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Many thanks to the UAW national bargaining team on reaching the agreement with General Motors.
I am a surviving spouse and remember the many years of waiting for an agreement to be reached while raising our family, and even more years of waiting alone.
Again, as in the many years past, the union has been there for all of us.
I would just like to take a moment to thank the UAW for the work and success with the new contracts you just negotiated.
And thanks again for supporting retiree issues.
UAW Local 626 retiree
I am the widow of a retired Chrysler employee. I want to thank you so much for thinking of the retirees in your recent negotiations. I can’t tell you how much your thoughtfulness is appreciated.
It’s not always easy to make it on your own, and this money makes a lot of difference.
I am amazed at the venomous attack directed at the UAW for exercising its right to strike against General Motors during recent contract negotiations.
Where does this hate originate? Why do Americans gleefully rejoice in denigrating other working Americans? Surely there is more to this resentment than base envy.
The true problem stems from a fundamental disconnect between belief and reality in this country. The belief, according to the well-entrenched capitalist mantra, is that anyone regardless of origin can pull themselves up the social ladder simply by working diligently.
Somehow, union members violate those sacred American laws of self-sufficiency and independence. People see them as lazy, overpaid leeches on society.
The belief that hard work always pays off keeps Americans complacent with their lot and enraged that union members supposedly harbor a sense of entitlement.
The UAW, as one of the last bastions for decent wages in the blue-collar world, stands as a stark reminder of what all workers deserve yet seldom receive: respect.
(Editor’s note: Bartek is a history professor at the University of Kentucky. His father, James Bartek Sr., is a UAW Local 1112 member in Lordstown, Ohio.)
The Solidarity, November-December 2007 Workers’ Words poem, “The Old Soldier,” was excellent. It's sad that Veterans Day has become an almost ignored holiday.
Remember: America is the home of the free because of the brave.
UAW Local 1485
Irving Bluestone dreamed of being a teacher.
After graduating from City College of New York in 1937, he headed for Switzerland to do a year of postgraduate work at the University of Bern, hoping to begin his career as an educator.
More than 40 years later at age 64, he finally realized his dream, joining the faculty of Wayne State University in Detroit in 1980 as a professor of labor studies.
But along the way, Bluestone organized, educated and helped improve the lives of generations of workers through the labor movement.
He joined the UAW, moved up to become vice president of the union’s General Motors Department and became nationally known as a fighter for workers’ rights.
Bluestone died of heart failure on Nov. 17, 2007, at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 90.
“Irving Bluestone will be deeply missed by his brothers and sisters in the labor movement as well as by civil rights leaders, health care activists, members of the academic community and progressives everywhere. His contributions to the cause of social justice will be remembered for many years to come,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said. “He was a passionate fighter for working men and women.”
Bluestone’s 1938 trip to Europe was a turning point in his life. He was in Vienna when Hitler’s troops seized the country. As a Jewish American, he saw firsthand the dangers of the Nazi regime, fled Austria and returned home to the United States.
At that point, he changed his career plans. He decided to become a unionist because it was the “best antidote to fascism,” his daughter Maura Bluestone said.
Bluestone was hired at GM’s Hyatt Ball Bearing Division plant in Harrison, N.J., as a grinder operator and repairman in 1942 and quickly became a union activist with UAW Local 511. He served as editor of the local union newspaper and chairman of the education and political action committees, before getting elected as committeeman and then as shop chair.
In 1945 Bluestone was appointed to the staff of UAW Region 9A, servicing local unions from Philadelphia to Massachusetts. He was named to the union’s GM Department staff in 1947 where he coordinated the umpire section and performed general field service work until 1955.
In 1955 he was named as administrative assistant to then-Vice President and GM Department Director Leonard Woodcock. From 1955-1961, Bluestone was involved in negotiations and contract administration with GM and aerospace companies.
Bluestone became UAW President Walter Reuther’s administrative assistant in 1961 until he was named director of the GM Department in 1970, replacing Woodcock, who became UAW president after Reuther’s death in a plane crash.
Bluestone was elected vice president at the 1972 UAW Constitutional Convention and served in that position until his retirement in 1980.
Besides participating in every GM contract negotiations from 1948 until 1980, Bluestone was heavily involved in community, state and national activities, including memberships in the National Committee for Full Employment, Work in America Institute, NAACP, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Michigan Quality of Work Life Council, Health Care Institute and National Trade Union Council for Human Rights.
“He was very much concerned about the union as a social movement,” said Alan Reuther, director of the UAW Legislative, Governmental and International Affairs Department in Washington and a nephew of Walter Reuther.
Bluestone is survived by daughters Maura and Karen Bluestone, son Barry and four grandchildren. His wife, Zelda, died in 2001.
