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Report on S.O.S. and it’s January 8th Rally at International Auto Show,

category north america / mexico | workplace struggles | news report author Sunday January 15, 2006 00:06author by By C. Alexander Report this post to the editors

SOS formed at a Dec. 4th Bay City, Michigan meeting organized by and for
UAW rank and filers. The Bay City meeting was one of the early meetings
organized to engage the UAW membership employed by Delphi and GM. The
purpose of the meetings are to raise consciousness, solidify a base, and
promote the idea of resistance to a) specifically, Delphi’s restructuring
bankruptcy that entails plant closures, pension cuts, immediate wage
lowering, and rolls over current labor contracts, and b) generally, the
broader restructuring that the US auto industry is hoping to initiate, the
results of which are similar to what is on Delphi’s agenda.

This was the first big public protest organized by Soldiers Of Solidarity,
the independent faction comprised of UAW rank and filers.

SOS formed at a Dec. 4th Bay City, Michigan meeting organized by and for
UAW rank and filers. The Bay City meeting was one of the early meetings
organized to engage the UAW membership employed by Delphi and GM. The
purpose of the meetings are to raise consciousness, solidify a base, and
promote the idea of resistance to a) specifically, Delphi’s restructuring
bankruptcy that entails plant closures, pension cuts, immediate wage
lowering, and rolls over current labor contracts, and b) generally, the
broader restructuring that the US auto industry is hoping to initiate, the
results of which are similar to what is on Delphi’s agenda.

These rank and file meetings, although growing in size, have been
initially spearhead by a small core of UAW members several of whom have
Left/Socialist politics. Notable organizers have been Gregg Shotwell and
Todd Jordan. Jordan runs the website,, which as of
late boasts some 30,000 hits and growing. Aside from the basic reprinting
of labor related news, the sites politics range from reformist trade
unionist politics to at times having an orientation towards what I might
say is radical syndicalism. While the sites politics sometimes seem to
point to a traditional Labor Party socialism, it remains non-sectarian and
influence by any particular left sect is hard to see.

The meetings have grown from 60 in Kokomo, Indiana to 300+ at the Flint,
Michigan meeting. Although still representing a minority of the UAW
membership, these numbers point towards a positive development amongst the
rank and file. Several UAW members have stated that they rarely see this
number of rank and filers in one meeting, let alone a meeting that has not
been sanctioned by the UAW leadership, Solidarity House. I think it’s
correct to say that the SOS has energized a sector of labor who felt they
have had no viable avenue to voice their concerns and/or to get active
around the issues affecting them. Not to sound clichéd, but there is a
real, though small, current of self activity amongst the rank and file.

The rally in Detroit this past Sunday the 8th was one more push by the SOS
to both publicize and broaden their emerging movement. The event date was
chosen to correspond to the day that the International Auto Show was
opened to the media, though not the public. A fact that I think hurt the
protest. The SOS had hoped to attract the attention of national and
international reporters and by doing so highlight their cause. But many of
the reporters were brought into Cobo through the back of the center,
missing altogether the protest. Another weakness of holding the protest on
the 8th as opposed to later in the week, was that if held later there
would be more people out and about. There could be more crowds that
included UAW members coming to the Auto show, and that this increase in
foot traffic could have been used to the protest organizers advantage. The
protestors could mingle with the potential crowds getting their message
out to more folks and also, tactically, use this as a way to advance
closer to the hall. Police would have had to stop whole segments of the
crowd. Unfortunately, downtown Detroit was near empty of pedestrians on
the 8th, other than protesters.

Days before the rally, the Detroit media stated that upwards of 3,000
protestors were expected and that the Mayors office was mobilizing the
police force in preparation for the possibility of violence. This number
was perhaps given because of previous labor protests. Also, while there
has been nothing coming out of SOS that gives any hint of “violence”, here
too the Mayor’s office may have been going on past history of militant
labor protests. Notably the news paper strike from 10 years ago.

Some SOS members had predicted at least 1500; this was not the case on
Sunday. The actual numbers were much lower. The Detroit Free Press
estimated 500-700. This was also the estimate the has

While the protest was spirited, the low numbers were a definite weakness
and the crowd was never solidified under a common march program. At
anytime you had 3 different masses of the rally, which created a kind of
thinned out appearance. If there had been an effective effort to line
people up, or stay together, then the small numbers could have been used
to the organizers advantage.

