Against the Current, No. 11, November-December 1987
The Crash of '87: Opening of a New Period?
— The Editors
The Rainbow: Storm Clouds Ahead?
— Joanna Misnik
Vanunu and the Israeli Bomb
— Stanley Heller
Alan Garcia & the Crisis of Populist Rule in Peru
— Scott Malcomson
On Sendero Luminoso -- Shining Path
— Scott Malcomson
South Africa: The Black Unions & the State of Emergency
— Pippa Green & Alan Hirsch
South African Unionists Back Divestment
— John Gomomo
- Guidelines for Divestment
Of Scrooge, Bentham & Reagan
— Paul Siegel
Random Shots: Pat Robertson's Miracle
— R.F. Kampfer
- Auto Unionism in Crisis
It's Their Crisis -- But Our Jobs
— Robert Brenner interviews Eric Mann
New Speedup in Auto
— Kim Moody
- Central America
Central America's Peace Plan & the US. Solidarity Movement
— David Finkel
CISPES: Challenge of Solidarity
— David Finkel
Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast Dialogue: Autonomy & the Revolution
— Katherine Yih
The FSLN, Mass Organizations & the Socialist Transition
— Milton Fisk
- More Debate on Baby M
Debate on Baby M
— The Editors
Protecting the Mother's Right Is Critical
— Nancy Holmstrom
A Reply to Our Critics
— Johanna Brenner & Bill Resnick
- In Memoriam
Harvey Goldberg: An Appreciation
— Patrick M. Quinn
Robert Brenner interviews Eric Mann
IN RESPONSE TO the growing pressures of international competition and the deepening international crisis, the auto industry is trying to implement a new, wide-ranging strategy. The strategy involves closures of inefficient plants and technical changes like robotization. It also features a new strategy of labor relations. Finally, it is based on forcing workers in one plant to bid against the workers in another plant for work, with the work going to the group offering the greatest concessions.
Against the Current editor Robert Brenner interviewed Eric Mann, a longtime activist, with roots in the civil rights and antiwar movements. For the last five years Mann has worked in the GM auto plant in Van Nuys, California (UAW #645), where he has served as coordinator of the Campaign to Keep GM-Van Nuys open. His book Taking on General Motors: A Case Study of the UAW Campaign to Keep GM-Van Nuys Open was recently published by the UCLA Institute of Industrial Relations Press.
ATC: Could you discuss the various aspects of GM’s strategy?
EM: We need to realize that not everything General Motors (GM) is doing is an attack on auto workers. General Motors has a perception that it’s being attacked internationally. There’s a kernel of truth to that, and I think that any kind of insurgent movement in the United Auto Workers (UAW) is going to have to at least come to terms with the pressures of international competition.
Let’s start with wages. The hourly wages, including benefits, of workers at Hyundai in Korea are about $2.40 an hour compared with GM, where the labor package comes to $25 an hour. That makes it pretty obvious why they need a dictatorial system to enforce the level of wages in South Korea. It also raises certain problems for GM.
In fact, the problem of wage competition is so real that Japan is starting to move a lot of its car production to Korea. I’ve talked to a number of computer salespeople who are telling me that the Japanese are saying, “Forget about all the promises we made about job security for the Japanese workers, we’re going to Korea.”
On the other hand, the gap between GM and Japanese labor costs is narrowing. While in 1986 GM’s labor costs were up to $25 an hour, the hourly labor cost for the Japanese auto industry was up to $20. Thus GM workers suffer as GM management has difficulty competing with low-wage Korean producers and more efficient Japanese manufacturers.
Of course, I don’t excuse GM for responding the way it has but when you’re trying to figure out how to fight, you have to try to understand some of the pressures that are being placed on the corporation.
ATC: Why isn’t GM efficient?
EM: GM is mismanaging itself. This raises broader questions because the fact is that the capitalists are not doing a good job of running their own company. General Motors posted some good profit figures for 1986. But what is the reality behind those profit figures?
