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UAW opens negotiations with Chrysler.
UAW opens negotiations with Ford and GM.
UAW picks GM as “strike target” and lead company; UAW extends agreement with GM on hourly basis. Ford and Chrysler extend contracts indefinitely.
UAW officially goes on strike against GM at 11:01 a.m.
Strike recessed at 4 a.m. when UAW announces tentative agreement with GM at news conference at Solidarity House.
UAW GM National Council unanimously supports tentative agreement.
UAW GM local unions across the nation begin ratification meetings and voting on the contract.
UAW chooses Chrysler as the next company to negotiate.
Gettelfinger says contract extension with Chrysler will terminate on Oct. 9 at 11:59 p.m., and a national strike could follow the next day.
- Ratification voting concludes at GM locals. The new agreement is ratified.
- UAW goes on strike against Chrysler at 11:01 a.m.
- After nearly six hours on strike, UAW reaches tentative agreement with Chrysler.
Joe McClure and Ron Anderson, both of UAW Local 1853 in Spring Hill, Tenn., sign in to begin the voting process at their Oct. 4 ratification
Photo: TODD HORTON / UAW LOCAL 1853
“I thought it was a fair deal. We gave up a little, but what we gave up was well worth what we kept. I'm depressed to see how many jobs are going out of this country. So the job guarantees were the big thing for me. We gave up our pay raises, but we didn't really lose any pay. I am proud of our bargaining team and the job they did for us.”
Photo: TONY HUFFORD / UAW LOCAL 5960
UAW Local 5960 member Carl Byas prepares the voting sign at the local’s Oct. 3 ratification in Lake Orion, Mich.
Photo: REBECCA COOK
Tammy Van Kirk of UAW Local 2166 in Shreveport, La., drops her ballot in the voting box at the local’s Oct. 5 ratification.
Photo: CHARLOTTE KOWALCYK / UAW LOCAL 2166
Ivy Polk (at microphone) of UAW Local 276 asks for clarification on part of the contract proposal at the local’s Oct. 6 ratification in Arlington, Texas.
Photo: MANNY SALAZAR / UAW LOCAL 276
“This was one of the best contracts ever. It makes me feel secure about my benefits, especially my health care. I wanted to come down here to find out for myself what's really in it.”
Photo: REBECCA COOK
Longtime UAW Local 659 member James Bunker shows his support for the union’s tentative agreement with GM at the local’s Sept. 30 ratification meeting in Flint, Mich. With him are sons Aaron, 17, and Nathan, 6
Photo: SAM STARK
Bill King, chair of Local 659 and of the UAW GM National Negotiating Committee, reviews contract highlights at that meeting.
Photo: SAM STARK
When Vincent Gallegos hit the bricks in September to go on strike against General Motors, his 12-year-old son, Vincent III, made plans to miss school so he could join his father on the picket line.
UAW roots run deep in the Gallegos family.
“I was 6 years old when my dad’s plant went on strike in the 1970s,” recalled Gallegos. “There was a big crowd of people, and I knew a lot of the guys. I would go to union meetings, too, with my dad. I loved those times.”
A 13-year UAW Local 2166 member, Gallegos is Community Action Program (CAP) chair at his local, which represents workers at GM’s Vehicle Mfg. facility in Shreveport, La.
His union family values go way back to when he was a child in Van Nuys, Calif.
Both his parents were members of UAW Local 645 before GM closed its Van Nuys plant and they transferred to Shreveport. His father was alternate committee person in the Van Nuys Paint Department, then became active with the civil rights committee at Local 2166, where he was appointed ergonomics coordinator. His mother became an alternate committee person at Shreveport as well.
Gallegos was glad the 2007 strike lasted just two days, but he wishes he could bottle up the spirit and enthusiasm of those 48 hours.
