Disgruntled Autoworkers #15
To Congressman Ruppersberger, Jointness Undermines Solidarity and Democracy
Over 20 years ago the UAW International Executive Board
(IEB) and General Motors formed a Partnership they called
Jointness, a partnership that began with good intentions.
They created several joint programs that were designed to
educate, retrain and relocate displaced workers who were
laid off due to plant closings or downsizing.
The Partners created a Joint Funds (JF) account to finance
their new joint programs. In the beginning GM put a nickel
in JF for every hour an employee worked. Today it's $.19
and as much as $5.19 for every overtime hour worked. Multiply
hours worked by about 250,000 employees when JF was created,
factor in downsizing to about 145,000 employees today and
we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars.
*In 1999, a banner year for the U.S. auto industry, which
means lots of overtime hours, GM put $20,000 an hour, nearly
$500,000 a day in JF, about $180 million that year. In a
bad year, let's say GM puts in only $90 million, over a
20-year period that's still a mind-boggling amount of money
that's being made off the backs of union members, money
that should be going into member's checks, or applied to
their benefits and pensions.
So much money was amassed in JF the Partners found it necessary
to create a separate entity with which to oversee and administer
the Funds, hence the UAW/GM Center for Human Resources (CHR).
A new *$180 million, 420,000 square-foot office building
was recently built on the Detroit River to house the CHR,
conveniently located right between the UAW's Solidarity
House and GM Headquarters.
The Partners decided that the best method for staffing
the CHR and its joint programs at the corporate and company
levels would be by appointment. All appointments are at
the discretion of corporate management and a select few IEB members at the national
level and by company management and Local EB members, usually the president or
shop chairmen, at the local levels.
Many of the programs are the brainchild of the staff at
the CHR, which has become a sort of Halfway House for many
IEB member's family and friends who are too good to work
in the Plants. And the same can be said of staffing on the
Local levels. God forbid a Union Official's kid gets Repetitive
Motion Syndrome, or be subjected to the frantic pace and
stress inducing conditions the average member endures daily.
Over the years a plethora of joint programs were created
that require JF, from the millions needed to finance the
CHR, the annual UAW/GM NASCAR Quality 500 and to publishing
the CHR UAW/GM Magazines, to the few thousands or hundreds
of dollars needed to purchase jackets, t-shirts, pens or
key rings bearing the UAW/GM logo.
The problem with all of these joint programs is that the
membership has no idea which program or item is fully, partially,
or not funded at all, because there is no disclosure or
accountability by the JF administrators to the locals membership.
I was recently severely disciplined for writing that a particular
program was partially funded by JF. Mgt based its discipline
on the fact that I didn't have documentation to back up
And that's the catch, with so many UAW/GM programs, magazines
and local newsletters advertising JF programs, over the last 20
years the membership has been conditioned to believe that
when we see the UAW/GM logo on anything, we automatically assume it's funded by Joint Funds. How are we supposed to
know? It remains to be seen how the grievances process plays
out, but like the discipline, I suspect the grievance has
already been jointly predetermined.
Congressman Ruppersberger, this letter isn't about the
money. Though I wish it were. The membership is not privy
to that information. However, if you're interested, I can
put you in touch with a member who has been trying to open
the UAW/GM Jointness Books for years. He may be able to
provide you with a bit more information on the subject.
Just let me know. Anyway, this letter is about what the
UAW/GM Jointness Partnership and the Appointee Systems have
done to solidarity and democracy in our locals nationwide.
In the beginning there were only a handful of appointees
in our plants and nobody cared that an official's low seniority
kid got a gravy appointment. Today it's a completely different
situation. In the average plant, between 4 and 7% of the
membership is required to staff the growing number of Joint
Programs. That may not seem like much, but considering the
number of good jobs that are constantly being downsized,
outsourced or eliminated, these positions are highly sought
after by an overworked and aging workforce.
I'm aware the appointee system is a fact of life in the
Government, and that nepotism and favoritism factors into
many of those appointments, but the appointee system should
not be allowed between a Union and the company, because
it promotes discrimination and undermines union democracy.
