Sacrifices For Profits Are A Dead-End Road For Us

Last week Ford announced profits of $2.7 billion in 2009. After workers made all sorts of sacrifices over the past years, they will not see a nickel of this profit. The 9000 workers who were thrown out of work last year will not share in these billions. It was their tax dollars also, that were used by the Obama administration to provide Ford with a bailout. But for Ford workers, there is nothing,

The NUMMI workers in Fremont sacrificed to keep their jobs too, by trying to keep the GM – Toyota partnership afloat. In fact, they were the first in auto to join the worker-boss “partnership” when GM and Toyota started NUMMI. But last year GM pulled out of the partnership, taking no responsibility for what the fallout would be for the workers. Then Toyota announced that it was closing the NUMMI plant, which will cost 4700 auto jobs plus thousands of jobs for suppliers and auto dealerships and others. The plant is supposed to close April 1. But there is still no severance package for the workers. The UAW union leaders say they are negotiating.

Last year, BART workers voted down their contract and threatened to strike. In response, BART management carried out smear campaign against BART workers, trying to turn the public against them by making them seem like lazy, overpaid, greedy workers. Workers ended up accepting a contract with sacrifices, hoping to save their jobs. Now BART is threatening workers with lay offs and riders with more fare increases.

The list goes on and on – sacrifices by one group of workers after another. And what is the result? The bosses either take their money, close the plant and run or they stay and keep laying off workers and reducing wages and worsening working conditions – whatever it takes to keep the profits rolling in or our tax dollars rolling into their pockets. For the workers this road of sacrifices is never ending. The sacrifices don’t end up saving jobs the only thing they save is the bosses’ profits.

Many other workers are facing attacks this year. Some are facing contract negotiations, demanding concessions in wages, benefits or work rules. Again the argument will be made that you have to sacrifice to keep the business healthy and thus to save your job. But we should learn from the experience of all the other workers who have already taken this path.

It is time to stop listening to the bosses’ blackmail. It is time to stop listening to union officials who tell us that we have no choice but to accept to sacrifice to save the business and to save our jobs. Contracts bind our hands and lock us into an agreement for longer and longer periods of time. But contracts, despite what is said in the negotiations, do not protect jobs. So after we sacrifice, there is nothing to prevent the bosses from coming back later and demanding lay offs.

It is more than time that workers began fighting back against concessions. If we fight, of course there is no guarantee that we will succeed. Maybe we will lose. That is true. But we know for certain that if we don’t fight, if we agree to concessions, without a doubt – we will lose.

It can seem impossible when no one is making a fight, when everyone around us is holding onto his or her job, fearful of joining the increasing numbers of unemployed. Times are tough and this can call for tough actions on our part. Workers in other parts of the world are facing similar attacks and in some places have begun to fight back. In Europe, some workers have occupied their factories and refused to allow them to be closed or demanded a real severance package, not a little good-bye package.

What would happen if the workers at NUMMI organized a fight like that? What would happen if they reached out to workers across the Bay Area and asked for their support? Nearly 1200 companies supply parts and services to NUMMI – 871 of them in the Bay Area and Central Valley. How many of those workers would be ready to join the fight? And how many of the other thousands of people who will be affected would be ready?

The choice is up to us. It’s clear that we can’t win if don’t decide to fight.