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r.i.p., uaw

February 17, 2014

The UAW lost the vote in Chattanooga, TN. The fear of capital flight and the capitalization of that fear by people like Sen. Corker is one reason the UAW lost the vote. Competition between workers competing for jobs in a global labour market characterized by unprecedented capital mobility makes them anxious and even hostile towards anything that may threaten their livelihood.

Yet another is the UAW’s growing irrelevance, partially stemming from its top-down, employer-friendly approach, which alienates rank-and-file workers and defeats the purpose of a union as a way of bringing individual workers together into a single collective unit, giving them more power and input than they’d have individually. The UAW (and arguably most labour unions these days) is increasingly becoming little more than an unnecessary mediator between capital and labour.

In the long run, I think both unions and rank-and-file workers need to start thinking outside of national borders because the ‘working class’ is global and can only fight against capitalism globally. Worker solidarity and unions need to be truly international, not just in name. Neoliberalism has made things like protectionism and the UAW of the 60s and 70s a thing of the past.

In the short-term, however, I agree with Nicole Aschoff that the UAW needs to examine its ‘fighting roots,’ remember where power comes from (rank-and-file workers), and start working to help organize the thousands of autoworkers in the supplier sector working long hours for lousy wages and no benefits. At least then, the UAW might have a fighting chance to save itself from becoming redundant.

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