An all too familiar story


I'm compelled to share a portion of an e-mail that I received from a friend of mine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin a short period of time ago.  He works for Tower Automotive and has 34 years of senority.

  "John, I received my 60 day WARN letter for a plant closure. They plan to be done by mid to late March.  I'm already bracing myself for the screw job when I have to retire.  The company that I work for has reinterpreted the contract to screw us and told us to file a grievance if we don't like it, knowing full well that when they close the Milwaukee facility, the union will no longer exist.  The only option that I have is to file a lawsuit and pay for it out of my own pocket.  It's a shame that this company destroyed a perfectly good and productive facility in 7 years, after the former owner spent over a century building it's name, reputation and business.  It was and still is making money.  When they bought out this place we had about 3,000 people employed at a plant covering 140 acres in Milwaukee.  They gutted it out, bought plants in Italy, Poland and Mexico with the proceeds and then separated their foreign business from their American ones.  Then they filed for Bankruptcy on their US operation!! (SOUND FAMILIAR???)  It's all sanctioned by our government- Go Figure!"

  I would ask you if this sad story sounds familiar?  I didn't open the contract with GM to allow this to happen to us.  But, I'm responsible for allowing it to happen.  I didn't use my VOICE when it happened.   I was sure that our UAW IEB would take care of us.  They sure are!  When I read the above tragedy, it mirrors what is happening to us.

  I ask myself, what will I do if I lose my healthcare.  What if my retirement is turned over to the government?  I know that I will lose my retirement supplement which covers me until the age of 62.  How much will I receive in retirement benefits once the government gets done cutting my throat?  These are very serious issues that confront me.  My VOICE was quiet and I allowed this to happen.  Will I remain silent and let our UAW IEB handle this?  HELL NO!!  They are  the ones who negotiated me into this mess.  I can't afford for my VOICE  not to be heard.  I'm SCREAMING, DO NOT allow this to happen.  Do I want to get another job in my golden years so that management can get bigger bonuses from what I have earned.  HELL NO!!  I've remained silent for too long.  They have finally brought the lion out in me and I must now ROAR to fight for what I have earned.  I have only one VOICE, but I will use it.  Your VOICE will help.  Together we can change the direction that we are headed in.  Everyone of us must use our VOICE to stop this pre-engineered, designed and implemented scheme to rob us of our very livelihood.  We, our VOICE can stop this RAPE that is about to happen.  If we do nothing, then I say,  "SHAME ON US!!!"
Roll over and play dead and you will be DEAD.

  Here are two more e-mails that my friend said that I could share with you.

  John, while my Milwaukee plant is not UAW, we are an AFL-CIO affiliate.  Your people at the Tower facilities should be very careful in dealing with the Tower executives, as I think they are cold blooded/ ruthless/ Godless people.  How can one with a consience file for bakruptcy, announce that they have gotten bank backing to the tune of 750 million dollars and then announce that they are immediately paying 13.1 million dollars in yearly bonuses to their key people that they don't want to lose?  (SOUND FAMILIAR????)  My opinion would be to give them nothing, nichts, dadah, nil, zilch, zero (Gee, they already bankrupted the company.  How good can they possibly be???).  Make it miserable for them so that they can quit and then hire new managers for 1/4 of the previous wages to run the place.  Fresh college graduates if they must.  They couldn't do any worse that the previous executives!

  Their bankruptcy was a planned event, not a series of bad luck events like the skyrocketing cost of steel as they would like you to believe. (SOUND FAMILIAR???)

They had to have known, what closing the Milwaukee plant would do to them financially.  They (Towers executives) found out (after buying AO Smith Automotive Products Division) that Milwaukee had an aging work force.  Everyone working there had 25 or more years of seniority.  That was 2,000 plus people in my union alone.  They forced everyone to retire as they downsized and added to their fixed monthly costs with each retirement.  Yet, they still downsized Milwaukee works.  That was suicide or murder, one of the two.  Try collecting on a life insurance policy when the policy holder killed themselves.  Yet, they expect the Federal Insurance Program to guarantee pension monies for everyone. (SOUND FAMILIAR???)"

  In the last e-mail that I received he writes-  John, the theft of our pensions must be stopped and the sooner the better (SOUND FAMILIAR???).  The precident SHOULD be set by a union as large as the UAW (I'M LISTENING!!!).  Whatever your outcome is, is what will determine the direction for my small  (soon to be defunct)

union here in Milwaukee.  I almost hate to ask my union to try supporting your movement because they seem to be rowing in different directions.  The older members of the hierarchy are trying to position themselves with jobs in the AFL-CIO for delivering several million dollars of our union dues money into the AFL-CIO coffers.  The younger of our members are fighting for what is right and setting aside money for the future to fight the companies and the courts.  The younger crew (we all have ouver 30 years in and over 50 years old) spent a large portion of the union savings to hire Price- Waterhouse to represent us at the bankruptcy hearings.  That was the smartest thing that my union has done in the 34 years that I've been a member!!!  I spoke with our secretary treasurer after work today and he said that those Price- Waterhouse guys are really sharp.  They've uncovered where many of the Towers assets were sent overseas.  The bottom line is, we can show the bankruptcy court that the company is not as "broke" as they claim that they are.  That is the reason that Towers UAW facilities in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana are willing to strike.  We've uncovered the whereabouts of the money and assets.

  I also asked our secretary treasurer about one of the 401k lawsuits filed by a NYC law firm.  It was disclosed in the lawsuit that 46.3 million dollars was gifted to another Wisconsin automotive supplier called JL FRENCH.  Gee, I wonder how they can be so financially strapped in such a short period of time.  Must be the rising price of steel and lack of productivity gains on the shop floor.  It's those darn union people again!!  Right!  The secretay treasure knew about this money already, but what he didn't know was that when Towers CFO quit Tower, guess who he went to work for as their new CFO.  If you guessed the name JL French you would be correct.  Did he forgive the debt before he left or talk Tower into forgiving the debt after he got on board with JL French?  Towers top level management is a den of thieves in my opinion.  I hope that they get what they deserve, though I'm sure they won't."

  Do you think that this story could be mine?  Sure sounds familiar doesn't it?  Tomorrow this will be someone elses story.  It has to stop here!!!  WE ARE THE WORKERS, THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY WORKERS.  Let the lion roar.  Be heard.  LISTEN TO WHAT WE SAY OR THERE'LL BE HELL TO PAY.

In Solidarity,
John Goschka
Local 699 Retiree