Disgruntled Autoworkers # 16 - April 05'
Open Letter to UAW President Gettelfinger - Hostile Work Environment
In March of last year I wrote you about an incident that should concern every member of the UAW, especially Local and Regional Officials, and International Executive Board (IEB) Members. However, you ignored my letter. Your predecessor would’ve at least acknowledge receiving it by passing it on to one of his assistants who would’ve responded, but you didn’t even give me the courtesy of doing that.
The letter was about Calvin Buckmaster, a DaimlerChrysler Jeep Local 12 member who had a brick, with bullets and a UAW sticker attached, thrown through a window of his home because he raised questions about his Local’s finances. I asked you to investigate this incident of retaliation, because harassment and violence against dissidents by Good Ole Boy (Gob) officials who control most of our locals is on the rise, but like my letter, you ignored this terrorist act, and in doing so, you sent a powerful message to other local’s Gobs.
In another incident, Caterpillar fired Local 974 Grievance Committeeman (Chairman) George Cornwell. I spoke with Mr. Cornwell and it’s my understanding that Management (Mgt) instigated the shouting match that resulted in him being suspended for seven weeks and then discharged. With 32 years seniority, Mr. Cornwell, 51, could have retired, but like a true activist/dissident, he’ll stay in the fight by appealing his unjust discharge that could take up to 5 years due to arbitration scheduling. In the meantime he’ll seek employment elsewhere.
It is also my understanding that Mr. Cornwell was going to run for Bargaining Chairman, which means his discharge may have been politically motivated. UAW VP Cal Rapson’s failure to immediately intervene in Mr. Cornwell’s behalf indicates that this may also be a Gob and Mgt effort to prevent a dissident from rising up through the union’s ranks. Can’t have that, can we?
My situation wasn’t as dire as Mr. Buckmasters, nevertheless the potential for violence was there when a Gob threatened to knock my teeth out at a union meeting. I wrote you about it, but you ignored that letter too. Since becoming a dissident five years ago, I’ve been the victim of harassment by the Gobs, and by Mgt. And in most cases the Gobs and Mgt retaliated as a Team, like in Mr. Cornwell’s case.
When Mgt illegally bumped me to another department, the Gobs looked the other way. When Mgt denied me workers comp, my local’s lawyers refused to take my case, thus forcing me to get restitution through my own lawyer. When extra dues were deducted from my check two months in a row, the Gobs and Mgt conspicuously blamed each other. And when Mgt reprimanded me for exorcising my right to free speech, the Gobs filed the perfunctory grievance, forcing me to get the issue resolved through the NLRB.
And just last September I was severely disciplined for not having documentation for a “Joint Program” I wrote about that the Gob and Mgt Team had documentation for. It was a Catch 22 situation that cost me over a weeks pay, because as you know, even though the money put in Joint Funds is made off the sweat of union members, we’re not allowed documentation that accounts for where that money is spent.
Again I had to demand the perfunctory grievance for this grave injustice, which is currently being held at the 4th step of the grievance procedure that the NLRB is monitoring. And I’ve written you and the Gobs at each step of the grievance procedure, but again my legitimate and very obvious concerns and allegations of a plot by the Gob and Mgt Team to silence me were ignored, indicating that this is another incident of retaliation by Mgt that has the local Gobs, and the IEB’s, knowledge and blessing.
I can understand and accept Mgt retaliating against me for writing up a supervisor. Hell, sometimes it’s worth it just to piss them off. What I can’t accept is the Gobs and Mgt double-teaming me simply for exorcising my right to free speech by criticizing your precious “Joint Programs and Policies” that I believe are responsible for the increase in hostilities against dissidents like Mr. Buckmaster, Mr. Cornwell and myself.
Mr. Gettelfinger, the IEB can’t expect to form Partnerships with the corporations that were deliberately meant to undermine democracy at all levels of our Union, and destroy workers solidarity nationwide, without some kind of rebellion or uprising by the growing number of members who feel betrayed.
Having said that, you can’t begin to imagine my surprise on the morning of January 28, 2005 when I heard that UAW member Myles Meyers of that same Jeep Local walked into his plant on the 27th and shot and killed a supervisor, wounded two employees and then killed himself. What he did didn’t surprise me, because I believe conditions in his Plant are similar in all UAW represented plants. It’s just a mater of time before it happens somewhere else. What did surprised me was that a Gob wasn’t one of Mr. Myers’ victims.
