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Picking Up The Gun At Chrysler

Picking Up The Gun At Chrysler image
Parent Issue
Month
February
Year
1971
OCR Text

"This whole society controlled by the ruling clique is parasitic, vulturistic, and cannibalistic, and is sucking and destroying the life of workers. " ■ - Detroit's League of Revolutionary Black Workers DETROIT (LNS)- A hot afternoon in the middle of July. Two foremen and a jobsetter lie dead. James Johnson, conveyor loader, Dept. 78, the Brake Shoe Dept. , Eldon Avenue Gear and Axle Plant, Chrysler Corporation, tosses his M-l carbine aside saying, "I'm satisfied, " and walks down the aisles of the plant to the company guard shack where the Detroit pólice take him prisoner, charged with murder. Hundreds of workers stood in the aisles in surrounding departments, thinking about the shootings they had just witnessed. Company officials ordered all lines immediately started, but the workers did not move. Orders came down f or several departments to go home early. The workers left. Groups of worried and shaken foremen gathered on Lynch Road. ELRUM (Eldon Revolutionary Union Movement, a división of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers) leafleted the plant the next day approving of Johnson's action. Black workers dug the leaflet, an ELRUM member reported. Many workers were saying things like "This evens things up, " "Everyone has to die sometime, " and "They won't be so fast to write people up now. " FLASHBACK: April 16. The second shift, Johnson's shift, wildcats when Chrysler fires a black worker who argued with his foreman, and refuses to discipline the white supervisor who had picked up a pinion gear and told the worker: 'TH bash your brains out. " After two days, the United Auto Workers Local 961. which serves the workers at Eldon, gets cokj f eet and orders everybody back to vjork. J FLASHBACK: May 1. The plant is.ffiut down by another wildcat, protesting CJÏrysler's summary firing of 14 stewards f' organizing the first wildcat. Stewards are the foot-soldiers of the union, directly responsible to small groups of workers, serving as their first line of defense against the company. Chrysler obtains a quick and easy injunction against the second wildcat with only token opposition f rom a UAW attorney, who at one point is heard to say to the judge: "lunly vaguely represent Local 961. " A The UAW always opposes wildca because they threaten its control ovetthe workers in the plants, and therefore tÊreaten the UAW leadership's tacit pact with tile auto companies to trade uninterrupted produH for dollar benefits. This leaves vorkinonditions up to the corporations and toothleH union locáis. E W FLASHBACK: May 3. Armed with the W injunction. Local 961 officers and high-level UAW representatives order Eldon workers back to work without insisting the fired stew ards first be reinstated. A second strikes failed. The workers have seen thgitmúttngest, most aggressive stewards Jmrown into the sireet. Without their stewards, they areV completely at the mercy of thetforemen a.rpW Chrysler. Morale is low. Chryffis beaifFLASHBACK: The early weeks aSgmZ Some of the stewards get their jobs back by signing an agreement to be fired if there's ever another walkout on the second shift. One of the stewards refuses at first, but agrees after he's told that he'd never get back into the plant without signing. The stewards have many years of seniority to protect, and some would be hard-pressed to get another job at their age. Chrysler knows that. Eldon Ave. Gear and Axle Plant is so unsafe that all of its 4500 employees are risking their lives each day they walk through the gates. In Dept. 72 there is an inch and a half of oil covering the f loor and slopping up over the soles of the workers' shoes. Eldon 's entire ventilation system is inoperative. The jitney trucks have no brakes, lop-sided tires, no horns and no lights. The aisleways are blocked by skid boxes, axles and scrap ir on. Drill presses, cutters and grinders have no safety guards. Working conditions are so bad at Eldon that Chrysler has taken the unusual step of appointing a number of black foremen f or the slight cooling effect that produces. Eldon is far closer to a medieval sweatshop than one cculd ever imagine after taking in the standard doseage of tidy, clean-cut Chrysler ads over the tube. But Eldon. not the ads, is the reality of Chrysler. FLASHBACK: May 13. Mamie Williams, a black woman with 26 years seniority. dies after being carried out of the plant on a stretcher. Her own doctors had ordered her to