The crowd itself was overwhelmingly UAW rank and filers with another large
faction being comprised of other union members including the CAW (Canadian
Auto Workers) and some AFSCME Local 207. In addition to these numbers were
the out and out “Left”. This block included the Revolutionary Workers
League (RWL have members in Local 207), Solidarity/Labor Notes, Workers
World Party (WWP member David Sole is president of UAW Local 2334), IWW,
The Spark, Labors Militant Voice, and independent radicals and class
struggle anarchists.

Although advertised as a march, the event was more a rally. The
demonstration was not allowed within 1000 feet of Cobo Hall. The protest
stayed close to a nearby river park, Hart Plaza, which is northeast of
Cobo. The protest was visible to traffic but rather removed from the Auto
show. The actual march was more a picket. At one point a sizeable portion
of the rally crossed the street and tried to march to a corner adjacent to
Cobo Hall but was promptly stopped by the police. Some marchers tried to
argue with the police and encourage the crowd to continue on. This
confrontation didn’t last long. The crowd turned back and returned to Hart
Plaza, leaving only a small handful of demonstrators who turned round 5
minutes later. No arrests were made.

The remaining 2 hours of the rally were spent picketing, with a large
Mother Jones puppet leading the crowd up and down the street in front of
Hart Plaza. There was at one point some momentum to march on Cobo, but
this fizzled when some of the rally’s marshals deterred the crowd. The
momentum for this attempt to march past the police to the auto show was
lead by UAW members and some from LMV. However, when confronted by
marshals most of the UAW members backed off. Some of the marchers,
including members of LMV, argued with a marshal asserting that she was
hampering the initiative of the crowd. A shouting match soon ensued which
promptly lead to the evaporation of any continued effort to march on Cobo.

The rally lasted for perhaps another 40 minutes.

Estimations and Questions
The event had a disorganized vibe to it. There didn’t appear to be any
active tactical unit to keep folks together or plan/take advantage of
possible opportunities to expand the rally parameters. Related to this is
the question of why the rally’s presence 1000 ft from Cobo was not
contested. If there was a fight waged over the protest area designated by
the City, it is plausible that the event could have been closer. If there
was a conscious decision to not contest the City’s parameters, then it is
worth asking, “Are there those amongst this movement who want to keep this
a sterilized and passive form of rank and file resistance”.

More disorganization was caused by the lack of a solid, unified political
position. The politics ranged from anti-Delphi/GM to anti-UAW leadership
to an anti-Chinese US chauvinism. Despite the event being organized by the
SOS, who have a definite Left/social democratic bent to their program,
none of this is surprising and shows the mixed, and at times contradictory
thinking, that is present amongst the class. On Michigan NPR the only
interview I heard with someone from the rally had the demonstrator
slamming Delphi and GM for building production facilities overseas.

While outsourcing is a painful reality for much of our class, we need to
be challenging protectionist ideas that can easily be channeled into
racist views. Most foreign governments work with U.S. led corporations.
The governments and foreign capitalist class are eagerly seeking to
exploit their native populace. This struggle goes well beyond U.S.
borders. We need to build a perspective that is through and through

Another weakness was the lack of youth. While this event had more youth
present than any of the previous SOS events, the majority of the
participants are 50+ and nearing retirement. Many of the auto workers are
long time employees and there are few newer jobs opening up. Some SOS
members have said that they would like to encourage participation by
younger workers or young people in their cities and towns around these

Along with youth, another glaring issue was the overall Whiteness of the
crowd. There were some Black workers present, but they numbered less than
20. There has been an antiracist politic present but it doesn’t seem to
have developed a method for outreaching to UAW and other working people of

Women were present and in visible roles of leadership.