“It’s kind of like President Kennedy said: ‘Ask not what your union can do for you. Ask what you can do for your union.’ This is the first time I’ve seen our membership step up like this,” he said. “Everyone came in and did their share. I wish we could see more involvement like this all year round.”
With the tentative agreement protecting health care for active UAW GM members and creating a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) for UAW GM retirees, Gallegos looks at a contract victory as a building block to carrying on the union’s decades-long struggle to win health care for everyone.
“I think VEBA is wonderful. It assures me and my wife decent health care when I retire,” said Gallegos, a team leader on the final line at Shreveport.
“But there are still millions of Americans out there who don’t have the health care we have,” he said. “The UAW is about all the people. It’s not just about us. With the presidential election coming up, we have to get out there pushing national health care. If we don’t, who will? We have got to be the ‘Superheroes’ for America.”
His passion for the issue was always there, but now Gallegos and his wife, Lisa, have an adult daughter who is an expectant single mother with no health care insurance of her own.
“Every UAW member knows somebody or has somebody in their family who doesn’t have health care or whose health care isn’t enough. That’s why we can’t stop,” he said.
The UAW strike against Chrysler LLC began Oct.10 at 11:01 a.m. and ended nearly six hours later, with the announcement that the union and company had reached a tentative agreement.
“This agreement was made possible because UAW workers made it clear to Chrysler that we needed an agreement that rewards the contributions they have made to the success of this company,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.
“Once again, teamwork in the leadership and solidarity in the ranks has produced an agreement that protects jobs for our communities and also protects wages, pensions, and health care for our active and retired members,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department.
On Oct. 5 the UAW chose Chrysler as the second automaker to negotiate a contract. Three days later, Gettelfinger informed UAW locals to be prepared for a strike if the “basis for a tentative agreement” was not in place by the 11 a.m. deadline.
On what later became settlement day, the 11th hour passed and talks broke off, after the two sides failed to reach an agreement despite marathon negotiations at the company’s Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters.
At 11:01 a.m. thousands of UAW Chrysler workers went on strike and manned picket lines at Chrysler plants across the nation in the second walkout against a Detroit automaker in this year’s talks. (UAW GM workers went on a two-day strike, which ended Sept. 26 with a tentative agreement and ratification. See story on page 12.)
With their top leadership bargaining under the theme, “Fighting for America’s Future,” rank-and-file UAW members and local leadership clearly understood the broader implications of this year’s contract negotiations.
“The UAW fights for the whole country, not just for Chrysler workers. This is survival right now because we have corporations willing to outsource their work overseas," said 15-year member Paul Caucci, president of UAW Local 869, which represents 1,500 members at Chrysler’s Warren (Mich.) Stamping plant.
The same spirit and sense of purpose was expressed by UAW members on Chrysler picket lines nationwide, including Kenosha, Wis.
“We’re not just taking care of workers at Kenosha Engine. It's for the community, and it strengthens the community, including our school system. Everybody benefits,” said Dan Kirk, a 26-year member and president of UAW Local 72, which represents about 800 members at the Kenosha plant.
These negotiations were the first for Chrysler as a privately owned corporation.
In August Chrysler was acquired for $7.4 billion by private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP. For nine years it was previously a division of German automaker DaimlerChrysler AG, since renamed Daimler AG.
As more than 73,000 UAW members went on strike Sept. 24 against General Motors, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger stated the union's goal loud and clear: a settlement that would protect U.S. jobs and secure wages, pensions and benefits for active and retired workers.
“It's become apparent to us that as much as workers give, they cannot give enough,” said Gettelfinger. “As much as executives get, they cannot get enough.
“We stand ready, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to go back to the bargaining table.”
They did, and two days later, the UAW national bargaining team at General Motors reached a tentative agreement with the company in the wee hours of Sept. 26.
Over the next two weeks, UAW members at more than 80 GM facilities across the country had the chance to examine the details of the agreement.
Their verdict: Thumbs up.
