, fight with them even, over everything we thought was important to make the Union stronger. "There's your party, the workers," Carl said. "You don't need to go to some goddam party headquarters to have someone else tell you what to think. Stick with the best people. You will always find that the better the person, the better the Union man. [Carl worked in our plant when there were no women.] Just listen. They'll tell you what to do. Just listen, but don't ever waste time with the company stooges - they don't have it. You can't change 'em. They're the enemy, you have to fight 'em."

He taught me to never pay too much attention to big shots - never to pay heed to company bigshots. And, only seldom to the UAW bigshots. He could never accept that the UAW had become so dismal as to freeload in Vegas with corporate execs and enter company unionism. It was so far away from his experience and everything he valued so deeply about the UAW that he just tuned it out. It was like, "What's going on in the plant?"

"The bargaining committee's in Palm Springs with the company."

"No. What's going on in the plant?"

"They're speeding up the line and cutting jobs."


Carl had mucho health problems. His legs were paralyzed and he spent the last 25 years in a wheel chair. Since he had retired 2 years before I started at Ford I had only heard legendary stuff about his life in the plant. Things like running a whole heat of glass onto the floor when a line foreman tried to ignore him on a grievance. They fired him for that but he never made it as far as the front door because the glass workers said, "Might as well fire us too because we ain't working without Carl." Carl just saw himself in his committeeman days as a guy who simply worked for the lineworkers. He didn't set out to "lead" them. The relationship was that THEY led HIM. The lineworkers were his boss and the Ford Motor Co. could go screw itself on everything.

I met Carl at a Saturday meeting of the Progressive Roundtable; he was the bright spot in a fairly large assembly of Twin Cities liberal sillies. I introduced myself after the meeting and he actually pulled himself up out of the wheelchair and propped himself on the table with one hand and grabbed mine with the other. "You're Tom Laney? Boy, have I heard alot about you - all bad!" Not sure what was coming next because Carl was pretty close to some uaw porkers who hated my guts, I asked if we could get together and talk Union? And that began one of the terrific friendships of my life with this guy I will be telling people about as long as I live.

When the porkchoppers in the uaw forced a big political division in our Local over support for the P-9rs, Carl never wavered. His directness in telling everyone that P-9 support was not optional but a UNION obligation cost him some old friends, which I think is a heavy price to pay for principle in your late days. But he was solid. Just incredible in his integrity and sense of duty which always included loud, animated lectures to ANYONE who saw it otherwise.

Five years ago, when my first granddaughter, Laney Erin Henehan, was born, I took her to meet Carl. He wasn't doing too well that day but it was unbelievable the way his eyes lit up with Laney! He held her and announced, "She's got something!" I think it's probably Union organizing she's got, at least that's where I'm pushing her. I'll tell her all about Carl in a few years. But already, she sits next to a kid on the kindergarten bus who the other kids are shunning for whatever reason and has just told a bully to leave a friend alone. There's a connection between Laney and Carl which is just that connection that Carl always explained as "most guys are pretty good." He meant women too.

Some weeks ago I think a machinist wrote here, or no it was Richard Mellor - that the Union leaders like Lewis and Mortimer and Thomas and Green and Murray and some others from years ago were such "giants" compared to what we have today. And isn't it true that with all their faults that they were giants when compared to the corporate pimps masqued as "labor leaders" today?

But isn't it really true that they were giants because they understood that they worked for the workers and their greatness was only a reflection of the lineworkers and the farmers and steelworkers and fitters and cafeteria workers and miners and drivers and teachers and everyone else who works and is allowed a fair chance to express themselves and thereby define the action?

I think that is absolutely true. It is the most important truth Carl taught me and the most important truth in understanding the need to revolt against this company-union labor movement we've been saddled with and the need for starting up the road to real Unions and a just society RUN BY US!

