By Jerry Goldberg, October 16, 2019
UAW Vice President and chief negotiator Terry Dittes, has correctly articulated that the critical issue in the current UAW/General Motors strike, in addition to ending the wage disparities among the members, is job security. What underlies the current battle is whether the technology of the future, encompassed in the shift to electric car production, will be used to fatten the profits of GM and the other auto corporations through further wage cuts and job cutbacks, or whether the technology will be used for the benefit of the workers through shorter work hours with no cuts in pay.
The strategy of the UAW leadership for the past 40 years, giving up huge contract concessions based on the false notion that joint union- company cooperation is the way to save jobs, proved to be a complete failure, and has led to corruption within the union officialdom. Hopefully, the UAW/GM strike signals the end of that approach, and its replacement with the militant class struggle approach that built the union. Part of that approach entails re-raising demands for a short week, 30 and out pensions for all union members, an end to multi-tier wages and guaranteed lifetime jobs.
Demand for a Short Work Week – 30 hours work for 40 hours pay
In the 1970’s, the UAW rank and file organized a movement around the demand for a short week, 30 hours work for 40 hours pay. This demand was first prominently raised by the AFL in the 1930’s, and by a significant sector of the UAW in the 1950’s..
1970’s Paid Personal Holidays
In the1970’s rank and file UAW members and officers organized a conference for a short work week at UAW 22 in Detroit, which represented GM’s Cadillac plant at the time. The core of the demand was that as new technology is introduced into the plants, the workers should get the benefits of the increase in productivity through a short work week with no cut in pay.
In response to the growing movement for a short work week among the ranks, the UAW leadership took up this demand in the 1976 and 1979 contracts. In the 1976 contract the UAW won 12 paid personal holidays (pph days) over the three year contract. This was expanded to 26 in the 1979-1982 contract….