THE WESTFALL PAPERS
U.A.W. 50TH ANNIVERSARY
/ ANTI-CONCESSION RALLY 1987 ... PART C
See Rally Part A…
See Rally Part B…
In 1987 the U.A.W. was 50 years old and for this historic event Mike Westfall, with the support of several UAW
Locals, sponsored a large 50th Anniversary / Anti- Concession rally at Carman Ainsworth High School auditorium in Flint.
was where the U.A.W. began in 1937. Victor Reuther was UAW President Walter Ruther's brother. Both men were founding fathers
of the U.A.W. and leaders in the sit down strike.
Victor Reuther was Mike's friend and was the keynote speaker. This rally
and its significance is such that it covers three papers and this is part three of the rally.
Good morning. In the
lobby there are forms for those wishing to signup for the rally in Washington, April 25. This Washington rally will be a mobilization
for justice and peace in Central America and South Africa. We will be supporting leaders like Cesar Chavez, President of the
Farm Workers of America and others I have had contact with.
Friday I received a call from Ralph Nader's office in Washington.
Every year some of his guys and some of my guys go down to the General Motors stockholders meetings and take on G.M.'s C.E.O.
from the floor. This year it will be in May and we want to organize a huge turnout for a special demonstration so I have some
of my folks with forms out in the lobby for all to sign who would like to go with us to this stockholders meeting of America's
largest manufacturing business.
I want to make you aware that there have been calls to the school made prior to this rally
by people wanting this rally to fail. They have claimed that we are a rowdy bunch that will destroy the property and create
mayhem. As I look out at you I see concerned American workers with their families. Some of you have been bused in from many
states away and I thank you. Our detractors have failed…again.
Now, this is a public school building so do not litter
it up and we should all be aware that there is no smoking allowed in this building. Please, let us leave it as clean as we
found it. I realize how large this crowd is so I am asking you to limit your walking around so others won't be distracted.
We have a lot of media and cameras here. Keep printed material limited to the lobby. I don't want it handed out in here.
have some very important speakers here and to get it started I would like us to all stand as Jo Ann Varga sings the National
Anthem. -Thank you Joann…
Now I would like us all to stand as Dale Bonasse from our Westfall Awareness Committee
leads us in prayer. -Thank you Dale…
This is a very large rally today
and it reflects the spirit, concern and interest of America's workers. While the issues we will be raising are targeted at
autoworkers, they really are serious issues for all American workers from one end of our great country to the other. We are
all together and we are going to tell it like it is.
We know what the difficulties of layoff are. No one knows better
then us. We see our plants closing. We see the devastation in our family's faces. For many here today, because of their employment
situation, this city has gone to ruin and their world has gone to ruin. For those that follow it may not get better it may
get significantly worse. General Motors is holding each of our plants up for ransom and giving work only to those who agree
to undercut the others. This is called whipsawing. General Motors is pitting plant against plant, worker against worker, nation
against nation and union local against union local in an effort to reduce the entire labor force to the lowest common denominator.
Working cheaper has never created one job it has only shifted jobs. If we gave back every benefit ever negotiated and up to
90% of our wages we may starve in Flint and we may starve in Detroit…Applause…
But we would still not be competitive
with General Motors exploited foreign workers.
It is time to challenge the system that enriches the wealthy and disregards
the majority of workers as if we were useless and unimportant. It is time to torpedo the cruise on the GM love boat…extended
Under the leadership of the Reuther Brothers, workers standard of living was increased more then at any
other time. The word concession was not in the Reuther vocabulary. The Brothers Reuther never lived in submission.
to what General motors is attempting to do contractually to workers, General Motors has also shown a typical lack of social
responsibility on other levels of operation. Instead of paying their fair share in our communities G.M. has demanded property
tax assessment reductions. Friend's that's not cooperation it is maximizing profits at the expense of our children. So as
they eliminate our jobs through deliberate restructuring at the same time they increase the community taxes on the dwindling
taxpayer base to increase their profits. I am one of the leaders in this tax assessment fight and we have done a lot of work
General Motors has proclaimed they are going to change worker culture profoundly. What do they mean? General Motor's
definition of new culture is much deeper then most workers are aware. General Motors has been working on ways to enhance G.M.'s
efficiency by working on highly refined, socially motivated cooperative management concepts. GM fully intends to develop a
system of in house peer pressure, slice the workers jobs, speed up the work pace, eliminate the workers classifications, which
took decades to negotiate and cut the workers protective work rules. Roger smith is right. This does smack of a culture very
foreign to the American way. In Japan the Japanese workers do many of the tasks that would be unacceptable by organized labor
in our country. These tasks include monitoring fellow workers attitudes, improving worker output, punishing and ferreting
out dissidents that will not conform and squashing opposition. Brothers and sisters we are long overdue for a G.M.-U.A.W.
Experience over the last few years clearly demonstrate that while autoworkers have given deep concessions that
G.M. has laughed all the way to the bank. While paying huge bonuses to their already overpaid executives G.M. at the same
time has slotted for export the very jobs of our domestic autoworkers that sacrificed…Applause…
G.M. has made
chumps of us all. …. Applause…
So fellow auto workers we don't need concessions in1987 we need gains…Applause…
is the master of illusion and in reality you have improved your efficiency and improved the quality of G.M.'s products. You
have cooperated with G.M. like never before. You have been a hardworking, dedicated; highly skilled workforce and you have
already made significant personal sacrifices repaid with too much criticism and to little appreciation from G.M. ….
It was 50 years ago when it was unexpected that just a handful of autoworkers in this very city would take
G.M. on and create a powerful worker force called the U.A.W., a force each one of us here today is a member of. It is only
fitting that we bring in Victor Reuther out of retirement from Washington as a symbol of our solidarity. You will not hear
about the difficulties in making Victor the keynote speaker. I will simply say I would have never done this rally and there
would not have been a worker auto rally in Flint commemorating the U.A.W. for these last 50 years if Victor had not been here.
Reuther … Continuation of Part B paper.
I want to mention one more thing. I would not be true to myself
if I did not. If you think the power and the strength of this great union of ours has been eroded at the bargaining table
let me say it has been eroded in terms of internal democracy as well and that weakens this union. Anything that denies the
members of this union their constitutional rights, anything that places barriers in electing able, bright and forward looking
younger new leaders weakens this union. I was at the last UAW convention in Anaheim. The only way that I could get there was
to go as a newspaper reporter.
I went as a reporter and I witnessed things that were of a deep concern to me. Down in one
of the biggest geographic regions of this union of ours in region 5 the membership became angry and disappointed because they
were not getting the proper leadership from their director. And they had among their ranks an experienced able person whom
they wanted to have as their elected leader and that was Jerry Tucker. …Applause…
Let me add that not since
the 1930's have I seen in a trade union leader the innovativeness, the creative ability to figure out new tactics and new
strategies to deal with this corporate offensive as I saw Jerry Tucker put into practice in some of the most difficult anti-union
parts of this country, in the Southwest. He did it successfully. There was an election for regional directorship. Jerry Tucker
won that election but it was stolen from him. I can say that without question now because the United States labor Department
has intervened for the first time in the history of our union. A case had to be carried to the department of labor because
the officials of our union refused to face up to the fact that individuals who were not elected as delegates were permitted
to cast their vote.
Jerry Tucker was denied a seat on the governing body of our great union by a lack of two tenths of
one percent of a vote. In other words the director who's really been retired but drawing full salary for eight years continued
to hold that position by an illegal vote. The department of labor has now ruled in favor of Jerry Tuckers complaint. Applause…
believe me winning in the department of labor sometimes can be easier then winning before the executive board of the UAW.
I am saddened to say that and I want to use this occasion to say here in Flint where we learned the vital importance of Solidarity
in the ranks of our union. I want to say to all those in positions of leadership in local unions and I hope the International
will hear this loud and clear, for I have said it to them many times, we can only stay a strong union if we remain internally
democratic and respect the rights of our members to choose their leadership.