In 1987, my Local honored Carl with a big plaque and annual Carl Boye Awards to the people in our local who best typify Solidarity principles. I guess the leaders decided that this is too radical an idea and they no longer observe this. In making the award back then, the Local quoted Martin Luther King in saying that the test of courage doesn't come in times of comfort and convenience but in times of turmoil and controversy. We said that Carl never had trouble with the choices or the controversy. He stood up always for equality and solidarity and democracy. It was pretty cool that we recognized his constancy as a worker and his courage as large as King's.

His daughter Mick (Marguerite) told me in a long talk last nite, where we seemed to alternately laugh and cry, amongst all the stories from Carl an to Carl busting some knuckles on the line to Carl hanging out with bigshots but never being affected by them, that Carl will be buried near Lansing, Iowa next Friday. There will be no prayers, no service, no memorial. She says that Carl's religion was the Union and this is the way he wanted it.

I said Carl had a life-long love affair with his family and Ford workers. "Mick" said I had it backwards.

Whatever, I am sure that God will bless this wonderful man.

I did not mean to be so lengthy. I'll be writing something more organized later on but I needed to do this just now.

I do mean to let you all know that this good man's life has made things better for my kids and grandkids and yours too. Carl really did change the world!

I just wanted everyone to know about him.

Merry Christmas to all,


Looking back

Back to the Future

by Tom Laney
July 8, 2005

All this talk about the our supposed labor leaders–Andy Sterns and Joe Hansens, the Gettelfingers and the Sweeneys--is a debate outside what needs to be done. It’s irrelevant. The most constructive thing we can do about all the AFL-CIA types is to ignore them as best we can. We need to jump out of the box they’ve built for us and look to our coworkers for some real answers.

What we need is a conversation about the leaders we have on the jobs.

My first experience with the UAW’s rank & file fighting style came as a line worker at Ford in 1972. I was a temporary QC worker in the pre-delivery department. My first two weeks were spent in one of the highest seniority departments in the plant, writing up interior trim defects. The job was pretty easy because many of the cars had no interior trim. It wasn’t that they were low-price units. It was that the line workers in the trim department didn’t put the trim on.

The chassis workers didn’t put the seats in either. Or the windshields or the cowlboards, mufflers and tail pipes. And the motor line workers didn’t put the engine dress-up parts on. It was quite a sight, all those cars and trucks moving on down the line as parts carriers.

Cars and trucks were pushed into pre-delivery before the company shut the lines down and sent the line departments home early. Usually after about two hours of very intermittent work. Production workers received four hours of call-in pay while the pre-delivery repairmen put the vehicles together. Then they came back the next morning and did it all over again.

This was the way the Ford workers in my local union fought speedup and job eliminations in 1972. They just didn’t do the extra work. And after two weeks, Ford would back off the job cuts, the line workers would settle in to building pretty good cars and trucks for the model year.

After my two weeks in pre-delivery I was sent to the trim department where I was assigned to installing brake housings. The job was to grab a stamped metal brake housing with the pedal swinging within the housing, sit on the driver’s side floor, slip the housing holes over two studs and shoot two nuts on the studs with an air gun.

There was sometimes a problem with the studs being too wide or narrow and the housing could not be placed over the studs. I was a rookie trying to bend the studs to make them fit the housing. The old dudes around me told me that was repair work and that I should just leave the housing for the section repair man to fix when the car came to him about sic units down the line.

The General Foreman Don Gilbert had other ideas. Gilbert was a tough guy, very loud, obnoxious even, who was always throwing his weight around with the new guys. Big Yeller who seemed to have little control of all the spit that would fly out of his fat face when he was screaming at you. You learned to not get too close. He brought a little piece of pipe to me to fit over any bent studs so I could bend them out or in and make the housing fit. So I did that for a few hours until my relief man, a very high seniority guy, Arty Wegman showed up to give me my break.

When I handed my parts apron to Art, he saw the pipe right away.

"What’s this?"

"Gilbert brought it down so I could bend the studs."

"That’s repair work," Arty said as he winged it into the railroad tracks that ran just across the aisle from trimline No. 1.

"When Gilbert asks you what happened to it tell him to see me."

So I came back from my break and "stocked" the brake housings to the unit which means I just threw the part in the car when the studs were bent and left it for the repair man.