Attempts to make appointed positions posted or elective
have been met with stiff resistance by Local EB and IEB
Joint Programs aren't the problem; it's the Appointee System,
because the majority of the appointments are based on nepotism
and favoritism without any consideration for seniority or
experience. And a majority of them are for life, or until
a program is eliminated. From the shop floor point of view,
the average member feels discriminated against, because
they are not afforded the same golden opportunities as the
Joint Programs are supposed to benefit the union, its members
and the corporation, but the benefits to the members becomes
questionable when an appointee's loyalty is to those who
appointed them. For instance, an Ergonomics Appointee assisted
Medical Deptartment personnel by encouraging members to
fill out an annual anatomical medical form that indicated
their aches and pains. This practice is unethical because
the forms could come back to haunt members should they injure
themselves in a place previously indicated. Many of us believe
the appointee and his Appointers are deliberately deceiving
Also, an Equal Employment Opportunity Appointee's (union member) ethics
became questionable when they state that they must first
consult with Management personnel to determine if a charge
is valid. These are just two incidents in the last year
that have benefited the corporation and not the members.
We wonder how many others there may be. Over time we've
become suspicious of the majority of the appointee's ethics
in the joint programs.
According to the "Memorandum of Understanding Joint
Activities," all parties are supposed to benefit from
the programs, the corporation, the employees and "The
UAW through a strong and viable membership." In the
beginning that may have been true, but today there is little
evidence the Partner's Joint Programs are benefiting the
membership. In fact it has had the opposite effect. Since
forming the Partnership, the UAW is over 850,000 members
weaker and getting weaker. And that is in no way viable
or beneficial to the UAW's membership.
The corporation is benefiting big time while the UAW is
slowly dying. Nowhere is this more evident than in our Locals.
The IEB demands that all Local EB's write into their Bylaws
that all Joint Program and Shop Committee Appointees attend
two out of three union meetings or forfeit their positions.
A demand that would eventually, and I believe deliberately,
undermine solidarity and democracy in our locals.
In locals nationwide, the number of elected officials and
their ever-increasing Army of Appointees far exceeds the
number of average members that constitutes a union meeting.
Over the years, local EB members have learned to use their
newfound power to dominate and influence motions, resolutions,
union meetings, and more importantly, elections, so as to
maintain control of the local political arena.
Since most Appointees are free to roam the shop floor,
many of them are used to promote candidates (their appointers)
for elections while spreading lies and innuendos about challengers
and dissidents who are trying to educate the membership
about the Partnership and the devastating effect the Appointee
System is having on democracy in our locals.
The majority of the membership is aware of these conditions,
but their intimidated by it, which is why they don't participate
in union activities or attend meetings. However, if adequately
informed, they will vote their conscience and replace questionable
Local EB members. As positive as that may sound, it's still
not enough to initiate reform, because new EB members are
immediately subjected to immense pressure to conform to
the Jointness Way by remaining EB members and the IEB's
vast Army of local, regional and national Appointees.
If Local EB members still refuse to conform, they will
be ousted, even if it means violating the UAW's Constitution.
The Partner's Jointness promoters illegally ousted the Shop
Chairman of Local 594 for refusing to conform. He is currently
appealing his ouster, but if the IEB can indiscriminately
**break up an entire Region at will, and **siphon $75 million
out of the Strike Fund, his chances of winning his appeal
The IEB is supposed to be at opposite ends of the bargaining
table, or at the very least, at arms length from Management,
however, since forming their Partnership with GM, and sharing
the same CHR Headquarters and a billion dollar Joint Funds
account, they are arm in arm, or one and the same.
The IEB's Partnership with GM has compromised the UAW's
independence. They have literally turned the UAW into a
company union that manages its members, not represents them.
And in conjunction with Management, they are using their
appointed army and strong-arm tactics to silence dissention
in order to undermine the natural evolution of the union
Therefore, Congressman Ruppersberger, I call for congressional
hearings into the unscrupulous UAW/GM Jointness Partnership,
their Appointee System and their collective and questionable
use of the UAW/GM billion-dollar Joint Funds account that
lacks any disclosure or accountability whatsoever to the
UAW's membership. Thank you.
UAW Local 239 Baltimore
*Source, 05.18.01 Detroit Free Press
** Disgruntled Autoworker #8
UAW 33rd Constitutional Convention Report