An important question of SOS is of where it sees itself going. Until now
there has been little of the personal careerism that has marked other
struggles. SOS organizers have been humble and above everything have
sought the participation and input of their fellow rank and filers.
However, there are those in the UAW rank and file and leadership who could
try and cultivate the most visible SOS organizers and try to channel the
SOS struggle into an inner UAW leadership tug of war over who will be the
future UAW leadership. One sign at the Auto Show protest was telling and I
am certain it is not a lone sentiment The sign read, “Shotwell for
President”. It is not hard to imagine a factional struggle developing.
The difficult task for SOS, especially if the struggle deepens, is to
remain independent politically and committed to mass, popular organizing
at the grassroots. SOS must resist the turn towards electoralism – union
and beyond. Attempts to turn the SOS into a pressure group have to be
fought off, and key organizers must make a personal commitment to
remaining amongst the base at the shop floor level.

While SOS is a UAW movement, now, it is looking for assistance and support
from the working class “Left” and is open to those who are committed and
consistent in their work and solidarity. This opening is important for
radical anti-authoritarians and class struggle anarchist revolutionaries.
We need to figure out ways to intervene and build that reputation. With
participation we should argue for both defending and building on the
already existing directly democratic and radical forms of organization.
Militants need to expand on the following: concepts of horizontal
organizing as opposed to top-down directives; direct action as opposed to
reliance on negotiations made by the beauracracy; and movement towards a
mass strike across society.

In our efforts we also need to be able to “bring” something to the table.
For those of us not in the plants we can start by organizing sectors who
may not be immediately orienting towards this movement. We need to
establish solidarity groups and initiate campaigns that engage a broader
stratum of people laying out how the Auto industries restructuring plans
are part of a broader capitalist offensive against the working classes and
poor. The success of the SOS struggle is tied up in the ability of our
class to rally to it. This means popularizing the struggle and
transforming it from an isolated movement to one that is identified and
supported in other labor sectors and in communities.

This new movement is important and it is essential we orient towards it.
While it has a multiple of voices and tendencies within it, the important
characteristics are:

-critique of UAW beauracracy with a real emphasis on rank and file action
as opposed to reliance on the Solidarity House leadership.
-its creation of open and democratic forums for workers to speak up and
-the creation of rank and file action groups in different cities
-the non sectarian nature of the movement
-a definite internationalist politic being put forth by the leading
members of the SOS

I think that if the struggle continues and sharpens, remains outside of
and independent of Solidarity House, and grows, then this situation could
touch thousands across the US and internationally. If we can contribute to
building a solidarity movement based on the best characteristics of SOS
currently, then this struggle could broaden out beyond what many of us
here in the U.S. have seen in the most recent past.

author by Todd M. Jordan - Future of the Unionpublication date Fri Mar 24, 2006 21:54Report this post to the editors

“Yesterday, was like Christmas in the plant.” said the President of Local 292 in Kokomo this morning according to a group of workers. Christmas for who Mrs. President? I’d have to say it is more like April Fools Day and the jokes on the membership.

Enough is enough to the offensive created by auto industry executives and their intention of taking back all the gains workers have struggled to achieve. We should refuse to accept an offer that will impair the person working next to us and that could eventually endanger our own security in retirement.

The membership as a whole should have been allowed to vote before this “buy-out” agreement was brought to the membership to accept or refuse based on an individual basis. Perhaps the majority didn’t want everyone to leave, perhaps they did. Regardless, we are being denied democracy by our union officials when an agreement is made without our input, especially when it is an agreement vital to our future and seriously undermines our future. Negotiations in dark boardrooms are destroying the United Auto Workers union.

This agreement should not be brought to the membership unless approved by the majority, period. Some workers in the plants now are afraid to accept this offer and perhaps they should be for many other reasons. By rejecting the offer they will not have the support of their union officials and at the same time they would be selling out the younger workers if they accept it.

Local 292 officials have been all over the factory for several days now trying to push people out the front door (or back door I should say). Fear is the driving force for Local 292 leaders and the union bureaucracy as a whole that works with corporations to pit older workers against younger workers to get whatever they need. The union officials do it every single election here in Kokomo.

We should refuse these buyouts, defend our jobs and fight for our future not sell out. We can stand together now in solidarity before it is too late for all of us or we can walk away betraying 70 years of struggle and our futures.

