|UAW workers say "no way" - Alex Smith photo|
United Auto Workers members at Chrysler facilities have rejected by 2-1 yet another "give back" contract the union leadership had negotiated on their behalf -- "the first time that autoworkers have rejected a national contract in 33 years" reports the World Socialist Web Site. The contract, among other things, would have expanded the unpopular "two-tier" wage system, not eliminated it as workers wanted.
This is part of a bigger story. Union leadership is more conservative than union members are and has worked with management to undermine workers. With this vote Chrysler workers are pushing back.
The bigger story still, of course, is whether the raised consciousness of the Chrysler workers indicates there's a shift underway not only in the Labor Movement but the US population in general. One sees signs of this popping up repeatedly. In the past few years there has been Occupy Wall Street, the Black Lives Matter movement, an the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.
Sanders is tapping into Capitalism's inherent class divides, which under Neoliberalism have become more exxagerated than ever, but there's a danger that his candidacy could contain the natural forces that lead to popular uprisings by redirecting them to the effort to get him elected. If that happened, most people who voted for him would go home after his inauguration and feel pleased with the state of affairs, leaving everything else in place -- a conservative Democrat-Republican-media political establishment, conservative courts, conservative union leadership, and corporate control of most of the important decisions that get made in the country such as the kind of cars we drive, the kind of electricity we generate, the kind of products that get made, the kind of food we eat and most importantly whether the country's wealth and resources are used for the pubic good or private profit.
Bernie talks about a "political revolution" but hasn't said exactly what that means. Does it mean getting him elected? Or does it mean that people gain a sense of their own power and how to use it, for, among other things, getting people like him elected?
The other side of the coin is that the election of a Bernie Sanders would be significant in itself and that the kind of concerns I'm raising will only divide the working class. That his election could facilitate other kinds of change. It might be a boost to consciousness raising and the overall uprising.
These questions should be debated, but I don't see history backing up the latter argument. I'd point to the early 20th century when, riding popular discontent with Capitalism, Socialism and the Labor Movement rose in tandem, and led to, but were co-opted by Franklin Roosevelt with his New Deal transformation of government, and gradually petered out from there leading to current union leadership and the current Democratic Party and its supports for things like NAFTA and TPP and the repeal of Glass Steagall. If you can show me a path from Bernie Sanders to lasting change, however, I'd be glad to hear it.