While this issue is not on the agenda for
the Chicago conference it should to be on the agenda for the board so they can get off from their rear ends and agree to a
new election in that region. They have been dragging their feet ever since the Anaheim Convention of almost a year ago.
generation of Americans wants to pass on to it's children and those who will take leadership positions following them an organization
that is in shambles… that's lost its way. An organization that is no longer equal to the great challenge. You are a
part of this generation's membership and leadership in our great union. You have an incredible obligation and an even greater
opportunity. For you can bring new spirit not only to this union but to the nation as a whole which has become cynical by
politicians who don't remember important things, others who prefer to not even think about the problems and cynical about
corporate leadership who want to cop out on their obligation and responsibility to workers, to consumers and to the nation.
You need to remind them and in doing so remind yourself what a great organization we have. What enormous opportunities lie
ahead and the challenges today that confront us are enormous as they are small indeed compared to those the sit down strikers
were confronted with in the fall of 36. …Applause…
You are members of a great union. Carry out your obligations to that union, keep it strong, keep it united, keep
the rank & file involved in it, spread your word out in the community and win the allies that you need for you will be
bargaining for them as well.
God bless all of you. … Applause
/ Standing Ovation…
Thank you Victor. I think
it is almost poetic that Victor has come out of retirement and back to Flint where it all began.
Our next speaker is brother
Jerry Tucker who has spent 16 of his 26 years with the UAW as a member of the UAW staff. Brother Tucker has spent five years
in Washington working on political and legislative action under direction under UAW presidents Leonard Woodcock and Douglas
Brother Tuckers last three years
were spent as assistant director of UAW Region five.
Lets all give a warm welcome to
brother Jerry Tucker. …Applause…
It is not hard at all
to follow Victor…you come up and try it!
It is a pleasure to be here and
I bring to you greetings and common concerns from the overwhelming majority of the 80000 + members of the UAW in Region 5.
Roughly 50% of Region 5 workers
are General Motor’s workers. So we are the second largest region in the UAW in terms of General Motor’s assembly
workers, second only to you.
I began my membership in the UAW
at the saint Lewis Chevrolet plant as a member of local 25.
The very fact that someone told
me that I might not even be welcomed in Flint caused me to want to come anyway. …Applause…
We have before us such a task.
If you look back at the history,
at the struggles, the union has had to go through to achieve basic decent working conditions, basic decent income and the
quality of life that we have and enjoy today and see it threatened as we do and to know that we have the power as has been
stated by several speakers to do something about it.
If there is one thing that I miss
from years ago when I was a shop chairman in Saint Lewis it’s that the union does not tend to inform the rank &
file. With the exceptions of Solidarities hitting on a good chord sometimes, I just don’t think we are conducting the
kind of worker-to-worker, member-to-member, leaders to member type of dialogue in our union. I think that as we step away
from that principle that we step away from the ability to make the gains that we can.
You know the union really only does
three things in bargaining. It seeks to enhance job security, it seeks to improve and enhance income security and it seeks
to improve working conditions. It is sad to say that over the last several years we find ourselves short on every front. Who
here could make the argument that in the last several rounds of negotiations with the corporations that we have enhanced our
job security? Who here could make the argument that our income security, the very basic thing that protects and acts to advance
our income over the long work life that we would all like to enjoy has been enhanced? Who would look at the work reorganization
schemes and strategies that many of you have had to look at only because you have been threatened and say that we have in
fact significantly improved our working conditions? So it’s these three critical areas that bargaining exists for to
serve the membership. We find over the last several years our relations with the corporations have depreciated in each category.
