Not One Step Back
I am so sick and tired of the mainstream media touting the Big Three’s mantra that UAW represented autoworker’s wages and benefits adds $1,500 dollars to the price of every vehicle sold. I’m also sick of reading and hearing, through the mainstream media, that in order to be competitive in today’s global economy, the Big Three must close the $25.00 an hour wage and benefit gap that exist between unionized autoworkers and their transplanted Asian competitors, i.e. Toyota, Honda, etc. etc.
There may be a $25.00 wage and benefit gap between us, and they may add $1,500 dollars to the price of a car or truck, but what about executive salaries, perks and pensions? According to the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch webpage, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner’s 2006 compensation was over $11 million while Toyota’s CEO brought home $900,000, a whopping $10 million dollar wage gap. Who needs health care when you’re making that kind of money? Then there is the matter of Wagoner’s $4.6 million pension that is guaranteed even if GM goes belly-up, which makes me wonder how much Wagoner’s salary and pension, and those of all executives from department supervisors to plant managers to GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz adds to a vehicle’s price? I’ll bet it’s a whole lot more than $1,500 per vehicle.
Why isn’t the mainstream media exposing the disparity between the Big Three’s over bloated corporate salaries and their Asian competitors? They may mention them briefly in related articles, but they don’t hammer them home like they do the disparity between union and non union autoworkers, and that’s because they're corporations too. They’re not going to step on the toes of a fellow corporation, they could lose advertising revenue. They learned their lesson when GM pulled advertising from a San Francisco newspaper that criticized it a few years ago. The only ones left to defend us are our UAW Reps and they’re not saying a whole hell of a lot in our defense either because they want a piece of the corporate capitalist pie too.
UAW President Gettelfinger may have criticize Delphi’s CEO Steve ‘The Hatchet’ Miller for giving executives outrageous bonuses to stay with the company while he raped employees wages and pensions through a phony bankruptcy, but all he did was pay lip service. If Gettelfinger was serious about defending Delphi’s employees he should have had union members walk off the job the day The Hatchet was hired, because his reputation for destroying the American dreams of tens of thousands of active and retired union members at Bethlehem Steel and United Airlines was infamous. When Gettelfinger didn’t back up his Great Dane bark with so much as a flea’s bite, everyone knew he was The Hatchets willing accomplice.
During current negotiations, Gettelfinger released sound bites criticizing Big Three executives’ pay packages, but stops short of demanding that Wagoner and his honchos give up even a little of their obscene salaries in a gesture of good faith to indicate that they’re willing to make sacrifices too. However, reports leaked to the press, by one side or the other, indicates Gettelfinger’s being a willing accomplice here as well because all we hear about is VEBA, wage freeze, COLA diversions, and two tier wages and benefits for new hires, but nothing about corporate executive sacrifices.
You have to admit that both sides, GM and the UAW, know how to use the press effectively. When it looked like dissident group soldiers of solidarity was making progress in informing the membership that a union run Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association trust, or VEBA goes against the UAW’s Constitution, both parties decided to shelve it while focusing on other issues. Days later it was leaked in the press that if GM couldn’t pass its health care obligations on to the UAW in the form of a VEBA, it would demand a $4 or $5 dollar an hour wage cut to close the $25.00 gap with our Asian counterparts.
Autoworkers nationwide began screaming bloody murder at the thought of loosing $5 dollars an hour, and all of a sudden a union run VEBA doesn’t look so hard to swallow. To drive that message home and cinch the deal to guarantee a yes vote when it’s put before the membership, I believe GM and the UAW, Gettelfinger and his fellow international executive board (IEB) members, staged a nationwide strike to scare the membership, especially the young, into voting for a concession laden contract.
Forty hours and five minutes later, according to Gettelfinger, GM and the UAW announced they had a tentative agreement that will be put before the membership for ratification. If the past is an indicator, the membership will have two or three days from receiving the highlights of the agreement to actually voting for it. By all rights we should have at least a week to study and talk about it with coworkers, but that would make too much sense. Given enough time we may find it too hard to swallow and demand it be sent back for further negotiations, which is why it will be rushed to ratification.
I really hate to say this about my coworkers, but GM, Gettelfinger and his IEB posse, and local executives are counting on the gullibility and greed of the majority of the UAW’s membership. Local Leaders will be instructed to hold ratification sessions in union halls all across the country. They’ll have members of their jointly appointed armies standing outside the halls prior to ratification votes saying things like, “We won,” “This is the best contract ever,” “Vote yes and your signing bonus will be in your check next week,” “We are the mighty mighty union,” and they’ll vote for it without even asking any questions.
What they don’t know or want to know, or remember, is that the $3,000 signing bonus or bribe is double taxed, once when you get it, and again at the end of the year as income, so they may end up with about $1,200 if they’re lucky. A 3% raise is the preferred option because you see it in your hourly wage and it becomes time and a half or double depending on overtime. This is just one reason to vote no. Send Gettelfinger back for a minimum 3% pay raise for each of the next four years. Another reason to vote no is two tiers, it allows the corporations to create a second class tier of worker that it will pit against the upper class tier in an effort to lower their wages as well like they, GM and the UAW, successfully did at Delphi.
Then there’s VEBA. Like I wrote in my last post, “If we can’t depend on them to represent us in labor disputes on the shop floor, I doubt very seriously that they’ll be any more dependable handling our health care.” I wouldn’t have a problem with Gettelfinger and his posse handling our health care if we had voted for them, but we didn’t, and our delegates didn’t either. The IEB stole control of our union over twenty years ago through motions and resolutions, and more likely than not, they’ll use those same treasonous underhanded tactics to treat a multi billion dollar VEBA fund like their own personal savings account and we’ll be left without health care when we need it most.
The forefathers of the UAW literally fought tooth and nail for better working conditions, decent wages, affordable health care, and a thirty and out pension. And now Gettelfinger and his posse want us to give it all back? I don’t think so, why should we? He’s not sacrificing his over bloated health care and benefits that are far superior to ours, and Wagoner’s not giving up any of his $11 million salary or $4.6 million pension, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s not giving up any of his $39 million while mortgaging Ford’s plants and equipment to the hilt. Bullshit, enough’s enough. We’ve all heard the saying, “Crap rolls down hill,” well damn it, the corporation’s CEOs and shareholders are the ones responsible for their financial problems, not us; I’m sick and tired of autoworkers being their patsies, no more, not one more step back, no more concessions, period.
Gettelfinger recently said, “If workers vote against the contract, they could go back on strike.” That sounds like a threat. What are we, children? We can continue working during negotiations; however, if we have to go on strike again to stop the sell out, then so be it, only this time, lets make it a real strike, not a phony 40 hour strike with generic picket signs. Call his bluff; send him back to the bargaining table, Vote No to VEBA, Vote No to Two Tier, Vote No to Wage Freezes, and Vote No to COLA diversions, and if we do have to go out on a real strike, have your, Vote No to VEBA, Vote No to Two Tier, Vote No to Wage Freezes, Vote No to COLA diversions, and Not One Step Back picket signs ready, mine are.
In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom