An afternoon demonstration on July 18, 2014 following the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. Dearborn City Hall, Michigan Avenue.
Here are a bunch of photos from yesterday’s kick off of Detroit’s May Day events at Clark Park in southwest Detroit.
‘We have been naught, we shall be all!’
Here is a slide show of photos I took at Monday’s MLK Day rally and march in Detroit. Veteran women SNCC freedom fighters were honored at the rally held at the historic Central United Methodist church. Occupy Detroit also received recognition and a standing ovation. A march followed which included a well attended socialist contingent. Later in the day folks from Detroit and around the state marched on Governor Snyder’s mansion in the hills above Ann Arbor to protest the states assault on local black government through corporate ‘Emergency Managers’ . That part of the county has probably never seen so many people of color. Despite the gloomy January skies, the weather was surprisingly warm for a Michigan winter. It was a joy to bring a little of the class war to the doorsteps of white, ruling class power in Michigan. A good day.
It is suggested that readers hum along to Joe McPhee’s 1970 fire storm ‘Nation Time’ as a musical accompaniment to the photos below. ‘What time is it?’
We will defend our Civil and Human Rights!
Solidarity with Lake Orion workers—no two tier, no more plant closings!
GM’s ultimatum: Your paycheck or your job
There is a war going on, and it’s not halfway around the world. What’s clear from the so-called “innovative agreement” being rammed down the throats of UAW members at GM’s Lake Orion assembly plant is that GM has declared war on its workers. The deal, forcing the 40 per cent of the laid off workforce with the lowest seniority to take a pay cut of almost 50 per cent, is hardly innovative. When have corporations not used intimidation tactics and threatened workers jobs in order to cut pay and benefits, tear up contracts and attack unions?
Plant by plant, GM is making dubious promises of job security as leverage to drop UAW wages to levels below the average hourly wage in the U.S. They did it in Saginaw—workers swallowed painful concessions to get another company to buy their plant and keep it open. They tried it in Indianapolis, but were caught off guard when a well-organized rank-and-file resistance shot down an illegally negotiated agreement with upstart supplier JD Norman to slash hourly wages to $15.50 for production and $23 for skilled trades.
These aggressive tactics are not unique to GM. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is reported to have made a statement that UAW workers had to “get used to a culture of poverty,” while White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been quoted as saying “f—the UAW.” From Detroit to Wall Street to Washington there is a consensus at the top: wages must come down! No more “middle class” workers!
Stop the back-door deals!
The potentially devastating situation in Lake Orion is not only not “innovative”—it is not an “agreement.” Workers did not agree to this divisive expansion of the rotten two-tier structure. Members of Local 5960 have been told by the UAW leadership—which is claiming the right, under vague language voted on during the GM bankruptcy, to negotiate this back-door deal—that they have to accept it without a vote.
Every UAW member, working or retired, must stand with our sisters and brothers in Lake Orion and demonstrate our resolve to stop the cancer of non-union wages from spreading.
A JOB is a RIGHT
Rarely is it said that a big corporation is “lucky” to be making huge profits—in the case of GM $2.2 billion in the first six months—but so often we are told that we are “lucky” to have a job. We’re not supposed to think that a job—without which we cannot provide the basic comforts of life to ourselves and our families—is a basic right. Yet the UN Charter on Human Rights clearly states that every human being has a “right to work.” The early builders of our UAW believed unequivocally in the concept—they believed that we own our jobs. So if we own our jobs, then the companies have no right to eliminate them—or hold our jobs hostage to force more and more unjust concessions.
Moreover, the concessions demanded of workers at Lake Orion—affecting the non-trades workers with the lowest seniority—are discriminatory in that they will disproportionately hurt workers of color and women.
Our Civil and Human Rights are being violated! We must fight back and tell GM and our union leaders: no more ultimatums, no pay cuts, no two tier, no more plant closings.
No Vote Allowed on Half Wages in Detroit-area Auto Plant
The United Auto Workers have signed an agreement to let General Motors pay half wages to 40 percent of its employees at a suburban Detroit assembly plant. The “Tier 2” workers would make roughly $14 working alongside so-called “legacy” or Tier 1 workers making the current production wage, about $28.
GM and the UAW apparently learned a lesson from a recent defeat at an Indianapolis stamping plant , where workers voted 457-96 not to accept half pay. Members at the Lake Orion, Michigan, plant were not allowed to vote on their new wages.
Instead, they were told, the germ of the idea had been included in the national contract  ratified in 2009 when GM was on the verge of bankruptcy and seeking government help. The national contract contained language saying the UAW would help GM produce a small car profitably by “looking for innovative ways to staff the plant,” said Mike Dunn, shop chair at UAW Local 5960. The language, in fact, says only that: that company and union “will work together…to arrive at innovative ways ways to staff these operations” (page 100). Lake Orion was chosen as the lucky plant and is now being retooled to produce the subcompact Aveo and compact Verano.