GM’s main profits came in the following ways: General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC), GM’s financing agency; their European operations-not a lot because Ford is still doing better there; $600 million in tax credits, which is just a pure government rebate essentially from consumers to the corporation; and other miscellaneous items.
If you take away the returns from GMAC, from foreign operations, from tax rebates, and from the miscellaneous monies, in terms of cars and trucks produced in North America, GM showed a $300 million operating loss for 1986. Compare this to Ford, which we think right now is making $2 billion a year profit in domestic auto sales, and Chrysler, which is making $1.5 billion.
Historically GM workers have had certain militancy based on the fact that “We’re No. 1.” As Walter Reuther used to say, our fight has been over the size of the slice of the pie. Now it’s necessary for GM workers to understand that the pie is really shrinking and GM may be the primary casualty.
ATC: What are the reasons GM is losing out in this way? EM: First of all, GM has become almost mesmerized with technology for its own sake.
EM: GM went out and bought EDS for $2.5 billion from Ross Perot. The purchase of EDS was an effort to apply state-of-the-art computer software to what is clearly the wave of the future, that is, computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacture. They’ve also gone into a joint venture with Fanuc Limited to form GMF Robotics Corp. and, in addition, purchased Hughes Aircraft for $5 billion. So there’s a vision of using microprocessors from the aircraft industry in the car of the future.
Surprisingly, however, according to several industry analysts I’ve spoken with, some of the most efficient GM plants tum out to be like ours out here in Van Nuys. These are older, more labor-intensive plants where GM knows what the hell it’s doing. Their high-tech, state-of-the-art plants are chaotic, with very high costs, lots of computer breakdowns, software incompatibilities, robotic breakdowns. The state-of-the-art does not equal greater efficiency nor does it necessarily even produce greater profitability.
Somebody said that the main thing that GM is manufacturing lately is incompetence. They don’t make a lot of their parts well; when they do make them well, they are highly overpriced. What’s ironic is that they are attacking the workers in an effort to cut costs, but they’re not effectively cutting costs: their cost per unit is very high. So you have the worst of both worlds: capitalist ruthlessness without efficiency.
Finally, GM has a problem in design. There’s a serious crisis of design in the GM system that matches the crisis of quality. Chrysler President Lee Iacocca has never been a great manufacturing genius but he’s been a brilliant designer. He’s understood how to market a car and get people to want to buy it. Obviously, so have Toyota and Nissan.
There is also a serious crisis of overcapacity both within the GM system and within the American system as a whole. There are four sources of cars sold in the United States: the imports, primarily from Japan; the domestically-produced cars; the captive imports, which are brought in by American companies; and the transplants, which are cars produced by foreign companies in the U.S. That includes Honda in Marysville, Ohio, Nissan in Smyrna, Tennessee, and so forth. But the total market is not growing. Eleven million new cars are sold annually, but plant capacity is running around 13-13.5 million. So this leads to a crisis of overproduction in the U.S. itself, and a genuine surplus of plant capacity within the GM system.
ATC: How do GM’s economic problems shape its strategy for dealing with the union?
EM: GM really wants two things: fewer workers and more productivity per worker.
They understand that the UAW is too strong and the wage levels too entrenched to dramatically cut back wages at this point. That doesn’t mean that at a later point in history, after they’ve broken the back of the union completely, they couldn’t move in that direction. That might be a future direction, but that’s not their strategy right now.
GM’s Speedup Campaign
For the moment, then, GM has accepted the $25 an hour total labor-cost package as a given in the industry. It’s trying to reduce the total number of workers — dramatically if possible. And it’s trying to speed up each worker. If you can get four workers doing the work of five, you can reduce labor costs by 20 percent.
ATC: How is this speedup experienced by workers?
