"Happy Days Are Here Again" at Auto Workers Convention

Nothing in Vegas is real. Even the facades are fake. The only thing you can count on is that hucksters will take your money.

Thus it was that at the United Auto Workers Constitutional Convention here June 3-6, the Administration Caucus (read: ruling machine) presented an amendment to transfer $75 million from the strike fund to an “Emergency Operation Fund.” The purpose: to finance the porkchoppers in the event of a “protracted strike” or “other events posing a serious threat to the economic viability of the International Union.”

They claimed the proposal was “in keeping with the UAW tradition of sound financial planning and practices.” Maybe if they weren’t losing so much money on investments in radio stations, golf courses, airlines, and other non-union entrepreneurial disorders, they wouldn’t have to raid the strike fund. This was the most significant economic amendment to the constitution in 35 years. The delegates hunkered down for debate.

The first delegate rose in support. The second delegate called the question. Hands up. Hands down. The band broke into “Happy Days Are Here Again” and the delegates grabbed pre-made picket signs with slogans like “Simply the Best-IPS” and did the hokey-pokey all around the hall.

HOT AIR

The next day-when we elected officers-the auditorium was so full of helium balloons that no one could see anything but balloons. Who needs metaphors? The reality exceeded the furthest reaches of my imagination. All Administration Caucus nominees won by acclamation, and the band played “Happy Days Are Here Again,” again.

On the last day of the Con Con, the illusion of grandeur popped. The previous day, 12 Regional Directors had been rubber-stamped in separate rooms. Under Administration Caucus rules (not union rules-that would be age discrimination, and illegal), Warren Davis of Region 2 (based in Cleveland) was supposed to retire. Instead, he pulled a fast one and decided to run again. And won.

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The Caucus did not approve. They put their collective caucus-heads together and decided to dissolve Region 2 and disperse its locals into three other regions, which required a constitutional amendment. It was well scripted. A couple delegates from Region 2 had the audacity to challenge the Caucus, but the question was soon called. Reg 2 dissolved and the band played on.

It was an ingenious stratagem. Why didn’t the Dems think of that? They could have dissolved Florida and given the panhandle to Alabama, the trunk to Georgia, and the toe to Puerto Rico.

SUBJECT TO ACCLAMATION

Local unions submitted a total of 220 amendments and resolutions to the Con Con. But none were reported out. Only amendments submitted by the president’s office or written by staff hacks were subject to “debate.”

In closing, a shill from the Audubon Society praised the UAW for its environmental concerns…after all, the UAW never saw an auto emissions standard that it liked. The delegates unanimously voted to give retiring President Steve Yokich a cottage at the union’s resort/education center at Black Lake, Michigan (no debate on that). Then everyone hummed “Solidarity Forever,” as someone forgot to give delegates the words to the song.

As a footnote, I might add that after I addressed the convention, on the failure to organize and the need for a national pattern contract for auto parts workers, Yokich got angry and defensive. He said, “I know you, I read your emails.” If you’re a UAW member, maybe you should too.

Gregg Shotwell is a delegate from UAW Local 215.