Now I don’t make the case that we did any of this intentionally. I don’t have a strident personal argument that
anyone in our union set out consciously to reduce and depreciate our job security, to reduce and depreciate our income security
or to adversely depreciate our working conditions. I make the argument that the corporations have taken advantage of a situation
and developed a plan with strategies and tactics that flow from that plan which for their purposes are working. We have an
obligation and we are all part of that obligation as members and presumed spokespersons in our own way for the union…to
seek to have our union develop strategies and have tactics to go with it. …Applause…
I can remember the argument being made by the many who preceded us in our union including
Walter Reuther and certainly in my own home my father, who was an IAM organizer and tool and die maker, that workers goals
were to take wages, hours of work and working conditions out of competition or you could not truly enjoy the kind of escalating
quality of life and appreciation of life in the society. I thought that was our objective to remove the kind of competition
between workers that could do nothing but create a downward spiral between the workers. Now we are at a point in our history
where the corporations would say to us “be competitive”. That word “competitiveness” has become the
catchword. Everybody uses it today. The president of the United States and all of his task force come forward and talk to
everyone in America about the need for competitiveness for our industries, for our plants, for our workers and even for our
communities. I know that is derived from a word in the market system and we will live with the word because we will live with
the system but we don’t have to buy it each and every day in each and every way they say… Applause…
The team arrangement by which it’s
very name suggests some enjoyable pursuit like a leisurely softball game. To suggest to workers in a team arrangement that
it is their responsibility to reduce the team by two members and produce the same number of units because that is the only
way that they are going to be competitive is a whipsaw. …Applause…
Give us the Japanese style of management
prerogatives that we seek or we will move the work to another truck and bus facility is a whipsaw. There is no question about
that. Now we used to use whipsawing in the UAW. It was a central tactic in our arsenal. We shouldn’t rewrite our history
in that regard. In our effort to take workers wages, hours of work and working conditions out of competition we did in fact
play one company against the other. We ought to stand up and say yes we did and we did it because we had an agenda and it
was the workers agenda. Now if we are going to buy some agenda other then the workers agenda why don’t we debate that
openly at our conventions? Why don’t we say that the last 50 years and all the social progress that’s been made
through the agenda we have stood for is now subject to significant need of revision and then openly debate it?
I want to tell you I believe that
we ought to have a democratic union and ways have got to be found to bring you into the democratic decision-making. If we
are going to readapt every workplace in the auto industry and reorganize all the work to create frictional relationships between
workers so as to eliminate jobs and you want to do that by some majority sense then I suppose that as much as I would argue
against it that you have the right to do that. But it hasn’t been brought to us that way. It is not being brought to
the workers on what is best for us, it is being brought on the basis of if you don’t you will otherwise lose. Do you
know what General Motors calls the purposeful shutting down of a plant for a short period of time or perhaps forever…a
significant emotional event in the life of a worker. They have even developed a certain follow up psychological profile of
the worker who has had the benefit of a significant emotional event.
You can go to Fremont and find case
Harley Shaiken has worked with us
in region 5 and if he were here today he would be talking about his perception of the three strategies that General motors
has and I would offer them because I conclude the same as he does. Number one is to disinvest as far as the traffic will bear
in America in terms of the production of automobiles and the component parts of those automobiles. Does that mean it can all
happen in a flash? Of course not, but on a bit by bit and piece by piece basis, jobs from Flint, Saint Lewis and Oklahoma
city ultimately and places that I know a lot about will wind up in Mexico, will wind up in Korea, will end up in Brazil and
will wind up in other places. All the industry has a similar concept.
The joint ventures and all the capital
relocations globally are going to obviously result in lesser jobs if we let it happen.
The whole concept of Saturn is to
create a method or an integrated method of assembly that can in fact eliminate more jobs and replace more plants. It is the
belief of those who know this business that the only place Saturn could have been first built as a facility was in the United
States because of the skills that are needed for this prototype development. But once the bugs are worked out that little
dude can be flown to Korea to Mexico and to all the other places. It is a system we are talking about and I don’t care
if you work at Lake Orion or Oklahoma city, or any of the state of the art plants, once Saturn comes on line and the bugs
are all worked out we are all that much more in jeopardy because then the global production engine really has a full tank.
What allows most of this to happen? The new industrial relations or the new emancipation of our membership who are now permitted
to join teams and have “say-so”. Real say-so! …Applause…
Our union started out as a rank
& file union, it has maintained that, and even though I have some criticisms of persons who have not seen eye to eye with
me I still think the ingredients for rank & file trade unionism is so large within our union that we will even survive
this particular period of relative head in the sand that some of us think we are going through. ..Applause..
We need strategic innovation, we
are going to have to reject whipsawing and reject the basic premise if that’s what competition really represents and
return to the whole broader more satisfying more sustaining concept of Solidarity between workers. Applause…
In the age of imposed of selfishness
it is very difficult sometimes to look beyond your own problems. You look down and say my feet really hurt. This has been
a long tiring march and then you run across someone with no feet at all and you say that maybe that is not so bad anymore.
