I have had the most extraordinary weekend of conversations. I was lucky enough to be in a gathering of labor folks, mostly UAW (though a few others, I didn’t forget y’all), who were all top-tier workers. Many of them had nice union appointment jobs, and had locals with enough money to pay them for the time that they were spending away from their jobs. I don’t have any of that, but I was really, really glad to be able to pick people’s brains. As far as I know, pretty much all of them came off the line, and have spent most, if not all, of their working lives in auto. It was a good place to be. And, as an aside, it was really fun.
A few other conversations followed in rapid succession, and it became a little bit clearer to me how we could end up in the position in which we find ourselves. One wise soul explained it to me thus: They didn’t even think there would really even be a second tier of workers. Chrysler was facing bankruptcy, so was GM and Ford was on shaky ground, too. But when they took the concessions that allowed the creation of the automotive caste system, they didn’t really think there would even be an underclass for a long time.
Well. Here we are. The concessions that saved those pensions and that top pay are the same concessions that give me the shittiest medical insurance I’ve ever seen. The concessions that allowed for the top pay to stay more or less intact are the same concessions that guarantee that I won’t buy the car I build, as much as I might want to. Can’t afford it. And those concessions that saved those pensions are the ones that made sure I’ll never have it like that. Unless we step up. We, the second-tier, the underclass. The stepchildren in the promised land. We need education, we need mentors, we need for the old-time folks to take us under their wings, explain how the union works, what to do. We need old-time folks to defend us on the shop floor so that we can see how it’s done. We need solidarity-building on the most basic level. We are the concessions that saved you.
Stepchild in the Promised Land