UAW Announces In-Plant Strategy

Against the Current, No. 39, July/August 1992

THE UAW IS encouraging Cat workers ‘to be damn sure they are turning out good parts. No defects. No scrap or accidents. This company is vicious. They’ll fire you for any reason. We have to protect our people. Of course we cannot promote a slowdown,’ said Terry Omdorff, UAW president, Local 786 (York, PA) (Chicago Sun Times 65/92) On the other hand, the Detroit Free Press reports that “[Owen] Bieber [UAW international president] and other officials promise to snarl production with shop-floor slow downs. They hint they’ll walk out again as soon as the economy picks up” (6/13#92).

The in-plant strategy, long promoted by the New Directions caucus, an opposition caucus in the UAW, is designed to organize the workers, pressure the company, build the workers’ morale. How is it actually working?

We have only a tiny piece of the picture. If you can help fill it in, please send us your information One twenty-six year veteran at Aurora told us “There is fear. The company tells us ‘do what you’re told or we’re going to get you.’ One guy with twenty-five years went to work on his machine and—bam—he has no job. He’s assigned to assembly and then to a labor pool of about seventy-five guys and he gets sent out topaint the building. This puts fear into you; you don’t know if you’re gonna have a job to come back to. They play on your psychology. They’re creating fear.

“Another new thing. All of a sudden everyone has to pass a ninth grade test for math and English. If you don’t, you have to sign a waiver and take classes. We don’t know what’s goin’ on.

“One guy speaks broken English. He’s from Germany. He’s great at his job but he took early retirement The company is offering an extra $300 a month bonus for early retirement I’m noticing a lot of new, young faces at work It looks like they’re putting on some guys they recruited as scabs to replace us.

The old rules are gone. Now, when a foreman wants to do some work, do some welding, he just goes and does it Before, management managed and we did the work.

“There’s a new line, the biggest earth mover, the 994. It’s two-and-a-half stories high, a wheel loader. Who’s going to make it? Joliet, where they’ve got the two-tier wages. Guys making $7-8 an hour, working next to guys making $16 an hour for the same work We’re getting hammered.”

When we asked him if his local, UAW Local 145, had had any special meetings to discuss or organize this new strategy he said, “That’s the attitude lots of guys walked back in with. We learned our lesson about cooperation, but no, we haven’t had any special meetings. But we do have a big one planned for July 27.”

July-August 1992, ATC 39