Disgruntled Autoworker # 21 November 2005'
Don't Sell-Out Retirees, Vote NO Concessions
On October 18th 2005, UAW President Gettelfinger had his lawyers file a suit to prevent retirees from suing the UAW. Why? Because he’s about to screw them, and he wants our help. I don’t think so. If we vote for the current round of concessions that screw retirees, we will be opening the door for the next generation to screw us. Do we really want to open that door?
Every time GM has financial trouble, they conveniently neglect to factor in their exorbitant salaries, the billions it cost in recalls, their botched $5 billion Fiat type blunders, and their lack of leadership skills, innovation in hybrid fuel-cell technology, and imagination in designing cars and trucks that sell. Instead the first place GM looks to cut so-called legacy cost is the autoworkers. Now GM claims the rising cost of health care and employee wages limits its ability to compete in the global economy.
Excuse me, wasn’t it the Apparel, Textile, Shoe and Auto industries to name a few that created the global economy in the first place? Didn’t they move a few operations to third world countries to take advantage of cheep labor and lax environmental laws? And when that country and employees demand a bigger piece of the pie, didn’t they move to another country, and then another, until eventually they all but disappeared from the American landscape and thereby created the global economy?
How are American workers, or workers anywhere on the planet, supposed to compete for jobs when there will always be another third world country for the corporations to exploit in the name of the all mighty dollar? It wouldn’t be so bad if the corporations passed their savings on to consumers, but they don’t. Take the Shoe industry for example, go to the shoe department of most retail outlets in America and you’ll find that a majority of their shoes are made in third world countries at near slave wages, and then sold in the good ole USA at astronomical prices.
And the same applies in the auto industry. Every year the Big 3 installs more and more cheaper non-union made domestic and foreign parts in the few remaining American manufactured autos, but they don’t pass those savings on to consumers. This is nothing more than price gouging by the corporations, and it’s American workers who pay in the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs, and then again at the counter.
Nothing drives this wholesale slaughter the American Dream home more than the recent bankruptcy filing by Delphi, GM’s major parts supplier. Delphi’s Hired Gun is none other than Steve, The Hatchet, Miller, the cold-blooded killer of 10’s of thousands of worker’s American Dreams at United Airlines and Bethlehem Steel, among others. And now his sights are set on the 24,000 workers at Delphi, whose foreign operations are conveniently exempt from bankruptcy. Is The Hatchet pitting his American workers against his Mexican and Chinese workers? No contest there.
The Hatchet is demanding draconian wage and benefit concessions from Delphi’s union workers. “What choice do we have?” asked Miller. According to a recent Detroit Free Press article, The Hatchet has repeatedly stated the wage-and-benefit cost of Delphi’s union workers are two to three times the prevailing pay at other U.S. parts makers. And I bet his wages are two to three times the CEO’s of those same parts makers, but that’s a different story. I’d like to take away his millions and see how he survives on what he expects American workers to survive on.
In a recent Time interview The Hatchet said, “What we’re talking about is not breaking the unions. We’re talking about getting competitive.” His draconian actions will break the unions. And he said, “If you work at Delphi you may have to buy a Chevrolet instead of an Escalade.” Right. A used one, and a small apartment instead of owning a home, and forget about sending a kid to collage. He also said this about being able to afford the products we make, “I was talking to some hourly workers a Boeing and they can’t buy a Boeing airplane.” This chump has the nerve to make jokes while he’s destroying people’s lives. Would someone please knock the smirk off of this arrogant jerk’s face?
The Hatchet won’t be satisfied until all American workers are living paycheck to paycheck, or until he’s driven us all into bankruptcy. Oh wait, that’s right; The Millers of the world changed bankruptcy laws so they can bleed us of every penny. Next they’ll want children to assume the debts of their parents.
And what are our Government and Union Reps doing about the corporation’s wholesale slaughter of the American Dream and highway robbery of American consumers? The government caters to corporations by enacting NAFTA and CAFTA policies. And our so-called Union Reps put up a verbal front against free trade agreements, but fail to aggressively and effectively mobilize their memberships to rally opposition in their communities.
The current round of concessions between GM and the UAW is proof that our Union’s Reps have abandoned us. It’s not enough that over the years they’ve assisted the corporations in pitting plant against plant for concessionary agreements, and worker against worker on the shop floor, now they’re assisting the corporation again. Only this time they want the membership’s help. Gettelfinger wants active workers to ratify an agreement that sells-out the retirees. How pathetic is that?
In 98 Gettelfinger authorized 400 union members in Kentucky to go on strike because of a sell-out agreement their steel wheel manufacturing company put on the table. For 4 years Gettelfinger did nothing to support the membership when the company hired scabs. He ended up sacrificing Local 2036’s members by pulling their Charter because they turned down the same sell-out offer by Accuride Corporation 9 times.
When Gettelfinger failed to act when The Hatchet was brought in beating his chest as Delphi’s CEO, the rank and file knew that like the 400 members in Henderson, Kentucky, he was going to sacrifice their 25,000 members too. And for the same reason, the UAW International Union’s dependency on the millions of dollars that flows into UAW Solidarity House annually from Big 3 Joint Funds.
According to a recent report from UAW brother Bill Hanline, whose diligently investigated Joint Funds and the Joint Partnerships our International Reps have with the Big 3, “Approximately 1/3 of the International union’s flat line annual income now comes from the corporations in the disguise of joint funds. Another third comes from investment income earned from the strike fund and retirement fund. This discourages the UAW from taking a stand out of fear of loosing the millions of dollars it receives from the automakers. Since only a third of the UAW flat line income is from it’s members, it has become a capital driven organization, not a membership driven union.”
Brother Hanline was asked, “Would the UAW sacrifice Delphi?” He said, “That is a BIG YES. The UAW International Union is in a fight for its very primal existence. Just as an animal would chew off a leg caught in a trap to save its body, the UAW International Union has become accustomed to shedding local unions (Local 2036) and members in an attempt to financially save the prime bureaucracy.”
I have complete faith in brother Hanline’s assessment, which explains why International and Local Reps have been so secretive when it comes to joint funds disclosure. His assessment is also proof that, in brother Hanline’s words, “The UAW International Union has become a company dominated union.”
Three years ago Gettelfinger sacrificed 400 members in Kentucky, then he pitted new hires against senior members when he allowed two and three tiered wages in Delphi, Caterpillar, and Visteon’s parts plants, and now he sacrificing 25,000 Delphi members, and wants GM’s active workers to sell-out retirees by ratifying another round of concessions.
Haven’t we sacrificed and given back enough? GM’s financial troubles are due to asinine decisions made around the Boardroom Table. That’s where their legacy cost are, the top floor, not the shop floor. And haven’t we had enough of Gettelfinger’s sell-out policies? We should be voting to strike, not to concede to an ungrateful corporation that we helped build.
If The Hatchet gets his way and Delphi’s wages, benefits and working conditions are equaled to Wal Mart, and retirees pensions are virtually wiped out, The Millers of the world will be setting their sights on Visteon, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM, and not necessarily in that order. And you can bet that that damn sorry traitor Gettelfinger will still be looking out for number one.
Don’t sell-out the retirees. Vote NO concessions. And prepare to battle the sell-out bastards at the 34th UAW Constitutional and Bargaining Conventions in the Spring of 2006, if not sooner.
In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom