WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 08: Auto workers and retirees, who are part of a caravan from several Midwest states to Congress, march on Capitol Hill December 8, 2008 in Washington, DC. Auto workers went to Washington to urge lawmakers to save the auto industry. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
By Frank Hammer.
The Autoworker Caravan rejects GM CEO Mary Barra’s surprise announcement that General Motors plans to close 5 unionized plants in North America in 2019 and two unnamed plants overseas.  14,000+ workers stand to lose their jobs or will have to transfer to other plants.   The known targeted plants include two U.S. assembly plants (Lordstown, OH, Detroit, MI), two transmission plants (Warren, MI, Baltimore, MD) and one Canadian assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
The hastily issued statement is GM’s opening salvo for the 2019 contract talks with the UAW.  It caught the targeted U.S. UAW Locals by surprise.  The unilateral announcement serves to further discredit the already exposed GM-UAW’s “partnership” and “teamwork” strategy that’s undermined working class solidarity within the Union’s ranks.  GM will use those “partnerships” to pit the plants against each other, drive down pay and working conditions, and further divide the membership. The response must renewed solidarity rejecting plant closings.
It’s estimated that 50,000 workers will lose their jobs as the plant closures ripple to suppliers and other employers and businesses servicing the GM factories.  These layoffs will irreparably harm the affected communities, each of which granted generous tax abatements in the past in exchange for stable employment and tax revenue.  This is a betrayal of the workers and their communities and is tantamount to a declaration of war.
Autoworkers reject GM forsaking them and their families to enrich Wall Street banksters and stockholders – which rewarded GM with a 6% rise in its stock value – enriching Barra and her cronies in the process.  A decade ago Wall Street forced massive factory closures and worker concessions by threatening GM with bankruptcy.  Now Wall Street has been complaining about GM not being profitable enough, and cheered Barra’s announcement. When is enough, enough?
We reject Mary Barra’s claim that GM is “unallocating” product guided by a “a vision of a world with zero emissions.”  This is GM doublespeak – parading as a company that’s “environmentally friendly” and yet saying “we will continue our strong line of [fuel-inefficient] crossovers, SUVs and trucks.”
The U.S. government – over President Trump’s objections, along with the United Nations, both issued reports in the last month with dire predictions of catastrophic weather if nations across the globe don’t reduce greenhouse gasses due to burning fossil fuels – now, not in the future.
For the sake of their families and the next generation, autoworkers should take the lead, demanding that GM and other car manufacturers convert from the internal combustion engine in favor of making electric cars and trucks.  The plants targeted for closure can be used for that purpose.
The City of Detroit in the 1980s used the tactic of “eminent domain” to disappear “Poletown” so GM could build its plant and create jobs.  If GM persists in closing that plant, Detroit should declare a people’s “eminent domain,” take over the plant and produce for a renewable energy economy – including public transit components, solar panels, wind turbines, etc – so we will have jobs.
There is a growing movement in the US for a “green new deal.”  We believe that autoworkers will be a growing part of it.  Our lives, our jobs, and the lives of our children and grandchildren depend on it.
Workers & Community Speak Out
 2-5 PM Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018
Swords into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery
33 East Adams St, Detroit 48226

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Frank Hammer is a member of the Real News Network Board of Directors, and has been a social justice activist for nearly 50 years. He spent the last 40 years in the labor movement as an autoworker and a member, elected officer, staff representative, and now retiree of the United Auto Workers. Frank was the former president of the Greenacres Woodward Civic Association in Detroit, and he currently represents the association as a member of the Michigan State Fairgrounds Advisory Committee. He is a lecturer in the Labor Studies Programs at Wayne State and Indiana Universities. He’s a board member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, an activist with South East Michigan Jobs with Justice, the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW-UAW), and the Autoworker Caravan.