It wasn’t long and Gilbert showed up wondering what happened to the tool? I referred him to Arty who was about 20 feet up the line relieving another guy.

Gilbert was yelling at Art as he crossed the line to him.

"What the hell did you do with the tool I gave that rookie?"

"I threw it in the fucking railroad tracks where it belongs. You leave the fricking thing where I put it."

"That kid is going to put those housings in every unit."

"He is."

"I mean he’s going to fit everyone on and install every housing."

"Not if it means he has to repair it."

"I’m running this department."

"You run the department. We’ll take care of the jobs. I’m tired of you frickers fricking with rookies."

Art was in Gilbert’s face, seemingly not minding the spit in his pissed off state. The guys were rooting Arty on and Gilbert was red as a cherry bomb but knowing all his explosions were lost on these guys. He left the area.

The 260-something average Arty went back to talking bowling and laughing his ass off with me.

All this talk today about the bigshot hacks in the AFL-CIA, UAW, UFCW, SEIU etc. and what they want to do at their level about moving the dues around and playing games with organization doesn’t do much for me. It’s irrelevant.

The repair jobs are gone. The relief jobs are handed to low-seniority "upgraders". The UAW committeemen assist the company in deciding which jobs go and who will do the extra work. FordUAW put in a physical re-hab center to help injured workers get back to the overloaded jobs that injured them in the first place. Severely injured workers are thrown onto the street. The UAW washes their hands of them and advises them to find a Workers’ Comp attorney.

Where are the Arty Wegmans today? That’s the question for working people who believe in democracy, solidarity and direct action.

Art didn’t want any part of UAW hackdom or Left elitism and intellectualism. He was in love with his family, his friends on the job and bowling. He was absolutely determined to make his small corner of the world as fair and just and enjoyable as he could possibly make it for himself, his family and his friends. He was a leader for the lineworkers’ solidarity culture that made auto work bearable and occasionally, even fun. Art and a couple of thousand other guys believed in fighting for good jobs and they were very good at it.

Lawrence Goodwyn says that there are people like Art Wegman in every workplace in the world. I know several in my own local. They have never stopped fighting throughout all these years of Left/Right collusion in the bashing of their good nature. They turn deaf ears to the reformists and wait to see who is really interested in their battles. They are the beginning point, not some Jonathan Tasini-approved elitist porkchoppers. They are the real leaders for democracy.

I believe that and believe that these are the guys we should be looking for and when we find them, we should do everything we can to connect them in a very big conversation about how we win at work and how we win on the road.

All the other stuff, the questions of how we talk ourselves out of the fight, who can best manage the retreat, who can lead us to better management of dog eat dog, all the diversity and academic BS, all the Left attacks on our good nature, the gay marriage debate, the constant applications of the racist and sexist labels to good people, the incessant suggestion that white workers are bad people, all these things are not just a colossal waste of time; they are incredibly destructive.

We need to see working people in a new but older light. Most people, of all colors - even white - are fundamentally good and helpful. I don’t care what Elly Leary says about white supremacy. Or, what Roland Sheppard, whoever the hell he is, says about the older generation not being willing to fight. They are wrong. I don’t know too many white workers who think they’re better than anyone else. I know a lot of older workers who will fight their socks off for their coworkers.

What we really need is the truth. We need the Left to stop attacking us and the democracy and solidarity most of us believe in. Who are THOSE people really working for?

The truth is, there are good people everywhere. There are people of all ages and colors who spend their lives helping each other.

We need to work together to work together. How can we do that if we have no work? We need to act to defend our jobs. We need to fight for full employment. We can only act responsibly and ethically by adopting a healthy and true view of ordinary workers like the fighters we should know are all around us.

Political activists who cannot see these good folks are part of the organizational problem we all face. They do us serious damage. They need to take a closer look. They need to change.

Those who are aware of these good folks but consider them incompetent, need to drop dead. Enough of their hate of the common man and woman.

The solidarity movement starts with those who have never stopped moving for each other . The political activist section needs a new and loving view of all working people.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanks to Pat Quinn!