“It’s a great contract when you think about the economy and the way it is today. We didn’t give up anything on health care for active members, and VEBA is a good plan for the retired members,” said Sabrina Wills, a member of UAW Local 5960 and an assembler on the chassis line at GM’s Vehicle Mfg. in Lake Orion, Mich.
The contract will deliver an estimated $13,056 for a typical UAW GM worker during the life of the four-year agreement, including signing bonuses, lump sums and projected cost-of-living allowances (COLA). The agreement also offers, for the first time, both basic benefit increases and lump-sum increases for retirees in the first year of the agreement.
Entry-level jobs in noncore work such as material movement and kitting and sequencing will now be paid under a lower wage structure, a move intended to encourage new hiring by GM.
UAW GM members ratified the new contract – which contained unprecedented job commitments from GM to build specific vehicles in specific plants – in voting completed Oct. 10.
On a crisp fall Sunday afternoon, it was “standing room only” at the UAW Local 659’s Irving Bluestone Auditorium in Flint, Mich., where 2,700 members are employed at four GM area facilities.
Huddled in the rear and along the sides of the local’s hall, most stayed for the full three-hour session, eager to get the facts and learn details of the tentative contract before ratification voting began later that week.
“Based on the misinformation we get from the news media, I'm amazed and very pleased,” said Keith Smith, 56, a 38-year UAW skilled tradesman at GM’s Flint Metal Center.
“The whole agreement is all better than I thought,” added Smith, who paid particular attention to language strengthening protections for skilled trades.
Several UAW International servicing representatives, along with Bill King, chair at Local 659 and also of the UAW GM National Negotiating Committee, gave a thorough, page-by-page explanation of the contract summary and took questions from the floor afterward.
* * *
The UAW Chrysler national bargaining team, led by Gettelfinger and UAW Vice President General Holiefield, opened 2007 contract talks July 20 with Chrysler LLC at the company’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.
On July 23 the day began with a spirited rally by five busloads of UAW active and retired members at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in Detroit. It ended with a UAW news conference at Ford Motor Co. World Headquarters in Dearborn where Gettelfinger defended this union’s ongoing fight for middle-class jobs.
In between, UAW bargaining teams led by Gettelfinger and Vice Presidents Cal Rapson at GM and Bob King at Ford kicked off negotiations as well.
All three UAW national negotiating committees held bargaining sessions through July and August. As Labor Day approached and summer faded into fall, kids headed back to school.
Meanwhile, auto talks heated up as the Sept. 14 contract expiration date loomed.
Just before the expiration, the UAW named GM as its strike target, or lead company, to try and finalize a new contract with it before moving to Chrysler and Ford. On Sept. 14 the agreement was extended hourly for GM; Ford and Chrysler received indefinite extensions.
At GM, Gettelfinger and Rapson, who directs the union’s GM Department, noted the membership’s patience was wearing thin. So five days later in a Sept. 19 statement they told UAW members the union would set a strike deadline if GM negotiations didn’t progress faster.
Marathon bargaining sessions continued, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. In fact, Gettelfinger expressed “shock” and disappointment with GM’s failure to recognize UAW workers’ contributions.
So the UAW set a strike deadline: Sept. 24 at 11 a.m.
“This is our reward: a complete failure by GM to address the reasonable needs and concerns of our members,” said Rapson. “Instead in 2007 company executives continued to award themselves bonuses while demanding that our members accept a reduced standard of living.”
At 11:01 a.m. 73,000 UAW GM workers around the country officially went on strike.
“Nobody wants a strike, but there comes a time when somebody pushes you off a cliff, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Gettelfinger, flanked by the UAW GM bargaining team at a news conference at Solidarity House.
The UAW last went on strike at GM in 1998, when walkouts at two local unions in Flint crippled the company’s North American operations for seven weeks. But the union hadn’t staged a national work stoppage at GM since a 67-day strike in 1970.
