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As the auto and parts manufacturers continue to cut wages and benefits, they have met resistance from many autoworkers. American Axle workers are on strike as we go to press. And although they were forced through in the end, workers at Delphi, Ford, GM and Chrysler voted heavily against contracts instituting two-tier wage structures.

In Cleveland, North Carolina (a “right to work” state), members of UAW local 3520 at the Freightliner Truck Manufacturing Plant were intensely pressured by management to accept a two-tier contract. It bears pointing out that Freightliner LLC – a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz – reported 2006 as their most profitable year ever. Despite such prosperity, the company refused to resolve any of 86 open health and safety issues, which along with wages, was a key issue in the negotiations. When Freightliner arbitrarily canceled the previous contract without an extension, members of the executive board polled workers in the plant. They were in no mood to work past the expiration date of April 1st, 2007, and on April 2nd, the local’s strike committee voted to  go out on strike.

A militant strike at Freightliner would have sent shockwaves across the South. But just hours after workers walked off the job, Local 3520 President George Drexel called it off, saying it had not been sanctioned by the UAW International. Shortly thereafter, ten Local 3520 officers and one rank and file member were fired. Five of the officers and the rank and file member were reinstated in May, after signing a “last chance, model employee agreement”, also known as a “stub your toe and out you go agreement”, which gives the union absolutely no leeway against disciplinary action.

However, in a blatant undermining of  workers’ solidarity, Local 3520’s President and the International Representatives sent by Solidarity House (UAW HQ) failed to fight to re-instate the other five. In fact, they took the unthinkable step of encouraging the local membership to suspend the Five from local officership and to put them on trial for “conduct un-becoming union members”!

This is a slap in the face to the UAW’s long-standing policy of “all out until all in”, of never ending a strike until all fired union members have been re-instated. Rank and file members and labor activists across the country have rallied to the Five’s support. The UAW’s leadership must also support the Five unconditionally and fight for their reinstatement!

The “Freightliner Five” are: Robert Whiteside, Allen Bradley, Franklin Torrence, Glenna Swinford and David Crisco. They have now exhausted all unemployment benefits. They are depending on working class solidarity for support. Supporters throughout the country have raised funds and brought them to rallies from Flint, MI to San Francisco, CA. You can help these victimized trade unionists by visiting www.justice4five.com, sending them a solidarity message and by giving financial support.
An Injury To One, Is An Injury To All!

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