From: Tom Laney
Sent: Thursday, November 13, 2008 9:11 AM
Subject: Thank you

Dear Editor:
Thank you to Patrick Quinn for suggesting in his letter yesterday that if there is going to be an auto bailout, this is the time to bargain with the Big 3 to improve domestic auto production. Thank you also to the PP for printing this important letter. Freeing up auto workers from the scientists to the lineworkers will have us making the world's best cars and trucks and that should be the fundamental bailout order.
The problem has never been a lack of talent and skill in the American auto industry. The problem is the restriction and minimization of this talent by the auto bigshots and their diversion of billions to Madison Avenue rather than honest product innovation and quality. Unfortunately, the auto's demise is constantly blamed on the auto workers.
American autoworkers are among the world's hardest workers and most have the work injuries to prove it. But rather than appreciation for their labor, human spirit and virtue, all they get is disparagement from the elite.
And that is the real basis not only the auto problem but for the American poverty problem as well. The richer-than-sin elites have nearly succeeded in destroying the goodness of most working people. They have attacked workers - from engineers to lineworkers - everywhere; attacked production talent & quality, cheapened production and betrayed our communities.
They have practically obliterated the truth that an economy is not for making a few people filthy rich. They deny the very purpose of an economy, that economies are to put food on everyone's table, to provide happy future's for all our children and to elevate the human condition.
Because of the immense influence and power of these greedy elites - and we can count the anti-worker, modern and thoughtless UAW as no longer part of us but them - we are now in a crisis of epic proportions. The cheerleaders of the elite are going to use this crisis to punish the folks who do the work while protecting and extending the crooks who disabled American quality production and shifted it to slave states for dog-eat-dog profit maximization.
We need to stand up and fight these people.
There is the need for a bailout but the bailout must redress the faulty auto production systems.
As bailout conditions, we should demand the government:
1. Give Equity Shares to the folks who do the work in auto.
2. Return production to the folks who own the tools.
3. Revolutionize the unions to Auto Guilds to free and enhance engineering so that the people who do the work, truly work together in inspirational settings and make the calls in product conception, production design and quality of worklife.
4. Insure that all the workers in the industry are paid comfortable wages and benefits as well as profit sharing.
5. Return to the eight-hour day, 40-hour week with the 4-day, 32-hour week a close objective so as to raise employment.
6. Return to the truth that commerce exists to serve the community.
A look at the production philosophy and operations of Mondragon Corporation proves such a production system is not only successful but far superior to anything the Big 3 has done.
And. Mondragon is true Garage Logic.

Tom Laney
Retired TC Ford Worker
E6305 866th Ave.
Colfax, WI 54730

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blogging with Daniel Howes

Below are comments to Detroit News Columnist Danny Howes. For Howes, who somehow escapes the massive poverty that is on very corner of Detroit, workers should always be cheaper and poorer, and; the power elites are just fine:

Tue. 11/11/08 08:38 AM
hourly pay (GM)

See related article

Yes, Sean is right. American autoworkers are among the world's hardest workers and most have the work injuries to prove it. But rather than appreciation for their labor, human spirit and virtue, all they get is disparagement from the rich.

And that is the real basis of the American poverty problem, the elite have nearly succeeded in destroying the goodness of most working people. They have attacked production talent & quality, cheapened production and betrayed our communities.

They have practically obliterated the truth that an economy is not for making a few people filthy rich. They deny the very purpose of an economy, that economies are to put food on everyone's table, to provide happy future's for all our children and to elevate the human condtion.

Because of the immense influence and power of these greedy elites - and we can count the anti-worker, modern and thoughtless UAW as no longer part of us but them - we are now in a crisis of epic proportions. Obviously, as we can see right here in this blog, the cheerleaders of the elite are going to use this crisis to punish the folks who do the work while protecting and extending the crooks who disabled American quality production for dog-eat-dog profit maximization.

We need to stand up and fight these people.

There is the need for a bailout but the bailout must redress the faulty auto production systems.