A memorial service was held in Boston, and another is scheduled for Detroit.
This issue of Solidarity highlights the success of workers at Dana Corp. plants around the country who have chosen to form their own unions as part of the UAW.
Their story is further proof that when workers are given a choice through a fair process, free of employer intimidation, they will choose a union almost every time.
The recent successful organizing drives at several casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., at Foxwoods Casino Resort in Norwich, Conn., and Casino Aztar in Evansville, Ind., also show what workers can accomplish when we join together.
Working together to improve our lives is a basic part of American democracy. In the workplace, the right to collective action is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees the right to organize and requires employers to negotiate with a union chosen by a majority of workers.
Unfortunately, the intent of the NLRA has been weakened by years of fierce employer resistance. More recently, Bush appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, charged with enforcing the act, have used every opportunity to weaken the rights of workers while strengthening the hand of employers.
At present, a large majority of American workers — more than 80 percent — work in nonunion workplaces. That means that tens of millions of workers don’t know how much power they can have when they act together. Nor is there any easy way for them to be informed about health and safety laws, workers’ compensation and other laws and regulations that offer protections to working people.
To close this information gap, our union is not only helping workers organize. We’re also reaching out to our communities and our neighbors, to make sure as many people as possible know what our union has accomplished — and what all workers can accomplish by joining together.
In December, as featured on the back page of this issue, UAW members began appearing in a unique new interactive advertising campaign. On broadcast and cable TV and the Internet, UAW members are talking about how our union contributes to our communities, and about key issues such as workplace safety and the connection between toxic toys and fair trade standards.
Using the latest Web-based communication tools, this campaign is designed to be a two-way channel.
You can join in, help inform your friends and neighbors — and have a little fun — by hitting the Web site www.IamtheUAW.org and submitting a story about your local union, CAP council or retiree chapter and the impact you’ve had in your community and your workplace. The stories selected will highlight the diversity and activity of our union.
Whether we’re leafleting a plant, canvassing a precinct or posting on a blog, UAW members are true to our union values: We support each other. We solve problems. And we know that working together works.
Vol. 51, No. 1-2
Vol. 51, No. 1-2
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: Gwynne Marie Cobb, Sandra Davis, Emily Everett, John Hammond, Vince Piscopo, Joan Silvi, Sam Stark, and Solidarity editor Jennifer John, members of CWA/The Newspaper Guild Local 34022.
Clerical staff: Susan Fisher, Pauline Mitchell and Shelly Restivo, members of OPEIU Local 494.
After working at another job in California for 12 years, I was laid off. The company only said they couldn’t afford my pay. I needed the security a union provides. Without the strength of workers standing together, employers can lay off workers at any time for any reason.
Before the election, management would tell us we have to do exactly what they say, with no questions or input. Now when management assigns dealers to tables, they ask for input. They respect us more.
We can get management to work with us in solving problems. Management is trying harder to make sure workers get better treatment on the job. They are putting more effort into managing schedules so dealers get a higher token rate, which benefits all dealers.
If Bally’s has millions of dollars to hire anti-union people and translators to try and convince workers not to join a union, then they have that much money to benefit us as workers if we form a union. We make those millions and make it possible for them to have those profits in the first place.
Robert Jones of UAW Local 6 is no longer worried about his plant closing and the work being outsourced.
On Dec. 16 Jones and more than 4,000 UAW members ratified a three-year agreement with International Truck and Engine (ITE) by 71 percent. The contract includes no plant closing agreements and a moratorium on outsourcing for the life of the agreement.
“It was a victory in support of both solidarity and UAW bargaining power,” said Jones, shop chair at the ITE Engine Plant in Melrose Park, Ill.
The contract ended a seven-week strike that began Oct. 23 in protest of unfair labor practices. It also covers members of UAW Locals 98, 226 and 2274 in Indianapolis, Ind.; Local 2911 in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Locals 402 and 658 in Springfield, Ohio; Local 472 in Atlanta; Local 119 in Dallas; and Local 1872 in York, Pa., who make medium- and light-duty truck engines and Navistar medium-duty trucks.
“Members showed 100 percent solidarity during the strike and grew closer as a Local 6 family,” Jones said.
“Our members showed extraordinary solidarity and won a contract benefiting UAW ITE workers, as well as the company and our communities,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. The agreement includes pension upgrades, health care protections for active and retired workers, and health and safety improvements.
UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Heavy Trucks Department, said: “Our members wanted the security of going to work without fear that the employer would ship the work off somewhere else, and they accomplished that.”
Members of the UAW in Region 5 have been busy.
