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From the readers


Walter Reuther on Labor Day in Detroit in the mid-’50s. Photo: COURTESY WALTER P. REUTHER LIBRARY, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY, DETROIT
Walter Reuther on Labor Day in Detroit in the mid-’50s. Photo: COURTESY WALTER P. REUTHER LIBRARY, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY, DETROIT

Universal health care

In response to the letter, “UAW can lead the way” (March-April Solidarity), I feel that union leadership needs to explain to the membership why universal health care may never become a reality. Perhaps one should take a walk down K Street in Washington and see how many lobbyists there are who would block this.

The sign, “Health care should be a right, not a privilege,” was displayed at the UAW’s 34th Constitutional Convention.

It’s time all union members band together to demand affordable health care coverage for all. What are we waiting for?

John Spaine
UAW Local 1720 president
Byron, Ill.

True solidarity

My wife and I are a union family and proud of it. But we’ve noticed a general disregard from members concerning their fellow unions.

I recently visited my local Michigan nurses association and found nonunion electricians working inside. I have several neighbors who work for General Motors and think nothing of shopping at Wal-Mart. One of my family's dearest friends is a union schoolteacher who drives an imported vehicle. You get the picture.

I was pleased to see the recent attention you brought to your readers concerning Wal-Mart. I would encourage you to put an article into each issue drawing attention and awareness to your readers to respect fellow unions and not just their own.

We all are in this together and without true solidarity our unions will falter.

Patrick and Mary Sprunger
IBEW Local 665 and
UAW Local 4911
Lansing, Mich.

Defining bankruptcy

When a company goes bankrupt, it is a very bad thing for the hourly employees and retirees, but it can be a good thing for the company and management.

Here’s my definition of bankruptcy: the hourly employees, retirees and suppliers get tossed out of a plane without a parachute while the executives whose decisions caused the bankruptcy float gently down using their golden parachutes.

Ronald Kangas
UAW Local 140 retiree
Harper Woods, Mich.

Inside This Issue...

Features

    Union Front

      Departments

        July / Aug  2007

        July / Aug 2007

        Vol. 50, No. 7-8

        International Union, UAW
        President: Ron Gettelfinger
        Secretary-treasurer: Elizabeth Bunn
        Vice presidents: General Holiefield, Bob King, Cal Rapson, Jimmy Settles, Terry Thurman

        Regional directors: Joseph Peters, 1; Rory Gamble, 1A; Duane Zuckschwerdt, 1C; Don Oetman, 1D; Lloyd Mahaffey, 2B; Maurice Davison, 3; Dennis Williams, 4; Jim Wells, 5; Gary Casteel, 8; Joe Ashton, 9; Bob Madore, 9A

        Public Relations and Publications Department
        Director: Roger Kerson
        Assistant director: Christine Moroski

        International representatives: Sandra Davis, Emily Everett, John Hammond, Gwynne Marie Cobb, Jennifer John, Vince Piscopo, Joan Silvi, Sam Stark, members of CWA/The Newspaper Guild Local 34022.

        Solidarity magazine editor: Jennifer John

        Clerical staff: Shelly Restivo, Susan Fisher and Pauline Mitchell, members of OPEIU Local 494.


        Member minute

        Krystal Austin


        Krystal Austin.  Photo: SAM STARK
        Krystal Austin. Photo: SAM STARK

        Krystal Austin, 35, doesn’t hold any union office, elected or appointed, at UAW Local 1264, but that doesn’t stop her from being involved. She hasn’t been quite as active since March of 2006, when her daughter Kahya was born. But with a husband whose steel plant recently closed and now serves as a “stay-at-home daddy,” Austin expects to get back into the thick of things soon.

        How long have you been a UAW member?

        I’ve been a member since 1999. I started out at Jefferson Assembly in Detroit, but I have been a spot welder at the Chrysler Sterling Stamping plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., since 2002.

        How do you participate in your local union?

        I get involved wherever my local needs me. I am on a committee of 20 to 30 people who volunteer every year to decorate the local’s float for the Labor Day march in Detroit. We also hold an annual Battle of the Bands event where workers in our plant or their relatives and friends compete whether they play rock, jazz, blues or R&B. We also put on a Blues Festival every fall where we raise money for charity.

        Why do you do these things?

        I didn’t want to just work all night and come home and that’s it. I’m a people person and wanted to meet my fellow union members. I want to get involved so I can help other people get involved.

        RESPECT would help all workers

        LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP


        Sue Pratt
        Sue Pratt


        Aretha Franklin said it best when she sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.”