Automotive News  quoted veteran auto consultant Ron Harbour’s estimate that the move will save GM all of $112 per car.
Union Meeting in Shock
At a large October 3 union meeting, workers were told they could not vote but would have options. The first 800-900 production workers called back would work at the full wage and benefits. The rest of the 1,588-person workforce could come back as Tier 2 workers (with full benefits), wait for an eventual Tier 1 opening created by retirement, or hope to get hired at another GM plant elsewhere.
Deb Malott, who hired in 10 years ago, said the meeting was full of “a lot of angry people, a lot of disbelief. We were in shock. We had no idea.” Malott came home and began contacting all her friends on Facebook. Production workers have been laid off from the idled plant since last November.
Dawn Maturen, the wife of a Lake Orion worker, said different groups within the plant are organizing to figure out a response, including an October 16 rally. “Men and women that have the same mortgages, the same amount of children, doing the same work, but one group will be for half pay—we think that goes against human dignity,” she said.
Working for Less
Malott hired in at $15.60 a decade ago, “a good wage,” she said. “But my lifestyle has changed since then. I took out loans to send my kids to college based on $29 an hour.”
Asked what it would be like in the plant with members working at different wages, Malott said, “I would still go in and do my job and do a good job, but some people would probably not put the extra step in it to make sure the job is done right.
“I’m sure there’ll be resentment there, especially the way it’s gone down. GM doesn’t make you feel like you’re worth anything. They want the cheaper people in there.”
Nick Waun said low-seniority workers like him had been “lied to for an entire year. They repeatedly told us ‘there’s no way you can be booted down to two-tier wages.’ We sat waiting for an entire year to go back to work, and they spring this on us at the last minute.”
Malott is not hopeful about other work. In the last 10 months of layoff GM has offered her only “flex” jobs of one or two days a week.
Maturen’s spouse is on his third plant, 70 miles away from their home, as he’s bounced around the GM system. They’ve got three kids. Her husband has 11 years seniority, and she thinks he’ll be in Tier 2. “Eventually Tier 1 workers will all be Tier 2,” she says. “We’ve realized in watching how things have worked that if we don’t stand up now, no one will have good-paying jobs.”
Thirty-two-year veteran Tom Hopp, who transferred to Lake Orion from the now-shuttered Saturn plant, called the move “more of the same from the UAW. It’s a form of discrimination. Those people won’t forget that we didn’t stand up for them when we needed to.”
Congressman Gary Peters issued a press release taking credit for the reopening of the plant but neglecting to mention the concessions.
Maturen is among those organizing a rally at the UAW’s Solidarity House headquarters in Detroit October 16 to protest the new plan and show the “human face of auto workers” demonized in the media. Their leaflet  says, “Real solidarity isn’t tiered!” Rank and filers are designing buttons with messages like “Why do all of your solutions involve my money?”
Dan Theisen, an electrician at Lake Orion, circulated his thoughts on the subject:
An injury to one—An injury to all!
An injury to 40%… Just business.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans organized by labor and civil rights organizations will gather in Washington, D.C. on October 2 to demand a change in the direction that our nation is heading. We are proud to join this march to demand jobs, to demand an end to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and for a society that is fairer, more equal and more just. We believe it important to be in the capital on that date to help create a counterweight to Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, and Republicans, their reactionary politics, ruthless economics, and their racism.
We do not, however, share the goals of the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, and other organizations which hope to achieve jobs and justice by supporting Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in the national elections on November 2. We believe that it has become quite clear now that neither Democrats nor the Republicans are capable of solving the country’s three great crises—the economy, the environment, and the wars—in a way that will be good for the American people. The goals of a full employment economy, real environmental sustainability, and peace cannot be achieved by our capitalist system and the corporations motivated only by profit. We need a new direction toward a new system.
The two major parties have failed us. During the past two years, the Democrats and Republicans have failed to represent us, but they have done a fine job of representing the banks, insurance companies, and corporations. They saved the banks for the bankers—not those whose homes are still threatened with foreclosure or collapsing value. They saved the auto industry for the auto CEOs—not for the workers whose plants have been closed, whose health insurance contributions have been raised, and whose wages have been lowered. They have saved the health insurance companies by forcing millions of Americans to buy their policies, while denying us a single-payer plan and leaving prices remain uncontrolled. They have saved them, but they have not saved us.
We join the movement for this march, excited and enthused to see the labor unions, the African American and Latino populations, the women’s, gay and lesbian and environmental movements taking to the streets. But we know that change can only be brought about as it has been in every period of American history by independent social movements. And such independent movements must find political expression first in independent candidates and then in a party of working people and all in our society who suffer exploitation, discrimination and oppression.
The organizers of this march have called it “One Nation.” The truth is we are two nations. One nation of corporate CEOs and Bankers and their legions of high level executives, the very wealthy of our country, and another nation of working people, many of them now jobless. We are two nations: the corporations who run this country and the working people who make this country run. We will be marching with the working class to end a system dominated by corporations. We march because we believe that those working people who make the country run should run the country.
We know from American history and the history of the world that great and progressive changes come about only from below. We know that in modern times working people, who stand at the center of our economy and represent the majority of our population, represent the crucial force capable of making the changes we need. We also know that if we only organize movements and fail to create an independent political force, the Democrats will harvest all of our organizing. The fruits of our labor will be turned against us in Congress.
So we march. We march for jobs. We march for single-payer health care. We march for free public education from K to Ph.D. We march for an end to our racist and class-biased injustice system, and for equal justice for all. We march for women’s rights. We march for legalization of all the undocumented. We march for LGBT rights. We march for an end to the destruction of our environment. We march for an end to the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We march for an end to US support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine and blockade of Gaza. We march knowing that the things we march for can only be achieved by abolishing capitalism and creating a democratic socialist society. We invite you to march with us. Join the Socialist Contingent on October 2 in Washington, D.C.
Endorsers: Dan La Botz, Socialist Party campaign for U.S. Senate, Ohio, International Socialist Organization (ISO), Solidarity: a democratic, revolutionary socialist, feminist, anti-racist organization, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Action, Socialist Party of New York City, Socialist Party of Central Virginia, Action for a Progressive Pakistan, Against The Current, Democratic Left @ GWU, coordinating committee, 15th Street Manifesto Group, Socialist Party of Connecticut, Chicago Socialist Party, Socialist Organizer, New Politics: A Journal of Socialist Thought, more…
Just a few snaps of this afternoon’s march to Cobo Hall in Detroit opening the Social Forum. The energy of the march was wonderful, I am no good at numbers, but the consensus of those I was with put the number at around 5,000 (over ten thousand pre-registered). I ended up behind a contingent of young Jewish radicals for part of the march; the chant: “We’re Jews! We’re pissed! We are anti-Zionists!” Within minutes of arriving I saw comrades I hadn’t seen in far too long (why yes, those are gray hairs), and the minutes following brought many more such happy reunions. I’ll be at the Forum in and out and solidly come Friday, will have more as the week develops.
My general rule is 1) For anyone (but England) against the United States 2) For any country ever a colony 3) Against any country who ever had a colony 4) In case of matches between imperialist powers; whoever has the most militant and conscious working class 5) In the case of a contest between two former colonies the same applies 6) a socialist state trumps all (we do not include in this category the team fielded by the DRPK). However you choose to define Cuba’s present reality, Cuba is unfortunately not in the tournament, so 1 or 2 or 4 or 5 cannot be applied to that dauntless, defiant island. Would that it could. For 5 to be realized first we need to make a socialist state…and have it play good soccer…err, football.
Betraying a certain prejudice, I am hoping the first genuinely socialist state first and foremost plays good baseball (and if certain trends elaborate themselves I may get my wish), but I’ll take what I can get. That being the case, in the current contest, even though it is hopeless; given the ‘debate’ in the US over immigration and my natural sympathies and inclinations, with heart and soul, I will be cheering the Mexican squad…though I may not grow hoarse from cheering too long.
First and foremost, most importantly and most vehemently, I and you should be supporting the South African working class as it confronts the world during the festivals and/of obscuration that is also the World Cup with the realities of the ANC’s neo-liberal rule.
I’ll have more thoughts on the situation tomorrow. For now here are just a sampling of the many hundreds of demos around the world in the last 48 hours. Firstly, local folks will be especially interested to hear an interview on GritTV (please forgive the commercial ads Grit allows) with Michigan’s own, the indomitable Huwaida Arraf, a founder of the International Solidarity Movement and organizer of the Free Gaza Flotilla on her experiences.
Demos in…Tel Aviv (from Israel Social TV)
…Manchester (at the awful(ly) pro-Israel BBC)
…Stockholm (largely in English for some reason)
…New York City
…Bethlehem (at the same time in Qalandiya, US ISM activist Emily Henochowicz tragically lost an eye after being deliberately targeted by IDF tear gas canisters)
…and finally (with a hat tip to Brad) Richie Havens doing Dylan’s utterly appropriate License To Kill
Now, he’s hell-bent for destruction, he’s afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
All he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies
But there’s a woman on my block
Sitting there in a cold chill
She say who gonna take away his license to kill?
Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool
And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled
Oh, man is opposed to fair play
He wants it all and he wants it his way
Now, there’s a woman on my block
She just sit there as the night grows still
She say who gonna take away his license to kill?