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When the Union Becomes Management

By Mumia Abu-Jamal  Posted by Hans Bennett (about the submitter)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
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When the Union Becomes Management
{col. writ. 10/3/07}

(c) '07 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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The recent contract approval by the executive committee of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and General Motors (GM) marks a turning point in relations between labor and management.

It may also mark the transition between unions as a representative of workers, and management as a representative for the owners.

That's because, if the UAW members agree, the union will (at least partially ) administer almost $30 billion bucks in pension funds.

If the general membership signs on, it lifts a $50 billion burden from the backs of GM managers, and places the lion's share of it on the back of the union.

In one fell swoop, the union performs the function of GM management!

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For GM, this is a masterstroke; for the UAW, it may prove a trap, or the first step of the end of unions, or at least pensions as we know it.

The trade union movement came of age by becoming the laborer's institution, and the de facto representative of its workers. In the earlier half of the 20th century, it was clear that labor and capital were antagonists, not allies, for each represented differing and conflicting interests.

In other words, the union didn't do managements job, nor did the business manage the union.

In his masterwork, Capital, Marx noted how workers are divided into functions and hierarchies that serve capitals interests.

Marx wrote:
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Manufacture...develops a hierarchy of labour powers, to which there corresponds a scale of wages. If, on the one hand, the individual labourers are appropriated and annexed for life by a limited function; on the other hand, the various operations of the hierarchy are parceled out among the labourers according to both their natural and their acquired capabilities. (Moscow, 1958, p.349)

Now, labor performs a manufacturing function -- the partial administration of pension funds.

What happens when too many hands dip into the till?

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