Charlie LeDuff has a Point

Charlie LeDuff, extraordinary journalist. Featured here on the cover of his previous book.

SH*TSHOW! is a great book. His reporting on the people working at the Mercedes-Benz factory opened my eyes about unions. Why did they vote to keep the UAW out?

Why? In May when I wrote about the pending Supreme Court’s Janus decision I made the assumption that strong unions were the only way to resurrect the middle class. Indeed the union defeat in the Janus decision threw me into political despair. So, when Charlie went to Buford, Alabama, the workers spoke their minds. The glittering multi-billion dollar state of the art factory in the middle of the Rust Belt was no less startling than what the people working there said to him.

According to Mr. LeDuff, the UAW, United Auto Workers, had been spending millions on a campaign to bring the workers at the Volkswagen factory in Tennessee, and then this Mercedes-Benz factory into the union fold. A piece of cake. Like dominos. Why would any worker vote against union representation? Astonishing to me (given the behavior of Walmart and Amazon), the German owners of the Volkswagen plant allowed the UAW to campaign on the floor while management stayed neutral. And still the workers voted against the union. 

The union blamed funding from the Koch brothers. To pay for what? LeDuff exposes the improbability that some media magic persuaded workers that banding together to collectively bargain for better wages and conditions was bad for them. So what happened?

When Charlie met with a group of “modest” workers, they spoke their own minds. Did the union protect workers when jobs were exported to Mexico?No. Where was the protection? Where did the dues go? Their spokesman, Earnest, said that the Germans were good to work for. They paid $20 an hour, provided health care and a 401(k). Why mess with that?

By the way, the UAW was inexplicably hostile to LeDuff’s attempts to interview them. Go figure, what are they hiding? This weekend, the Socialist Equality Party sent me some articles about the teacher strikes in West Virginia and Arizona. Apart from the shock that Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers was pulling down a $500,000 a year salary, I was disturbed at their complicity to end the walkout. The teachers were not fools, so when the AFT was telling  the teachers in Arizona to shut down their strike and settle for the 1 or 2% raise offered, they decided to organize “independently of and in opposition to the unions.” (Introduction, The 2018 Teacher Rebellion, World Socialist Website Pamphlet.)

Maybe it is time for working people to rethink strategy.

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