Disgruntled Autoworker
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Disgruntled Autoworker # 23 December 05'

A Contract is a Contract

From the time The Hatchet, Robert ‘Steve’ Miller, was brought in to disrupt the lives and dreams of Delphi’s UAW represented autoworkers, like he’s done to hundreds of thousands of union and non-union workers across the country, reporters have been scouring website’s futureoftheunion.com, uawndm.org and others to solicit autoworkers opinions of The Hatchet’s egomaniacal draconian actions.

Reporters aren’t limiting their search to just Delphi workers. They’re seeking autoworker’s opinions nationwide because of the potential domino effect Delphi’s bankruptcy could have on the entire auto industry; thereby robbing them of their middle class status and dreams of a comfortable retirement while those at the top are virtually unaffected or extravagantly rewarded.

A Detroit News Reporter recently emailed me the following assessment and questions, “Every time I write about autoworkers, I am taken aback by how many readers email or call and say that union-covered auto workers are overpaid, lazy, etc. Do you sense a rise of anti-union sentiment by working and middle class people? Do you hear this expressed often?”

To both questions my answer is, “Yes.” And the reason why is that the vast majority of the American press is corporate owned, therefore it will side with fellow corporate entities, especially the auto industries, which are a major source of advertising revenue. A recent example of retaliation for corporate disloyalty was when General Motors pulled its ads from a California Newspaper for criticizing the quality of its vehicles. Even though quality does indeed take a back seat in the now shareholder driven industry, keep your negative opinions out of the press thank you very much.

Therefore, if reporters want to curry favor with their employers at Time, Newsweek, Forbes, the Economist Magazine or most major Newspapers, they’ll spin reports that depict union workers as lazy and overpaid and a burden on the corporation’s bottom line. While they will report the extravagances of those at the top, more space is allotted to bashing union workers, thereby influencing public opinion, hence the public’s negative perception of autoworkers.

I don’t fault reporters for doing their jobs, just their bosses. I would love to put them, The Hatchet and GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner on the assembly line for one week and then have them look us in the eye and tell us we don’t deserve our wages, benefits and pensions. And I don’t mean an easy job that’s usually reserved for the boss’ butt-kissers or a union rep’s yum yum. I mean a real job that has them running from whistle to whistle with a hand full of small screws, a bulky part tucked under their arm and an air gun that’s tethered to a torque monitor. Then watch how quickly these corporate hacks change their tunes.

In an article in the Bay City Times, a Michigan area newspaper, U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Flint, and other House Democrats were soliciting the opinions of Delphi and GM employees and retirees from December 5th through the 15th. It was an opportunity for workers and retirees to voice their concerns on issues like jobs, wages, health insurances and retirement security. Issues that are made all the more pressing in light of Delphi’s bankruptcy filing. I emailed the following, slightly modified observation:

When the Big 3 hired us, little did we know our bodies would be subjected to such harsh conditions like carpel tunnel syndrome in the wrist and hands from the repetitive jobs and the use of power tools. Or that we’d suffer from neck, shoulder, elbow, back, knee or feet problems from stooping, stretching, twisting and turning and stepping up and down in repetitive motion while assembling 400 plus vehicles per shift.

Then there is the mental stress from the persistent rumors of downsizing, shutdowns, plant closings, and actual plant closings that force workers to relocate hundreds of miles from home in order to pursue the ever-elusive pension. It was decent wages; benefits and the promise of a pension that motivated us to endure all the physical and mental stresses associated with the industry.

And now the stress and anxiety factors are ratcheted even higher for all autoworkers because Delphi filed for bankruptcy to dump its pensions and drastically reduce autoworkers wages and benefits. If Delphi were truly in financial dire straits, autoworkers wouldn’t mind taking cuts, as long as executives made sacrifices too, but not when executives are lavishing excessive and obscene financial rewards on themselves, which is also extremely stress inducing for autoworkers.

When we were hired, there were two promises made that were backed by a Union Contract. If we, as autoworkers, promised to report to work every day and perform repetitive task for 30 years, ignoring the physical and mental stress associated with the industry, GM, Ford and Chrysler promised us a pension and medical coverage for the rest of our lives.

We lived up to our obligations; therefore, the Big 3 and their spin-offs, Delphi and Visteon, should live up to theirs. If that means Delphi has to sell its foreign investments, which are conspicuously exempt from bankruptcy proceedings, to cover its pension obligations, so be it.

When I was hired in 1976, GM didn’t own GMAC, the banking conglomerate that’s into Home, Auto, RV and Educational Financing, or Ditech.com, the home mortgage company, or the Hummer, the Segway People Mover, Opel, Daewoo or Vauxhall, or its GPS OnStar Satellite System. And GM wasn’t in the Insurance, Credit Card, or XM Radio business. And GM didn’t have stakes in Isuzu or Joint efforts with Toyota, Suzuki, or Subaru, or the billions it’s investing in China and God knows where else.

Therefore if GM has to sell all of the aforementioned businesses and products to honor its pension obligations to GM and Delphi employees, whose labors helped Them accumulate all of said foreign and domestic businesses, products and joint ventures, so be it as well. A contract is a contract, and the corporations should be forced to honor it.

If the corporation is allowed to dump my pension and reduce wages and benefits, I would more than likely lose my home. And I don’t think my 53-year-old body and mind, both of which feel decades older because of 29 years of assembly work, would be able to take a third transfer, or start all over again somewhere else. (In a separate email I sent the following after thought.)

If the Courts or Congress has the audacity to null and void, and/or freeze union contracts that guarantee our pensions and medical coverage with the corporations, they had better null and void, and/or freeze their own government guaranteed pensions while they’re at it, because the government’s in the red a whole lot more than the corporations claim to be. After all, what’s fair is fair.

They posted my opinion as well as those of hundreds of other active and retired autoworkers on the following website, <edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/autocrisis.html> The overall consensus was that we fulfilled our obligations; therefore the corporations should fulfill theirs.

The Reporter ended his email with the following statement, “From reading some of your newsletters, (at disgruntledautoworker.com) I’m assuming you are more about reforming the union, not getting rid of the union.” His assessment is correct. If not for the blood and sweat of the Union’s Forefathers, the vast majority of American workers would still be working in unsafe factories, making minimum wage with no benefits or pensions and at the mercy of the corporations.

While I appreciate the fact that as a union member I enjoy a relatively comfortable middle class life with decent benefits and the promise of a pension and transfer rights in the event my plant closes, I don’t appreciate the fact that today’s union reps formed joint partnerships with the corporations that fostered a secret multi billion dollar joint funds account, complete with programs that were designed to allow the union’s incumbent administration to make a mockery of union democracy.

The actions of today’s union reps are appalling. They appoint their own successors months prior to conventions that are merely perfunctory affairs whereas delegate influences are circumvented. They repeatedly violate the union’s constitution. And with the assistance of their corporate partners they conspire to meddle in local union affairs while sanctioning nepotism and favoritism, which supersedes seniority, which undermines rank and file solidarity, while at the same time collectively conspiring to control dissention by bearing false witness against those who dare to dissent.

Nevertheless, I don’t advocate getting rid of, leaving, or forming an alternate union. All would be to expensive and time consuming. And the Traitors at the top have made it virtually impossible to challenge them democratically. Therefore, I do advocate an insurgency movement, or a coup of some sort, because the Traitors will not willingly or peacefully relinquish their self-imposed corporate sponsored dictatorship.

In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom




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