Example: The last round of negotiations produced the biggest concessionary agreement ever negotiated by the UAW. Then, with in a week GM announced the closing of nine plants and reductions in it’s workforce of 30,000 more UAW members. All we heard from the Cooperation Partners was a complaint that GM was eliminating 20% more employees than was negotiated.
The latter leads right in to the next question.
2) Why should the Cooperation Partners (IEB) care? In the “Constitutional Death of the UAW,” it was mentioned how the UAW International Union is becoming more and more dependent on outside corporate money to maintain its primal financial existence. What I mean by primal existence for example is the Union is acting very much as an animal caught in a trap. An animal will fight for survival its survival even chew off a foot or appendage to stay alive. The UAW, like that animal is willing to shed its appendages, dues paying members and Local unions in exchange for income from the automakers to keep the international union viable and financially well. The Cooperation Partners done this with joint funds and appear to be doing it again with the newly negotiated Health care VEBA. Could they have possibly created another form of income to maintain their high life styles and life long benefits as they did with Joint funds?
To bargain means to give something in return for something. What did the Cooperation Partners get in return for GM’s healthcare concessions? Why would Gettelfinger and Shoemaker agree to a mere 1 billion dollar healthcare VEBA in exchange for a 15 billion dollar healthcare trust? It did not make sense, not until GM made its plant-closing announcement!
Since UAW membership is down to 650,000 dues paying members, why would the “Cooperation Partners” go along with GM’s needs to eliminate 30,000 more jobs? The loss of 30,000 dues paying members is equal to a loss of 16 million dollars a year before per-capita taxes. The answer to the question above lies with the new healthcare VEBA. The terms of that new healthcare VEBA allows 20% of its income to be used for administrative purposes. Well, trustees from the UAW and the other five unions will administer the new healthcare VEBA. Think about it, 20% of the first 1 billion dollars GM puts into the new VEBA in the first year is 200 million dollars. Did the Cooperation Partners negotiate yet another pot of money to dip into to supplemental its annual flat line income when GM eliminates 30,000 more dues paying members? So was the 2005 GM negotiations, and will future negotiations be strictly about healthcare or was it and will they more about creating other sources of income for the UAW International Union while GM and the other automakers eliminates tens of thousands of UAW jobs? What did the UAW get in exchange? At this time allow me to offer a word of “warning” to all UAW members in Ford and DaimlerChrysler. Before you vote to except healthcare concessions make sure the healthcare plan you are voting on will not be co-mingled with the GM plan. Think about this, since the five unions and the UAW could be partially administering the new VEBA, will there be any more need for negotiating of healthcare benefits with the companies. Instead, will member’s healthcare benefits wind up at the mercy and control of the UAW and the other five unions? If so, will there be a need to negotiate healthcare with the automakers in the future? Do you feel comfortable with that? What is more, the co-mingling of trust could increase the flow of your hard earned money into all six union’s coffer.
A dear friend and staunch union brother who worked for the International Union for most of his life told me once that this is how they think at Solidarity House. “What a beautiful UAW we would have if we did not have any members to bother with.” If the Cooperation Partners can replace dues with income from various trusts, such as the VEBAs and reimbursements from the joint funds, why should the Cooperation Partners care? They will not have to worry, for their job and income security would be protected for life.
As a Delphi worker, I am frightened to speculate what the Cooperation Partners have in store for the workers in Delphi, for there are only 24,000 of us left. Since Gettelfinger and Shoemaker are being so reticent about the UAW loosing 30,000 members in GM, what can we in Delphi look forward too. Better yet, what will the payoff be to the union, another new healthcare VEBA for Delphi employees? Is that why they did not have Delphi UAW members vote on the new GM healthcare language?
There is a solution to the problem, but it is going to take work, a concerted effort by all UAW members, not just those in Delphi and GM. I mean all UAW members! First, we have to stand together and Vote NO on any more concessionary agreements. That would send a clear picture to the UAW International Executive Board that we understand concessionary agreements do not save jobs. Secondly, now that we have recognized the problem, we need to communicate the problem to our Brothers and Sisters and ask them to vote for candidates who run for delegates who will demand that there be a change of leadership in each region. In other words, require your candidates for delegate to vote for regional directors who will vote for reform and remove any Cooperation Partners from IEB positions. This is not asking members to violate the UAW Constitution, where it is written that local unions cannot dictate how their delegates vote at the Constitutional Convention. What the latter means is directing delegates by Vote or membership action. However, members can chose delegates who offer change on their platforms that meets their requirements. A platform can be established on the shop floor and it does not constitute membership action. Furthermore, the members not the candidates can organize it. So let us work together to restore the UAW to its original constitutional objectives, to restore it to a membership driven union instead of a capital driven company. Let us remove it from the autocratic control of the Cooperative Partners such as Gettelfinger who believe that the UAW should be a company union.
Remember this, every day when Ron Gettelfinger gets up in the morning he understands he is one day closer to the UAW Constitutional Convention where he will be re-elected.
Lets keep that from happening and work for change!