When I participated in the 2006 North American International Auto Show Rally that bitter cold January day in Detroit, I carried a white two foot square sign (see below) that proclaimed “Corporate America & Labor Leaders” “Traitors of the People.” The first part was written in bold blue letters and the second part in red. I was proud of that sign. Grant it, I had it professionally made, but it was worth it, because about half way through the Rally, as I was standing there facing the street with my sign, a big black limo went slowly by with the rear window down, and to this day I swear Steve ‘The Hatchet’ Miller, the CEO and killer of American Dreams at United Airlines, Bethlehem Steel and Delphi, was looking out at the five hundred of us from around the country and Canada with such a contemptuous scowl on his face that it put a smile on mine.
The purpose of the Rally was to protest the phony bankruptcy that was going on at Delphi Corporation, GM’s former parts division. Delphi’s CEO, The Hatchet, who claimed he wasn’t hired to take Delphi into bankruptcy, did just that a few short months later. Several parts operations were relocated to third world countries during the previous years, which were conveniently exempt from Delphi’s North American bankruptcy proceedings. While the majority of the workforce was attritioned out, those who remained saw their wages and benefits reduced substantially, and new hires got even less. To further demoralize the workforce, bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain approved $21 million in bonuses for executives.
The Hatchet’s reasoning for the bonuses was that he needed to keep ‘The Team’ together to help the corporation emerge from bankruptcy proceedings, which is still ongoing. I heard an argument similar to this early last year on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Steven asked Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, if he could justify the excessive salaries of corporate executives. Welsh compared Corporate Teams to Ball Teams; he said something like, “You have to pay team members enough to keep them from jumping ship and joining the competition.” What ticked me off was Steven didn’t follow up with; What if that Team is responsible for driving the corporation into bankruptcy like Delphi? Or; Foreign owned manufactures don’t pay their executives excessive salaries, why the huge disparity? Instead Steven started sucking up to him, which made me nauseous and I stopped watching his show on a regular basis after that.
In keeping with The Hatchet and Welsh’s Team metaphor a little longer, the New York Yankees just sign Mark Teixeira to an eight year contract for an astonishing $180,000,000. As shocking as that is, it’s not the real news, this is; The Yankees have enough money to pay ball players $22.5 million a year, but yet they get $370 million in taxpayer financing for a new stadium, and $942 million in tax exempt bonds from NY city. NY Assemblyman and critic Richard Brodsky, (D-Westchester) said, “When we’re broke and can’t fund the MTA and we can’t fund schools, to give the Yankees another $400 million is bizarre.” *Mayor Bloomberg testily refused to respond to the criticism. Not to be out done by ball players, CEOs around the country will be demanding raises while cutting their workers wages and benefits.
There is something seriously wrong with this picture and it’s not just in NY. Maryland taxpayers shelled out millions for the Orioles’ stadium, and millions more to have GM locate a state of the art transmission assembly plant in White Marsh, MD. Then there are the billions of taxpayer dollars used to lure foreign automakers to build assembly plants in Southern States. I wouldn’t be surprise if this corporate welfare scam is being perpetrated on taxpayers around the country. I know Government Reps throw millions at corporations like confetti in the hope of creating jobs and generating revenue, but to do so while cutting funding for mass transit and schools seems immoral. Shouldn’t a line be drawn somewhere?
Another line that should be boldly drawn is in the bankruptcy courts. For the last thirty years GM/Delphi have been closing North American assembly and parts operations and moving them to third world low wage countries, thereby contributing to the creation of the global economy. Also, for the last twenty years automakers have been shoving their global economy down autoworkers throats to demand and get concessions in a never ending race to the bottom. Therefore, Delphi should not be allowed to file bankruptcy on just its North American operations, because it was the labor of the workers in those operations that gave Delphi the revenue to finance their foreign operations in the first place. A global bankruptcy court needs be established to deal with such matters to level the playing field for all workers.
Now we’re experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis. The House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street due to pressure from unions, citizen action groups and the public, but the Senate approved the bailout after adding an additional $140 billion in pork. Presidential candidates Obama and McCain endorsed the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street with no strings attached and no accountability on how they spend the money. The $140 billion in pork fell off the media’s agenda, great.
Then GM and Chrysler got in line and told the Government that they too needed $25 billion in bailout loans or they’ll have to file for bankruptcy. Unlike the $700 billion approved for Wall Street, the $25 billion automaker bailout request was vehemently attacked by the very same Senators of the South who spent billions of taxpayer dollars to lure foreign transplants Toyota, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz to their states. The Southern Senators, Emissaries of the Transplants, were influential in quashing the automaker bailout because of their unreasonable demands for concessions, especially from autoworkers. In the end it was the Bush administration that approved a $17.4 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler, but Bush also added unreasonable demands for autoworker concessions.
