Antiwar, US Politics and Labor

We Will Defend our Civil and Human Rights!

Solidarity with Lake Orion workers—no two-tier, no more plant closings!

By Soldiers of Solidarity

GM’s ultimatum: Your paycheck or your job

There is a war going on, and it’s not halfway around the world. What’s clear from the so-called “innovative agreement” being rammed down the throats of UAW members at GM’s Lake Orion assembly plant is that GM has declared war on its workers. The deal, forcing the 40 percent of the laid off workforce with the lowest seniority to take a pay cut of almost 50 percent, is hardly innovative. When have corporations not used intimidation tactics and threatened workers jobs in order to cut pay and benefits, tear up contracts and attack unions?

Plant by plant, GM is making dubious promises of job security as leverage to drop UAW wages to levels below the average hourly wage in the U.S. They did it in Saginaw—workers swallowed painful concessions to get another company to buy their plant and keep it open. They tried it in Indianapolis, but were caught off guard when a well-organized rank-and-file resistance shot down an illegally negotiated agreement with upstart supplier JD Norman to slash hourly wages to $15.50 for production and $23 for skilled trades.

These aggressive tactics are not unique to GM. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is reported to have made a statement that UAW workers had to “get used to a culture of poverty,” while White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been quoted as saying “f—the UAW.” From Detroit to Wall Street to Washington there is a consensus at the top: wages must come down! No more “middle class” workers!

Stop the back-door deals!

The potentially devastating situation in Lake Orion is not only not “innovative”—it is not an “agreement.” Workers did not agree to this divisive expansion of the rotten two-tier structure. Members of Local 5960 have been told by the UAW leadership—which is claiming the right, under vague language voted on during the GM bankruptcy, to negotiate this back-door deal—that they have to accept it without a vote.

Every UAW member, working or retired, must stand with our sisters and brothers in Lake Orion and demonstrate our resolve to stop the cancer of non-union wages from spreading.


Rarely is it said that a big corporation is “lucky” to be making huge profits—in the case of GM $2.2 billion in the first six months—but so often we are told that we are “lucky” to have a job. We’re not supposed to think that a job—without which we cannot provide the basic comforts of life to ourselves and our families—is a basic right. Yet the UN Charter on Human Rights clearly states that every human being has a “right to work.” The early builders of our UAW believed unequivocally in the concept—they believed that we own our jobs. So if we own our jobs, then the companies have no right to eliminate them—or hold our jobs hostage to force more and more unjust concessions.

Moreover, the concessions demanded of workers at Lake Orion—affecting the non-trades workers with the lowest seniority—are discriminatory in that they will disproportionately hurt workers of color and women.

Our Civil and Human Rights are being violated! We must fight back and tell GM and our union leaders: no more ultimatums, no pay cuts, no two tier, no more plant closings.

Rustbelt Radical, October 16, 2010