As bailout conditions, we should demand the government:

1. Give Equity Shares to the folks who do the work in auto.

2. Return production to the folks who own the tools.

3. Revolutionize the unions to Auto Guilds to free and enhance engineering so that the people who do the work, truly work together in inspirational settings and make the calls in product conception, production design and quality of worklife.

4. Insure that all the workers in the industry are paid comfortable wages and benefits as well as profit sharing.

5. Return to the eight-hour day, 40-hour week with the 4-day, 32-hour week a close objective so as to raise employment.

6. Return to the truth that commerce exists to serve the community.

Gravedigger (Tom Laney)

Colfax, WI
Reply to this comment | Read this thread | Read posts by Gravedigger | Report abuse

Tue. 11/11/08 06:59 AM
hourly pay (GM)

See related article

I just wanted to comment on this subject..It makes me upset to read about this subject, I come from a GM family. My father, husband, brother and uncles have worked for the automaker. I just wanted you people to understand one thing..they deserve every bit of pay they receive. My husband did not always work for GM, he has 10 years and let me tell you something, they work there butts off..I have seen everything, my husband would come home with bruises on his shoulder from putting footrails on trucks, seen my brother with bruuses from putting motors in vehicles(across his stomach from trying to reach in) so dont you dare, to know or tell me that they are not worthy of their pay. All you people do is complain when all your job entails either pushing pencils or pushing buttons on a computer. Heres an idea..why don't YOU go and TRY to do their job and lets see how far you get. TRUST me its not easy, I would like each and every one of you to go to a GM assembly plant and watch these men and women come out of these plants after work, the first time I did I cried, these men and women work soo hard and they age at an unbeleivable rate. Theres nothing more demeaning than to work on a assembly line, and my husband does this day after day just to provide for his family. SO the next tome you feel the urge to complain, do me a favor and stop and take a look first, then walk a mile in those men and women shoes then come and lets hear what you have to say then!!

shawn1234, rochester hills, mi

Monday, November 10, 2008

How's Howes?

The link above should take you to Daniel Howe's latest column on the Big 3 bailout. From there you can connect to his anti-auto worker blog.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Back In the UAW's Day

How much does Baracka resemble MLK Jr. ?

Quite a bit:

"The UAW and Martin Luther King Jr.: Shared Beliefs, Shared History"

Starting in the late 1950’s, UAW members joined Dr. King and many others in campaigns to end segregation and to expand civil rights throughout the country.
In 1961, then UAW President Walter Reuther invited Dr. King to speak at the UAW’s 25th Anniversary Dinner in Detroit. (You can listen to part of that speech here, but please note the audio file is copyrighted).
In 1963, King and other leaders of the civil rights movement, with backing from the UAW and other labor unions, were mobilizing to pass landmark civil rights legislation.
On June 23rd, 1963, as part of that fight, Dr. King delivered the Speech at the Great March on Detroit. King worked out of an office in Solidarity House, the UAW’s headquarters, while organizing the Detroit march; the speech he gave there is considered the first version of his now famous I Have a Dream Speech delivered to over 200,000 people attending the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Speech to the UAW 25th Anniversary Dinner April 27, 1961