EM: What the public hears, of course, is nothing about speedup, but that the union is opposing the “flexibility” the company wants. The reality is that when management talks about work-rule changes they are really talking about the power of the corporation to add more work per person per minute. Speedup is the issue, and workrule changes achieve speedup.
ATC: What’s the process by which GM introduces workrule changes? What role does shop floor cooperation play in implementing them?
EM: Don’t underestimate the ideological aspect of how corporations operate. Especially in a Western democratic capitalist country there is a process of winning the workers over, or at least of winning over a substantial number, to some sympathy for, and identification with, management’s point of view.
The company starts out by saying: “Look, I have a problem. My problem is that the car isn’t selling, or the car isn’t selling at levels appropriate enough to pay you want you want, so I need your help.”
Behind this call for help, in the United States at least, there’s reference to an implied war. It’s a war against foreign competition, with strong anti-Asian overtones. It’s not always that heavy, but at times the race war has broken out into the open-incidents like smashing parked Toyotas, or, most vividly, the brutal murder of Vincent Chin. The foreman who spotted Chin in a Detroit area bar, pursued and killed him with a baseball bat is free today. That may be the most extreme example of anti-Asian chauvinism, but that’s what arises from the stuff the company and the UAW were propagating.
So the first thing the company does is appeal to workers on the grounds that “we’re” in an international battle against the Japanese and the Koreans. A lot of workers may not accept the chauvinism, but they do accept a certain logic to the argument that they have to respond to the new competitive situation.
Then the company takes advantage of one of the most fundamental drives that workers have, the drive for self-government and the drive for workplace influence. Since the advent of capitalism workers have wanted more say over the work process. They don’t just want higher wages.
Walter Reuther (a founder of the UAW and its president from 1946-70) did make certain efforts to address the problem of worker alienation. But GM was firmly opposed. They said, “Look, GM will deal with pay, and with benefits, dental and medical. But you don’t tell us how workers work in the General Motors factories.” So the UAW capitulated on those issues and essentially said, “All right, we’ll make a tradeoff.”
However, by excluding its labor force from any role in governing the work process, GM created groups of workers who have felt very alienated from the company. They have expressed their sense of resistance basically by saying no to whatever the company wants. This is what Donald Ephlin, the head of the UAW’s GM Department, has called the “culture of confrontation.”
So you get young workers coming into the plant who build their reputation by telling off the foreman. For inance, they throw their air gun on the floor and say, “Screw you, I’m not going to do this job, it’s overloaded.” Maybe they stick up for themselves at the company’s labor relations department. Then, they come back onto the floor as a hero, and the next thing you know, they get elected to the post of committeeperson.
Some of the militant workers didn’t have a very well developed political perspective but were able to function well as committeemen as long as company profits were secure. The job involved a straight-ahead battle with hard-headed foremen and the company made little effort at cooptation.
But under the threat of competition, General Motors has attempted to replicate the Japanese management system as they understand it. The goal is to develop a docile, brainwashed compliant workforce and to recruit the committeemen as their allies.
GM’s model has three components. First, GM sees it as crucial to its strategy to break any vestiges of militant trade unionism within the UAW right now.
The second part of GM’s strategy is to inculcate an ideology of pro-management docility within the working class. So when they talk about cooperation, it’s not a cooperation of equals — and that’s clear.
The third thing GM is trying to do is to utilize surplus capacity and the threat of plant closings to impose its will.
The Myth of Workplace Cooperation
One of the biggest controversies today in the UAW is over the Saturn project. The Saturn project was initiated jointly between GM and the UAW, to open up a new plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, in the early 1990s that would produce a subcompact car.
GM asked the union, “How can we build a subcompact that’s going to sell for $4,500 at the current wage level?”
Accordingly, the UAW allowed GM to introduce a wage at Saturn which was 80 percent of the standard rate in GM plants. This structural concession was exacerbated by the International’s efforts to package it as a victory.
