Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buzz Off

In the true tradition of business unionism Canadian Autoworkers President Buzz Hargrove sold his members out for a bowl of pottage. Despite his pseudo-socialist bluster, which was really ghost written by Sam Gidden, and his so called political activist unionism, in the end like all other union bosses he sold out his workers for a contract today.

It makes one wonder why we need unions. Well actually the bosses need them more than the workers do, since they are used to curtail authentic class struggle, and to mediate on behalf of 'variable labour' with the owners of capital.

The recent record breaking settlement with the Big 3 auto companies was a sell out by Buzz as he prepares to retire.

In the latest round of talks, Mr. Hargrove managed to negotiate what is effectively a wage and benefits freeze.

While denouncing two tiered wage settlements agreed to by UAW and the Big 3 south of the border, Buzz agreed to a made in Canada two tier wage structure no different than those he was denouncing.

Economic provisions of the deals mirror those of the CAW's deal with Ford Motor Co., which was cemented May 4. New hires will be paid 70% of base wages during the first three years of employment before climbing into the full wage scale. The deal cuts a week's vacation in return for 3,500 Canadian dollar (US$3,485) one-time payments and increases to drug co-payments.

The sell out of principles began when Buzz and CAW agreed to a no strike deal with Magna.

The Magna-CAW deal struck last fall between Mr. Stronach and Mr. Hargrove is a good start: In return for a no-strike clause from the union, Magna agreed to stop resisting unionization.

He has now followed it up with a sweet heart deal with the Big 3 selling out autoworkers by tying them into a contract that does not assure them job security, but rather see's further lay offs and plant closures with a payout to the survivors.

The auto industry is bleeding and all Buzz got was a band aid, and he admitted it.

Major economic clauses for all three companies

Wage freeze for three years.

Elimination of cost-of-living adjustment until 2009.

Employee co-payments of 10 per cent on prescription drug costs, amounting to $250 in the first year and growing slightly in the next two years.

Newly hired employees receive 70 per cent of full wages and take three years to get to full level, compared to previous provision of 85 per cent and two-year growth to full wages.

Surrender of 40 hours of holidays a year in return for a one-time payment of $3,500 in 2009.


Etobicoke casting plant in Toronto kept open for 2½ years instead of being closed next year. Company and union will look for buyer or joint venture partner for Chrysler.

Confirmation that next generation of Chrysler's large sedans will be built at Brampton, Ont., plant.

Minivan plant in Windsor, Ont., will maintain three shifts as long as market stays healthy. Shift at St. Louis plant to be cut before any shifts in Windsor.


New rear-wheel-drive car for Oshawa, Ont., to join Chevrolet Camaro.

Extension of Chevrolet Impala production at Oshawa plant to 2012.

New six-speed transmission for St. Catharines, Ont., pending government financial support.

New V8 engine for St. Catharines.

Retirement incentives up to $125,000 and a $35,000 vehicle voucher for workers at Windsor transmission plant, which will be closed in 2010.

Retention of second shift of workers at Oshawa Truck plant. Instead of layoffs, workers will go on two-week rotating shifts until September, 2009.


Adds new vehicle to Oakville, Ont., assembly plant beyond Ford Flex, which goes into production this year.

Extends life of St. Thomas, Ont., large-car assembly plant by three years from expected closing next year.

Autoworkers in Canada are marking time, as CAW rests on its laurels happy to have organized the Big 3 and now Magna. They have made little effort to take on the Japanese or Korean automakers in Canada who now outsell the Big 3.

Instead of organizing Toyota, Buzz cozied up to Toyota management and backed one of their VP's who was running for Liberal MP last election. Like his bargaining strategies his political strategy of strategic voting leads workers to a dead end.

It's a good thing he is finally retiring unfortunately while that will end the cult of personality in the CAW it will not end the entrenched bureaucracy of labour fakirs and pork choppers who dominate the organization.

CAW likes to claim to be a social union, a left leaning union, but it is in the end regardless of its ideological claims, a business union, structured to maintain capitalism.

As Marx pointed out years ago; Trade unions are not revolutionary organizations, but defense organizations of the working class. They call for a fair days wage instead of demanding the abolition of the wage system.

Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. The fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.

Under the Fordist model of mass production and with the post War boom they became the hand maiden of capitalism, bargaining with the bosses to get crumbs off the table for their members.

They abandoned any pretense to being agents of social change, instead they became the cops on the shop floor, halting wildcats and job actions by workers. Building permanent corporate style organizations paid for by workers, and populated by professional permanent non-elected paid representatives, they have abandoned the revolutionary aims of workers self-organization; the control of the means of production, the take over and self management of factories by the workers themselves.