The UAW president said it was significant that our union gave GM a nine-day contract extension — the longest in UAW history — to avoid a strike, a drastic step no one on the union side wanted. And he made it clear that the strike had nothing to do with the Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) for retirees, a permissible, but not mandatory, subject of bargaining.
“I knew that Ron and Cal wouldn’t call for a strike unless they had to. Everybody realized that,” said Mike O’Rourke, UAW Local 1853 president who has 29 years at GM’s Vehicle Mfg. facility in Spring Hill, Tenn.
“I'm ready to do my duty. I am prepared to stick with my union,” said Joe Roel of UAW Local 276 on the first day of the strike. Roel has seven years of seniority at GM's Vehicle Mfg. facility in Arlington, Texas.
Two days later in the wee hours of Sept. 26, the UAW announced a tentative agreement with GM and recessed the strike.
“We’re proud of this tentative agreement, and we look forward to getting in the field and discussing it with our membership,” Gettelfinger said at a 4 a.m. news conference.
With the unanimous support of the UAW GM National Council, the sprint was on to get highlights of the new tentative agreement to the membership.
Ratification meetings were held at UAW GM locals nationwide, followed by voting which concluded Oct. 10.
When Tony Redmond heard the UAW’s tentative agreement included language about GM committing to make 3,000 temporary workers permanent, he had what some would call a defining moment.
“The first thing I thought was now my three kids can go to college," said Redmond, 27, a UAW Local 659 member who has worked for three years as a truck driver at GM’s Service Parts Operations (SPO) facility in Flint, Mich.
He never lost faith that his job would someday, somehow become full time.
“I kept telling friends here that if there's a needle in the haystack, our UAW negotiators will find it,” he added.
Antoria Fleming, also a temporary worker with three years at the same facility, had no doubts either. In fact, after the meeting she was going out to celebrate.
“I just kept telling my friends here to stay focused,” said Fleming, 27. “We work very hard as temporaries, and we're proud to be UAW. It's our time.”
Veteran electrician Jim Rubis, a UAW Local 5960 member with 37 years with GM, was looking to the future, but not just for himself.
GM’s commitment to build new products in UAW facilities will help protect middle-class manufacturing jobs in years to come, Rubis said.
“The main thing for me was securing jobs, but I’m going to be retired in the next few years,” he added. “This one’s for the young people.”
As we are well aware, collective bargaining does not take place in a vacuum. What happens at the bargaining table is significantly affected by what’s happening beyond the bargaining table.
This is true for all negotiations, and the UAW’s 2007 National Negotiations with Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. have been no different.
When the auto unions in other industrialized countries sit down to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the automakers, there’s one issue that’s off the table: health care for active and retired members. That’s because these countries all have some form of national health care that covers everyone.
Of course, that’s not so in the USA. Our patchwork, employer-based health care system leaves out 47 million Americans and underinsures millions more while costs continue to skyrocket year after year. Our union continues to push for a single-payer, universal, comprehensive, national health care program, but meaningful health care reform has yet to occur.
So in this set of national auto negotiations, we faced an uphill battle protecting health benefits, especially for our retired members. The companies demanded benefit reductions and cost shifting, and argued they had the right to reduce or eliminate retiree medical benefits which they had already done to salaried, nonunion employees.
According to our country’s labor laws, retiree health care benefits is considered a “permissive” topic for bargaining, while health care benefits for active workers is a “mandatory” topic. That means that the employer cannot be forced (by strike action or otherwise) to bargain over retiree health care benefits. Additionally, companies are not required to fund retiree health care as they fund pensions. And, there’s no government backstop for retiree health care such as we have for pensions through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Fund.
However, the goal of the national negotiators was clear from the beginning: We would protect our health care for active and retired members at current levels — period.
Our union selected GM as the lead company because we believed that negotiations there afforded us the best opportunity to establish a pattern that would ensure lifetime benefits for our current retirees as well as future retirees. We demanded that every seniority employee as of Sept. 14, 2007, would have lifetime benefits when they retired.