bed, but Chrysler 's medies, although they noted her high blood pressure, gave her notice to return to work or be fired. A few days later she is dead. FLASHBACK: May 25. Three tons of scrap steel fall off a fork-lift truck so unsafe it should have been scrapped long ago. Gary Thompson, a 22-year-old black Vietnam vet, is crushed beneath. Local 961 and Chrysler both send their boys to the funeral, but Local 961 is as unwilling to fight f or the safety rules that would have prevent ed Gary Thompson's death as Chrysler is to implement them. The pattern is clear. Intimidate the union until the stewards are afraid to aggressively represent workers on the floor of the plant. Lay off workers and speed up the lines to save prof its in a time of inflation. Step up the threats, suspensions and firings of all workers who object to being pushed around. Eventual y, high union officials will 'ulink whatever WsöB3y tíáJftinWtfhi nesatí thè%jpFn iBs wiAdvaiJnagefl ment 's owiM MH fcjSHBACK: Early May. James JohnsonJ is involved in ar-crash whicjria nis and his doet' im to stay home f rom work. The er í y - 1ics order him back to work. Hr tests hui Clarence Horton, the steward j repres the brake shoe departme' was fired fo "ganizing the April 16 . James Johnso oes back to return? WVj) ffler fr twjwHyui raer e they teil a íired and won't g-t abuse is so flagrant that the management takes him back two days later on its own initiative. By this time, James Johnson has become a maker. " You become a "troublemaker" whenever the company decides to get rid of you. After three years at Eldon, Johnson's turn has come. FLASHPOINT: July 15. Chrysler replaces James Johnson with a worker hired two weeks ago. No longer a conveyor loader, he is told his new jotr-is to work the brake oven: to place brake shoes in ovens to bake on their coating. The entire operation takes place in 120 degree heat. James Johnson protests angrily, takes off to the labor relations office with his steward and his general foreman, Jim Rhoades. "I couldn't do nothing, " the steward is reported to have said the next day, referring to the meeting with the labor relations slickies. Brother James Johnson had to protest all alone. "We're going to give you a few days off to stay home and cool off, " Rhoades is reported to have told Johnson as the meeting carne to an end. "No you won' t . I'm going to come back here and kill you. " "As black workers rise up we have nothing to lose but our chains. The owners and operators of the means of production own our jobs, our homes, our families. We have neither security nor hope for the future. "They control our places of employment, the schools that our children attend, decide what our wages shall be, and what kind of society our children will live in. They teil us when. where, how long and how hard we shall work. They own everything of value. "They even think they own us." GUNFIRE: James Johnson returned to the plant with a 30 caliber carbine in a desperate search for his general foreman. Reportedly, he asked all of his fellow workers to stand back because he did not intend to hurt them. In pursuit of James Rhoades, he encountered instead his foreman, then the foreman of an adjacent department, and finally a jobsetter vtho triecijlisarm him. All three died on the spot. "Often times in the past, black workers have been driven to the point where they could stand no more and have lashed out viciously at their tormentors. There have been individual acts of sabotage against property, all forms of wildcat strikes, and numerous cautees have been formed - all in response to the niunstrous oppressive conditions that exist inside basic industry. "As bkick workers rise up, we have nothing to lose. . . . " RThis is Jwhat has been happening at Eldon Ave. Gear and Axle, and it must have all f lashed jW James Johnson's mind when he decided twiandle the situation in his own way. It's obvious that workers who can expect no suppor írom an intimidated sell-out unión and yli o are being pushed around, over, down and under by the company will have to take maUers into their own hands. W On July 15, James Johnson got the wrong Pn. Foremen in the plant are nothing but Tnaenger boys passing on orders from aboveW!Ê as helpless to determine what happens as theiorkers they kick around. Ji The real crAinals sit in their offices in raghlandParknd Dearborn and the G M lmilding5f!#5olidarity House (the lavish DetÉjrt office Jof the leading UAW bureaucrats). TIyQBjjfry operates for their exclusive ease and prflfT They don't have to worry about being shot down by an angry worker. Not yet.