It has come to light that the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler approved last month by the Bush administration with the support of the incoming Obama administration includes a stipulation that effectively bans strikes or work stoppages by autoworkers.
The clause, which was revealed in a Security and Exchange Commission filing by GM last week, coincides with government demands that the 139,000 workers at Detroit’s auto companies agree by February 17 to accept mass layoffs, plant closures and sweeping wage and benefit concessions.
According to the SEC filing, the Treasury Department could declare GM and Chrysler in default and revoke $17.4 billion in loans, throwing the automakers into bankruptcy, if “any labor union or collective bargaining unit shall engage in a strike or other work stoppage.”
The effect of this provision is to revoke the legal right to strike, an achievement won by the American working class in bitter struggles against “criminal conspiracy” laws used against striking workers in the 19th century. It was only with the 1935 passage, in the depths of the Great Depression, of the National Labor Relations Act that federal law recognized the right of workers to strike. This concession to the working class was not some freely given gift of the Roosevelt administration. It followed general strikes that erupted in 1934 in Toledo, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Without the strike weapon, workers are reduced to the status of industrial slaves, legally compelled to accept the most brutal conditions of exploitation without any recourse to collective resistance.
Several commentators have questioned the legality of the anti-strike provision in the auto bailout bill. Nevertheless, under the terms of the bailout, the strike ban remains in effect as long as the auto companies have outstanding loans from the government, setting the stage for contract negotiations in 2011 in which workers would not have the slightest leverage to reject demands for even more draconian givebacks.
And it begins! The Battle Of The Collars.
Do you remember the sit down strike at Republic Windows and Doors? The workers were being screwed out of their benefits and the plant was closing with 3 days warning of the closing. Then the workers decided that they would sit-in and demand their rights.
And to their surprise, their drastic action worked. Late Wednesday, two major banks agreed to lend the company enough money to give the workers what they asked for.
“In the environment of this economic crisis, we felt we were obligated to fight for our money,” Armando Robles, a maintenance worker and president of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represented the workers, said in Spanish.
The reverberations of the workers’ victory are likely to be felt for months as plants continue to close. Bob Bruno, director of the labor studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, predicted organized labor would be emboldened by the workers’ success. “If you combine some palpable street anger with organizational resources in a changing political mood,” he said, “you can begin to see more of these sort of riskier, militant adventures, and they’re more likely to succeed.”
Bank of America caved to advoid unwanted attention on their financial moves…they are doing their back street trading and getting lots of cash to do it…they wanted to avoid the press and its coverage…yes the workers won this one….but do not look for too many more wins…..the companies are thrilled that the Senate is helping them bust the unions.
Haymarket martyrs hanged, charged with the bombing death of eight police during a Chicago labor rally – 1887
IWW organizer Wesley Everest lynched after Centralia, Wash. IWW hall attacked – 1919
57 crewmen on three freighters die over a three-day period when their ships sink during a huge storm over Lake Michigan – 1940
Sit-down strike begins at Austin, Minn. Hormel plant – 1933
The ship Edmund Fitzgerald – the biggest carrier on the Great Lakes – and crew of 29 are lost in a storm on Lake Superior while carrying ore from Superior, Wisc. to Detroit. The cause of the sinking was never established – 1975
Tile, Marble, Terrazzo Finishers, Shop Workers & Granite Cutters International Union merges into United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners – 1988
Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt unveils the Civil Works Administration, a partner to the Civilian Conservation Corps, to create construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges – 1933
Committee for Industrial Organization founded by eight unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. The eight want more focus on organizing mass production industry workers – 1935
20,000 workers, black and white, stage general strike in New Orleans, demanding union recognition and hour and wage gains – 1892
Some 1,300 building trades workers in eastern Massachusetts participated in a general strike on all military work in the area to protest the use of open-shop (a worksite in which union membership is not required as a condition of employment) builders. The strike persisted for a week in the face of threats from the U.S. War Department – 1917
President Eisenhower’s use of the Taft-Hartley Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, breaking a 116-day steel strike – 1959