        Now the UAW is helping Congress find out what respect means to workers across the country. That is, among other things, passing the Re-empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers (RESPECT) Act.

        RESPECT, or H.R. 1644, would amend the nation’s labor laws to change National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions from 2006 that expand the definition of “supervisory employee” beyond Congress’ original intent. A narrow, partisan ruling which contradicts the original intent of the NLRA, these rulings strip potentially millions of workers from protections.

        RESPECT would clearly state congressional intent to allow, rather than restrict, collective bargaining rights for as many workers as possible.

        As Congress considers this important bill, UAW members are also tackling this issue at the bargaining table. At St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, UAW bargainers negotiated to keep charge nurses in their unit.

        “Thanks to the foresight of UAW negotiators, they made proactive proposals about charge nurses,” said Sue Pratt, a registered nurse and chair of their bargaining unit at St. Vincent’s.

        “Because of that, we were on top of the issue, and got it on the

        bargaining table first and were successful.”

        Majority favor EFCA

        The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would change labor laws by requiring employers to recognize a union if a majority of workers sign cards authorizing union representation. It would also crack down on employer violations of the rights of workers seeking unionization or negotiating first contracts.

        EFCA (H.R. 800, S. 1041) passed the House earlier this year. But a vote in the Senate recently failed when President Bush threatened to veto the bill and senators couldn’t muster enough votes to invoke cloture to stop a Republican filibuster against the motion to proceed. The vote was nine votes short to close the debate and bring it to a vote.

        A bright spot: Union supporters have a bipartisan majority in the Senate and House on record in favor of EFCA, with greater support expected in Congress’ next session.

        UAW backs Hill-Terry

        The House passed an energy bill in August, but it didn’t include any provisions on CAFE standards.

        “We absolutely need to put top priority on preserving good-paying manufacturing jobs in the domestic auto industry,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “The Hill-Terry bill is the only proposal before Congress that does this.”

        The UAW supports a final energy bill compromise this fall with provisions that look more like the Hill-Terry bill than the Senate version, which contains extreme Corporate Average Fuel Economy provisions. Sponsored by Reps. Baron Hill, D-Ind., and Lee Terry, R-Neb., the bill would raise CAFE standards by as much as 40 percent by 2022.

        More workers vote to join the UAW

        ORGANIZING ROUNDUP


        Region 1

        • Workers at Calvert’s Roll-Off Containers in Ann Arbor, Mich., became UAW members by card-check recognition. Calvert's is a construction and demolition recycler, recently purchased by Recycle Ann Arbor, a nonprofit environmental group where drivers and service staff are members of UAW Local l74.

        • Workers at Dana Long Mfg. in St. Clair, Mich., who produce transmission cooler and power steering components for the Big Three, joined the UAW. Also in St. Clair, workers at Blue Water Automotive (Range Road) joined the UAW in a card check. They produce plastic products.

        • Workers at Faurecia Interiors in Warren, Mich., voted to join the UAW. They produce interior seating for the automotive industry. Also in Warren, workers at Plastech Engineered Products Inc. joined the UAW via card check. They assemble front-end auto components for Chrysler.

        • Workers at Mahar Tool Supply in Dundee, Mich., joined the UAW via card check. The company supplies tool management services for Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance, a joint venture between Chrysler, Hyundai Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

        • Workers at various Michigan locations of Public Credit Union reaffirmed UAW membership with a majority voting against decertification.

        Region 2B

        • Workers at Gibraltar Strip Steel Inc. in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio, voted for the UAW. The company produces strip steel for the Big Three, Toyota and TRW.

        • In a card check, workers at Kurtz Brothers Inc. in Independence, Ohio, joined the union. They provide maintenance services for Ford Motor Co.
        • Workers at Source Providers Inc. in Austintown, Ohio, who produce hi-lo drivers, joined via card check.

        Region 5

        • In Kirksville, Mo., workers at Yuhshin USA Ltd (Ortech) voted to join the UAW. They produce lock sets and mechanical steering lock assembly for the automotive industry.

        Region 8

        • In Covington, Ga., workers at Standard Refrigeration Co. who produce refrigeration tanks joined the UAW.

        Bargaining opens for Michigan state workers

        17,000 MEMBERS REPRESENTE


        UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, left, and Scott Bowen of
Michigan’s Office of the State Employer in the customary handshake to open negotiations.
        UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, left, and Scott Bowen of Michigan’s Office of the State Employer in the customary handshake to open negotiations.

        Services and support — that’s what UAW Local 6000 members are all about.

        They’re social workers, clericals, parole and probation officers and teachers in the prison system.

        Since 1985 the Lansing-based local — with 17,000 members — has represented more than one-third of Michigan’s state employees, including human services and administrative support workers in all areas of the state.

        The UAW bargaining team, led by Local 6000 President Sandra Parker, opened negotiations Aug. 9. Their current three-year agreement expires Dec. 31.

        “UAW Local 6000 members have sacrificed and saved the state of Michigan hundreds of millions of dollars,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger after the opening handshake. “We look forward to negotiating an equitable and fair agreement that recognizes the dedication and hard work of Michigan state employees.”

        “State employees continue to provide valuable and necessary services to the citizens of the state of Michigan despite budget cuts which have caused them to work short staffed.”

        “Our negotiating team is prepared to bargain an agreement which provides job and income security for our members,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs servicing for the union’s Technical, Office and Professional Department.

        Caesars workers are first to open negotiations

        ATLANTIC CITY CASINO JOINED UAW IN MARCH


        Photo: LAUREN FARRELLS
        Photo: LAUREN FARRELLS


        When dealers at Caesars Atlantic City casino voted to become part of the UAW on March 17, Sharon Masino knew immediately what she wanted. “I knew that I wanted to sit across the table from management and have them look at me and not down at me,” Masino said.

        With support from her co-workers, Masino will now get her chance.

        A Caesar’s dealer for 23 years, Masino was elected as a member of the UAW bargaining committee. She’s now sitting eye to eye with company negotiators, as she represents more than 800 casino workers bargaining for a first contract.

        Negotiations began Aug. 9 for the full- and part-time dealers, keno and simulcast employees who were the first Atlantic City casino workers to join the UAW.

        “We have heard from other dealers thanking us for being first,” Masino said. “We won’t let them down. We will sit at the table until we get a fair contract.”

        “The momentum that is catching on all over Atlantic City began with these determined dealers at Caesars,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union’s Technical, Office and Professional Department. “They are negotiating for a contract that benefits them as well as other casino workers and the gaming industry in New Jersey.”

        “The enthusiasm and determination are exciting,” said Joe Ashton, who directs UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. “Everyone has been buoyed by the enormous support from community leaders, legislators and dealers across Atlantic City, from Detroit and all over.”

        “We are very happy about getting to the table,” said Aneil Patel, a Caesars dealer for 13 years, who added he wants a contract that will end the company’s unfair practice of downgrading full-time jobs to part time with no benefits.

        Working no more than two or three days a week, he said, has meant that some dealers must work multiple jobs to make ends meet and still not have benefits such as health care.

        “It has been a very hard thing for the newer workers. You can’t support yourself or your family like that,” Patel said.

        Before negotiations started, Patel, other Caesars dealers and supporters cheered union negotiators and chanted, “What do we want? A contract! When do we want it? Now!”

        “We will do our very best to set an example for the other casino workers,” said Patel.

        The UAW has represented dealers, cage cashiers and slot technicians at Detroit’s three casinos since 1999.

        In more casino-related news:

        • Earlier this year, a majority of workers at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino voted for the UAW. At Trump Plaza, a week after dealers voted 324-149 for union representation, the company filed objections to the election. The National Labor Relations Board found no merit to those charges and tossed out the complaint.

        • Dealers at Bally's Atlantic City voted 628-255 in June for the UAW and recently elected a bargaining team in anticipation of negotiating a first contract.

        • At press time, among the growing list of Atlantic City casino workers who want the join the UAW, 50 slot technicians at Caesars casino were expected to hold an election Aug. 23, and about 200 cashiers were expected to vote Sept. 1.

        An election for about 1,000 workers at Tropicana Casino and Resort Atlantic City was set for Aug. 25.

        Dana deal protects wages, health care

        UAW, USW WORKERS IN 6 STATES OK CONTRACT


        Members of the UAW and the United Steelworkers (USW) have overwhelmingly ratified an agreement with Dana Corp. for workers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, Kentucky and Indiana.

        Members approved the four-year agreement by 86 percent on July 24.

        The deal, approved July 27 by a U.S. bankruptcy court, protects wages and health care for active workers and pensions and health care for retired workers. Also, it helps Dana emerge from bankruptcy with the potential for future success while preserving jobs and defending the standard of living for UAW and USW workers.

        “We went from being closed to gaining 130 new jobs,” said Scott Williams, president of UAW Delphi Local 1765 in Lima, Ohio. “It wasn’t without sacrifice, but we gained protections that we would not have if there was no union.”

        The agreement covers more than 2,300 UAW members and 6,200 UAW retirees. belonging to UAW locals in Lima; Pottstown, Pa.; Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills, Mich.; Longview, Texas; and Elizabethtown, Ky.; and for USW locals in Fort Wayne and Marion, Ind., and Henderson, Ky.

