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Reformers win in California UAW local

By Caroline Lund, Trustee, UAW Local 2244 | August 1, 2003 | Page 11

FREMONT, Calif.--In recent elections, members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2244 voted out our long-time Administration Caucus (AC) leadership and brought in a team of more pro-worker union leaders.

Local 2244 represents some 5,000 workers at the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont. The assembly plant is a joint venture of General Motors and Toyota, and has long been a showcase of "labor-management cooperation."

Major issues in the election campaign were outsourcing and a stringent attendance policy imposed unilaterally by the company last year. The company has outsourced jobs in many areas, and has indicated that more is to come.

The AC--the political machine loyal to the UAW International leadership--took the stance that outsourcing can't be stopped without a strike (which they implied was unthinkable), and doesn't really matter as long as overall plant size doesn't shrink and the UAW gets to organize the outsourced work.

The victorious opposition forces--the United Alliance Caucus (UA) and independent candidates such as myself--stressed that we need to oppose outsourcing even when the numbers involved are small. We argued that, whether the outsourced work is UAW-organized or not, we can't accept the slashing of wages. A UA leaflet explained, "We can fight and not win, but we will never win without a fight!"

The UA and rank-and-file members from both caucuses circulated a petition opposing the new attendance policy, which was signed by some 1,300 members. An AC leader ridiculed the petition, calling it "worthless" and "feeble."

The backdrop for this election was Bush's war on Iraq. The AC beat the drums of patriotism, cosponsoring a "support the troops day" with the company. My plant newsletter, The Barking Dog, said the best support for the troops was to bring them home and explained that company and union officials "are using sympathy for the troops to try to manipulate us into supporting the war on Iraq, silencing complaints on the shop floor and prettifying our union officials for the coming union elections."

The patriotic rhetoric didn't work, however. In the wake of the election, hopes and expectations of the membership are high. People are looking for union leaders who will stand up to the company, promote membership power and work together regardless of caucus affiliation.

Lund is editor of The Barking Dog newsletter, www.geocities.com/abarkingdog.

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