The end of the historic strike against General Motors by the nation’s autoworkers may well signal the beginning of a fight by all workers against a new level of the corporate offensive against our jobs, our wages, our benefits and our very livelihoods.
During the strike, greedy Wall Street fat cats peddled their offensive in the press and on television, and they did it with a sharper-than-ever class edge. It’s no surprise because the autoworkers who went on strike walked those picket lines to defend not just their own standard of living, but to fight also for the interests of all the rest of us.
The ultra-right, multinational corporate take on the strike was perhaps best expressed by CNBC Mad Money host James Cramer, who said, essentially, there’s no reason to build cars in America, and General Motors won’t be around much longer if they don’t “break” the United Auto Workers union.
In his usual hyped-on-steroids style, with saliva almost dripping from his mouth, he dubbed the strike an opportunity to end union representation at GM. He said the only way to “save” American manufacturing jobs is to break the UAW.
There will be a lot of discussion in the weeks ahead about the specifics of the new contract negotiated by the union and GM. The union leadership will characterize it as a victory or the best they could get. Some will see it as a total sellout of the workers. Many will have opinions in between those two.
Many will vote for it because they see it as at least “holding the line” in some respects, or because they feel it was the best they could get in terms of protecting pensions and retiree benefits, or because they hope that GM will live up to promises it has made to invest in U.S. plants, or even because they need the lump-sum bonuses.
The purpose of this piece is not to analyze the contract, but to say to Cramer and his crowd that the strike proves workers will not roll over and play dead as Wall Street writes and tries to administer the prescriptions he pushed on his TV talk show. They will not lie down while Wall Street smashes their unions.
Seventy-three thousand workers went on strike and lost two days pay to fight against Cramer’s prescription, to fight for their wages, to fight for their pensions and health care, to fight for keeping jobs in America and to insist that the company keep the promises it has made.
Cramer showed that, at best, he is unable, or at worst, unwilling to understand this. He is unable or unwilling to see that we all have a stake in what the autoworkers are fighting for. The task for a responsible talk show host is to show the entire country how we can best root for the autoworkers because they are our “home team.” To suggest that they should be “broken” or “smashed” is an obscenity.
Watching Cramer rant and rave made me angry but also very sad.
Chris Matthews asked Cramer what it would be like years down the road if there is no auto industry in America.
Cramer said: “If you don’t break the UAW, we won’t have an industry. There’s no reason to make cars here. If GM wins and they bust this union, I’m telling you you’re going to have a five-fold increase in this stock and, in the end, this is America — and that’s what we are all about.”
Reflecting on this, the only thought that comes to my head is: Thank you, autoworkers! Your fight is our fight!
John Wojcik (jwojcik @pww.org) is labor editor for the People’s Weekly World.