Mr. Chairman, President Reuther, distinguished Secretary of Labor, Mr. Goldberg, Senator Hart, all of the distinguished guests assembled here on the platform, delegates and friends of UAW, Ladies and Gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here this evening and to be a part of his auspicious occasion, and
I cannot stand here without giving just a word of thanks to this great union for all that you have done across these 25 years. You have made life more meaningful for millions of people, and I'm sure that America is a better place in which to live as a result of the great work that has been done by UAW. You have given to this nation a magnificent example of honest, democratic trade unionism. And your great president, Walter Reuther, will certainly go down in history as one of the truly great persons of this generation. (APPLAUSE)
I bring greetings to you this evening from the hundreds and thousands - yea, millions of people in the Southland who are struggling for freedom and human dignity. I bring greetings to you from the thousands of Negro students who have stood up courageously against the principalities of segregation for all of the all of these months they have moved in a uniquely meaningful orbit, imparting light and heat to distant satellites. And, as a result of their non-violent and yet courageous struggle, they have been able to bring about integration in more than 139 cities at the lunch counters. (APPLAUSE)
I am sure that when historians look back over this particular era of our history, they will have to record this movement as one of the most significant epics of our heritage.
Now, as I think with you tonight and think about this significant occasion, I would like to open by saying that organized labor has come a long, long way from the days of the strike-breaking injunctions of federal courts, from the days of intimidation and firings in the plants, from the days that your union leaders could be physically beaten with impunity. The clubs and claws of the heartless anti-labor forces have been clipped and you now have organizations of strength and intelligence to keep your interest from being submerged and ignored. This is certainly the glorious meaning of your 25th Anniversary.
Negroes who are now but beginning their march from the dark and desolate Egypt of segregation and discrimination can gain from you real inspiration and encouragement for the hard road still ahead. But though we have a multitude of problems almost absorbing every moment of our time and consuming almost every ounce of our energies, we cannot be unmindful of new problems confronting labor. And toward these problems we are not neutral because they are our problems as well.
The auto workers are facing hard core unemployment. New economic patterning through automation and relocation of plants is dissolving the nation's basic industries. This is to me a catastrophe. We are neither technologically advanced nor socially enlightened as a nation if we witness this disaster for tens of thousands with finding a solution. And by a solution I mean a real and genuine alternative providing the same living standards and opportunities which were swept away by a force called progress, but which for many is destruction.
A Society that performs miracles with machinery has the capacity to make some miracles for men if it values men as highly as it values machines.
This is really the crux of the problem. Are we as concerned for human values and human resources as we are for material and mechanical values? The automobile industry is not alone a production complex of assembly lines and steel-forming equipment. It is an industry of people who must live in decency with the security for children, for old age, for health and cultural life. Automation cannot be permitted to become a blind monster which grinds out more cars and simultaneously snuffs out the hopes and lives of the people by whom the industry was built.
Perhaps few people can so well understand the problems of auto workers and others in labor as Negroes themselves, because we built a cotton economy for 300 years as slaves on which the nation grew powerful, and we still lack the most elementary rights of citizens or workers. We too realize that when human values are subordinated to blind economic forces, human beings can become human scrap.
Our kinship was not born, however, with the rise of automation. In the birth of your organization as you confronted recalcitrant antagonists, you forged new weapons appropriate to your fight. Thus in the 30s, when industrial unionism sought recognition as a form of industrial democracy, there were powerful forces which said to you the same words we as Negroes hear now: "Never…..You are not ready…..You are really seeking to change our form of society….You are Reds….You are troublemakers…..You are stirring up discontent and discord where none exists….You are interfering with our propertyrights…. You are captives of sinister elements who would exploit you."
Both of us have heard these reckless charges. Both of us know that what we have sought were simple basic needs without which no man is a whole person.
In your pursuit of these goals during the middle 30s, in part of your industry you creatively stood up for your rights by sitting down at your machines, just as our courageous students are sitting down at lunch counters across the South. They screamed at you and said that you were destroying property rights-but nearly 30 years later the ownership of the automobile industry is still in the hands of its stockholders and the value of its shares has multiplied manyfold, producing profits of awesome size, and we are proudly borrowing your techniques, and though the same old and tired threats and charges have been dusted off for us, we doubt that we shall collectivize a single lunch counter or nationalize the consumption of sandwiches and coffee. (APPLAUSE)
Because you persisted in your quest for a better life, you brought new horizons to the whole nation. Industry after industry was compelled to civilize its practices and in so doing benefited themselves along with you. The new unions became social institutions, which stabilized the nation, fortified it and thrust it up to undreamed of levels of production.
