[Marxism] UAW Members Defy International Leaders, drive them from the union hall

Jon Flanders jonathan.flanders at verizon.net
Mon Aug 16 19:23:54 MDT 2010

Check out the video on the Labor Notes site.

Jon Flanders


Local 23 shouts down GM plan 
Opposition to wage cuts means plant's fate appears sealed 

By Ted Evanoff Posted: August 16, 2010 

The fight to keep GM's huge Indianapolis stamping plant open reached a
dead end Sunday after defiant autoworkers meeting in a union hall
shouted "no" to discussion of pay cuts. 

With workers dug in, General Motors looks likely to go ahead with
closing plans and post a timeline as early as Tuesday for taking out the
dies and machinery, said Maurice "Mo" Davison, UAW Region 3 director. 

"The sad fact is GM is gone from Indianapolis. That's a fact," Davison
said. "It's a sad day for Indianapolis." 

If it is the end -- GM has made no final pronouncement -- the stormy
conclusion for the 70-year-old factory arrived Sunday at a sweltering
Near-Westside union hall. 

UAW members again defied Detroit union chiefs who had negotiated wage
cuts and expected the 650 Indianapolis autoworkers to vote today on a
new contract with a potential buyer. 

Instead, Local 23 officials opposed the head office, known as the UAW
International, and refused Sunday to schedule a vote on the new measure.
It would lower the base wage to $15.50 per hour from the current $29 per
hour for production workers. 

"We pay the International to represent us, not commit fraud and work
against us," said Gregory Clark, Local 23 bargaining chairman. 

That refusal to schedule the vote most likely means GM executives will
go forward with plans for the closing, Davison said. 

Local 23 members voted earlier this summer to refuse to bargain with the
potential buyer. In spite of that vote, the UAW head office decided to
open negotiations with GM and the potential buyer, JD Norman

Norman, a small metal stamper based in Addison, Ill., set out to take
over the huge metal stamper on the condition that Local 23 accept a new
labor contract that lowers benefits and wages. 

Norman stepped up this spring after GM in 2007 declared the Indianapolis
plant would close in 2011 if no buyer appeared. 

That closing appeared more likely Sunday, even though the union
membership took no further official action on the proposed wage cuts. 

"This was a one-time shot. Every one knew it, but it's over now,"
Davison said. He called the session at the union hall a "mob scene." 

Shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, three UAW International officials on the
podium at the Local 23 union hall opened the only informational meeting
scheduled on the proposed contract. 

The meeting was closed to the public. But within five minutes of its
start, a loud chorus of autoworkers shouted "no." They could be easily
heard on the sidewalk outside the union hall. 

Three UAW officials soon rushed out of the union hall and departed in a
Chevrolet Suburban with Michigan license plates. A pair of Marion County
sheriff's patrol cars parked in front of the union hall were soon driven
off by deputies on duty in case of a conflict. 

According to workers inside the union hall, the workers shouted "no" at
the UAW International officials when one of the officials asked, "Do you
guys want to know what the contract's about?" 

After the session, workers poured out of the union hall. Many had read
an explanation about the contract mailed to their homes last week by the

"They don't have anything to offer us," contended Rebekah Willis, 32,

A GM employee for four years, Willis said she is a single mother of two
and recently took in her own mother and stepbrother. 

If her wages fall to $15.50 per hour, she would be pushed close to
poverty for a family of five, she said, particularly because she'd have
to pay at least $2,100 more annually for health insurance at Norman

Longtime stamping plant worker J.D. Oliver, Indianapolis, said he was
concerned about ambiguous phrasing in the contract proposal. He said it
seems to say Norman Industries could decide whether he went back to GM. 

"Even if you go back to GM, I'm not sure that time working at JD Norman
would count as time on my GM pension," Oliver said. 

Another longtime GM worker, Tony Nelson, said the International's
decision not to abide by Local 23's earlier vote to reject Norman irked
many members. 
"Many people didn't understand the proposal at all," Davison said. "I
just wish they would have got to hear the facts.'' 

GM, largely owned by the U.S. Treasury after its 2009 bailout and
bankruptcy, has been downsizing for years. 

Trying to gain the support of Indianapolis autoworkers for the plant's
sale, GM this summer agreed to a package of inducements. 

One incentive would have provided a worker with a $35,000 cash payout
and a right to return to another GM plant at full UAW scale, currently
$29 per hour, after working for Norman. Another would have let eligible
GM workers retire at full pension and at the same time work full time
for Norman, Davison said. 

Many GM workers, however, sense they can relocate after the stamping
plant shuts. GM in bankruptcy drastically cut back its labor force. Once
the economy recovers, it'll have to hire new workers or relocate its own
idled workers. 

Call Star reporter Ted Evanoff at (317) 444-6019

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