Indianapolis GM Workers Toss Out Reps Selling Concessions

UAW International representatives intent on cutting GM workers’ wages in half were met with a roaring reception—of boos—in Indianapolis Sunday. Unable to make themselves heard over the shouts of “traitor!” and more from the standing-room-only crowd of stamping plant workers, a rep finally asked, “Are there members who want to hear this information?”

“NO!” was the answer. “Get out!”

As the rep packed up to leave the membership asked for a favor: to take their local union president, Ray Kennedy, with him. They even kicked out the police the union brass had ordered for the occasion.

Union officials were on site to sell a proposal to workers at Local 23, three months after they had voted down reopening their contract, 384-22. Fifty percent pay cuts were part of the deal demanded by JD Norman Industries as a condition of buying the factory.

The members’ decisive rejection of concessions was reminiscent of a similar “No!” shouted at another UAW official last fall inside the Ford truck plant in Dearborn, Michigan. That time the official forced to leave the area was soon-to-be UAW President Bob King.


Bargaining chair Greg Clark had told regional and international officials months ago the local wasn’t interested in the concessions deal. But since then, Clark said, Kennedy and UAW uppers had continued to negotiate with GM and JD Norman, arriving at a deal that they planned for members to vote on today—that is, with one day’s time to consider it. Members were also incensed that officials provided only “highlights” rather than the complete contract language.



Give $10 a month or more and get our "Fight the Boss, Build the Union" T-shirt.

Clark asked the reps to provide a statement about the constitutional loophole union officials had reportedly found that allowed them to negotiate behind the local’s back. He was met with silence. “They make the rules and they use them as they see fit,” said Clark.

Members said the actions violated the local’s bylaws. Clark reported that Kennedy went around the executive committee to set up the meeting, and that although he is bargaining chair, he had seen no information about the proposal.

Wearing shirts that read “honor the contract,” members spoke to media outside the union hall and challenged UAW Region 3 Director Mo Davidson to take the same 50 percent pay cut asked of them.

Machine repairman Kenneth Craig voiced his concerns that the union is “not representing us, they’re representing their 17 percent stake in GM.” Craig’s wife, Theresa Barber, runs a rank-and-file website called FactoryRat that posted photos of the meeting.

Barber, whom members insisted on allowing into the meeting, said she got goose bumps during the chaplain’s prayer that members decide to do what’s right for them.

“It seems like this stuff isn’t right,” Craig said. “We are supposed to be their authority. Now they’re demanding we vote the way they tell us to vote.”

Tiffany Ten Eyck is a former staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes.