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Shortage of workers at GM truck factories highlights appalling conditions imposed by UAW

 Shortage of workers at GM truck factories highlights appalling conditions imposed by UAW

According to the Detroit Free Press , General Motors has failed to hire enough temporary workers to fill its truck assembly plants in Flint, Mich., And Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Free Press reported last Sunday that GM was only able to convince 22 to 25 people to fill the 100 temporary jobs it needs each week to staff Flint's truck plant fully staffed. A similar situation exists at GM's Fort Wayne assembly plant.

Shortage of workers at GM truck factories highlights appalling conditions imposed by UAW
GM World Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan (Photo: Flickr / Ray Dumas)

Temporary workers earn a paltry $16.67 an hour, with no benefits. They work irregular hours at physically demanding positions and are at risk of exposure to the deadly coronavirus. They have no contractual rights and can be fired for minor infractions.

The fact that such conditions prevail is a condemnation of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which for decades has functioned as an auxiliary to the automakers by imposing endless setbacks and stifling the workers' opposition to layoffs and pay cuts to increase the personal profits and wealth of auto bosses and Wall Street. Over the past 15 years, the union has imposed tiered wage and benefit systems to divide workers and create a super-exploited "flexible" workforce.

The UAW's response to the shortage of workers ready to work for poverty wages is very instructive. Rather than solidarity with the needs of workers, UAW officials interviewed by the Free Press spoke bluntly as entrepreneurs of cheap labor, identifying with GM and offering friendly advice on the issue. how “we” (the UAW and GM) can overcome the labor shortage.

Rich LeTourneau, chair of the UAW Section 2209 Workshop at Fort Wayne Assembly, summed up the problem as follows: “We're looking to hire a bunch of temp workers, but we can't find any. Nobody wants to come and work here.”

Eric Welter, UAW Section 598 shop chair at the Flint Truck Plant, said, “GM needs these trucks and I will not continue to run a schedule that does not support my workers. and they don't want to do it either. "

Welter was referring to the fact that temporary workers are used to replace full-time workers who are on vacation. “We will do the labor fair and we will take over,” he added, “but we are not going to stop until we have enough workers. We must find a solution."

GM's difficulty in hiring isn't hard to understand. Thanks to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Supplement, American workers have received almost as much unemployment benefits as GM pays its temporary workers, while saving on transportation and childcare and avoiding working in crowded and dangerous factories. (This "problem" for business is precisely why the two big bourgeois parties denounce the meager federal supplement of $300 per week as a "deterrent" to work and why they started to end the program, first. in Republican-controlled states and nationwide by September 6).

And that's not all. With help from the UAW, General Motors and other automakers have cut the wages of thousands of auto workers to the point where it is comparable to, if not lower than, that of fast-food restaurant workers. Fort Wayne Assembly workshop president LeTourneau told the Free Press, "Pizza Hut pays $20 an hour to deliver pizza here."

“I think that's bullshit,” a GM Flint worker told the World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter when asked about the company's rush for temporary workers. “It's nonsense to have people working side by side and some of whom are paid different rates of pay. It should not be allowed.”

Workers who responded on Facebook to reports of GM's hiring expressed no surprise, given the brutal treatment of temporary workers. A GM Flint worker posted a comment, stating: “A lot of people at our GM Flint Metal Center plant were permanently laid off and then had the OPPORTUNITY to become half-price temporary workers at the plant. of Flint's Trucks".

“They have been ACTING now for ALMOST TWO YEARS and if they wanted they could have the OPPORTUNITY to become permanent if they were transferred to factories outside of the Flint area. Some have moved to Bay City, about 80 km north of here, to have those jobs. During this time, they spent more than a year as temporary workers, without gaining seniority or pension credits, while having the PRIVILEGE of paying union dues.”

Another worker posted: "From what I've heard, they've put these people (including the current temp workers) to so much work that there are a lot (HUNDREDS, from what I've heard). who are on sick leave at the moment. And I believe the truck factory is the one with a FLOATING contract”.

The Free Press quotes Flint truck plant president Welter as urging GM to drop its pre-employment drug test in order to increase the number of applicants. The newspaper continues, "The starting salary of $16.67 is in the union's national deal, but maybe GM should approach the union and ask for it to increase," he [Welter] said. declared".

This remark is revealing. UAW leader suggests company ask union for permission to raise wages! This shows how fraudulent it is to label the UAW and the rest of the AFL-CIO unions as "workers' organizations".

A real union would demand the reopening of the contract to end the hated system of wage levels and grant substantial increases to bring all workers to a decent standard of living.

The UAW's response to GM's hiring problems explains increased much of how the automaker its pre-tax profit for the pandemic year of 2020 to $9.7 billion, from $8.4 billion. dollars in 2019.

Work in auto factories was once among the highest paying industrial jobs in the United States. It was the result of massive class battles led by auto workers, starting with the wave of sit-down strikes in the late 1930s, including the Flint sit-down strike of 1936-37, which forced GM to recognize the UAW.

But for the past four decades, the UAW has worked with auto companies to lower wages and cut benefits and working conditions. This process accelerated in 2009, when the UAW agreed, as part of the forced bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler by the Obama administration, to cut the wages of all new employees by 50 percent, to bring it back. at about $15 an hour. The 2015 national contract allowed a vast expansion in the number of temporary workers, saving automakers massive savings.

Widespread outrage over the exploitation of part-time workers (TPT), as well as the stagnation of wages and the division of workers into tiers with different pay scales for the same work, triggered the 40-day strike of the workers. General Motors workers in 2019.

After isolating the strike while starving workers on $275 a week in strike pay, the UAW announced a settlement and called for a vote on a surrender deal. While the contract apparently provides a 'path' to full-time status for TPT workers, agency workers must wait three years to become permanent, starting at the lower level with no credit for time they have already spent in the workforce. factory. It keeps the pay scale at the poverty level for agency workers and new hires, while providing a tiny pay hike for older workers that doesn't even compensate for inflation.

The Free Press is silent on the COVID pandemic, but it is certainly a major deterrent for potential new hires. The UAW has enforced 24-hour production hours at auto factories, despite being vectors of COVID-19 transmission. Hundreds of auto workers have contracted COVID-19 and dozens have died, although the actual numbers are not known as the UAW is working with management to cover them up.

Anger over such conditions has sparked a rebellion by Volvo workers in Virginia, who are on strike after twice rejecting treasonable contracts presented by the UAW.

We urge GM workers to follow the lead of Volvo workers by forming a grassroots committee, independent of the UAW, to oppose unsafe conditions, low wages and the exploitation of temporary workers. Such committees are being set up across the United States and internationally to unite and coordinate the struggles of auto workers, educators, Amazon workers, metal workers and all sections of the working class, in order to meet the needs of the workers, and not to satisfy the dictats of the societies.

I have ambitions and goals in my life, and I am now trying to achieve them calmly, as the name also came on my channel and website.