Sunday, January 30, 2005

SS and the Working-Class

The worm is still turning on this issue, but it doesn't appear that Bush Little (the CRISIS is coming! the CRISIS is coming) has the votes to end Social Security as we know it. Whether democrats will retain their spinal cartridge (almost backbone, but not quite) on this issue is also unknown, but we can remain hopeful.

What remains largely undiscussed, however, is the class dimension of this issue. When those two champions of the working-class, Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan, cooked up this reform of social security in 1983, payroll taxes (disproportionately paid by the working-class) were increased to set up the trust fund, which would invest the excess in treasury notes to create the "surplus," looking forward to the time when there would be more retirees than contributors to SS. This has allowed the federal government to maintain the lowest income tax (paid, disproportionately, by plutocrats) in the industrialized world. Kevin Drum, in the Christian Science Monitor, has the details here.

The proposed Stockbroker Welfare Act of 2005, on the heals of the Big Pharma Welfare Act of 2004, once again demonstrates Bush's contempt for workers in the United States.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The CEO Preznit

Just asking--you thing the CEO Preznit learned union-busting as a MBA student at Haaarvaard, or is this something he picked up in his extensive business experience running all of those oil exploration companies into the ground? The report from the Times on the plans do away with civil service protections for federal employees, beginning with the Department of Homeland Security, and spreading like cancer to the rest of the federal government in the future. Contact your US reps/senators, and let them know this is unacceptable.

More on Workplace Violence

The story continues to evolve at the Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant.

Production scheduled to resume today at site of


With 303 robots and about 1,000 employees building Jeep Libertys at any one
time in 2.1 million square feet, the Toledo North Assembly Plant is a massive
example of some of the latest manufacturing techniques used in the auto

On Wednesday, the plant's 522,500-square-foot body shop was the site of
a violent spree when 54-year-old Myles Meyers shot three co-workers and killed
Production at the Toledo Jeep complex was shut down Wednesday night
and yesterday, but is scheduled to resume today. About 3,800 people work at
Toledo Jeep, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler AG.

Meyers and the three men, one of whom, Roy Thacker of Oregon,
died of his wounds, were among about 125 employees who worked at the plant's
second shift in a shop roughly half the size of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin
Park. More than two-thirds of the plant's robots are used for welding in the
highly automated body shop.

About 800 Liberty bodies are assembled daily in
the shop, where the process for building the compact sport utility vehicles

Other articles from the Blade have reported that Meyers was arrested in Michigan late last year and charged with the possession of a small amount of marijuana and the possession of a shotgun. The bearing of this news on events remains to be seen; workers at the plant feel the same way:

Body shop workers wrestle with grief


Chuck White knew emotions were running high yesterday morning in the Toledo
North Assembly Plant's body shop

Employees restarted Jeep Liberty production for the first time since
54-year-old Myles Meyers killed a supervisor, shot two other employees, and
killed himself.
A 22-year Toledo Jeep veteran who works on the chassis line,
Mr. White said he could tell by watching the number of Liberty bodies being
built that co-workers at the site of Meyers' Wednesday shooting rampage were
having a hard time.
Usually, the body shop finishes 50 to 60 vehicle bodies
an hour, but yesterday morning they were building about 28, he said.

The reaction was understandable, said Mr. White, who worked with Meyers for
several years a decade ago and was reluctant to return to the plant yesterday.

"I had a hard enough time myself at the other end of the plant," the
Toledoan said after he and other final assembly shop workers were sent home at
lunch because of a lack of painted bodies for them to finish.

"This is like something out of a nightmare."

Spooky and surreal were some of the most common words used by Jeep workers
to describe their return to DaimlerChrysler AG's Toledo North plant.

Second-shift employees were on lunch break when the shootings occurred.
Workers throughout the plant yesterday were briefed about what happened,
given time to ask questions, and urged to accept help from grief counselors at
the plant.

Additional time was spent with workers in the body shop area on the first
shift, causing a shortage of vehicle shells to be finished, prompting the
company to send some workers home early, Chrysler spokesman Ed Saenz said.

Production isn't likely to be at 100 percent on the second shift, either,
he said.

An information session will be held Monday for some body shop workers who
called to say they were not prepared to report to work yesterday, said Dan
Henneman, chairman of United Auto Workers Local 12's Jeep unit.

Both Toledo North, where Libertys are built, and the Jeep Wrangler's
factories on Stickney Avenue and Jeep Parkway were closed by Chrysler on
Thursday to give workers time to grieve and seek counseling.

Workers will be given bereavement pay for Thursday, and more than 100 have
requested counseling, Mr. Henneman said.

