Sunday, December 04, 2016

Ainda a "classe trabalhadora" norte-americana - recordações dos anos 70 (III)

Ainda sobre este assunto, um artigo de 1972, Unions vs. Workers in the Seventies: The Rise of Militancy in the Auto Industry, por Martin Glaberman (um ex-operário da industria automóvel e ativista da "tendência Johnson-Forest", uma dissidência do "shachtmanismo", que por sua vez foi a dissidência do trotskismo que também deu origem ao neoconservadorismo):

The Detroit Free Press published the following report in August 1970:
Some 46 percent of General Motors’ hourly workers are below age 35. They have never known a depression, they have had more schooling than the man who lived through the last one, and they aren’t impressed by the old Spartan idea that hard, repetitive work is a virtue. They are less responsive to authority than even the men who seized the flint GM plants in the historic 1936-1937 sit-down strikes.
That is precisely the background against which discontent is surfacing throughout the industry today, discontent that has reached its most advanced stage in the auto industry.
The formation of the CIO in the 1930s settled once and for all the idea that owners or managers or stockholders had the right to run their plants any way they saw fit. (...)

When Ford fell to the union in 1941, both the check-off and full time for union committeemen were incorporated into the contract. But the apparent victories only created more problems. Workers wanted full time for union representatives to get them out from under company pressures and discrimination. Getting elected steward often got you the worst job in a department and stuck away in a corner where you couldn’t see what was happening.

But full time for stewards did more than relieve union representatives from company pressure-it ended up by relieving representatives from workers’ pressure. The steward is less available than he was before, and you have to have your foreman go looking for him should you happen to need him .

The check-off produced a similar situation. Designed to keep the company from pressuring weaker workers to stay out of the union even though they were sharing in its benefits, the check-off ended up reducing worker pressure on the union officials.

No longer does the steward have to listen to workers’ complaints each month as he goes round collecting the dues. Once a month the dues are delivered in one huge check from the company to the union and the worker never sees his dues payment. (...)

And with the Reuther administration the union moved to participate directly in the management and discipline of workers in production. All through the fifties, with intensive automation and decentralization going on in the auto industry, the union collaborated in crushing the numerous wildcat strikes, in getting rid of the most militant workers, in establishing labor peace in the industry. (...)

The situation has not improved since then. GM complains that the number of grievances in its plants has grown from 106,000 in 1960 to 256,000 in 1699 or 60 for each 100 workers.

What are these specific local grievances? They involve production standards: the speed of a line, the rate on a machine, the number of workers assigned to a given job, the allowable variations in jobs on a given line. They involve health and safety standards : unsafe machines, cluttered or oily floors, rates of production which prevent the taking of reasonable precautions, the absence or misuse of hoists or cranes, protection from flames or furnaces, protection from sharp, unfinished metal, protection from welding or other dangerous chemicals or flames, the right to shut an unsafe job down until the condition is changed.

They involve the quality of life in the plant: the authoritarian company rules which treat workers like a combination of prison inmate and kindergarten child, the right to move about the plant, the right to relieve yourself physically without having to get the foreman’s permission or the presence of a relief man, the right to reasonable breaks in the work, the right to a reasonable level of heat in the winter or reasonable ventilation in the summer. And on and on.

The grievances that crowd the dockets of General Motors and of other companies cover the total range of life in the factory. The fact that they are called grievances helps to conceal what they really are-a reflection of the total dissatisfaction of the workers in the way production is run and of the des ire of the workers to impose their own will in the factory.

The UAW and the Ford Motor Company recently have been discussing the problem of boredom on the assembly line. The only reason they are discussing it at all-it is by no means a new development-is because more and more workers are refusing to accept factory discipline as a law of nature.

And it is not boredom but power which is at stake.

The same worker who for eight hours a day attaches belts to a motor and can’t wait to get out of the plant will spend his weekends tinkering with his car and consider it rewarding work. The difference is in who controls the work.

It might be worth noting a couple of things. All workers are exploited to one degree or another. But office workers on the whole do not have to walk past armed guards going to and from work and have a certain amount of freedom in scheduling their work on the job. The coffee break is not a blue-collar institution. (...)

The reorganization, technological change and decentralization that characterized the fifties and culminated in the depression gave way to a new expansion which brought significant numbers of young workers into the industry in the U.S. These are workers who couldn’t care less about what the union won in 1937. They are not more backward (as the union bureaucrats like to pretend) but more advanced. They are attuned to the need to change the nature of work, to the need of human beings to find satisfaction in what they do. It is this new and changing working class that was the basis for the new level of wildcat strikes, for a doubled rate of absenteeism, for an increased amount of violence in plants. It is a new working class that no conceivable contract settlement can control or immobilize. (...)

The complaints against the young workers who make up a crucial force in the factories indicate that the wildcats of the past may be replaced, or at least supplemented, by something new.

The tightly knit structures of the big industrial unions leave no room for maneuvering. There is no reasonable way in which young workers can use the union constitution to overturn and overhaul the union structure. The constitution is against them; the money and jobs available to union bureaucrats are against them. And if these fail, the forces of law and order of city, state and federal governments are against them. (...)

The impossibility of transforming the unions has been argued by a number of observers. Clark Kerr has noted, without disapproval, that “unions and corporations alike are, with very few exceptions, one-party governments.” That is the phrase usually reserved for Stalinist or fascist totalitarian governments. But it is not overdrawn. (...)

And all of this is what young workers are revolting against.
Este é um daqueles artigos que, mais de 40 anos depois de ter sido escrito, parece ter saído completamente furado: os jovens da classe trabalhadora que em 1972 faziam greves selvagens e protestavam contra a opressão no local de trabalho acabaram largamente (sobretudo os brancos) por se tornarem votantes de Reagan (no percurso descrito aqui) e possivelmente até de Trump, não a dar origem a novas formas de organização e a lutas mais radicais.

Aliás, os EUA parecem-me dos países onde o radicalismo do final dos anos 60 - princípio dos 70 parece ter entrado menos na classe operária, não tendo havido (apesar das greves selvagens) quase nada comparável à greve geral de 1968 em França, à agitação laboral generalizada da Grã-Bretanha e ou de Itália (com a força sindical dos trotskistas na primeira e dos "autónomos" e dos "comités de base" na segunda), ou, já agora, a participação da cintura industrial de Lisboa no PREC.

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