The exodus of the middle class workers
It is a cold and rainy day here in the great state
of Michigan and I'm forced to be inside until the
skies clear later in the day. As always, my mind
keeps trying to sort out the current and not so
current uncertainities that we are faced with in
our daily working or retired lives.
My thoughts go back to 1999 when Delphi was
spun off from GM and the promises were made that
we would have a much brighter future and a better
way of life being our own idenity. We could now
compete with the world.
The first order of business was to retire and draw
a GM pension or else stay working and draw a Delphi
retirement. What a choice! If a worker had 30 years
of service, make a choice and make it quickly. There
was no choice for the workers with less than 30 years
of service other than the GM flowback rights of the
I had 34 years of service at that time and a daughter
in college. My choice (if one wants to call it that) was
to continue working so that I could pay for that college
education. 34 years as a GM employee and they (GM
and our UAW IEB) say that unless I retire, I won't enjoy
a GM retirement.
I was 52 years old at the time and along with the college
costs, I just plain wasn't ready to retire. I watched as the
rest of the work force with 30 years of service struggled
with with this decision that was forced upon us. I watched
as many of the 48 and 49 year old workers with 30 and 31
years of service struggled to make a decision. I watched as
the largest share of these employees took the retirement and
thinned our ranks.
I won't judge them on their forced decision. In my mind, they
were to young to retire. But, they had to make that forced
decision and only history will tell if it was a good one. I felt
the loss of those good workers and knew that I would miss
them and the knowledge that was leaving with them. I wished
all luck luck and a happy retirement.
A few years later we were offered a $35,000 buyout to retire.
For those that were ready to retire it was a really good deal.
For those that weren't ready to retire, history will tell if it was
a good deal or not. Again we had the exodus of the older workers
and the knowledge that they took with them. I could but wish
them luck and happiness in their retirement. The loss would be
My decision was to stay working. My daughter was still in college
and my commitment was to her and a college education. That
commitment kept me somewhat appeased during my late working
career and I was satisfied with the decision that I had made.
In the latter part of 2003 I made the decision that I would be
a retiree as of July 1st 2004. My daughter would graduate from
college in May of 2004 and then I would graduate from my
I look back at how things would get to the point where everything
would run along smoothly and the workers would seem content.
Excellent quality, excellent production counts, and a fair days
work for a fair days wages. Then management would step in and
change everything. Move the equipment and mess things up in
the guise of making things easier for the workers.
We would be taken to meetings for our input on how to make
changes that we didn't want to change. But, we knew that
management had made up their minds and the changes would
take place. We also knew that this wasn't Burger King so we
couldn't have the changes made our way. So, even if no jobs
were being eliminated (which was rare), management ended
up doing it their way.
When we finally got managements mistakes taken care of and
things began to run smoothly again, management would decide
that it's time to change things again. And again, it would be
their way. This seems to be a never ending game and it looks
like management isn't willing to have a content work force. When
the work force looks content, stir them up and make changes.
My own retirement didn't happen in July of 2004. I went into
work on March 31st 2004 at 4:18 AM and it was just another
normal beginning to a work day. By 5:30 AM I was upset with
management and pretty much the world in general (now that's
a bad day). I decided that I couldn't take the pressures of this
particular day and that I was going home at 8:00 break.
I always become upset with myself when I let the pressures
of life get to me. I always try my darndest not to let that
happen because I know that when these pressures get to me,
I'm only hurting myself. This day the pressures got to me. By
7:00 I realized that it was the end of the month. By 7:30 I
decided that I didn't need any more of this crap.
The 8:00 break rolled around and I went to my locker and
emptied it out. I said goodbye to my coworkers and walked
out the door. There were many doubters that really didn't
believe that this was it for me. April fools day arrived the
next day but I didn't. They are now believers.
As life turned out for me, had I not retired on this day, I
would have regretted it for the rest of my life. Things happen
and we have no control over them. The things that happened
the day after retirement leave me in awe and leave me with
a feeling of great accomplishments. This is just another story
into my travels on this earth and why things happen the way
that they do. There's always a reason for it.
My heart goes out to the workers who are faced with this
latest buyout decision. I can feel the pain in their thoughts
and uncertainities facing them. I have been in contact with
many of them who have to make a decision. Some are ready
to retire and I feel nothing but happiness for them. I wish
them the best in their retirements.
But, many are not ready to retire and yet they have to make
a decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives. I can
feel the twisting and churning going on within their minds.They
must make their decision under the duress of the short amount
of time that they have been given. The union IEB offers them
no hope and a decision has to be made.
I'm thankfull that I didn't have to make a decision like this. I'm
a dissident but it would still have been a hard choice for me. And,
what about all of the employees who don't have enough time to
have this choice? My heart is with them also. All of the uncertainites
that are facing them. Our UAW IEB offers them no hope also.
We must increase our efforts in these later days to push the
message of hope. If the UAW IEB won't defend the workers, then
its time for a union that will defend them. Their hope and dreams
are crushed and we can offer them a new hope. They can have
the dream of good wages and a good retirement if they are willing
to fight for it.
If you attack me, we will fight. If you attack one of my brothers
or sisters, we will fight. This is the message of hope and unity. No
one ever stands alone. We will stand with you and each other. We
will fight to preserve what our forefathers have fought for and
given us. We abhor the workings of a lay down union caucus. We
stand united and in solidarity. We will FIGHT and we will WIN. Make
no mistake about it, WE ARE THE WORKERS, THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY
WORKERS. LISTEN TO WHAT WE SAY OR THERE'LL BE HELL TO PAY.
I tend to get long winded at times (can you believe that?) and the
sun is beginning to shine through the lessening cloud cover so I'm
going to get to work on the outside.
Whatever your decision is for in the retirement buyout, I stand
beside you on that forced decision. To the workers that remain
behind, I stand beside you also. You are my brothers and sisters
and I will be there for you.
Local 699 Retiree