(5) Gregg Shotwell had a front row rank-and-file seat to the last thirty years of change in labor/management relations and shopfloor change in the US auto industry. With his leadership in the dissident UAW Soldiers of Solidarity movement and his widely read and respected "Live Bait and Ammo" (LB&A) columns/commentaries, Shotwell gave keen intellectual talent, a razor wit, and a strong and steady voice to the service of those who thirsted for an alternative to what he has stated was a lap dog union in a hostile, manipulative and anti-worker industry.
Haymarket Books recently released Autoworkers Under the Gun (2011), a well-crafted chronological compilation of Shotwell's LB&A newsletters stretching from March, 1999 to September, 2009 finished off with an epilogue from January of 2011. This is a fascinating collection. Shotwell's genius is evident in his crystal ball gazing of a future which came to pass in his industry and in his unwavering aversion to the corruption inherent to power and capital. His prose cuts like a knife as is evident in this passage about the current state of the economy and politics:
Is it maximum profit or minimum conscience that drives our nation to compete for the lowest standard of living? Even children are sideswiped in the race to the bottom line. Schools are turned into sweatshops. Hospitals are managed like maquiladoras. Homelessness is mental health therapy. Prison is substance abuse treatment. Every program or agency whose purpose is to serve the public interest is underfunded, abused, and degraded. Our families suffer under the yoke of being double wage earners without disposable income or time to spend with their children. Meanwhile, Congress debates whether a minimum wage which snorkels the poverty line will ruffle the feathers and furs on Wall Street.
The madness of the method isn’t just about money. The vultures already have all the money. They have plans for all the money you and I will ever make in our lifetime. They have plans for our pensions, our 401(k)s, the money that falls through the doughnut they call prescription drug coverage for senior citizens. They have plans to profit off the deaths of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan, It’s not just about the money. It’s about control. (p. 148, originally published in the November, 2006 “Live Bait and Ammo”).
This is a valuable and important contribution to our collective understanding of labor, politics and the economy and to the literature of the working class and of the auto industry. It is full of incisive analysis, righteous indignation and anger, wicked humor and a bed rock of genuine concern for workers and the nation. If you desire a solid reading experience which will expand your perspective and understanding and challenge your thinking, this book is not to be missed.
John Beck, Assoc. Director of Labor Education Program, MSU