To achieve this goal, the UAW enlisted assistance from outside experts, including Lazard Freres and Milliman, two of the best investment banking and actuarial firms in the country.
After months of study and weeks of intensive negotiations, GM agreed to a mechanism that would achieve our goal: the establishment of a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA). Because it is an independent trust, the money in the VEBA can only be used for health care benefits.
Even if a company filed for bankruptcy, the money in the VEBA would stay secure.
The funding for VEBA comes from several sources, including sacrifices from the active workers. For example, the 2006 wage increase was deferred by our members at GM and Ford, along with continued and additional COLA diversions. Billions will be contributed by the companies. Significantly, the UAW also was able to win “backstop” payments that will be made any time the VEBA’s funding level is projected to be insufficient 25 years out to provide current benefit levels. The funding calculations are based on projections about medical inflation rates, investment returns and other factors.
According to our experts’ calculations, the VEBA will be solvent for 80 years.
And, because the VEBA is an independent trust, it is important to note that regardless of what has been stated by the media, our union will not control the funds.
It’s worth stating again: The VEBA money will only be used for retiree health care benefits.
We began the national auto negotiations with the slogan, “Fighting for America’s Future.” And with “teamwork in the leadership and solidarity in the ranks,” the UAW won an agreement that keeps auto jobs in the United States. And by protecting retiree health care, we’re also keeping our obligation to those who came before us and to whom we owe so much.
He may live next door or just down the road.
You may notice his steps are a little slow.
He doesn’t tell where he’s been.
What he saw or did where or when.
The gray in his hair helps to tell his age.
But not the battles he saw as they raged.
You won’t know about the flashbacks.
The bad dreams of battles, gun powder and flack.
The fire fights with flares and tracer bullets lighting up the night.
Then checking to see how many were OK after the fight.
You don’t see him in a cold sweat shivering in a bed that’s soaking wet.
His eyes wide open and set.
He may not scream or yell.
But in his mind he’s going through hell.
But when he hears the anthem start to play.
He stands tall and straight with a lump in his throat
that you won’t see because it’s just his way.
He tries not to think of these things.
Still he wonders when the universe commander calls
his name will he have earned a pair of golden wings.
It’s the old soldier that lives within.
He will always come back again and again.
When you see him walking with a slow stride.
Just remember you can’t see what’s going on inside
Centrifugal air compressors.
The name alone conjures up visions of something big, powerful and complex.
These behemoths stand 5 feet tall, are the length of a minivan and run on 1,500 horsepower. Weighing 7.5 tons, it takes a 15-ton crane to move them.
At General Motors’ Fort Wayne (Ind.) Assembly Powerhouse facility – where 2,750 UAW Local 2209 members build full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups – five compressors provide air to the plant, with three running simultaneously on each shift.
Due to normal wear and tear, the hulky compressors must be rebuilt every five years or so.
That’s where the UAW stationary engineer skilled-trades team comes in.
In the past, they’ve always done compressor rebuilds in house. But last fall, GM thought they had a better idea: outsource the work to Kentucky. Management didn’t think the rebuild could be done on time, feared lost production and wrongly assumed it would be cheaper to outsource.
The 14-man Powerhouse team put together a plan of action, and with the support of their local union leadership convinced the company to reconsider.
“It was work we’d done in the past, and we didn’t want to lose it,” said Don Lockwood, 53, a 21-year veteran stationary engineer. “We said it was a one-shot deal and persuaded management to try it.”
Yet GM remained concerned there would be problems pulling the water coolers out of the massive compressors.
The stationary engineers worked closely with their fellow Local 2209 toolmakers – including Tim Mahnenship and Bill Gooley – who decided they could help the Powerhouse team by redesigning the “pooler puller,” a delicate tool used to pull out the cooler in the compressor.
