Capital won’t stop until it’s beaten (to death with rocks) – Example #3Posted: February 10, 2012 | |
After locking out 465 members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Local 27 in London, Ontario, Caterpillar decided last Friday to close its 62-year-old locomotive facility there and move production to newly “right-to-work” Indiana, where American workers will work for half of what Canadian workers would make. Caterpillar’s decision to close the plant after workers refused to agree to major wage concessions has provoked outrage across Canada in light of the fact that Illinois-based Caterpillar made a record $4.8 billion in profits in 2011.
CAW members, who have already been blockading a completed locomotive from leaving the London plant, have vowed to continue blocking any products from leaving there as they attempt to extract a better severance from the company. The CAW local is also considering occupying the plant. “The CAW has occupied workplaces when employers have shown disrespect,” Canadian Auto Workers Union President Ken Lewenza told Bloomberg. “It’s a tool. It’s an option.”
As I reported last week, under the Investment Canada Act, foreign companies taking over Canadian companies must demonstrate a “net benefit” to Canada. Critics claim that the government allowed a foreign-owned company (Caterpillar) to buy a Canadian company without having any intention of providing any “net benefit” to Canada.
I really hope the CAW follow through with that occupation, because fuck Caterpillar and because Stephen Harper won’t stand up for them. They might not be able to save their jobs, but they might be able to make this a Pyrrhic victory for Caterpillar.
In addition, don’t think that the recent dues freeloading law passed by Indiana has absolutely nothing to do with this decision by Caterpillar, because it has everything to do with it. Caterpillar is staggeringly profitable, and the wages paid at this plant aren’t insane. They are decent, skilled-labor wages, but the environment in the US is conducive to a race to the bottom, the jobs go away and lives get just a little better for those in Muncie and a whole lot worse for those in London.
This whole sad story yet again proves exactly how morally bankrupt the existing economic system is. This plant closure will ruin people’s lives. It will unhome people, it will impoverish people, it will cause a whole swath of societal ills that won’t be addressed because of Mike Harris’ public sector cuts in the nineties. I remember very clearly supporting my teachers’ picket line in 1997 because of what Harris was looking to do was so repellant. What’s happening in London is the inevitable continuation of that neoliberal effort. There is literally no reason, none at all, to do any of this aside for sheer naked avarice.
The Liberals will probably try to make hay over this, but they have supported similar efforts in the recent past under Martin. The only party that’s in a position to really slam Harper and the Tories on this is the NDP, recently ascendant to the Official Opposition after the last election. However, I fear that the leadership vacuum within the New Democrats after Layton’s passing will leave them unable to really go after Harper for allowing and even supporting this kind of asset stripping. If Layton was still alive, they would have easily been able to absolutely shellack the Tories on this bullshit, but with their leadership election taking up all the air in the room, it will be an afterthought at best.
In the end, I’m hoping for the best, but I don’t think this turns out happy for the CAW workers. It’s really fucking sad. I hope someone burns down the house of Caterpillar’s CEO.