Local 292 Officials Have Accepted Defeat

The President of the United Auto Workers Local 292 was quoted in the Indianapolis Star today saying, “There’s a very good reason to do this. If the company doesn’t survive, none of us has jobs.” She has accepted defeat and refuses to fight to save our jobs, our wages, our benefits and our future. She cares only about herself and her ability to retire. I just hope retirement is as safe as she seems to think it is.

In the same article the Local 292 Shop Chairman with 44 years seniority says “Any fool can cause a strike”. This being the Chairman who said recently in the Kokomo Perspective that retirees should not have the democratic right to vote and uses membership dues money to attack anyone who disagrees with him through handbills and the Local’s shop newsletter.

Where do you think this Chairman will be in 2 years, 5 years 10 years? Appointed to the Region or International? It’s clear to us that he got his, now he is done. This is what he is really saying and doing. What he really means is that he doesn’t want to fight, he wants to just quietly fade into the history books with what he has and suggests everyone else follow his lead. Our future is being sold out and these union officials have accepted defeat without a fight. Don’t forget what they told us, “wait and see”.

Autoworkers around the world deserve a raise, not concessions, not to be pitted against each other and not to be bought off. Millions of dollars have been vested into training and skills for American workers who are now being sold out by an Attrition Agreement that the bureaucratic officials of the UAW support. Instead of defending these jobs they are working with management to cut them. Meanwhile, our factories are being robbed of investment and our profits sent overseas to build billion dollar factories so the company can pit us against workers overseas to drive everyone’s wages down. Remember their slogan “Buy American”? That has worked real well for the membership hasn’t it? Wrong. It has only destroyed our ability to build solidarity with other workers across the world.

These “buyouts” are simply a way to mitigate membership resistance to concessions and lost jobs. How much is your future worth? Will retirement really mean security for anyone? Not everyone is willing to be bought off and not everyone is even eligible to retire. What happens to those left behind?

The UAW has accepted defeat and is negotiating a peace agreement that will further degrade younger workers. The only way to halt this corporate offensive is through mass direct action of working people. To halt and throw back this corporate offensive the policies of the labor leaders have to be rejected before it is too late. The labor leaders are obviously totally cowed by the corporations and their offensive. In fact our labor leaders collaborate with the bosses offense regularly as we see with these buyouts. They accept the argument that profits are God and wages and conditions and lives must all be sacrificed to keep them up.

Direct Action & Solidarity Is Needed

The model must be built in the spirit of the great general strikes and mass direct action of in Minneapolis, Toledo and San Francisco in 1934, the great sit-down movement in 1936/37 and the great civil rights movement of the 1960’s. This is not an end of an era as the corporate mouth pieces like to claim. We must work to rule in the plants, hold mass demonstrations in the streets, engage in mass occupations of the plants. These are what are needed to begin to halt the employers attacks not “buyouts”. These are the roots of the UAW and what the entire labor movement was built on. It was not built by cooperation, selling out or by giving up. Working people should resist and refuse to go back to the poverty of the past in masses. We should fight for what is ours and for what is justly right. This is why I will be protesting Delphi’s CEO who is speaking in Detroit on April 3, 2006. I encourage you to join us.

Such an offensive strategy on the part of all of us in Delphi would inspire and draw the attention of auto workers and all workers throughout the US union and non-union alike and the attention of auto workers abroad. This would make possible the building of direct links plant to plant, industry wide on an international basis. This would allow for mass direct action fight to win strategy internationally.

The place to start is to build direct action fight to win committees in every plant and every local. The union leaders should be doing this but they will not. We must do it ourselves. The addiction to profits and greed must stop ruling our lives. I will not and can not be bought off. I hope you will stand with me because I’m going to fight for your job with or without you. See you at the protest in Detroit.

Related Link:
author by Soldiers of Solidaritypublication date Sun Mar 26, 2006 09:25Report this post to the editors



500 Temple Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201

It is time for working men and women to stand up and demand the respect
we deserve. We ask that you join with the Soldiers of Solidarity on the
sidewalks surrounding the Masonic of Detroil Bring your own signs and show support
for working families whose very livelihoods are under attack.



For More Infonnation Contact:
Gregg Shotwell 616-451-4401 GreggShotwell@aoLcom
Todd M. Jordan 765-210-0768 toddmjordan77@hotmaiLcom

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