Auto workers vote in opposition at Cal. GM-Toyota plant

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri Jul 25 23:31:33 MDT 2003

Subject: Opposition wins elections at Nummi

By Caroline Lund

In recent elections, the membership of United Auto Workers Local 2244
have voted out our long-time Administration Caucus leadership and
brought in a new team of more pro-worker union leaders.

Local 2244 represents the 5,000 workers at New United Motor
Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), which is a joint venture of General
Motors and
Toyota in Fremont, CA.

In general elections on June 11 former Chairman Art Torres and
Tito Sanchez were soundly defeated by Victor Quesada and George Nano
The opposition forces (United Alliance Caucus) also won 1st and 2nd
president, 6 of the 12 committeeperson positions, and 9 of the 12
committeeperson slots.

On July 9 an election for bargaining committee and a runoff for 2 of
3 trustee positions yielded a clean sweep for  the opposition. The
Alliance won the whole bargaining committee and 2 of the 3 trustees.
third trustee is myself, an independent candidate, who received the
vote in the July 9 election, largely because of my plant newsletter,
Barking Dog,2 which I have put out for 6 years. The opposition will
have a
slight majority on the Executive Board.

The major issues in the campaign were outsourcing and the new,
attendance policy imposed last year by the company, commonly called

The company has outsourced jobs in many areas, and has indicated that
more is to come. The Administration Caucus (the political machine
loyal to
the UAW international leadership) took the stance that outsourcing
can1t be
stopped without a strike (which they imply is out of the question),
doesn1t really matter as long as overall plant size doesn1t shrink and
UAW gets to organize outsourced work.

The United Alliance and the "Barking Dog" said we have to forcefully
oppose outsourcing even when the numbers involved are small. We said
the outsourced work is UAW-organized or not, the key thing is that
wages are slashed and we should not accept that. A U.A. leaflet
"We can fight and not win, but we will never win without a fight!"

The new attendance policy says basically you get a write-up if you are
absent three times in 180 days (the previous policy was 3 in 90 days).
write-ups and you are terminated. Each day absent is a point against
even if you have a doctor1s note (also new).

The Administration Caucus leadership filed a grievance against the
unilateral company change of policy and indicated that that was all
could be done. The United Alliance and rank-and-file members from both
caucuses circulated a petition against the policy, which was signed by
1,300 members. Chairman Art Torres ridiculed this petition, calling it
"worthless" and "feeble."

The backdrop for this election campaign was Bush1s war on Iraq. A
pro-Administration Caucus flyer said "Newsflash, United Alliance
members!! We, as a country, are at war." It went on: "The Alliance
Caucus complained about bad conditions in our plant. Consider the
following: with little complaint, thousands of young people have taken
on a real dangerous job, one that can cost them their lives. . . ."

The A.C. cosponsored a "Support the Troops Day" with the company. Up
in the cafeteria they sang the national anthem, had an "honor guard"
and tried to raise money for care packages for the troops.

"The Barking Dog" newsletter said the best support for the troops was
bring them home, and explained that the company and union officials
using sympathy for the troops to try to manipulate us into supporting
war on Iraq, silencing complaints on the shop floor, and prettifying
union officials for the coming union elections."

One pro-A.C. leaflet had a cartoon showing "Axis of Evil, Inc" with
leaders of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea sitting around a table, labeled
the names of U.A. leaders, plus a dog sitting there with them, labeled
"Barking Dog."

The A.C. election brochure was slick and expensive, showing each
candidate in front of a flag and showing firefighters and the slogan
"American heroes."

Another issue during the campaign was the A.C. leadership1s support
California Governor Gray Davis. In March Davis came to the plant to
management with $6.4 million from the state coffers, supposedly for
"training" of us workers during the next major model change.
California faces a huge budget crisis.

After his photo op for the media, Davis planned to walk through the
escorted by UAW Chairman and President Torres and Sanchez. But as soon
as Davis's advance people came out to Chassis 2, where the
walk-through was supposed to begin, line workers began to hoot, boo,
and shout questions like, "Why is Davis taking money from schools and
giving it to prisons? Why is our college tuition skyrocketing? Why
triple our vehicle tax while giving our
tax money to a successful corporation like NUMMI?"

Davis's walk through the plant was cancelled. "The Barking Dog"
interviewed the workers in Chassis 2 and featured the incident in its
31 issue.

Still another issue in the election campaign was heavy-handed
intervention by the UAW international in the affairs of the local. An
A.C. leader complained in a flyer that the U.A. had been critical of
our International Rep Earlie Mays. "Why would you bite the hand that
feeds you," asked the (anonymous) A.C. leader. "If elected, [U.A.
leaders] will have to come to the International Union for assistance.
. . . They are fools to think that the International's memory will be

This is an obvious threat that the newly elected leaders may face
reprisals from the International leadership. We, on the other hand,
hoping to work with the International in a relationship of equals,
independence and dignity so as to best represent our membership.

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