In Missouri workers at Dakkota Integrated Systems Inc. in St Louis voted a whopping 100 percent on Dec. 19 to form their own union as UAW members.
Joining the UAW, said the new members of Local 1760, offered benefits too good to pass up.
“We needed security for ourselves and our families,” said Michelle Pinnetter, an operator. “Now that we are union, we know we are not alone.”
Said material handler Chris Osborne, “We can maintain good jobs if we work as a team. That represents solidarity for us.”
Dakkota workers produce instrument panels and handle parts sequencing. Dakkota is a joint venture between Wayne, Mich.-based Rush Trucking and Intier Automotive Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Troy, Mich.-based Magna International Inc.
“I believe in teamwork. What better way than becoming union,” said Michelle Bone. “It was a good thing for us to do. The union has brought us closer together.”
Also, in Columbia, Mo., UAW members showed their union solidarity as they defeated two recent decertification efforts.
Workers at EPC Columbia – Collins & Aikman remain UAW Local 710 members after a National Labor Relations Board election Oct. 18. The members produce automotive instrument panels for Mitsubishi.
And Dana Corp. workers in Columbia, also of Local 710, defeated a decertification attempt Jan. 10 by voting overwhelmingly to remain UAW members. They produce traction assembly for Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Nissan Motors.
Superior craftsmanship and quality in UAW-built vehicles were on display at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The union members who pains takingly built them were also on hand to tell the world what goes into producing some of the world’s finest cars and trucks.
“We’re all so proud to build these vehicles and to be here at the auto show to talk about what we build and show them off,” said Michael Seaton, a UAW Local 5960 member and hi-low driver from General Motors’ Lake Orion (Mich.) plant.
That facility builds the Chevrolet Malibu, which was selected as the 2008 North American Car of the Year, beating out 15 other nominees. The award has translated into excellent sales – and more work – for the plant.
“I’m 6 foot 3, 240 pounds, and I can sit in this car comfortably,” said Seaton. “It handles like a dream, and we’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the visitors here.”
UAW Local 31’s Mike Grecu, a 27-year GM worker at the Fairfax, Kan., plant where the Malibu is also made, and his wife, Carlin, a nine-year veteran, love talking about America’s hottest car.
“Quality’s so important to us, and people at the plant were ecstatic,” said Mike Grecu, who works in the underbody repair department. “We were up against some tough competition, and we’re all really, really proud.”
The Fairfax plant will add 300 jobs in April. Carlin Grecu, who works in the chassis department, said she had the opportunity to test drive the car. “I love the way it drives, and it handles great,” she said.
A few hundred yards away, Anthony Bradley, a UAW Local 862 member from Ford Motor Co.’s Kentucky Truck Plant, Latrice Sanders from UAW Local 600 at the Dearborn (Mich.) Truck Plant and UAW Local 182’s Dave Grissom from Ford’s Livonia (Mich.) Transmission Plant, were extolling the virtues of their company’s products.
In doing so, they were making a statement about the recent numerous quality awards they and their fellow UAW members have won for the automaker.
Bradley, who was handling out lanyards advertising the F-250 and F-350 pickup trucks, was busy answering questions about towing capacity, torque and other topics from people who clearly owned older models and were considering the brand-spanking new models behind him.
“They want to know what’s new, what’s coming on the truck,” he said. ‘They love our truck. ”
Bradley, a 13-year veteran worker who was on the launch team for both trucks, said it’s important to have people who have the hands-on experience building the trucks as ambassadors for the product. People ask him what it’s like to be on a factory floor building the product and want to know minute details about the trucks.
“They ask, ‘What’s it really like?’ They feel more comfortable with me because I am on the floor and I am from the plant,” he said as a gaggle of kids grabbed lanyards from him. Others tell him, “I have one and I love it.”
And that’s a message he also brings back to the plant.
“The personal feedback you get from customers is invaluable,” he said. “I think everyone in the plant needs to hear that. It makes you want to go and do your job better.”
UAW workers at Chrysler LLC, which, since the change in ownership, is refreshing its lineup, are equally proud of their work.
Lula Sears, a UAW Local 212 member with 32 years at Chrysler this March, works in shipping at the Conner Ave. Assembly facility in Detroit where they build the Dodge Viper.
“It’s a fast, fast car, and it’s cool, too,” she said of the Viper, a V-10-powered two-seat sports car that has made countless appearances in TV shows, video games and movies. The 2008 models will come in four new colors, including venom red and snakeskin green.
But Sears, who was the first woman at her plant to work on the car’s assembly when it began in 1992, also has good things to say about the quality of other Chrysler products, including those in the Jeep division.
“It’s always about the quality, and I love that Liberty with more leg room and plusher interior,” she said. “And the Compass looks great as well.”