What happened in the UAW to our innovation that had the wider social impact? I can’t find one of the activities we are
engaged in, in the workplace today, despite those corporate Bali-hoorers of the reorganization that other unions want to adopt.
How come the steel workers and chemical workers and everybody else out there are not saying thank you UAW for pioneering new
innovations? Like they thanked us for the pension program and the health care program that we fist put in place? …Applause
How come communities are conditioned
today to condemn us when we don’t do what the corporations suggest according to their agenda? How come our response
doesn’t trigger or generate anything in that same community that says thank you UAW and Flint because we know you are
here to save the jobs that general Motors would otherwise take away.
That is a problem we have. We have
not made the kind of analysis and turned it into a working sense of purpose to recognize. Several people have said that we
don’t live in a vacuum, as Walter used to say, that the community outside and the other workers in industries need us.
We were at one time the flagship of industrial trade unionism and there is no reason why we can’t be again. But we can’t
be the flagship of industrial trade unionism when our philosophy is to have a shrinking life raft of personal protection for
less and less auto workers. Applause…
We need to continue to inform our
membership and then leadership accountability will follow. If we are going to actually walk down the path of cooperation then
cooperation has to be a two way street. For 50 years in one form or another that is what we have been seeking. Cooperation
in the workplace, cooperation in the enhancement of our quality of life, cooperation in our right to leave the workplace with
a decent pension, an early retirement were all forms of cooperation we sought from the corporation. Cooperation cannot now
be suddenly only their tool. Because, if it is, it joins competitiveness and it becomes a market strategy and not a social
justice strategy. What workers and their community’s need is a social justice strategy.
Insiders Snapshot of Rally
U.A.W. International leadership had at this particular time, because of Victor Ruther's criticism of soft U.A.W. positions,
disassociated itself with Victor Reuther. Jerry Tucker was also not wanted in Flint by the International UAW because he was
running in a Presidential election against UAW President Owen Bieber. Westfall brought both of these UAW leaders to Flint over
the strong protests of the Leadership of the International UAW leadership.Westfall was an elected U.A.W. delegate and would actively
attend all of the Constitutional Conventions and Bargaining Conventions.
When the International U.A.W.
learned of Westfall's rally plans using Vic Reuther and Jerry Tucker the International Union requested a meeting with Westfall
at Region 1-C headquarters in Flint. Region 1-C. Director Ruben Burks strongly suggested that Westfall use U.A.W. Vice President
Steve Yokich as keynote because Reuther would be an embarrassment to the Flint UAW leadership because of his militant stand
and Tucker was just not wanted there.
Steve Yokich went on to become President of the U.A.W. and Burks
went on to become financial secretary of the International U.A.W., which is the number 2 spot in the UAW.
Westfall had written material for Yokich for Solidarity House publications. Burks and Westfall were from the same General
Motors plant and Burks had been a member of the union caucus that Westfall was chairman of.
Westfall told Burks that Reuther was a sit down leader and a founding father of the union and it was fitting that he
be invited and that Reuther was the only "honest" keynote speaker for this historic rally. Burks told Westfall that if he
cooperated with region 1-C that the rally would be sanctioned by the International U.A.W. and be a guaranteed success. If
not it would fail. Westfall told Burks that the most important man he had to look at was himself in the mirror and the rally
was his and Reuther was going to be the keynote and Tucker was going to be a speaker. Burks told Westfall to hit the door.
Westfall left Burk’s office in anger but Reuther was locked in as keynote and he and Tucker would be at this
historic Flint Rally.
Immediately the Carman Ainsworth
superintendent of schools began getting calls that Westfall was bringing in out of state troublemakers, which would not be
good for the school. Westfall assured the superintendent that the event would be policed and there would be no trouble and
that while it was going to be a huge rally with folks bused in from all over the country that it would be held with dignity
and well supervised… and it was. To Westfalls advantage, the superintendent of schools was aware of Westfall's work
towards helping schools as a leader in the G.M. property tax assessment reduction fight and the school opened their facilities
to him. The rally was a tremendous success. Those attempting to make the rally a failure failed because The Westfall group
and the many dedicated people helping would never give up and were destined to pull off this important event. The large school
auditorium was filled to capacity, there was literally only tight standing room, the lobby was full and loud speakers were
even installed in the halls and outside the building.