Instead they accept the day to day operations of capitalism as inevitable, not worth fighting over except to try and ameliorate its worse excesses, which keeps the bosses happy.

Workers since the beginning of capitalism have organized themselves, when unions were outlawed or banned, workers still created them and used them to strike against the bosses.

This self organization of workers is the dialectic of the conflict between labour and capital. When capitalism boomed it offered unions labour peace, a greater share of the pie, through out the sixties and seventies this was known as the social contract, and was reflected in a trilateral approach to State governance, the unions joined the politicians and capitalists at the table of civil society, determining how the welfare state would function.

Capitalism created the welfare state, in order to avoid a revolution at the end of WWII, and the labour leaders gleefully joined the bosses and their state glad to be accepted as equals. But they never were equals they were bought off, as the eighties and nineties proved when the bosses tore up the social contract and went on the offensive attacking union gains and calling for the privatization of the state.

The unions still slow to wake up, like the door mouse at Alice's Tea Party, thought this assault was an aberration, a few bad apples amongst their friends the bosses.
Instead it was a well planned and orchestrated assault on the State by capitalism which needed more capitals to expand, and saw public sector services as a waste of the that capital.

The class war had been declared when capital started calling for roll backs, give backs, started off shoring and contracting out, and creating two tiered wage structures. The unions gave up fighting back accepting Maggie Thatchers admonition that There Is No Alternative.

And we hear Maggie echoed in Buzz's departing deal with the Big 3.

The 64-year-old Mr. Hargrove described this year's set of talks as the toughest he has faced since he became president in 1992. He warned in an interview yesterday, however, that they will "look like a picnic" compared with what his successor will face in 2011 if Chrysler, Ford and GM continue to lose market share and are forced to continue slashing their Canadian and U.S. operations.

There is a solution to the problem, and it was shown by the Aluminum workers in Quebec, and by workers in Argentina, when capital abandons the factories the workers still make them run.

We can exist with out capitalism, with out hedge fund investments, workers self management of their factories, and of public services is the alternative. Unfortunately it is usually embraced after the fact, after capital has abandoned the factories and communities that surround those factories.

But it shows that workers can organize themselves to run things for themselves and for their communities, without capitalists.

It is the secret of capitalism, that without workers there is no capitalism, we create the beast which oppresses us. Our challenge is not to tame the beast but to end its existence by creating the conditions for real existing socialism.

For more critiques of the CAW deals see:

Bruce Allen Learning Some Lessons from Michigan's Auto Jobs Crisis
The evidence of manufacturing job loss on a massive scale in Ontario where the Canadian auto industry is concentrated is clear and undeniable. Nonetheless a question must be asked. Is it accurate to characterize what is taking place here as a “manufacturing crisis?” Or is it something else?

Sam Gindin The CAW and Panic Bargaining: Early Opening at the Big Three
In the face of a deteriorating economic climate and concerns about the ‘investment competitiveness’ of Canadian plants, the CAW leadership made a startling move this spring. It had an air of panic about it: the leadership quietly asked the Big Three – GM, Ford and Chrysler – to open their collective agreements early, offering a new ‘pragmatic’ settlement. ...

Sam Gindin Two-tier Wages, Second-Class Workers
When Autoworker President Buzz Hargrove makes new pronouncements, they carry weight within and beyond the labour movement – even when, as has recently been the case, they seem to undermine what Canadian unions have always stood for...

Herman Rosenfeld MAGNA IS NOT CAMI
In Bob White’s October 30th Op-Ed piece in the Toronto Star, the retired CAW president refers to the current Magna deal as a form of "innovation", comparing it to the 1980s fight against concessions and the formation of the new Canadian auto union...

Sam Gindin The CAW and Magna: What if Magna Builds an Assembly Plant?
In the discussions of the proposed Magna-CAW (Canadian Auto Workers) ‘Framework of Fairness’ deal, the focus has been on Magna as a components company. But what if Magna opened an assembly plant? Under the language of the ‘Framework of Fairness’, it too would be part of the deal...

SP Labour Committee Windsor Modules: The CAW-Magna Deal Delivers – Or Does it?
On November 7, 2007, the CAW made an historic announcement. The first collective agreement under the new CAW-Magna Framework of Fairness Agreement (FFA) was ratified at Windsor Modules, a plant of some 250 workers...


Alcan Proves Marx Right

Workers Control vs Corporate Welfare

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