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‘No plant, no peace’
Workers march on Chrysler headquarters
Published Aug 23, 2008 8:06 AM
“Enough is enough” was a recurring theme as 800 Chrysler workers
and their supporters rallied outside the corporation’s headquarters here
on Aug. 14 to protest the latest attack on their livelihoods. The issue of the
day was the recent announcement that Chrysler would indefinitely idle the St.
Louis South minivan assembly plant Oct. 31, combined with the abrupt cutting of
an entire shift at the St. Louis North truck assembly plant.
Chrysler wants autoworkers in U.S. to
autoworkers in Canada.
The answer is not rivalry but
Here, the UAW rally in Auburn Hills,
WW photo: Alan Pollock
Management scheduled a transfer of all minivan production to Chrysler’s
other minivan plant in Windsor, Ont., Canada.
The protest was militant. However, instead of invoking international
workers’ solidarity, the protesters fell prey to the company’s
strategy, chanting “USA! USA!” and “Build them where you sell
them.” T-shirts offered statistics that most minivans are sold in the
U.S., not Canada. U.S. flags outnumbered picket signs at the protest.
The demonstration was called by United Auto Workers Local 110, which represents
the workers at St. Louis South. Over 400 multinational workers from that local
arrived in Michigan after an all-night bus ride. UAW Local 136, at St. Louis
North, also sent a large contingent. Both locals voted overwhelmingly against
last year’s concessionary contract, which passed by the slimmest of
margins. Local 122, which also rejected the contract, sent three dozen members
from the Ohio stamping plant in Twinsburg.
Hundreds more Chrysler workers came from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and
elsewhere. A large delegation of engineering and clerical staff, represented by
Local 412, marched over on their lunch break from inside the Chrysler
Technology Center with flags and signs. Homemade signs expressed solidarity
with the St. Louis workers and anger at Chrysler’s plans to eliminate
It took several days for the UAW International to officially bless the rally,
after it became clear that a number of Chrysler locals around the Midwest were
mobilizing for it.
Many UAW presidents spoke in solidarity with the St. Louis workers. Turning
toward the Chrysler building, one yelled, “You’re a liar, Tom
LaSorda!” in reference to the company’s vice president. Another
used the analogy of an open hand, where the fingers can be cut off one by one,
versus a clenched fist representing workers’ power.
A spirited picket line followed the rally with chants of “No plant, no
peace!” and “No jobs, no peace!”
Dividing in the name of solidarity
Whipsawing is a term for the corporate tactic of pitting employees at one plant
against workers at another plant of the same company. Workers who produce
similar vehicles or components find themselves in competition to get new work
into their plant. When one group of workers agrees, under intense pressure, to
certain concessions, the second group will often agree to give up even more to
hold on to their jobs. It’s a vicious downward spiral, and only the
bosses come out on top.
Minivan and truck sales are declining. Understandably, workers in St. Louis
feel that Chrysler is forcing an unequal burden of suffering on them by closing
their plant while running three production shifts in Windsor. Feelings are
especially strong after UAW members took drastic concessions as a trade-off for
The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) rejected the two-tier wage structure but gave
up a week of vacations, essentially agreeing to a longer workweek and
indirectly helping Chrysler cut jobs.
Chrysler’s owners—the Wall Street firm Cerberus—want to
consolidate minivan production under one roof. Cerberus is engaging in
The CAW fell into the same trap earlier this year during an otherwise splendid
blockade of GM’s Canadian headquarters that shut operations there for
almost two weeks. The CAW’s uniform was a T-shirt with a Canadian maple
leaf and the slogan “Made in Canada should mean something.”
This attitude of dividing the working class by the country they live in
actually plays into the bosses’ strategy of divide and conquer.
Wouldn’t it be much better to extend the hand of solidarity across the
border and unite around the slogan “A job is a right”?
Brazilian autoworkers understood this very well when they held a solidarity
protest outside their country’s American Axle plant during the strike in
the U.S. How about an international conference of autoworkers to discuss a
A militant, mass protest against forced layoffs is a laudable first step. The
next move should be launching a worldwide movement among workers in the entire
auto industry. That is the only true way to assure our mutual survival.
Martha Grevatt has worked at the Chrysler Ohio Stamping Plant for 21
years. E-mail: [email protected]
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