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Striking auto workers in Kokomo, Indiana.
PHOTO/LOSAM33/FLICKR.COM
By Claire McClinton

When it came time to begin negotiations several months ago for the Big Three, everyone began to speculate as to who would be the "strike target." Chrysler, Ford, or GM? The "strike target" is that company which that union decides to go to first. The union would negotiate the contract, strike that company if necessary, and thus set the pattern for the other two auto companies. But after a two-day strike at GM (the strike target), we quickly found out that it was Delphi who really set the pattern and the standard for these negotiations. With Delphi still in bankruptcy, their recent agreement is rife with closed plants and plants for sale. Those workers left make $14 per hour, half of the previous pay. Now the recent four year agreement at GM and Chrysler calls for new hires to make guess what: $14 per hour! Furthermore, new hires must now pay into their own pension retirement fund and their own retirement Healthcare fund. Company pension and company Retirement Healthcare -- it's gone.

The current 500,000 GM Retirees and their dependents Healthcare now sits on a house of cards (as Santa Clara Law Professor Stephen Diamond frames it) as the corporation plunges $26 Billion dollars into a union run trust (VEBA) and washed their hands of future obligations. Union membership were told that this fund would be viable for 80 years. Yet, these fuzzy math projections were called everything from "not viable" to "preposterous" by financial analysts. With escalating cost of Health Care and volatility in the global economy, it's no surprise that the VEBA trusts at such companies as Caterpillar have gone broke, while the Copperweld Steel Company VEBA out of Warren, Ohio (one of the country's longest running programs) looks to run out of funds in a few years. This was negotiated from a bankruptcy agreement as well.

These were promoted as ways to save jobs and save Healthcare.

When Delphi declared bankruptcy in 2005, workers from all over the country began to meet and figure out how to fight back against 'naked class warfare' declared on us by the auto barons of this country. We met in our union halls at first, and stood ready to do whatever it took to defend our quality of life that we have earned and deserve.When our union failed to give the leadership we needed to deal with the situation, workers began to form their own loosely connected groups and Web based information networks. These include but are not limited to: Soldiers of Solidarity (soldiers of solidarity.com), Future of the Union (futureoftheunion.com), Center for Labor Renewal (centerforlaborrenewal.org), and Factory Rat News (factoryrat.com), whose Website recently called for Single Payer Universal Healthcare and support of HR 676. Some of us are forming Healthcare committees in our locals and communities. The struggle continues.

The contract at GM passed by 61% while it just barely passed at Chrysler (51%). Workers are beginning to believe that they do not have settle for whatever the company wants. Now, non-union automakers like Honda, who is building a new plant in Greensburg, Indiana, will start it's workers off at just under $15 per hour. Down from the $24 they used to pay to keep workers from organizing a union. Nobody is sure what will happen at Ford but the die has been cast.Workers see more and more that we can never give the corporation enough to satisfy their quest for maximum profit. With new technology replacing workers on a daily basis, while China pays Delphi employees $3 per hour, there is no minimum they won't go after.

Next issue: workers find a way to fight back.


List of GM Plants with layoff announcements since contract passed

  • GM announces plan to cut shift (800-900 workers) in Pontiac MI Truck Plant
  • GM announces layoffs at Hamtramck, MI Assembly Plant
  • GM announces layoff of 1,000 workers at Lansing, MI Assembly

Chrysler

  • Belvedere Plant in Illinois (shocked workers while voting on contract)


'It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Delphi'

Lyrics by Ed and Melanie Pietrowski
(Sung to the tune of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas")

It's beginning to look a lot like Delphi 
At every GM Plant; 
Take a look at the Union Men bending over 
   once again 
Giving back 50 years of gains without a rant. 
It's beginning to look a lot like Delphi
Two tiers instead of one
But the saddest sight to see is what the
   union has come to be 
Traitors on the run. 
A VEBA plan with roots funded in pension loots 
Is the wish of Ronald and Rick
Low tier workers to stay, union voting will sway 
With retirees feeling the kick; 
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait to move
   to another state. 
It's beginning to look a lot like Delphi 
With ev'ry passing day; 
Plant closures and products lost, acting as if
   there is no cost, 
While executives fatten their pockets with 
   our pay. 
It's beginning to look a lot like Delphi; 
Soon the paycuts start, 
Job security out the door, Our America 
   is no more 
Thanks UAW/GM from the heart.
This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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