        “This agreement will prove to be an important victory snatched from the jaws of a failed bankruptcy system. It is an example of the UAW using a combination of tried and tested bargaining strategies along with innovative new capital strategies,” said UAW Vice President Bob King, who directs the union’s Independents, Parts and Suppliers Department. “These strategies, along with great solidarity from our local union leadership and membership, made this victory for our UAW Dana members and all UAW members possible.”

        Also, the contract provides requirements for the increased likelihood of future profitability for both Dana and union workers. The requirements include limitations on debt, minimum liquidity and a cap on new cash investment.

        Centerbridge Capital Partners, an investment company recruited and recommended by the UAW and USW, will invest $500 million in Dana and sponsor the plan to help Dana exit bankruptcy.

        “Our members at Dana did a tremendous job under difficult circumstances,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, “and we were able negotiate an agreement that protects workers and their families.

        “But this fight doesn’t stop at the bargaining table. We also need political change in Washington, D.C., to prevent companies from attempting to manipulate the bankruptcy laws in order to evade their responsibilities to workers and communities.”

        Also in the contract, Dana will pay more than $750 million to Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust funds for payment of health care to UAW and USW current and future retirees. This represents more than 70 percent of the projected cost of health care benefits for retirees. Other agreement highlights include:

        • Voluntary buyouts of up to $45,000 for eligible employees.

        • A new defined-benefit pension plan for all UAW and USW Dana workers, administered by the Steelworkers Pension Trust.

        • Post-bankruptcy emergence bonus of common stock valued at approximately $6,000 for each active member with at least one year of seniority.

        • A moratorium on moving work out of UAW and USW plants to nonunionized facilities.

        • A commitment to source new product lines to UAW- and USW-represented worksites.

        UAW auto bargaining facts

        Workers’ index


        721,025: Number of workers, retirees and surviving spouses covered by negotiations at Chrysler, Ford and GM.

        $27.81 per hour: Straight-time wages earned by a typical GM assembly worker in 2006.

        $32.32 per hour: Straight-time wages earned by a typical GM skilled-trades worker in 2006.

        $206 per hour: Value added by each auto worker for his or her employer, as measured by output of vehicles produced.

        8.4%: Portion of the total price of a new vehicle that is accounted for by direct and indirect labor costs at engine, stamping and assembly plants.

        Six: Number of UAW and CAW-made vehicles that ranked “best-in-class,” with fewest defects per vehicle, in 2006 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.

        11 out of 12: Number of UAW and CAW plants that were rated most productive, in terms of hours-per-vehicle, when compared to nonunion facilities making similar products.

        100%, 100%, 99%: Amount of funding, respectively, in Chrysler, GM and Ford pension plans.

        For more background information about 2007 negotiations, see the UAW 2007 Fact Book.

        Source: Workers covered by negotiations: UAW; Typical wages: UAW; Value-added per hour: Annual Survey of Manufacturers, U.S. Bureau of the Census; Labor costs as a portion of new vehicle price: UAW Research Department and National Automobile Dealers Association; Vehicle quality: J.D. Power; Productivity: Harbour and Associates; Pension funding: UAW Social Security Department, based on company data.

        UAW opens talks with Ford, Chrysler and GM

        FIGHTING FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE


        The UAW bargaining teams, led by President Ron Gettelfinger, opened 2007 contract talks with Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC in July.

        Gettelfinger and Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department, kicked off talks July 20 by stressing the commitment of UAW members to safety, quality and future job security for Chrysler workers and their families.

        UAW Vice President Cal Rapson, who directs the union’s GM Department, and UAW Vice President Bob King, who directs the National Ford Department, opened talks with automakers July 23.

        “We’re going into these negotiations as we do every set of negotiations, which is to look out for the best interests of our active and retired membership,” Gettelfinger said.

        Current contracts with all three automakers, which cover more than 720,000 active and retired members and surviving spouses, expire at midnight on Sept. 14.

        The union’s overall bargaining program was determined by UAW members at the Special Convention on Collective Bargaining this March in Detroit, and specific proposals to the auto companies will reflect the UAW’s democratic decision-making process. “The demands we present to the company originate at the local union level,” said Gettelfinger. “They went through the various subcouncils into the national councils.”

        But the issues at stake in auto talks, he said, reach beyond the ranks of union members.

        “There are a lot of people who benefit from what we do, whether they’re union members or not,” he said. “We’re fighting for the middle class. We’re fighting for good jobs for America. It’s not just about us — these negotiations are about everybody.”