Jan 7, 2006

Auto Workers To Picket Detroit Auto Show

Left: Delphi headquarters in Troy, MI

(Toledo, OH) An unauthorized auto worker protest will take place outside the North American International Auto Show in Detroit tomorrow from 12:00 to 4:00 PM. The protesters hope to highlight the plight of Delphi workers, who face massive wage and benefit cuts as a result of corporate restructuring.

A local source with whom I spoke believes that the turnout "will be in the thousands," and that this may be the largest show of force by discontented union members in recent memory. There will be quite a few Local 12 and Local 14 UAW members making the trip from Toledo.

I plan to cover Sunday's event; depending on the significance, my coverage will be anything from blog posts to an article in a national periodical (historymike is working the phone and email at the moment to get national media outlets to bite). There is the potential for conflict between protesters and attendees who choose to cross the picket line in front of the Cobo Covention Center.

Many people view the Delphi situation as a pivotal moment for American labor, and believe that the future of organized labor hangs in the balance. If, the theory goes, auto workers give in to Delphi's demands, a precedent will be set for every other UAW contract. In addition, management at Delphi hopes that the restructuring will terminate corporate pension obligations, leaving its aging workforce with an empty sack upon retirement.

It is not inconceivable that GM and Ford may also follow Delphi's lead and choose the route of bankruptcy in order to improve their respective profitability. December sales were disappointing for the three major domestic automakers, with GM reporting a 10% drop in vehicle sales; sales of Ford vehicles fell 9%, and DaimlerChrysler posting a decline of 5%.

As someone who grew up in the Motor City in a blue collar neighborhood, I was raised in an environment in which the UAW was revered by most of the rank and file workers. The hard-won labor gains of the 1930s, in my opinion, are at risk, and tomorrow's protest may be a real shift in direction by an American labor movement that has suffered significant losses in a protracted battle that extends back several decades.

Thanks to jr of ToledoTalk for the heads-up on the protest.


Mrs. Phoenix said...

Thanks Mike & jr. This is aligned w/"Big Blue" (IBM) freezing the pension plans in 2008.

If you want to SURVIVE, then you must ADJUST. Why do unions continue to fight for the things that no longer EXIST instead of preparing its membership for CHANGE????

historymike said...

The state of American private pensions is really scary, Mrs. Phoenix.

I am convinced I will be working until I am 85, and that there will be no Social Security or private pensions to speak of when I retire.

Anonymous said...

historymike: We may be on opposite sides of the white nationalist argument, but we're on the same side on this one. The idea that American workers are to accept catastrophic rollbacks in wages and benefits because of bad corporate decisions is unacceptable, particularly when I see no evidence that senior management is to share in the sacrifice in any meaningful way.

Mrs. Phoenix correctly identifies the need for SOME adjustment. However, when thousands of jobs are sacrificed and remaining workers asked to accept DEEP cuts, this is unacceptable. Many of these workers made financial decisions based upon the reasonable assumption that their jobs might be around for a while. They accepted interest-only mortgages on grossly overpriced homes so they could realize the classical American dream of home ownership. Interest-only mortgages not only presuppose and continuation of income, but also a future increase. Whether these decisions were wise or not becomes irrelevant, when so many people succumbed to the suggestive lure of cheap money. Individual solutions must be coupled with societal solutions to assure a softer landing for people affected. It is more important to protect our people that it is to deliver democracy worldwide 24-7 out of the belly of a B-52 or the muzzle of an F-16 machine gun.

qrswave said...

historymike, thanks for a great post. I'm in NYC, so I can't make it but I look forward to hearing your coverage of the protest.

Anonymous, the interest-only mortgages you mentioned, and all the other financial instruments that flood our lives ARE the problem.

No one would have to make ANY sacrifices if our livelihoods weren't being perpetually sucked out of us by our privately owned, interest-based, fractional reserve monetary system.

We will not see an end to our misery until our monetary system becomes public, nonprofit, interest-free, and 100% reserve.

Anonymous said...

qrswave - To expand further on your remarks, you'll note that while production jobs and plants all over the U.S. are being exported or closed, we see an continued increase in money-manipulation "paperhanging" jobs. One of the newest businesses opening up recently in Anchorage was yet another payday loan shark operation, Money Mart.

America was not built by usurers. It did not become a superpower because of usurers. America was built by autoworkers, steelworkers, and construction workers. Now we have a grossly imbalanced economy in which unearned income takes precedence over earned income. This is reflected in Administration and Congressional action to reduce or eliminate taxes on unearned income such as the capital gains tax and the inheritance tax. This was reflected in the infamous "tax cut" in which 90% of the tax relief went to the richest 10% of Americans.

We need to elect lawmakers who understand these problems and will propose and fight for solutions to recreate the production economy that made us a superpower. I don't care whether they're Republican or Democrat. All I care about is that they understand that one of America's cornerstone strengths was a strong and viable working class with multiple avenues of advancement available.

Hooda Thunkit said...


This skirmish is just the first round in the battle for the hearts and minds of US labor and will be watched closely by both sides.

I'd be surprised if someone didn't bite and pick up your coverage.

Regardless, stay safe out there.

Courtney said...

Adjustment ... Maybe. We are definitely moving towards an age of post-industrialization, at least in the Flint and Detroit areas. Do we need to change and adjust? Yes. But what do we do with the blue collar workers that take 60% pay cuts in the mean time? What do they do with their mortgages and truck payments? How do their children eat? And don´t the businesses have some kind of responsability for these people? Doesn´t the system that has supported these businesses, accepted their mergers and divisions, allowed for them to remain in areas like Flint without paying taxes - doesn´t this system have some kind of responsability to stand up for the people left without jobs or with miserable wages? Adam Smith´s Invisible Hand Theory sure turned out to be bunk in practice, eh?

At whatever cost, let us not be fooled. The automobile industry effects us all. Not one of us will be untouched by this.

Good luck to the protestors in Detroit!

Marie said...

Yes, much LUCK to the PROTESTERS...

When statements are made that "WE" the AutoWorker need to adjust...that Manufacturing and Industry are "Third World" Country Jobs...that we need to get "with the Program"...

I can agree to a point...as I am an AutoWorker...but, please slashing wages in half...taking benefits from Retiree's that were PROMISED...allowing Two-Tier Wages...is all an OUTRAGE to say the LEAST...

How will America SURVIVE without Industry and Manufacturing...

If the Middle Class is eliminated...which is what is proposed by Auto Industry...WHO WILL PAY THE TAXES???

Yes, there will be much pain and heartache for the AutoWorker...and yes, Good Luck to the Protesters...


Jr said...

I listen to 760 WJR. They have local talk show hosts from 6-11:30 a.m. It was either on Wed or Thu of last week when I heard the interview with the individual leading this protest.

At the end of the interview, the host asked if this would be the only protest. It sounds like another protest could be in the works on Friday, Jan 13, which is the day or evening of the auto show's big charity event.

Today's protest is for the media who are attending. Friday's event is attended by big wigs. These are the targets of the protesters. The protesters are not interested in making a big deal when the show is open to the general public. At least that's what the guy being interviewed said.

Obviously, you get a lot of auto industry news and discussion on Detroit talk radio, which is fine since that's still a major industry for Toledo.