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One of the most important labor developments of the present has largely been hidden from view. United Auto Workers' members in Michigan and New York locals were forced out on strike February 26 by the American Axle Company. Management wants to halve their wages and slash their other job benefits, not because the company is bankrupt, but just because they want to add to the millions they are already raking in!
The UAW International has called for an April 18 rally at 11:30 AM CST at Hart Plaza in Detroit. Members of Local 235, 262, 2093, 424, and 826 will be there to publicize the need for solidarity against American Axle management.
Chapters of the long and dreadful story of how this disastrous state of events came about is partially familiar to everyone who has watched the anti-worker team of government and corporate management over the past 28 years. Before this ugly period began, General Motors and most big corporations manufactured their own parts. As the assault on workers grew, they began "spinning off" satellite corporations which could attack smaller groups of workers rather than having to take on the entire UAW. North Texans have had an up-close view of the problems that former GM employees had at Mackie, Lear, and Delphi. Those parts suppliers have ripped more concessions than they could have under the umbrella of a large General Motors contract.
In the recent case of Delphi, which used the handy bankruptcy laws supplied by the Reagan/Bush era to slash their workers, General Motors actually had to step in to settle the overall dispute. American Axle, unlike Delphi, isn't even hiding behind the convenient bankruptcy laws. According to Automotive News, American Axle CEO Richard E. Dauch is sitting on a $344 million pile of cash.
As American strikers refuse to make axles for GM autos, management is increasing production at their Mexican plant. That is not enough, and a number of General Motors fabrication plants are already idled because they can't get parts. Automobile fabrication parts have gone to "just in time" inventory management, which means that they don't stockpile a lot of parts in advance. It is entirely likely that even more GM cars will not be made.
The GM plant in Arlington, Texas, is being idled. Management told the Dallas news reporters that they were shutting down just to even out their inventory of finished autos, but the article pointed out that the axles for Arlington would be shifted to other plants.
Texas UAW members have a special problem that is unique to this state and is directly connected to the anti-worker policies of government. When he was Governor of Texas, George W. Bush's state government ruled that no union man or woman could draw unemployment even though laid off through no fault of their own but because of a strike somewhere else. Just to make the Texas ruling especially rancid, they allowed any nonmember scabs at the General Motors plant to draw unemployment while prohibiting the union members! That practice continues today, and weighs heavily on our brothers and sisters at UAW 276 in Arlington!
Although the American Axle strike is nearly three months old, few Americans know about it. Because of an article on www.aflcio.org, UAW Local 848 learned some of the gory details and quickly passed a resolution in support of the strikers at UAW Local 2093, the only local mentioned in the AFL-CIO article. Even though they are aerospace, not auto workers, they took up a cash collection at their union meeting on March 16. On April 10, UAW 848's Retiree Club passed the same short solidarity resolution.
Hopefully, the UAW's Detroit rally on April 18 will generate some realization that this situation is tremendously important for all American workers. Hopefully, the old union slogan, "An injury to one is the concern of all," will come into play and we will unite with American Axle's victims and win this one before the rest of us, too, feel the sharpness of the American Ax!