Retool Factories for a Green Future! Solidarity with GM Workers Worldwide Against Closures and Cuts!
A CALL TO ACTION: Rally Outside GM Building
765 5th Ave, New York
February 11, 2019, 4-5pm
The NYU Graduate Student Organizing Committee of the UAW Local 2110 stands with our union siblings whose General Motors jobs and livelihoods are scheduled for termination this year. GM’s plan to close 5 North American plants—Oshawa, Ontario; Lordstown, Ohio; Hamtramck and Warren Transmission in Michigan; and a plant in Baltimore, Maryland—will reduce its workforce by as much as 15 percent, eliminating over 14,000 jobs in total. The plan is to “save” billions of dollars and restructure for the future. But which future, exactly? By closing 5 plants, abandoning thousands of workers to unemployment, and ending production on its electric Chevrolet Volt, GM hopes to free up capital to invest in its automation technology, “Cruise.” The future on which GM is betting prioritizes driverless cars over mass transit and fossil fuel divestment. It’s a future in which workers continue to lack control over the wealth they create and planet they inhabit.
General Motors’ sudden interest in frugality and mindfulness of the future might surprise those of us who watched the company happily receive a $51 billion emergency bailout from the federal government in 2008 (an “investment” that netted an $11 billion loss). And for those who lived in Poletown before 1981, the shuttering of Hamtramck surely carries a bitter irony, after the federal government claimed eminent domain and bulldozed 1,300 homes to make way for the private auto plant. But this is exactly what we should expect from a corporate giant like General Motors, whose CEO Mary Barra pulls in a salary of $21 million.
While recognizing the impact these closures would have on local communities, we also understand that this is an international struggle, which will not be solved with the nationalist call to “Buy American,” and it will not be solved with a tariff. GM’s restructuring will hurt workers across the world, and we can’t win by only fighting in one city or even in one country. We are moved by the power demonstrated by our comrades at GM in Brazil and in auto parts factories in Mexico over the past few weeks, and in Korea last year, and call on all of our union siblings to follow their example. We are inspired by the example of the 7-year encampment by injured & fired workers protesting GM Colombia (ASOTRECOL) and stand with workers there facing mass layoffs. When we come together as workers, we have the power to stand up to corporations like General Motors and demand living wages, safe conditions, and job security—even when it means interfering with the CEO’s savings plans. To organize against a global giant like GM, workers need international coordination and solidarity around the vision of a just transition across the supply chain.
And so we call on our union, the International-UAW, to stand behind its workers and fight for their jobs, well-being, and safety. This means responding to the announcement of plant closures with more than a candlelight vigil. It also means being more militant in the fight against the kind of rampant racist and intimidation that has plagued a GM plant in Toledo, Ohio. Nooses, “whites only” graffiti in bathrooms, widespread use of slurs, and death threats have driven some Black workers out of the plant. Unsurprisingly, this spike in white supremacy coincided with unbelievably demanding hours, with some workers doing 13-day stretches of 12-hour work days because of a profit-margin “emergency.” GM consistently offloads the downside of its risk, and the belt-tightening of its down quarters, onto its workers, creating perfect conditions for the nightmare in Toledo, and feelings of hopelessness in the face of plant closures. It is incumbent upon our union to break these patterns, and to firmly reject these conditions, layoffs, and pay cuts.
Of course, we know that this sort of action will require strong rank-and-file participation and democratic control of union decision-making, not the bureaucratic model of business unionism that the IUAW has embraced for over half a century. Indeed, news of illegal payment from the bosses, luxury cabins built with interest from our strike fund, elaborate Palm Springs golf resort tabs, and top-level leadership raises of 31 percent alongside dues hikes point to symptoms of a much deeper problem: member deactivation in service of concessionary bargaining. The IUAW’s strategy has already ceded a toxic and divisive two-tier system across the auto industry, and has allowed for the steady transformation of full-time, secure jobs into part-time, precarious jobs. We at GSOC have been combatting this trend since our recognition a half decade ago, and we stand with our comrades in the auto division who are attempting the same.
It comes down to this: when there is unrest among GM workers across the world, and appeals of solidarity are coming in from rank-and-file activists from key plants across GM’s global chains, an organization so well placed as the IUAW ought to be coordinating these struggles and building disruptive capacity akin to that of the 1936-1937 Flint sit-down strike, whose anniversary we are preparing to commemorate. Organize! Shut it down! Retool plants! Green jobs now!
We call on our allies in the labor movement to join us at 4-5 p.m. this Monday, February 11–the day Flint workers won their historic strike 82 years ago–outside the GM Building, 767 5th Ave, New York, NY 10153.
Co-organized with Columbia AWDU. Endorsed by Red Bloom, Science for the People, CUNY Struggle, and the International Socialist Organization.