The union claimed to win power for the workers on the shop floor in exchange for a wage reduction! Rather they agreed to a contract that gave back workers’ protections against management in the name of workplace “cooperation,” undermining the whole ideological basis for the union.
What should have been presented as a short-term concession in order for the union to have time to regroup and strengthen its power is presented as a victory. That’s what’s dangerous about the Saturn deal.
ATC: Where does the Quality-of-Work-Life circles (QWL) and the team concept fit in at GM?
EM: QWL is a company attempt to get input from the workers. There is a deep longing on the part of workers in any society to have control over the processes of daily work. GM very cleverly exploits this desire, saying: “We cannot compete with the Japanese unless we start utilizing the intelligence of the American worker.”
QWL, as opposed to the team concept, which is an effort to reorganize production itself, can operate under the existing assembly-line system of one worker per job. All it’s trying to do is raise morale and have broader input from workers into the existing productive process. You might have a department-wide meeting, but then you go back into the shop and the work process doesn’t change. Initially things look good. At first workers are asked, “What do you think of this, and what do you think of that,” and the company writes down everything the workers suggest. Those with the best suggestions are usually given cash awards.
But a pattern begins to emerge. Any “suggestions” by workers to restrict management practices are duly noted-and ignored. In fact, all the questions boil down to is this: Can the workers work faster? Where is the fat? Can you help us cut the fat? It’s speedup again.
After a certain amount of steam-letting, after a certain amount of trust has been built up between the workers and the company trainers who are supervising the QWL process, the trainers pick out the upwardly mobile, compliant and treacherous workers. They begin to talk to these workers, perhaps off the record, about who on their line isn’t doing quality work, or enough work.
An insidious question emerges from the company representatives. They won’t come out and say, “Why do we need a union7” But what they will say is “Why do we need such a confrontational union?”
The QWL trainer will remark, Tm fighting my battle against the people in management who are hostile to you. They’re the dinosaurs. Don’t you have militants in your local who are unnecessarily causing confrontation? Perhaps, as I’m working behind the scenes to help get rid of the hardheads in management, you could help us get rid of the hardheads among the workers.”
So the workers begin to look at the militant workers and union leaders as obstacles to their job security. That’s what the QWL circles are all about.
ATC: What about the team concept?
EM: That’s an effort to organize workers in groups of four to eight to have a more cooperative working relationship in the actual productive process.
I think that most autoworkers believe that it would be better for eight of us to work together in a team and switch off jobs. The team concept, in theory, promises cooperation and cross-training. It proposes the idea of a team being able to handle a more complex set of tasks. All of this counters the alienation of the assembly process in which the operator has the job broken down into a minute part of the total operation.
So there’s a genuine longing on the part of workers for more complex and more cooperative work. The work team is sold in those terms.
But how does the team concept work out in practice? To begin with, long before the team concept, workers on the assembly line have made their own, informal, cooperative arrangements. For example, workers who are able to speed themselves up and work up the line can get three or four minutes ahead and cover for other workers, so they can go to the bathroom.
But, with the team concept, workers themselves are being drawn into figuring out how a certain job can be done more quickly, not for a few minutes but for sixty jobs an hour, eight hours a day.
GM and the UAW International are working together to solve GM’s problem by getting workers to speed each other up. One of the union’s greatest historical contributions, slowing down the assembly line to a manageable speed is now being sacrificed on the altar of international competition. Peer pressure is a hell of a thing. Workers who have enough extra time to cover for others are a lot more capable of telling a foreman that they can’t do any more work than telling a co-worker.
Then there’s the whole business of stopping the line. When GM started bringing in the work-team idea, the company left the impression that it would let teams stop the line if this was necessary to maintain quality in production. Obviously this was a deeply symbolic issue, because power over the line is critically important to workers.
But what has the company really done? At both the GM plant in Missouri and at the new United Motors Manufacturing plant in Fremont, California-which is the joint venture between Toyota and GM-management initially granted work teams the right to stop the line. That lasted six months, during the early ideological stages of installing the idea of the team, but under pressure for production this right is being severely restricted.
