Disgruntled Autoworker
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Disgruntled Autoworkers #1
July 2000

Clingers and Appointees

Almost thirty years ago the UAW went on strike for, among other things, a thirty and out pension plan and won. It's now considered to be one of the best in the country. If a person were to retire today with thirty years, based on a forty-hour week, they would only lose about two dollars and change an hour; gas and lunch money. With thirty-five years they would pretty much break even. Not bad considering you don't have to punch a clock anymore. You'd think everyone would take advantage of this, right? Wrong!

We have what I call clingers, (employees with over thirty-five years) for many, their only reason for not retiring is they don't want to give up the job it took them fifteen years to get. At the rate clingers are hanging around and hogging good jobs, I'll have to be on the line thirty years before I can get the job that took them only fifteen; not very encouraging.

Looking around on the UAW's web site (uaw.org) I noticed our International leaders are hogging jobs as well, because the average seniority of our top UAW official is over thirty-five years. The President and two Vice Presidents have over forty years, two other Vice Presidents have over thirty-five years, three regional representatives have over forty-five years and six other regional representatives have over thirty-five years. Wow!

The same members who fought for the thirty-and-out pension plan almost thirty years ago are themselves Clingers and it doesn't take a genius to know why. They make six figures, have an expense account and go to conventions in all the exotic locations around the country. There's also a hefty retirement package on top of their corporate retirement, so it's no wonder they're still clinging.

Then there's the other reason I'll be on the line for thirty years and its a perk officials call appointments, used to assign employees to positions ranging from quality to health and safety reps, joint activities reps, and so on. Over time, it's been and is being abused by officials here in Baltimore and down the street at the Allison plant, because all appointees are family, friends and brown-noses. They're appointed with no regard for members with more seniority or experience. Positions that should be posted so anybody may apply and be selected or elected based on qualifications, not because of Daddy, who you know or the brown-nose factor.

750 members of Local 239 submitted a petition to the International on May 17, 2000 to change the by-laws governing appointments for reasons stated above and without coming here or calling any individuals who signed the petition for a heads up, the Internationals response was that our local officials acted within the guidelines. How do they know? They probably called our President and who knows what he told them? The 750 members deserved to have their side heard in a face-to-face setting with an International Rep, but I guess a line on their web site stating "The highest authority in the UAW is the membership" doesn't apply for the members of our local.

After reading the biographies of our International representatives, I understand why they don't want to change the by-laws, because it would affect them, big time. The appointment perks a practice that's been going on for years and it's almost a religion with the International, because between the President, Secretary, five Vice Presidents and twelve regional representatives, all but two have appointments in their biographies, some with multiple appointments. Now that's abuse, because an appointment of assistant to the Vice President for example, leads to Vice President, continuing the good-old-boy network, convenient or what? Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?

With over thirty-five years our UAW leaders are out of touch with the average autoworker. In their day, after ten or fifteen years you could get a decent job off the line. However, the assembly lines a whole new world today, it takes almost thirty years to get an off line job, because in the last fifteen years or so the corporation has been busy out-sourcing all the good jobs and what's left, clingers and appointees have. Being in the loop, you would think our leaders would have seen these conditions developing and compensated for them, its not like they were blind-sided. It's more like they have this "We've got ours, to hell with yours" attitude. Why'd they allow these conditions to get to the point they are? When they're no longer looking out for the membership, selfishness and greed are the only answers that come to mind.

Possible solutions? We can't force either of our Clingers to retire, but how about caps? Since blue-collar clingers don't accumulate any more towards their pensions after thirty five-years, offer them a choice; retire or go back on the line, freeing up the good jobs for members with less time. Then stand back and watch how fast and how many retire. As for our International Clingers, set term limits or put a cap on them also, beyond thirty-five years is a stretch for an official who's out of touch. And appointees, the International had a petition on their desk in March dealing with this and dollars to donuts they lit their Cuban cigars with it. Heaven forbid they tamper with a perk that guarantees the continuance of the good old boy networks for years to come; a scary thought that deserves the attention of the entire membership. With good jobs getting harder to come by in this business, these issues need to be brought up to date.

If I sound disgruntled, let me see. I've got Clingers at the International level who have no intention of changing the by-laws on appointments, since it would be like shooting themselves in the foot, which also means when they retire, they would be replaced by a self-appointed clones, leaving me at square one. I've got blue-collar clingers hogging good jobs, appointees being given the rest and I'm stuck on the line for thirty years while some official's no-seniority-snot-nosed kids walk by with shit eating grins on their faces. This last incident happens often, so hell yes, I'm disgruntled.

Personally, I think the good-old-boys at the International level are the problem, because the leaders we have in power now are appointed clones of the leaders we've had in power over the last twenty years when the union started going down the tubes. With their average seniority being over thirty-five years, they're looking out for themselves and not the membership. When leaders are more self-serving than serving, then those they serve should find a way to replace them.

The UAW needs new blood and fresh ideas to usher it into the new millennium; leaders that know the way life on the line is today, not thirty years ago. My guess is things are going to stay the way they are with our current Good-Old-Boy clones in power, which is why we need a two party system to break it up and to keep new ones from forming. Somebody please resurrect the Stand Up Coalition or something like that; it's time for a change.

I'm aware writing this and putting it out isn't going to make me very popular with the Clingers. At this point, fair representation from my Local or the International is nonexistent, so what have I got to lose? I'm hoping this letter will put these issues under an international spotlight, sparking debate and change.

Damn it, I'm only saying what everybody's thinking.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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