UAW Defends Democracy? Wolf Hired to Guard the Hen House?
Mike Brownfield /
Look out, America. The United Auto Workers union is prepared to do whatever it takes to “defend democracy,” including using the tactics of the protesters in the Middle East. And they say their first priority is re-electing President Barack Obama. But behind the rhetoric, the UAW is busy waging a war on democracy in order to shore up its base of support.
No, this revelation of the UAW’s plans doesn’t come from any secret memo obtained under cover of night. The news comes straight from the mouth of none other than UAW president Bob King at a union gathering today in Flint, Michigan, according to a Detroit News report:
United Auto Workers President Bob King used the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Flint Sit-Down Strike to call for “direct action” — including nonviolent civil disobedience — to take back America from the “right-wing Republicans” and “one-percenters” who he says have hijacked this democracy.
King said the UAW would begin training its members and other activists this spring to take part in peaceful, but potentially illegal, protests across America to stop what he called the rollback of workers’ rights and civil rights.
“It will take direct action. It will take us being willing to face arrest. It will take us being willing to be part of marches and demonstrations.”
To say that King’s calls for a defense of democracy is off-the-wall laughable is far from a stretch. Democracy, of course, is the freedom to have an equal say — a vote — in the decisions that affect one’s life. And it’s that very principle that the UAW stands so strongly against in its opposition to the secret ballot in union elections. That stance is codified in the union’s “Principles for Fair Union Elections” which states that it is workers’ First Amendment right to “freely and collectively choose if they want to form their UAW local union” as long as a series of conditions are met — all of which favor the union, not the workers’ ability to have free, fair, and open elections. A commitment to democracy should not be conditional, and the democratic process should not be a rigged game.
Opposing the secret ballot, though, is fundamental to the UAW’s mission to increase union membership, whether workers want it or not. Case in point: the union’s effort to organize the U.S. factories of foreign automakers like Toyota and Honda. To date, the UAW has not been successful in its efforts because, quite simply, the workers don’t want to unionize and are happy with their conditions of employment. Only by eliminating the secret ballot — thereby increasing the UAW’s ability to intimidate and cajole workers into unionizing — can it gain a foothold in these non-union shops.
Apart from “defending democracy,” how about King’s statement that the UAW’s first priority is re-electing Barack Obama? One might think that a union’s top priority is representing workers well, not spending its members’ dues on a politician. Not so for the UAW, which in 2012 is set to mobilize in defense of its strongest political ally.