There are more ties of kinship between labor and the Negro people than tradition. For example, labor needs a wage-hour bill which puts a firm floor under wage scales. Negroes need the same measures, even more desperately, for so many of us earn less than One Dollar and twenty-five cents an hour. Labor needs housing legislation to protect it as a consumer. Negroes need housing legislation also. Labor needs an adequate old-age medical care bill and so do Negroes. The list might be extended ad infinitum for it is axiomatic that what labor needs. Negroes need and simple logic therefore puts us side by side in the struggle for all elements in the decent standard of living.
As we survey the problems of labor from the chilling threat of automation to the needs in housing and social welfare generally, we confront the necessity to have a Congress responsive to liberal legislation. Here again the kinship of interests of labor and the Negro people expresses itself. Negroes need liberal Congressmen if they are to realize equality and opportunity. The campaign to grant the ballot to Negroes in the South has profound implications From all I have outlines, it is clear that the Negro vote would not be utilized in a vacuum. Negroes exercising a free suffrage would march to the polls to support those candidates who would be partial to social legislation. Negroes in the South, whether they elected white or Negro Congressmen, would be placing in office a liberal candidate, if you will-a-labor candidate. (APPLAUSE) No other political leader could have a program possessing appeal to Negroes.
In these circumstances, the campaign for Negro suffrage is both a fulfillment of constitutional rights and a fulfillment of labor's needs in a fast changing economy. Therefore, I feel justified in asking you for your continued support in the struggle to achieve the ballot all over the nation and in the South in particular. We, the Negro people and labor, by extending the frontiers of democracy to the South, inevitably will sow the seed of liberalism, where reaction has flourished unchallenged for decades. A new day will dawn which will see militant, steadfast and reliable Congressmen from the South joining those from the Northern industrial states to design and enact legislation for the people rather than for the privileged.
Now I need not say to you that this problem and all of the problems which we face in the nation and in the world, for that matter, will not work itself out. We know that if the problem is to be solved, we must work to solve it. Evolution may be true in the biological realm, but when we week to apply it to the whole of society, there is very little evidence for it.
Social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. Without this hard work, time itself becomes the ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of social stagnation. So in order to realize the American dream of economic justice and of the brotherhood of man, men and women all over the nation must continue to work for it.
They have certain words that are used in every academic discipline and pretty soon they become a part of the technical nomenclature of that discipline . Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any word in modern psychology-it is a word maladjusted, this is the ringing cry of a new child of psychology-maladjusted.
Now certainly all of us are desirous of living the well-adjusted life in order to avoid the neurotic and schizophrenic personalities, but if you will allow the preacher in me to come out now, let me say to you that there are some things in our social order in which I'm proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to continue to be maladjusted. (APPLAUSE)
I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination . I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I never intend to become adjusted to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism of the self-depleting effect of physical violence. In a day when Sputniks and Explorers are dashing through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. It is no longer a choice between violence and no-violence, it is either non-violence or non-existence. And so I'm proud to be maladjusted. (APPLAUSE)
It may well be that the salvation of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted and so let us be maladjusted if maladjusted as Prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries. "Let judgment run down like waters and righteous like a mighty stream. "as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation could not exist "half slave and half free," as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who, in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, would cry out in words lifted to cosmic proportions, "We hold these truth's to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights…..(APPLAUSE)
And I believe that through such maladjustment we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom, justice and human dignity for all men.
We will continue to work, and work with the faith that this dream can be realized. I believe it will be realized. For although the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends towards justice. Before this dream is realized, maybe some will have to get scarred up; before the dream is realized, maybe some will have to go to jail; before the dream is realized, maybe some will have to face physical death; but if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more honorable. (APPLAUSE)
There is something in this universe. So we must continue to struggle for economic justice-the brotherhood of man with the conviction that there is something in this universe which justifies Carlyle in saying, "No lie can live forever." There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, "Truth crushed to earth shall rise again." There is something in this universe which justifies James Russell Lowell in saying, "Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. " Yet that scaffold sways the future.
This is our hope. This is the faith that will carry us on the and if we will stand by this and continue to work for the ideal, we will be able to bring into being that new day. This will be the day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing anew with the Negro slaves of old, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" (APPLAUSE)

Art Credit: MLK Stencil By Bonard, Some rights reserved