According to a 02.17.05 Toledo City Paper article by Michael Brooks, Jeep workers say, “Meyers’ outburst was a culmination of systematic harassment by Mgt that took place throughout many months.” The article went on to say, “One of the common worker complaints is that the UAW no longer adequately serves its local’s members.” Another member commented that when his Union Rep was present at a disciplinary meeting, “It was like having another company person in the room.” I think the majority of the UAW’s members around the country can identify with these statements.
Since being formed 20 years ago, the “Jointness Partnerships” have pitted our plants against each other for concessionary agreements in a race to the bottom. And in the surviving plants the Partnership’s Joint Programs and Policies pitted department against department and worker against worker. If that’s not enough to destroy solidarity and keep the members at each other’s throats, your infamous Five in Five Deals in 2003 that allows your corporate Partners to initiate 2 and 3 tiered wages in our plants will add to the increase in hostilities.
Mr. Gettelfinger, it was workers solidarity that created the UAW, but for over 20 years you and your predecessor’s perverse Partnerships have deliberately undermined union democracy nationwide and destroyed that solidarity. I’m not an advocate of violence and I don’t condone what Mr. Meyers did, but considering the affect your Partnerships are having in our Union Halls and Plants, I can understand why he snapped.
What I can’t understand is why members blame Mgt when it is clearly the UAW IEB’s Partnerships with the corporations that are responsible for their frustrations and the worsening hostile work environments. And conditions are about to get a whole lot worse because of piss poor management skills at the corporate level.
*In GM for instance, Mgt will blame all their financial problems on rising health care cost while ignoring the $9.13 billion spent on product policy recalls and the $2.1 billion it cost to bail out of Fiat. Like a good Partner, you’ll ignore GM’s $11.23 billion blunder, more than double their $5.1 billion health care bill, that you failed to inform the media is for both blue and white collar workers. As usual, you’ll assist the corporations by conceding our benefits. Why not? As long as it doesn’t come out of your pockets. And that’s another frustrating, and very infuriating issue, how in hell can you adequately represent us when your benefits are far superior?
*The average member needs to know that the UAW’s leaders at the Regional and National levels have 100 percent reimbursement on health care expenses, a matching 401(k), a matching severance package drawn over 15-20 years and $165 per month per year of service with no ‘carve-out’ when they reach Social Security age.
*In other words, someone with 15 to 20 years on the International’s staff, who maxed out matching UAW contributions, will retire at $8000 a month or more counting your corporate pensions. The top UAW’s leaders are leaving behind the very people they say they hold in the ‘highest regard,’ the retirees. You’re using our hard earned dues money to enrich yourselves while sacrificing our benefits. This huge disparity between the IEB and the membership is enough by itself to push any member or retiree over the edge.
Mr. Gettelfinger, if something isn’t done to remedy these deplorable and discriminating conditions in our Halls and Plants, I believe it’s just a matter of time before a frustrated second or third tier member walks into a Local Hall or one of our plants with malicious intent because they’re forced to perform the same job as someone with better benefits making $10 or $15 more an hour.
And with more increases in out of pocket expenses for health care putting many senior members and retirees a slip, trip or fall away from bankruptcy, while you sit in the lap of luxury, I believe it’s just a matter of time before a destitute member or retiree walks into a Regional Office or Solidarity House with malicious intent.
Mr. Gettelfinger, I suggest the UAW IEB cease and desist with all aspects of the Jointness Partnerships with the corporations immediately. Otherwise the so-called ‘isolated shooting incident’ at the DC Jeep plant will be repeated in another inadequately represented UAW plant, thereby putting the health and safety of every union member in jeopardy, never mind that of the Gobs or Mgt.
The IEB must restore democracy at the Regional and International levels of the UAW with one member/one vote, which I seriously doubt that you will even consider, in that case I highly recommend airport type security for Solidarity House, because your sell out policies will ultimately attract some very angry members and retirees hell-bent on retaliation. God forbid it be as easy to retaliate against a Gob as it is for the Gobs and Mgt to retaliate against a dissident.
* Information provided by Dave Yettaw, retired President of UAW Local 599