CommunityLaura Flanders

The F Word: No Strike is No Detail!

There’s agreement and then there’s forced submission. It’s hard to tell which is which when news reporters leave out key facts from the story.

Many papers reported this week that General Motors and Chrysler, which have borrowed billions of dollars from the federal government to avoid bankruptcy, will be closing their jobs banks. The programs kept well-trained workers standing by, drawing almost their full salaries, in the hope that new jobs would materialize.

G.M. said on Wednesday that it would end its jobs bank leading to layoffs for about 1,600 workers. 

The typical story reported that the United Automobile Workers union had "agreed" to let the carmakers terminate the programs.  Letting jobs banks go was described as "one of several concessions offered by UAW leadership to help win support for the bridge loans. The UAW’s agreeing to let the companies delay paying into a new retiree health care trust, too, and they’ve begun talks with the companies about other ways to cut costs in labor agreements.

It all sounds very Zen. And it may be that a cloud of consensus has settled over the companies and the UAW. But there’s one fact that adds an important bit of context. As we reported last week, there’s a no-strike ban included in the government’s loan agreement with Chrysler and GM.  If the union leadership didn’t want to go along, it’s not clear what they’d do… Under the government’s agreement with the companies, any strike by workers is grounds for forfeiting the loan… even if it led the companies to go bankrupt. They certainly couldn’t strike.

A detail maybe. But surely a detail that fits in any story about unions conceding, agreeing and entering into talks about more cuts.  

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Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.