One of the many demands is, Bush wants autoworkers at GM and Chrysler to reduce their wages to match transplant autoworkers; however, according to UAW President Gettelfinger, Toyota autoworkers are making about a dollar more than GM and Chrysler autoworkers, and autoworkers at Mercedes-Benz and Nissan are making slightly less. So what’s all the fuss about? Transplant autoworkers are making about the same as domestic autoworkers, but, only because they’re non-union. If the Emissaries of the Transplants and Bush get their way and wages at GM and Chrysler are reduced, the transplants will follow suit, thereby perpetuating a race to the bottom that will have us all making minimum wage.
Missing from the demand for parity between the autoworkers is the demand for CEO parity. Oh sure GM and Chrysler’s CEOs said they’d work for a dollar, but we know that’s a load of crap. In the eighties Chrysler’s CEO said the same thing, but it was learned later that he made upwards of $40 million in stock options. Also, according to the AFL-CIO executive pay watch website, there are the $17 and $22 million salaries of GM and Ford’s CEOs for 2007 alone. When is enough, enough? The salary of the CEO of Toyota is less than a million a year, but yet there are no demands for CEO parity. This is a deliberately calculated attempt by Bush and the Emissaries of the Transplants to bust the UAW.
In 2005 President Gettelfinger filed a law suit to prevent retirees from suing the UAW because he was about to break with tradition and bargain on their behalf to reduce their health care benefits. He also opened the contract and allegedly got autoworkers to defer a dollar wage increase to help off set the cost of retiree health care, thereby pitting active and retired autoworkers against each other. Then in 2007, autoworkers allegedly approved a contract that created a lower second tier wage and benefits package for new hires, thereby pitting senior and new hire workers against each other. I used allegedly twice here because there are no failsafe mechanisms in place that allow union members a way to verify that their votes on National Contracts reflect their intent. This is a corrupt system concocted by an entrenched Good Ole Boy administration hell-bent on self preservation and protecting corporate interest to the detriment of its dwindling and skillfully divided membership.
So if you think for a minute that Gettelfinger’s going to fight for us, guess again. Even if President-elect Obama comes to our rescue and overturns the unreasonable demands placed on us, we, the membership of the UAW, must declare war on the Traitors who occupy Solidarity House. One thing that is a given is that sooner or later the corporations will demand another round of concessions, and like a good partner, Gettelfinger will be more than willing to capitulate, because unlike us, he’s got nothing to lose.
In 81 the Reagan administration busted PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, for going on strike because the Federal Aviation Administration refused to address deplorable working conditions. That was the perfect opportunity for labor leaders of the AFL-CIO and its Teamster, UAW, UNITE, HARE and other Union affiliates to band together to demonstrate their solidarity for PATCO workers by shutting down the entire country, but it didn’t happen. As a result of their inaction, the labor movement has never recovered, and it’s been under attack since. Now we have another PATCO situation that’s as devastating as the first and our labor leaders’ silence is deafening. Looks like I’ll need to get my “Corporate America & Labor Leaders” “Traitors of the People” sign out of storage.
In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom
The Factory Rat
Soldiers Of Solidarity
* Yankees swing for bling in new plan
BY GREG B. SMITH and GLENN BLAIN
NY DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Thursday, January 8th 2009, 9:38 AM
More than a quarter of the $370 million in taxpayer financing in the Yankees' latest demand would go to shiny new toys like giant video screens and upgraded luxury suites, documents show.
Nearly $95 million is for "scope modifications" - items not in the team's original plan when it got $942million in tax-exempt bonds via the city.
The city says the project will more than pay for itself by revitalizing a rundown area of the Bronx.
Yesterday, critics of the stadium's public subsidy, including Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, (D-Westchester) struck out at the baseball team's latest demand. It comes as tax revenue is dwindling and Mayor Bloomberg has ordered all agencies to trim their budgets.
"When we're broke and we can't fund the MTA and we can't fund schools, to give the Yankees another $400 million is bizarre," Brodsky said.
Bloomberg testily refused to respond to the criticism. "I just don't have enough time to answer every one of Brodsky's complaints," he said.
On Tueday, the city released documents detailing why the Yankees and Mets want more taxpayer money and how they plan to spend it. The requests face a hearing Wednesday. If they pass, the Yankees will be in line for $1.3 billion in tax-exempt financing.
The Mets also have requested another $82.2 million on top of the $612 million in tax-free bonds they've already received. They are seeking about $13million for new goodies, including more restaurant space, high-definition scoreboards and security upgrades.
The Yankees' $95 million in extras includes $14.2 million for a scoreboard, $10.7million for a giant video board and $10.4 million in luxury suite upgrades.
The team wants more money to make room for two restaurants, a New York Yankees Steakhouse and a Hard Rock Café.
"It's terrific that they want to have a Hard Rock Cafe and a steakhouse there, but why should the taxpayer pay for that?" Brodsky asked.