ATC: What has been the UAW’s strategy?
EM: The basic framework of the International union’s strategy is “realism.” They start out by saying “We don’t like saying this, but the company has a good point. We have to be realistic, we are faced with international competition. The company is really having problems with its profits.”
The extended postwar social compact between the UAW and the company produced what came to be called the Treaty of Detroit. The union won unprecedented wage and benefit improvements in turn for relinquishing any substantial challenges to management’s prerogatives and power.
Apparently Walter Reuther used to go to the company and say, “Listen, gentlemen, we know that it’s your pie, but our members want a bigger slice.”
Once you’ve acknowledged that it’s their pie and all you are arguing about is a slice, then if the company says, “Yes, it’s our pie and the pie is shrinking,” the union is not in much of a position to fight. If you look at the company books and in fact sales are down and they need quite a bit of money for retooling, it’s difficult to disagree with their analysis. Since the pie is shrinking, what follows is that we should get a smaller slice.
The union’s premise is to try to make the pie bigger. But the result of their “realism” is to set themselves the task of figuring out how to prop up capital. Basically they have come up with two tactics: protectionism and concessionism.
The irony is that protectionism doesn’t work because of the growing internationalization of capital. As you know, part of the UAW strategy was to demand that Japanese companies come to the United States. But now they have come, they are creating greater surplus capacity in the U.S., leading to more layoffs.
The UAW has been unable to organize these Japanese factories such as Nissan at Smyrna, Tennessee and Honda in Marysville, Ohio. One major reason for this failure is that the International has been talking so much about cooperation with the company-arguing that the interests of the company and the union are essentially the same-that Honda and Nissan are able to turn to the workers and say, “Even the UAW says that their interests are the same as the company. So why have a union?”
I think it might very well be possible to organize at Nissan and Honda, but the UAW attacks its own best organizers. If you think that the union is in a class struggle with the company today and articulate it openly, you have virtually no chance of being hired as an International union organizer. Militant local UAW officials, who could bring energy and enthusiasm to this work, are perceived as more of a threat than as a resource.
When I was at the 1986 UAW Convention, here’s how Owen Bieber explained his rationale for why he imposed the Saturn contract on a group of workers who had not yet even come to work in the plant. He argued that Mazda and Mitsubishi were also coming to the U.S. and he was in the process of attempting to negotiate contracts with them. If he could not show these companies that he had the ability to deliver a signed, sealed and completed agreement before the workers came in, the UAW would be unable to organize them.
What Bieber said is that the current leadership of the UAW can no longer succeed in a traditional, confrontational, adversarial strategy with the company. The UAW therefore has to sell itself to the company as essentially a conflict resolver, almost like insurance against a more militant union. What’s the upshot: not only are the capitalists coming up with a workerless recovery, but Owen Bieber is coming up with a workerless organizing project!
ATC: What seems to be a relatively new element in the concessionary drive is the union’s participation in a bidding war between plants and differing UAW locals, in which the company awards work to the plant which takes the biggest concessions.
EM: It started in 1979 with Chrysler. Chrysler went to the UAW and said, “We need concessions in order to get the funds to develop capital. It’s not just a question of wage competitiveness. We need the union to help us overcome our dilapidated plants and rebuild production.”
In 1981 and early 1982, GM, basing itself on the Chrysler precedent, went to the UAW and asked that the contract be reopened. Douglas Fraser supported this and called a GM Sub-Council meeting, which included all of the local presidents. But the Sub-Council rejected the reopening. Not only did Fraser lose face, but GM responded by closing four plants.
Several months later, in the face of those plant closings and a massive arm-twisting by the UAW International, enough people changed their votes to reopen the con&tract. In the spring of 1982, after having essentially given away $2.5 billion in wages and benefits, the International brought the concession package before the membership for a vote.
The group called Locals Opposed to Concessions waged a very successful rank-and-file resistance movement and the concessions only passed by a vote of 52 percent.
General Motors concluded there were problems in trying to take on the UAW as a whole. In addition, they had doubts about Fraser’s ability to control his troops. But with the closing of the four plants, GM held a trump card. The plant closing wasn’t just an economic response to overcapacity, it was also a powerful management weapon.
GM is now actually building new plants in order to structure in overcapacity. This is the basic condition, the economic whip, GM needs, so that it can play musical plants. It plays one plant off against another, called “whipsawing.” Supposedly there’s not enough work to go around, so plants have to bid against one another for the work. It’s a massive and planned deception.
But what you have today is a situation where the company’s plant manager gets together with the union president or shop chair and makes the point that local management and local union have to work together in order to keep the plant open. This means developing a joint proposal to take to GM headquarters in Detroit to make their plant more effective.
You have the grotesque situation in which the local union leadership and the local plant manager fly in to negotiate with GM’s top management. And as they walk out the door, having offered concessions on work rules, manpower levels and union protection, they see another plant manager and another union representative, and wonder what the hell they are planning on giving up. It’s simply a bidding war in concessions.
ATC: What is the nature of the resistance?
EM: Since 1978, the first wave of resistance centered in a group of UAW local presidents in the Midwest who have fought a hard, and at times lonely battle, against concessionary strategy of the International. The high point of that group’s work was the organization of Locals Opposed to Concessions (LOC) in 1982 and its role in the 48% “No” vote on the GM concession contract.
The weakness of that resistance, however, was twofold. First, it was rooted in workers with the highest seniority and in plants which were most secure in the GM system. Since the main weapon of GM to gain concessions was to threaten plant closings, their at times dogmatic stance of “no concessions” was looked upon with some suspicion by lower seniority workers and local presidents in plants most directly threatened with closings. Second, they focused the resistance almost exclusively on the issue of opposing contractual takeaways and played very little role in organizing community coalitions against plant closings or venturing into the broader political arena to look for additional tactics outside of the collective bargaining framework. Thus, when five of the six U.S. auto plants were closed down in California, few of the Midwest militants showed much real interest or offered much encouragement for resistance.
At Van Nuys, in many ways isolated from the center of UAW militancy in the Midwest but also working from a somewhat different strategic perspective, we built a successful movement to keep open that sixth auto plant, GM Van Nuys, through the Campaign to Keep GM-Van Nuys Open. The complexities of how that campaign was organized can’t be detailed here (and are discussed in my book, Taking on General Motors) but a few of the elements of the strategy are worth noting.
Some Limited Successes
We began with the idea of preemptive action, attempting to keep open a plant before GM actually announced its closing. The main strategy was to build a broad united front, to unite all the different constituencies that were in contradiction to GM in Los Angeles-the Chicano and Black communities (since the plant was 50 % Latino and 15% Black), the churches (again mainly in minority communities), show business celebrities (since this was LA) and small businesses that would be adversely effected if the plant closed. The main tactic was to threaten GM with a boycott of its products in Los Angeles county, the largest new car market in the U.S. if GM ever closed the plant, but also to demonstrate to GM — through large rallies, marches, press conferences and letter-writing campaigns — the coalition’s capacity to carry out such a boycott if it became necessary.
While it is a long story, after four years of organizing that movement was successful. On November 6, 1986, GM announced the closing of 11 plants in its system, and GM-Van Nuys, which was slated to be one of the fast to be closed, was kept open. Even after GM’s fraudulent contract with the UAW in October 1987, in which it claimed a moratorium on all further plant closings for the three-year life of the contract (after having just announced 11 closings!) GM went ahead and closed down both shifts at its Framingham, Massachusetts plant, allegedly kept open through the Dukakis miracle of government cooperation with the corporation.
In the context of the suffering of other UAW workers whose plants were closed and continued threats by the corporation, grim appreciation more than celebration marked the mood of the Van Nuys workers. No sooner had the plant been kept open than GM announced that the plant would be closed in a few more years if the workers did not adopt the “team concept,” a Japanesestyle, non-adversarial labor-relations system that in my view attempts to undermine any remaining vestiges of working-class consciousness in the union. It also involves the workers in eliminating each other’s jobs in the name of cooperation.
The story of how we built a successful movement at Van Nuys to oppose that plan, highlighted by the election of Pete Beltran (the outgoing president and outspoken opponent of the team concept) as the new shop chairman in spite of a systematic attack on Beltran by local management, the local media and a conciliatory faction of the local is also detailed in my book.
In five years of organizing work at Van Nuys, I am struck by three main conclusions. 1) These are difficult times for labor but the potential is there. Left activists who can listen and learn from the workers as well as teach, and who can work well with existing local leaders can have an impact. 2) Despite the impressive, at times seemingly impossible victories at Van Nuys, there are real limits to one UAW local attempting to take on GM, the number one corporation in the Fortune 500. Which brings me to 3) the need to look for broader coalitions within the UAW that transcend one local. At this point there is one exciting example of such a coalition, The New Directions Movement.
The New Directions Movement has two main roots, a progressive union official, Jerry Tucker, who slowly built a base from the top down, and several militant local leaders who built their base from the bottom up. New Directions operates in Region 5 of the UAW, an eight state region in the mid-southern states such as Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.
Tucker worked for fourteen years on the International staff and rose to assistant regional director, helping locals to initiate some creative in-plant strategies involving work slow-downs, mass grievance filings, and mass rallies inside the plant-called “running the plant backwards.” Several local UAW leaders in the region, upset at company and union racism and the concessionary strategies of the International union organized an insurgent movement and asked Tucker to run for regional director against the incumbent, Ken Worley. Tucker agreed, but as a longtime team player approached UAW president Owen Bieber to ask for his neutrality and to assure him that this was not an insurgency directed against the International. Bieber was neither moved or appreciative — and fired Tucker.
At the UAW Convention in June 1986 I can’t tell you how impressed I was by the New Directions delegates. They had slogans such as “Justice, Not Just Us” — a reference to the growing “it’s everybody for themselves” ideology coming from the Detroit office. They had an integrated coalition of Blacks and whites and Chicanos, with many women visible in leadership roles. They had one poster that said, “List of women appointed by incumbent director Ken Worley” and the rest of the poster was blank.
By the time the election came, more than 500 delegates from every region in the UAW filled a ballroom to watch the balloting. Jerry Tucker got 324.8 weighted votes, and Ken Worley got 325.
The place was in an uproar as the New Directions people challenged their loss by two-tenths of a vote because of the many election irregularities on the part of the Worley forces and their International supporters.
Right now, the New Directions Movement is fighting on many fronts: 1) It’s mounting a legal challenge to overturn the election. Represented by attorney Chip Yablonski, son of martyred mineworkers president Jock Yablonski, Tucker expects at least some of his charges upheld and the possibility of a new election ordered by the Department of Labor. 2) It maintains an impressive eightstate movement and is working to support local leaders who want to stand up against the threat of plant closings, team concepts and quality circles. 3) It is organizing conferences of auto workers to discuss broader strategies about how to both change International union policy and to formulate demands that can offer some alternatives to class collaboration.
Locals Opposed to Concessions, the Campaign to Keep GM-Van Nuys Open, and the New Directions Movement all have their limitations. None can provide answers themselves to the more structural problems of declining capitalism and the more political and radical solutions needed. But they indicate that there is substantial and encouraging resistance among auto workers.
Over the next decade, more systematic challenges to both the policies and the leaders of the International, including electoral challenges to the top officers of the union, may become historically possible. For me, it has been exciting to have been a part of, and to continue to play a role in, the movement to strength, and to rebuild, the UAW.
November-December 1987, ATC 11