It proved to be a winning combination improving the safety and speed of the work, along with cost savings to GM.
“We said if we had any problems, we’d be honest and forthright about it with the company,” said Marvin Toran, 52, also a stationary engineer with 27 years at the plant.
Toran said they worked around the clock with several tradesmen on each shift. “We had our part done in a week, and it was shipped out for another rebuild phase for a couple of weeks,” he said. “Then it came back here to be reassembled.”
“There was a real spirit of cooperation, and it was a total team effort,” said John Lothamer, 48, with 21 years as a UAW skilled tradesman.
But the guys don’t consider it a big deal. To them, it’s just what they do.
Said seven-year tradesmen Rob Whitehair, 43: “We’re just turning wrenches.”
The organizing of the casino workers hasn’t changed how we operate the union in Region 9. What it has done is given more union density. This gives us and the International UAW more political strength, which is needed to protect everything we’ve negotiated for.
The act will allow employees to express their desire for unionization through a card-check process. It also gives workers who form a union the opportunity, through mediation and arbitration, to achieve a first contract. Many companies use stalling tactics to avoid signing a first contract. Most importantly, employees would not have to deal with the threats and intimidations they now face through a typical election process dominated by union-busting law firms. Workers should have the legal right to organize without intimidation.
During these most difficult of times, leadership in our ranks is most important. Not only are we negotiating difficult contracts, we are trying to remain competitive, to keep jobs from moving abroad and work being outsourced to nonunion U.S. facilities. It’s up to rank-and-file leadership to remind members that without the UAW, companies like Delphi would implement $9 an hour wages without benefits and pensions. It’s the union that has maintained our ability to bargain during these most difficult times.
My hopes are to elect a president who is responsible for protecting the rights and jobs of the middle class who built this nation. It’s important we elect a president who is sympathetic to working men and women. A president who names worker-friendly appointees to head government positions in areas that affect our lives on a daily basis: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, Federal Trade Commission, and federal and Supreme Court judges. This administration is the most anti-union in the history of this country. I also hope the next administration will take a closer look at Iraq and the financial and spiritual damage it has caused our country.
To my UAW brothers and sisters at the big table:
Good job on reaching the tentative agreement with General Motors, and thanks to all who did their part for all of us workers and retirees.
Now go home and get some rest – and remember to have GM sign with ink.
UAW Local 174 retiree
On Sept. 24 when the UAW strike against GM began, the day brought two conflicting frames for understanding the situation. Throughout the day, most commentators framed the situation in strictly economic terms.
Then much later in the day, PBS aired “The War,” which inconveniently framed the whole automobile sector in national security terms. With the nation’s security unarguably threatened, it recounted how Michigan’s Willow Run plant was converted from producing cars and trucks to producing bombers (at the amazing rate of one every 63 seconds!).
This conversion demonstrates the shortsightedness of a strictly economic view of the UAW GM
situation. The parties are more than automakers just-in-time; they are also bombermakers just-in-case. And “The War” might have had a different outcome to report if today’s advocates of globalization had had their way back then.
Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D.
As “snowbirds” driving back and forth from Florida each winter, my wife and I noticed that most of the lightweight pickups, medium-sized delivery and heavy-duty trucks were “made in America.”
Sometimes we purposely took back roads to see what we’d find.
Sure enough, most of the trucks we encountered along the way – new and old – were GM, Ford and Chrysler products. Amen!
I truly believe whatever the secret is that keeps generation after generation of Americans buying most of the U.S.-made trucks remains alive and well in the good old USA.
Some things about America need no explanation.
UAW Local 1714 retiree
Milton Township, Ohio
I urge all my fellow UAW members to congratulate all those buying American- and union-made cars. Make your message known when relatives and friends drive those foreign cars into your driveway. Explain what they are doing to your job.
The future is up to all of us. Get involved.
Milford C. Walker
UAW Local 923 retiree
Pico Rivera, Calif.