Discover more from Fred Klonsky in Retirement
Time has come today. Striking for control of our lives.
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This morning the UAW announced it reached a tentative agreement with John Deere.
Strikers have three days to look at it.
The UAW has announced a tentative agreement before. The last one was voted down by 90% of the members.
So we will see. I don’t think the rank-and-file is in a mood to play.
While on our recent visit to support the John Deere UAW workers striking in Moline, Illinois, we had some interesting conversations.
Steve, a union steward, was very concerned that people would believe the nonsense spread by the bosses about how much salary they were making.
In 1997 Deere and the UAW came to an agreement that created a two-tier salary schedule, cutting new hires’ salary by half.
And talking to Bill, he was all about quality of life, the hours spent on the line and the respect denied them, from supervisors to corporate bosses.
“Why should you get paid more when you don’t even have a college degree?” Bill’s supervisor had told him derisively.
At Deere, they schedule a machine for shutdown to check on its condition and make repairs.
Union employees aren’t even given sick days. Deere cares more about their machines than the workers who run them.
In Chicago, workers at the El Milagro tortilla factory and who have no union, recently walked off the job.
El Milagro has been illegally forcing factory employees to work up to seven days with no day off, violating Chicago’s paid sick leave ordinance. Workers also describe how the company speeds up the production machines to dangerous levels.
The walkout at El Milagro won a victory on the issue of forced overtime. Milagro says they will no longer require seven-day work weeks. Time will tell.
Other issues remain unresolved.
Last Thursday, the production workers, represented by workers’ rights group Arise Chicago, have filed complaints with a federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board.
The complaints say that El Milagro is unlawfully intimidating workers by threatening their immigration status.
At John Deere, I asked Bill if the pandemic had changed things. He was certain that it had.
Bill thought it was one reason why 10,000 John Deere union workers had voted against the tentative agreement presented to them by UAW leaders.
That had never happened before.
Many have reported on the decline in union membership over the past decades.
There is no question that the decline is union membership has resulted in a decline in the living conditions of American workers.
Crappy union leadership has some responsibility for that.
Over the past few years, a number of UAW officials have been charged with corruption and the union itself has been threatened with a federal take-over.
Some rank-and-file UAW members are pushing for direct elections for union president, a move they believe will bring more militancy to union leadership.
Fighting leadership is key to union growth. Democracy is key to getting fighting leadership.
As an elected local teacher union leader in an affiliate of the Illinois Education Association and the National Education Association, I was appalled that the presidents of our state and national union were not elected directly by our membership.
The president of my state union is elected from about 1,000 delegates at the yearly convention. Out of the 130,000 rank-and-file members, leadership can be installed with only 501 delegate votes.
That doesn’t seem like democracy to me.
“Mexican” Is Not a Noun
Francisco X. Alarcon
to forty-six UC Santa Cruz students and
seven faculty arrested in Watsonville for
showing solidarity with two thousand
striking cannery workers who were mostly
Mexican women, October 27, 1985
or an adjective
is a life
a nail in