Of shop floors and rugby fields : the social basis of auto worker solidarity

Adler, Glen
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Limited choices were available to black workers in the auto plants in the late 1960s. Blacks received poor wages for performing the worst jobs, and faced virtually unbridled supervisorial despotism. For coloureds, the promise of union protection was still some years away, while Africans were to wait another decade. It was only in the years after 1968 that African activists at Volkswagen even dared speak privately about unions. Opting out was not an option; the only alternatives were either the false face of the smiling, minstrellike puppet, or waiting patiently until conditions changed. The 1980 Volkswagen strike was a watershed in the development of the autoworkers' union. Moreover, the Volkswagen workers' mass action was all the more unusual because workers were successful. Most unusual of all was that their solidarity crossed the dividing lines defined by the racial classification system: Africans joined with their coloured co-workers in industrial action.The basis of this solidarity is the subject of this paper.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented September, 1994
Volkswagen strike. Port Elizabeth, 1980 , Labor unions. Non-racial , Labor unions. Racial solidarity.