Don't Let Them Destroy Our
by Frank Hammer
by Frank Hammer
As the fate of the
The reluctance to bail out GM and the other
Before the 2007 agreements were negotiated, the average total UAW labor cost per vehicle was $2,400, or a little over 8% of the price of a vehicle. UAW workers then were among the most productive in the world, producing value added worth $206 per worker per hour. This is far more than he or she was earning in wages, even when benefits, statutory contributions and other costs are included. The margin of difference in labor costs with non-union
The free marketers also complain about the "lavish" costs of autoworker healthcare, obscuring the fact that the UAW accepted all the risk for their retirees' health care when it agreed - to a "Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association," or VEBA at the Big Three's behest. To the forces which have conspired for many years to establish a "union-free" domestic auto industry, none of these concessions matter.
One of the reasons the free marketers love the non-union auto companies in the
The UAW in the Bullseye
Here are two quotes from the free marketers which make the real target of the crisis very clear:
It is a mistake to use part of the $700-billion rescue package to reward high-tax, non-right-to-work states such as
The facts demonstrate how preposterous the last line is, considering the absence of any protest by the UAW over the past twenty years of plant closures! Here's what
"But the GM jalopy needs a complete overhaul, and putting taxpayer funds into the company as it now operates would do little but bump the problems down the road while keeping destructive United Auto Workers union contracts in place."
"Destructive" UAW contracts, indeed!!! The deregulators are not satisfied to dismantle government regulations so the financial market can run wild. They must rid industries of contractual obligations negotiated by that other democratic institution: workers' unions. The "destructive" contracts of which they speak have protected many lives in the factories, enabled workers to enjoy a good standard of living, and retire with dignity and security. Now this has been made out to be un-American, even un-patriotic. "Joe Six-pack" is back to being the villain. If these capitalists had their way, workers in
The financial catastrophe unfolding before our eyes is the means to thrusting a dagger in what's left of the UAW's heart, long sought by American capital. From the moment that autoworkers forced GM to sign an agreement in the midst of the last "Great Depression," the union has been vilified as the interloper in the company's prerogatives. Except today we in the UAW are now described as interfering with the real wages that the "free market" would and should deliver - as if the "free market" were ordained and ordered by God Himself.
Each time the de-regulators have insisted on more de-regulation, it's been like a crazy man pouring more gasoline on the already raging fire. It's only making the financial crisis worse. Credit may flow again, but how many of the working poor will be taking out loans for, say, a new car or a house? What will trashing the UAW contracts get us? Fewer people to purchase the cars we produce? More citizens confronted with foreclosures and being kicked out of their homes? Even fewer sales at the local Mall? We are heading for a second
UAW Must do More
The union must stand up for itself, or we will all face millions more of so-called "low wage" earners as part of the growing class of the "working poor." The UAW has done very well by the rest of US workers, even if they don't know it. The media has pounded the UAW, taking advantage of flaws in its organization and errors by its leadership. Not surprisingly, there's less sympathy for the UAW than there once was. But it would be a tragic error if working people turned their backs on the UAW now. Even the non-union workers in
This week UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is testifying in Congress to beg the case of the auto companies and the UAW before unsympathetic Republican Senators representing so-called "right-to-work" states. Apparently Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and his friends think it's quite patriotic to have the foreign brands produce, and make the profits, from the transportation that the
With their younger workforces, the foreign brands manufactured here admittedly enjoy a distinct advantage. The UAW agreed in the '07 negotiations to help the
This is a defining moment for the UAW, and the entire labor movement. 25 years ago PATCO was crushed by the deregulators' champion in the White House, Ronald Reagan. Today we are faced with a much larger devastation at the hands of the outgoing George W. Bush and his Republican friends. Testimony by the UAW's chief along with emails a by members and retirees to their representatives is fine, but it is not enough. We need to put a human face to the devastation facing UAW members. There should be an immediate "media day" at each of the UAW's regional offices to give workers and retirees a platform to speak out in defense of their own jobs, pensions and health care. Other unions, dealers, salaried personnel – you name it - should be invited as well. There' never been a time when the saying "we're all in this boat together" has been truer. The leadership should organize a car caravan around the headquarters of the
Frank Hammer is a retired UAW-GM Dept International Representative & Past President and Chairperson,
UAW Local 909,