Friday, November 30, 2007

Interview: Sweetheart Deals & Solidarity Unionism

The following interview was conducted with Bruce Allen and published by the Ontario based organization, Common Cause.

Bruce Allen is vice-president of Local 199 at GM in St. Catherines in Ontario, Canada. Allen has long been a voice and organizer of opposition in Ontario auto and the broader class struggle movement.

The following interview was done after the announcement of a no-strike contract between the Canadian Auto Workers and Magna International. Magna is the largest auto parts manufacturer in Canada. The CAW broke from the UAW in 1985 over the issue of increasing concessions - concessions being made by the UAW to Auto.

"A deal like this is certainly a product of weakness, and a product of a declining membership base in manufacturing and especially auto and auto parts sector. There the CAW has experienced massive membership losses due to corporate down-sizing and plant closures and that has definitely created some sense of desperation. Desperation is conducive to obviously making an accommodation with employers in any way they can in order to maintain the dues base and you can see this agreement in this context. It definitely plays in to it and a major driving force is the CAW's national office desire to maintain the dues base in order to sustain the organization.

You only need to look to the United States in that respect, the UAW at the end of the 1970's had 1.5 million members, today its about a third of that. You can't maintain the organisation, the bureaucratic structure and all the rest if you have a shriveling dues base...

These dynamics and trends are a major reason why a deal like this is struck. There is a quiet desperation about it. But touching on your other question – is this the way to build the union? In the short term, sure it could get you additional members. But the other way to look at it, from more a class perspective, is if the union is going to be weak and defective, unable to win things for you, make substantial gains for you and improve the quality of life; your standard of living; day to day reality on the shop floor, people are not going to want to join a union. What's the point of joining a union if it doesn't do anything for you? If all a union is, is something that takes money off your pay check?"

read the whole interview here