HUNDREDS WERE expected for the picket line outside Delphi Flint East, Michigan, on 16 February to protest the auto parts manufacturer's drive to lay off 24,000 workers and cut wages by 60%.
But the day before the rally officials from UAW Local 651 [union branch] called off the event, citing a minor snowstorm as an excuse.
Still, upwards of 75 workers formed a lively picket line, most of them supporters of Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS), the fighting opposition movement within the United Auto Workers who initiated the idea for the protest.
The cancellation of the picket and rally had more to do with politics than snow. The union leaders feared the event would increase the influence of SOS dissidents at their expense. After all, while the leadership had done little to mobilise for the rally, supporters of SOS had spent weeks spreading word on the shop floor and community.
The day before the picket the Local leadership passed out leaflets and called members' homes to tell to tell them the picket and rally were cancelled.
This sabotage is consistent with the methods of the UAW leadership in general. But how to fight this? Todd Jordan, a prominent SOS activist, said: "It's going to take solidarity, real unionism from the bottom up, worker to worker, educating other union members on the shop floor."
"Its extremely disheartening," Jordan continued. "This bureaucracy tells us to wait and see. They hold rallies, but they don't tell us anything... they tell us to vote for Democrats, but that's not what the people want to hear; they want to come out and they want to fight back."
THE RALLY was timed to precede Delphi's bid to cancel its contracts with the auto workers in bankruptcy court, allowing the company to unilaterally impose massive wage and benefit cutbacks and lay off over two-thirds of its North American workforce.
But on Friday Delphi announced it would put off such a request for six weeks to continue negotiations with the UAW in hopes of avoiding a strike. A strike would cripple both Delphi and General Motors, which relies on Delphi workers for auto parts.
SOS has been holding mass meetings across the region, demanding the UAW organise members to 'work to rule'.
This is designed to prevent Delphi from stockpiling inventory to ride out a strike.
The Soldiers of Solidarity network is among the most exciting developments in the US labour movement today. It is an important sign of things to come as attacks on autoworkers and the American working class intensify.