By Miriam of the M1 Michigan Collective
While workers were enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend, General Motors announced its plans to close auto plants in Lordstown, Ohio (1600 workers), Hamtramck, Michigan (1500 workers)and Oshawa, Ontario,Canada (2500 workers), along with two transmission plants, one in Warren, Michigan (my former workplace, now with 250 workers) and one near Baltimore (about 400 workers). Over 8000 salaried workers will also lose their jobs. This represents over 10% of GM’s North American workforce.
This does not include workers, in plants and businesses who service these plants, who will be without jobs as well.
Stocks have soared as investors plan to make more money off the planned misery facing these workers and their families and their communities. There are no jobs waiting for these soon to be unemployed workers and unemployment compensation only lasts a short while. Businesses and services that make up the communities supported by these workers will face the results of this dramatic loss of income, as well.
The company says it has to keep up with the times, and put its money and investment into electric and driverless vehicles. It wants to be in the market when these vehicles are used for delivery and taxi purposes. It has also announced the end of its line of sedans, promoting instead the more profitable trucks and SUVs. These larger vehicles are also worse for the environment, using more fuel and materials, requiring more repair to the roads they travel.
The state shakes its finger and says, oh, bad timing. Trump promised these jobs would stay and they are not staying. He threatened to end tax breaks enjoyed by the corporation. Stocks dropped for a hot minute, then when the emptiness of this threat became apparent, began again to rise. Detroit mayor Duggan says oh this will be bad. No one and nothing, however, stands in their way or stops the corporation from doing whatever it wants, regardless of the hurt it plans to put on our communities.
The union says, oh its contract time, that’s why they did this and we will fight them. Like they’ve been fighting them? Like not at all! The union has maintained a class collaborationist, we are all one family rhetoric for most of its history, promising a fight to its union members and keeping the promises of labor peace they give to the employers.
The Hamtramck plant, in particular, was built on broken promises. An entire neighborhood was razed in the 1980s to give GM the land to build this plant. Generous tax breaks were given this billion dollar company, taking the money from impoverished Detroit. Infrastructure plans were re routed from the needs of neighborhoods to ensure GM would have the rail and street access it needed. A community struggle, including workers, neighbors, churches and businesses was defeated in order for this plant to be built, on the promise of secure, good paying jobs that would benefit the community.
And the workers? They are furious. “Workers walked out of the plant in Oshawa, Ontario, into a driving rain, waving red flags and clad in ponchos bearing the logo of their union, Unifor, they began blockading truck entrances.” (NY Times, 11-27-18) The Detroit Free Press reported workers asking, “why did I have to hear this from the news?” They didn’t even tell us.
This is an attack on our whole class. It is rooted in a neoliberal politic that looks for global resources to increase capitalist wealth. It is based in a disregard for working people, their needs and the necessity for a relatively well paying job to support themselves and their families. These jobs, primarily union jobs, were fought for and won through decades of organization and struggle. They are being taken away because our working class organizations have ceased to struggle and have refused to stand against the capitalist system. They have spent millions of dollars and decades of years propping up the automobile industry, telling activist workers to shut up and let us take care of you, that nothing good will come from wildcat (unauthorized) strikes and stoppages. In fact, it is strikes and stoppages that gave the UAW its power to begin with. Strong organization, workers for themselves, in alliance with the rest of our class, is the only thing that can prevent these plant closings. General Motors still needs workers; they want compliant, low paid workers. We need to give them active, militant workers, fighting for justice for ourselves and the whole working class.