United we stand
I am writing this article the day after the 82nd Anniversary of the historic Sit-down Strike victory by the UAW on General Motors in Flint, MI. As I learn more about this memorable event during the beginning of our great Union, one fact is unavoidable to recognize; many different people, with different backgrounds and different wants and interests all banded together so that they could overcome the mighty General Motors.
While researching historical accounts of actual sit-downers testimonies, it is clear that they were committed to the cause but had no clue if it would work. The resilience these individuals had to have to become a single collective was astounding and is a bit of our history that we may to need rediscover as we face what could be our generation defining event this fall. The UAW has had many struggles on its way to providing us the Agreement that we have today. There has never been an Agreement, and never will be an Agreement, that provides all members complete satisfaction but we can probably look at this and agree that without any Agreements, we would be worse off most certainly.
General Motors has made it clear to all Americans where their mind is at… Turning a dividend and providing the Stockholding companies their profit. Contrary to popular belief, the VEBA trust is the only association to the UAW (as a formal entity) that still has shares in General Motors. After selling off almost 1.6 billion dollars’ worth last spring, the trust has fallen in-line with the other 1200 to 1300 holding companies that buy and sell General Motors stock. With 3 GM executives being the top 3 holders of shares, providing a dividend to the holdings, also provides them with millions in postings on their shares. General Motors has shown their hand in my opinion. They are setting up to take on the UAW and bolster already record profits by attacking many of our contractual protections and benefits. We need now more than ever to summon the spirit of those sit-downers from our past. We need to be prepared and ready to go face-to-face with this corporate monster and be ready to starve them out by banding together, acknowledging our differences while focusing on a singular goal; maintaining what we have won, while at a minimum winning protections for work in America, in UAW facilities. We need only do this if the Company refuses to acknowledge that we are their biggest asset and continues to treat us as if we are liabilities. Cars have never built themselves; even the Union hating Henry Ford understood this. In short, Ford instituted the $5.00 day to create a stabilized workforce with less turnover and higher morale. He believed raising the wage would lead to better worker satisfaction, quality and production, he was correct. So even Henry Ford, who was a harsh man, paid better than any other company doing like work to reduce labor costs and create plant stability, why can’t General Motors today?
We must also be mindful that GM knows they can use classic tactics to divide us; we must be vigilant and not allow such tactics to distract us from our goals. Does this mean we just go numb or we can’t get irritated by each other, of course not, it means though we are all different and have different wants personally, we focus on showing a united front to General Motors so they see we mean business. I will end with an excerpt from the UAW “fight song” it is the opening verse to Solidarity forever by Ralph Chaplin…
“When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong”.