Quality equals job security, and Ford’s Grissom and his co-workers are getting some through the new 6-R 86 transmission.
It will eventually be featured in 30 Ford vehicles.
“This product is real smooth shifting,” he said as he stood next to a demonstration model.
“It’s not like your regular transmission that you can hear shifting.”
His second year at the auto show, Grissom answered questions about torque and the vehicles the transmission will be in.
“Everyone I’ve talked to at the show so far who has driven one
is very pleased. They’re glad Ford has brought this transmission out.”
And so are the workers at Livonia, who hope it keeps more jobs coming.
“We’re going to get more jobs at our plant,” Grissom said. “I’m very proud of the way we’re moving forward.”
The UAW isn’t just a defender of workers’ rights in the workplace. It is also a check and balance against corporate greed anywhere.
That was clearly shown Jan. 22 when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain agreed with UAW arguments against Delphi’s excessive executive compensation package as part of the company’s reorganization plan to emerge from bankruptcy. The Troy, Mich.-based auto parts supplier filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2005.
With only the UAW and the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE) out of 4,000 Delphi creditors opposing cash bonus payments of $87.9 million, Drain declared he would approve Delphi’s reorganization plan only if it slashed executive bonuses by $70 million. Delphi hopes to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of March.
“The executive bonuses were a slap in the face to all Delphi workers who sacrificed to help this company get back on its feet,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “We appreciate that Judge Drain kept an open mind during three days of hearings where we argued against this corporate greed. He responded in the only fair way possible.”
A bankruptcy judge forcing a company to reduce its executive compensation plan is not unprecedented, but it’s unusual, according to John Pottow, associate law professor at the University of Michigan Law School. He predicts Drain’s decision could encourage unions to challenge excessive executive compensation in other bankruptcy cases.
Delphi argued bonuses are necessary to attract and retain key executives vital to the company’s revival.
In 2006, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced the proposed Fairness and Accountability in Bankruptcy Reorganizations Act that would close loopholes allowing management to propose lucrative executive compensation deals for themselves while they are slashing wages and benefits for workers and retirees.
As a result of Delphi’s attempt to give its executives extravagant bonuses, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he intends to propose legislation limiting such bonuses for companies in bankruptcy. “The announcement acknowledges the need for shared sacrifice,” Brown said.
Sacrifice had been anything but shared at Delphi as 27,000 U.S. jobs were eliminated out of an original 33,000, and 20 of 28 U.S. plants were sold or shut down.
Delphi says its future growth will take place in Europe, Asia and South America.
The company’s agreement to cut executive bonuses opens the door for it to secure exit financing loans. When it finally emerges from bankruptcy, the company will be controlled largely by a group of private equity investors led by Appaloosa Management LP.
Delphi is a major supplier to General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Hyundai of electronics, satellite radios, electrical centers and sensors. The company has 171,000 employees at 159 sites in 36 countries.
It’s a bill that produces several winners — workers, employers and the environment.
And for the first time in 32 years, the United States is increasing auto fuel economy standards or requirements right here at home.
In December President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, a compromise bill approved by the U.S. House and Senate that increases corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light trucks combined to an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, up from 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.5 mpg for light trucks.
Government CAFE standards require that car manufacturers meet a certain miles-per-gallon average for every fleet they produce.
The bill’s passage is good news on several fronts, including:
• Reduced gas consumption.
• More stable U.S. energy security.
• A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“The UAW strongly supports this historic bill, which contains aggressive but still achievable fuel economy requirements,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “It will help consumers and the environment, and at the same time protect U.S. jobs.”
The bill is the result of hard work by key stakeholders in the legislation, including UAW members, their families environmental advocates and auto manufacturers.
“This bill is green and it protects jobs,” said UAW Legislative Director Alan Reuther. “It has a very aggressive fuel economy standard, which will reduce foreign oil
dependence and emissions from fossil fuels. But it also includes elements that protect domestic production and jobs, which make the standard more achievable.”
Reuther said production and jobs are supported with the small car/anti-backsliding provision, which continues the distinction between foreign and domestic passenger car production and therefore keeps the pressure on the companies to keep small car production in the United States. This protects 17,000 UAW members who assemble small cars in this country, along with tens of thousands who produce parts for these vehicles.
In addition, an extension of the CAFE flex-fuel credits allows alternative-fuel vehicles a credit against the CAFE standard. It also includes help for U.S. companies to retool to produce advanced- technology vehicles, hybrids and the key components that go into those vehicles.
Another key part is a provision that will continue the distinction between passenger cars and light trucks in the CAFE program. This will diminish any negative impact on light truck production and jobs by ensuring there will be different mileage rules for these different types of vehicles.