Auto Ownership

At Richard’s behest I am thinking about autoworker ownership of the auto industry and in particular the parts sector of auto. Parts plants are smaller, probably lending themselves to a cooperative ownership in which it easier for workers to view themselves as owners and have a real impact on production.

Thinking about this is tough for me. A BIG, but hopeful change. I am an old UAW rank-and-filer, given more to battling management for jobs than thinking as an owner. But I am now engaged with some folks in Ohio who attempted a worker buyout of Chrysler just a year and a half ago. The UAW turned its back on these workers, favoring Cerberus over the union’s own membership as the new Chrysler owner. The leader of that ESOP attempt is now about to renew the effort but wishes to remain out of the picture for a few weeks. A few posts ago, Race recommended the ESOP folks at Kent State for assistance and this woman has been working with them for a couple of years now. She has made a courageous and well-informed beginning. In the meantime I have asked her to review Mondragon’s management and production structure and she seems interested. I have also recommended John’s book to her. I expect there will soon be some meetings in Ohio with Chrysler workers/buyers and perhaps some autoworkers from Ford and GM.

So far as proposing worker ownership in the auto parts sector, it seems to me we have to see this today as not viable. American auto parts manufacturing is just not making it. The margins are too thin and as the Big 3 keep slicing away, the parts companies are forced to Mexico and other cheap labor countries. It is impossible for American auto parts workers to compete with foreign wage slaves who are truly slaves. We should help the Mexicans win a comfortable wage. We’d have to first fix the trade agreements, which means fixing a universal Just wage as the first step in settling trade agreements. That could be easily done, almost overnight through direct action. But we have no direct action.

The problem with organizing direct action is that too many auto workers have simply given up. Others depend on the UAW to save them. But for 30 years the UAW has been a very open, company union, publicly proclaiming the end of Solidarity and promoting worker-against-worker competition. Complicating the development of transparency of the UAW as traitor, are any number of liberal voices and writers who support the UAW as if this was the Solidarity UAW of the 1930s. Most workers are angry at the UAW but are not going to give up on it until they understand it is now on the other side, and they see a true alternative to it. Until that comes, we deal with a lot of hopelessness in auto.

Below is a little bit of what I see an awful lot of. Hopelessness is a terrible block to organizing. I received this yesterday, just after the UAW presented it’s latest concessions to the American Ford workers:



Tom,

First of all, my father sends you his regards. He retired in December. Secondly, you know that here in the States it's a "screw you Jack, I've got mine" mentality. The ideology of Solidarity is a concept that is totally foreign to most people. Take a look at your own neighborhood! People turn their heads so they don't get involved! It's sickening actually. I don't know what it's going to take to turn things around. It's almost as if we've bred a generation or two that have no heart, no soul, no conscience. It's very sad really and I wonder how bad it's going to have to get and how much people are going to be willing to take until the pendulum swings back the other way!

Here’s my response in bullets. I like to write in bullets because as Chesterton observed, bullets can be “pills for pale people”:

· "From the standpoint of any sane person, the present problem of capitalist concentration is not only a question of law, but of criminal law, not to mention criminal lunacy." - "A Case In Point," The Outline of Sanity by GK Chesterton
· The UAW people who have, for the past 30 years, led us against Solidarity and into dog-eat-dog competition with each other are insane. Most troubling is that most of them have been Catholic and what Catholic is raised to assist the filthy rich, cheat other people and expand the ranks of poverty? They have renounced the Justice teachings and soul of their own Church!
· 30 years of the most intense UAW propagandizing against worker friendship, duty and Solidarity has had a terrible effect on us all. It has not only destroyed the UAW as a fighting force for autoworkers and a fair society, it has disillusioned and created hopelessness throughout our Locals.
· The UAW is, in every way, a company union and has been for years. However, most autoworkers still think the UAW will save us. As long as most autoworkers can't see the UAW for what it is, they will not think and talk about what we really need: Which is a new Solidarity Movement based in the virtue of the old and one that uses the proven tactics, and strategies of the old Trade Unions: Strikes, Plant Seizures, Sitdowns, Slowdowns, etc.
· We should take a lesson from Polish Solidarity which organized itself against formidable odds and life-threatening dangers. Solidarity saw the Commie regime and Leninist production for what they were: jokes that didn't work. They went plant-to-plant, town-to-town, meeting themselves. That is what's needed here- that sort of horizontal organizing.
· No one can get this rolling until we recognize that there are still a lot of good people out there who are isolated by the UAW. No one apparently has the guts any longer to talk common sense in Local Union meetings because those meetings are insane too - riddled as they are with sucks, dog-eater appointees, stupid officers and their terrified supporters. We need to sell the good folks we have left on the necessity to reach out, beyond our Locals and meet with people like ourselves.
· The UAW is plagued by the Left. We need to organize ourselves without the Marxist-Leninists who seem to pop up every time someone does something that looks like it may go somewhere. We don’t need the Left. We need the center, the core, the truth of the thing and the good folks who naturally stand for each other and our families and communities.
· We need a model for production. The best model today for auto production is the Mondragon Corporation. It is the closest production model to a Catholic Guild. IMHO the Guilds were the best production systems in world history.
· Another model we should consider is the ESOP, if we could remodel it to provide real decision making to engineers, trades, crafts and production. We know what we have now sucks.
· Can we really do anything to save auto? Why not? If not us who would save the industry and us? We know that the UAWs latest concessions are just another notch in the company's belt tightening. It will go on and on until we stop it. But we can't even begin to stop it until we get clear about wha;'s gone wrong and what will make it right again. Certainly not the present management and owners. Certainly not the Banksters Obama is placing in charge. Look at all our experience, yours, your husband's, your Dad's! Joe Riley's! We do know a few good reps who are great leaders, speakers, writers and thinkers with good souls. Why not get together and talk about Solidarity vs. Dog-Eat-Dog?
· Our kids and grandkids need us to do this. So do our friends, neighbors, towns and cities. - Sorry to go so long and it is great to hear from you and your Dad again! God bless the Irish! (As He always has.) Tom

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