Although they don't understand or condone Meyers' actions, some workers are
upset that the repairman who had been at Toledo Jeep for 21 years is being
portrayed by the media and others as a gun-toting drug addict, Mr. Henneman

Meyers was arrested last month in Tecumseh, Mich., for drug possession and
had a shotgun in his car.

Some workers said pressures run high at Toledo North, which started making
Libertys nearly four years ago and has employees working together in teams under
a fellow union member instead of on one job.

Some said union-management relations have been terrible, and they hope
supervisors will change their attitudes.

Many workers have talked about being surprised a violent incident hadn't
occurred before, said Toledoan Kelly Owens, who has worked at Jeep for more than
11 years.

"It's sad that it happened, but nobody's really surprised about it," Ms.
Owens said.

Management's response, besides grief counselers and closing the plant for the day, is to insist that this matter had been resolved amicably, that Meyers did not have to serve a suspension, that everyone parted with smiles and handshakes all around.

That may be the case; but then why did Myers target his immediate supervisors? One of the things that is clear about this incident was that Meyers had three specific people he was looking to shoot, one of whom he killed. Would Meyers take such a drastic action if this dispute were indeed resolved "amicably?"

Ironically, Daimler-Chrysler (DC) and UAW Local 12 were named recipients of an award for labor-management relations by the local Labor-Managment-Citizens Committee (L-M-C) for their negotiations during their last contract (also reported in today's Blade).

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Workplace Violence

Events here in Toledo have made starting a labor blog today a somber event:

Two dead, two hurt in Jeep plant shooting

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- An auto worker wired a shotgun to his
body and burst into a Jeep assembly plant, killing a supervisor and wounding two
other employees before killing himself.

The alleged gunman, Myles Meyers, had met with plant officials
to talk about a problem with his work the day before his fatal spree Wednesday
at a Jeep Liberty Plant, authorities said.
After entering the plant at about
8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Meyers had pointed the gun at a woman in the plant's body
shop office and ordered her to summon three other people, telling her he did not
plan to hurt her, police Chief Mike Navarre said.

"He gave her three names. He told her who he wanted and
who he was going to shoot," Navarre said.

She summoned one of the three men, Michael Toney, who was
shot and wounded. Supervisor Roy Thacker, who was on the list of three, was
killed after he went to the office on his own, while a third man who was not on
the list, Paul Medlen, was wounded later, authorities said.

...Meyers, 54, of Toledo did not show up at work as scheduled
Wednesday but used his employee access card to get into the plant, police Capt.
Ron Spann said at a news conference Thursday.
Meyers met a day earlier with
his bosses and union leaders to talk about a problem, but he was not
disciplined, said Mary Beth Halprin, a spokeswoman for Chrysler Group, a
division of Jeep's parent company, DaimlerChrysler.

"The issue had been resolved amicably," she said Thursday. "We had been
given no hint that something like this would happen."

Meyers, according to earlier reports published in the Toledo Blade, had been given a three-day suspension for arguing with his supervior, Roy Thacker.

Norm Reithmeier, a 21-year Jeep plant employee, said he was
working in the vicinity of the shooting but did not see it happen. He knew
Meyers — they both started work making Jeeps about the same time.Mr. Reithmeier
said there had been friction recently between Meyers and a supervisor, and a
verbal argument on Tuesday resulted in a written three-day suspension for
Meyers.But at the plant, suspended employees work during their suspensions, with
a record of their discipline placed in their personnel file. Accumulated
suspensions result in termination.
hundred workers were in the plant at the time of the shootings. All were sent
home shortly after the plant was secured.

“I know Myles. Myles was a good dude. He didn’t have to go out
like that, but when you get pushed. … Roy [Thacker] was a good guy. He didn’t
need to go out that way, either,” Mr. Reithmeier said.

Part of the problem here, in my opinion, is the position that many unions now find themselves in after twentyy-five years of being whipsawed by corporations. Unions are no longer acting as advocates for workers, but as intermediaries between management and workers.

Earlier reports of this incident in the Blade mentioned that Meyers had been given a three-day suspension, but that such suspensions were now served in the plant (in a detention hall?). Management and Meyers obviously had different opinions on the resolution of this, and those diffences played themselves out tragically on Wednesday night.

Declaration of Independence for the Working-Class

Ninety-nine and a half years ago, "Big Bill" Haywood declared the adoption of the constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) the "Declaration of Independence for the Working-Class." While the One Big Union carries on the fight, Haywood's part in the struggle ended with his death and burial in Moscow in 1928. The aim of this blog is to take up Haywood's struggle by analyzing news and events from a worker's point of view. Nathan Newman ( has called for labor blogs, rather than blogs about labor (i.e., blogs that focus upon workers and their unions, rather than occasional blog posts about union politics). This site aspires to be a voice for such a direction.