The UAW Constitution requires that the members must be allowed to vote on whether a bona fide committee can even discuss changes in a contract. Just to discuss changes! The modifications made by the A.C. to prevent members from expressing their desires to have some one Just Discuss reopening the agreement is another example of how the Cooperation Partners circumvented the UAW Constitution. Ask yourself, did you get to vote to allow the Cooperation Partners to “discuss” changes to the present agreement? NO! Did you vote on any resolutions pertaining to the changes? NO! Why not? According to the Constitution, changes to our national agreement can only be made through resolutions adopted by local unions and voted on by our delegates during a special bargaining convention. Was that done? NO!
An analysis of the two agreements mentioned above, and how they were negotiated, will confirm they are excellent examples of Saturn style Memorandums Of Understandings or “MOUs.” The UAW negotiated hundreds of MOUs at Saturn before Saturn members voted to go under the GM umbrella. That would have been OK for Saturn then, however, the last time I looked, we do not work under a Saturn style agreement. The problem with the Saturn “MOU” style of bargaining is simple, how can any member place total faith in one man? To believe and expect one individual to be knowledgeable enough to protect all the healthcare benefits is preposterous if not down right irresponsible. Have you ever seen a copy of the UAW/GM healthcare agreement? If not, you need to ask your benefits representatives to look at a copy or request to see a copy of the “Benefits White Book” given to them and your council members. The healthcare portion of our national agreement is very large and extremely complex. Remember, collective bargainer’s copies or the “White Book” with all the changes in the healthcare agreement are passed out to UAW council members just before the national ratification vote. You will discover that the health care book is usually much larger than the national contract book itself. Did Richard Shoemaker pass out white books to Delphi and GM council members before they voted to adopt the new GM healthcare agreement?
Ask your local president and shop chairperson to see his or her copy. If they did not get a copy, ask them, what exactly did they vote on?
Another example of the Cooperation Partners willingness to deprive UAW members of their right to vote took place right after the 2003 negotiation. In 2003, Delphi and GM-UAW members ratified an agreement that allowed the Cooperation Partners to negotiate later a two-tier wage for all new hires in Delphi. However, UAW-Delphi members never voted on the negotiated changes. Again, the Cooperation Partners arbitrarily negotiated a massive money saving concession for their company partners and fast tracked it by changing the bargaining process. Brother Gregg Shotwell, a delegate to the 33rd UAW Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) and Guide to his local union recognized the change and challenged it by filing an appeal to the Public Review Board or (PRB). Almost two years later and with overwhelming evidence supporting his claim, the UAW paid PRB refuses to rule on his appeal. I recall what people in my plant said when I approached them about voting no for the 2003 contract because of the two-tier wage. Many of them said “My son (or daughter) would be happy to work for 15 dollars an hour, because where else could they go to make that kind of money.” My Grandmother taught me: “You reap what you sow and when dealing with people be very careful what you wish for or force upon others for it may come home to haunt you.” Well now, there is a great possibility that the two tier 15 dollar an hour starting wage the Cooperation Partners thought was ok in 2003 and 2004 will become the benchmark for the bankruptcy judge when he rules on the agreement.
How can the Cooperation Partners argue in defense of our level of wages in bankruptcy court when they were guilty of negotiating and adopting lower wages for new hires to help Delphi remain competitive? How can they justify saying NO to Miller’s wage cuts when they went on record in support of the two-tier wage by asking members, “Would you strike for someone who has not yet been hired?” Even crazier, how can they or any seniority members on the shop floor, approach a new hire who was hired under the new wage agreement and ask them to stand in solidarity with them when the UAW calls for a strike over Miller’s proposed wage and benefits cuts? What is more, how can Shoemaker and Gettelfinger explain to the public why we are on strike knowing they created the benchmark, which was the same as saying the UAW member in Delphi is paid too much money per hour. Finally, do not forget UAW members in Delphi and GM adopted the two-tier wage overwhelmingly in 2003.
The Cooperation Partners may try to save face by saying they made a mistake. Problem with that remark is mistakes are only as serious as the results they create. None of the above could ever come to be if the Cooperation Partners lived up to their oath of office and remained dedicated to the wording in the UAW Constitution! That is why the Constitution was created in the first place.
In 2003, UAW-GM members voted on the UAW-Delphi National Contract. Was it because both Delphi and GM councils approved the tentative agreement? If you recall, recently the Delphi council attended Shoemakers unilateral meeting at the UAW/GM CHR that approved the new GM health care deal. With out a question, the GM deal will eventually affect workers in Delphi. Why then, were Delphi employees excluded from the ratification vote on the GM healthcare agreement? Was the exclusion of Delphi workers from that ratification vote testimony that Shoemaker and Gettelfinger are resigned to the fact that we are going to get what ever the judge decides in January? Are they already defeated? Sounds like it, for after reading what the Union and Shoemaker said as reported in Brett Clanton’s article in the Detroit News (December 2, 2003) we can only believe they have No fight in them. “The job now is to try to save as many jobs and benefits as possible” and “The best we will probably be able to do is buy time for retirement and save some plants,” said Shoemaker. Does that sound like union leaders ready to fight for Social justice and economic improvement?
Let us now look at the questions I brought up at the beginning of this piece. 1) Do the International Executive Board members care enough to stop violating the UAW Constitution in order to save what is left of the UAW? The answer is NO! The phlegmatic and stoic temperaments exhibited by the Cooperation Partners became imbedded in them over the course of the last twenty years of Jointness. The corporate style thinking they exhibit comes from several sources. However, as Joint Partners their obligation to up hold the articles of incorporation of the national joint programs is one contributing factor. Apparently, the Cooperation Partners believe the articles and By-laws of the Joint centers supercede the language in the UAW Constitution. Let us compare the “objectives” of both organizations. For example, Article II of the Incorporation documents for the CHR (filed with the state of Michigan in 2004) and Article II of the UAW Constitution.
Article II of the CHR reads: “The Center provides development, delivery, and administration of education, training, and other programs and activities that may be jointly agreed to by the parties in order to meet future competitive realities and enhance the employment security of UAW-represented General Motors employees ,as well as employees of entities and enterprises previously controlled by General Motors.”
X….study and explore ways of eliminating potential problems which reduce the competitiveness and inhibit the economic development of the plant, area or industry.” Emphasis added
Article II Sect 1 of the 2002 UAW Constitution reads: Section 1. “To improve working conditions, create a uniform system or shorter hours, higher wages, health care and pensions; to maintain and protect the interest of workers under the jurisdiction of this International Union.” Sections were not included to reduce redundancy, however, I do encourage every member to read the UAW Constitution.
In my opinion, the language of the two articles above is contrary to each other. How can the Cooperation Partners work to improve our wages, hours, and pensions when they are obligated to make the company competitive in the world market place through their obligations to the joint programs? It is impossible!