Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Standing Together

Standing Together

By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in The Detroit News on
October 12, 2011

Jobs are coming back from China, Mexico and Japan: Thousands of good-paying, family-supporting jobs, all at the Ford Motor Co.
Last week, the United Auto Workers and Ford negotiated a tentative agreement that will bring 5,750 UAW jobs back from overseas, in addition to the 6,250 jobs previously announced by the company.

Those 12,000 jobs will throw off another 108,000 jobs for suppliers and other businesses because of the multiplier effect of the automotive industry. And that's not even counting the 6,400 new U.S. jobs at GM the union negotiated a few weeks ago.

These jobs aren't the result of tax cuts or getting rid of regulations. These jobs are the result of a union and an employer sitting down at the table and talking.
Collective bargaining works.

Collective bargaining rights make a decent, middle-class life possible for millions of U.S. workers. But many corporations and elected officials are hell-bent on taking them away. And it isn't just organized labor they're attacking.

A war is being waged against American workers. The economic survival they once took for granted is less and less certain. The dangers of plant closures, unemployment, indebtedness and medical catastrophe loom closer even as our standard of living slowly erodes.

Workers have always had to stand together and fight for a fair wage, health benefits and retirement with dignity. And that's why labor unions fit right in with the protesters who are occupying Wall Street and dozens of other cities. Union members have always fought for the people in the street.

My friend Bob King, UAW president, likes to tell the story of how his union staged one of the first occupations ever — Occupy Flint. It's the story of the Flint sit-down strike.

On the night of Dec. 30, 1936, GM workers stopped the loading of dies to be shipped from the Fisher Body Plant to plants with weaker unions. They locked themselves in the plant and sat down for six weeks. They faced down the police, the National Guard and the company. Like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, they were fed by supporters who donated food. Like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, they formed a community, assigning groups to guard, clean, gather news and handle food. Some played musical instruments.

By Feb. 11, they negotiated a deal with GM, winning collective bargaining rights in 17 plants, a 5 percent wage hike and the right to speak in the lunch room. It was the birth of the UAW.

As Bob will tell you, those workers took militant, nonviolent, direct action against the most powerful corporation in the world. Everybody said they would lose. But they stood together. They took thoughtful, strategic, direct action. They won an overwhelming victory. And the UAW and the Teamsters went on to build the middle class throughout the industrial heartland.

Today, the 99 percent are taking militant, nonviolent direct action in Lower Manhattan. They're camped out in front of Los Angeles City Hall and the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank and in Boston's Financial District. They'll be in downtown Detroit on Friday. They're a long way from an overwhelming victory. But so were those UAW workers when they first locked the doors in Flint

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