Let’s get started…2015, boots on the ground for ALL working people

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.'   --Percy Bysshe Shelley

We are an unhappy and divided lot, the once-mighty United Auto Workers. We have left the table, squabbling and arguing over whose lot is worse, who got screwed the worst. And THIS is inevitable result of a two-tier anything. A two-tier union, a two-tier family, anything. One of the slickest things about capitalism is that it thrives on division with small treats distracting from larger rewards. If people are starving, throwing crumbs distracts them from the big-ass pie from which the crumbs originate. It’s the same idea that women have when they get mugged for their purses: Throw the purse in one direction and run like hell in the other.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only weapon we have is education. Last night, in my plant, the bosses called a meeting of all the Team Leaders and kept them in the office for a good while. No one knew why, or what was going on. That is the Chrysler way: Keep everyone in the dark and feed them shit. After a while (and one or two line stops), the Team Leaders all came out, and told everyone there was cake in the conference room. Apparently, we ran a perfect build for one shift last week. I guess that means that we ran well enough, from one end of the factory to the other, that the maximum output of cars was achieved. It’s never happened at a plant like ours, and it was only the 4th time in Chrysler history. So we got cake. I can’t imagine what the management got: They had a perfect build just two days after eliminating two jobs from the body shop! I asked the center manager what his bonus was, but he insisted it was just the cake. I’m sure. Anyway, we only worked 8 hrs last night, when everyone usually expects to work 9 or 10; we all need the overtime. We figured that $60-$100 they saved by running a regular shift was to pay for the cake.

But the question that I didn’t hear nearly enough was: What do the managers get when we run a perfect build? What do the managers get when they trim jobs? What kind of “quality” or “performance” bonuses do they get, relative to whatever we get? After all, even though they’re supposed to be the brains of the operation, if there aren’t enough of us peons, they can’t run the line. We saw that last week. Literally, they ran such a thin margin on the manpower that they couldn’t start the line for 15 minutes into the shift.

It might not sound like much, but the assembly line doesn’t play. An oft-quoted line from the bosses is that every minute the line is down costs the company something like $10,000 or so. That’s a lot of leverage, isn’t it? And we have people who are willing to work through their breaks for a paid lunch…for a tier-two worker, that’s about $7.50. In order to keep the line running after break. So we’re selling off $10,000 worth of leverage for less than 40 bucks a week? Damn. Things really are tough all over. But I have hope…it’s been bad before, it’ll be worse again. The only thing we can do is fight, fight, fight like hell. And so we shall.



About Stepchild in the Promised Land: Notes from a Tier-Two Autoworker

A third-generation Detroiter, Wayne State grad, mother and tier-two autoworker.
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3 Responses to Let’s get started…2015, boots on the ground for ALL working people

  1. canoelac says:

    Brave words, good words.
    To tie together the first part and the last part: the best education is the experience of fighting back. A lot of people’s education does not begin until they engage. Sometimes the engage part is very, very tiny and tentative. Be alert for that and support every action of resistance no matter how small. Doesn’t happen all at once or by magic.

    • Thanks for your encouragement. Take heart, there is poetry in the plant! Literally. Walt Whitman is posted on the bulletin board outside the bathrooms. I wish I could take credit, but it’s just…there. I think sometimes, there are acts of resistance that assert the right to beauty AND magic. And they might be tiny and tentative, but there are there, speaking volumes, shouting out & reclaiming humanity. Even on a 4×6 sheet of paper.

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