Exciting news! Long-time Ford worker and UAW militant, Gary Walkowicz, who helped to lead the fight that led to the historic rejection of last fall’s leadership endorsed contract by the membership, will be challenging the Administration Caucus’ heir apparent, Bob King, for President of the UAW at the coming Convention. While the odds stacked against Walkowicz, currently serving as Bargaining Committeeman for UAW Local 600 Crew ‘A’, would seem to show that he has no chance at actually winning (the Administration Caucus hasn’t lost a challenge since 1946), who could have predicted last fall’s contract rejection? A historic first! Opposition delegates will be better represented at this convention than at many recent years past ensuring, if not a change in course, at least a vocal, determined challenge. And that challenge is, of itself, a victory in these days of acquiescence. This will not be the end of the struggle. Hopes aside; whatever the outcome, Walkowicz and others are making a stand and as readers of this blog no doubt agree; it is far, far better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
Much more on the UAW Convention and Walkowicz’s challenge at Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) – the place to go for news on what’s happening in the UAW reform movement. Below the statement is a Real News interview with Frank Hammer, another Michigan-based ‘dissident’ delegate with his views on the coming convention and the future of the UAW (the interview was given before the present announcement). Supporters have asked that this news be circulated as widely as possible, so do your thing. Here’s the delegates statement:
To our union brothers and sisters, workers at the Dearborn Truck Plant:
The UAW Convention will take place next week at Cobo Hall. You elected us to represent you at the Convention. We said when we ran that the four of us were opposed to the union’s policy of accepting concessions, which has damaged our lives, our standard of living and our prospects for the future. We said that this policy needs a drastic, 180-degree change.
We intend to raise the following issues at the Convention:
Don’t break promises to retirees – restore what was taken from them.
People who worked for 30 plus years were promised full health care and a pension they could count on. Those promises are being broken: vision and dental cut at Chrysler and GM; higher co-pays and premiums at many companies; pensions lost at Delphi; full pensions replaced by 401-k’s. NO MORE!
Don’t turn our backs on the next generation, our children – get rid of two-tier. Previous generations fought to ensure their children would live as well or better than they did. All these two and three-tier wage agreements destroy what our parents and grandparents fought for. It was recently stated that new hires in auto, at $14 an hour, will be worse off than when Ford paid $5 a day, before the union was even organized.
Put a real end to concessions — get back everything we gave up … and more! There needs to be a fight prepared to get back EVERY concession that was given up in EVERY UAW contract – auto, parts workers, state workers, office workers. We deserve back the raises, bonuses, COLA, holidays, break time and everything else stolen from us.
The membership must have full control over every step in contract changes. Contracts should not be reopened or re-negotiated without first having a vote by the membership. Our top leadership should not be able to negotiate local agreements over the heads of local presidents and bargaining committees. The membership should see the exact language on all changes.
We also want you to know that we intend to see Gary Walkowicz nominated for UAW President.
We know, given the way the convention is organized and the way that most delegates are chosen, that he cannot win.
But we think it is important that there be at least one person nominated at this convention who clearly stands for a drastic change in policy for our union – someone who helped organize the NO vote at Ford, someone who can speak for all those workers who want to put a stop to concessions.
Signed, Delegates Gary Walkowicz, Nick Kottalis, Cathy Abney; Alternate Dewayne Jackson.