The Naked Truth/Jamala Rogers
Auto Workers Ready to Decide Their Future
The auto industry in Wisconsin died a painful death. The U.S. auto industry has had some bumps here and there but always bounces back. It raked in over $600 billion in sales last year. The United Auto Workers is not doing as well. It has been sick for a long time. An upcoming union election could be a good dose of medicine towards its wellness.
General Motors closed the Janesville plant in 2009 and Chrysler shuttered the Kenosha plant the following year. Eventually production was moved to Mexico where labor is cheap and companies unregulated. Many promises were broken, thousands of jobs were lost and both plants have since been wiped off the face of the earth.
Voting for a special referendum opened up last month and will end on November 29. Nearly a million auto workers (including retirees), will cast their votes. The election is part of a consent decree supervised by the Department of Justice.
The DOJ conducted an intensive investigation into the UAW corruption scandal. The referendum promises to bust up the administrative caucus, an undemocratic concept created by union hierarchy decades ago to control the election outcome of international union leaders.
Top union officials have indulged in lavish getaways in the millions of dollars while workers toiled on assembly lines. Equally as disgusting, they have taken bribes from auto companies, totally compromising their ability to boldly represent its members. Members have complained about jacked-up contracts for years, especially the two-tiered system. Members have been forced to accept more concessions with fewer benefits.
During the pandemic, workers felt like they were trapped in unsafe conditions, which unnecessarily exposed them to the deadly coronavirus. During the 2019 strike, workers received paltry strike payments as union bosses were living large. Union members are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
The justice Department concluded its investigations and its criminal indictments went straight to the top. Several union officials have already been convicted and former UAW Presidents Dennis Williams and Gary Jones received prison time for their criminal roles. Jail times are expected for others.
Auto workers have the opportunity to stand up and choose a new direction. The election results could be game-changing for how the UAW will operate in the future. It could also have a ripple effect throughout organized labor. The labor movement has suffered diminished strength due to the union-busting tactics of companies and the lack of committed leadership in unions.
All eyes will be on the ballot boxes and monitored election results later this month. It’s time for auto workers to restore trust both inside the union and in communities, to set up strong and effective financial controls and to draw neon lines of demarcation between union and corporate management.
UAW members, unite!