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President Bush and 156 members of Congress had to make a tough choice this fall concerning health care. So did Joshua Clements.
In December Bush for the second time vetoed reauthorization and expansion of the widely-popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The administration is opposed to Americans choosing government health care programs over private insurers.
For Clements, his decision to go with a state-run health insurance program was purely practical. Hired as a nonunion contractor at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich., his benefits package would have cost him “a good chunk of change” to cover every family member, according to his mother, UAW Local 1811 President Berteen Ewles.
“Josh and Sara figured out they couldn’t afford to cover themselves and Kaedin, their 5-month-old son, too,” said Ewles, who heads the amalgamated TOP local in Flint.
“So they chose to keep Kaedin on the MiChild program. Besides, putting him under Josh’s plan at work would have meant less coverage than he was already getting under MiChild.”
MiChild is Michigan’s version of SCHIP. Nationwide, the federally-funded, state-run program covers 6.6 million low-income children. The bill passed by Democrats in Congress but vetoed by President Bush, would have expanded the program, to insure 3.8 million more kids.
Kaedin’s mom, Sara Gorton, is a full-time student who is finishing up six years of nursing training at the University of Michigan-Flint. When she graduates and enters the workforce, she may have a chance to switch her young son to an employer-provided insurance plan.
Meantime, the program helps this young couple get on its feet while keeping their baby healthy. On SCHIP since birth, Kaedin is seen by his own pediatrician once a month. On the weekend Kaedin fell from his chair onto the floor, Josh and Sara were able to reach his doctor directly. Under MiChild, there are no charges for trips to the emergency room, and no co-pays for prescriptions.
“When I heard that President Bush had vetoed the SCHIP bill, I was mortified,” said Ewles, Kaedin’s grandmother. “How could he even think of doing something like that?”
Ewles takes action every time she receives UAWire or other email messages concerning SCHIP and encourages Josh and Sara to do the same. “As people on this planet, we have to hold our representatives’ feet to the fire,” she said.
At press time, Democratic and Republican congressional representatives were still trying to hammer out a compromise around SCHIP that both parties – and families like Kaedin’s – can live with.
Members of UAW Local 6000 voted nearly 3 to 1 in favor of a new three-year contract with the state of Michigan.
Workers, who ratified the agreement Nov. 30, will receive a 2 percent wage increase in April 2008, a carryover from the previous contract. The new contract provides a percent base wage increase; 1 percent in October 2009 and 3 percent in October 2010.
The contract also gives members new health and safety guidelines and maintains health care.
“Our bargaining team negotiated a good contract for our members,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “Good contracts and good jobs are a part of what keeps any economy strong, whether it’s the state of Michigan or the entire United States.”
“It is no secret that this is a challenging time for the state of Michigan,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs servicing for the union's Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department. “Our bargaining committee negotiated long and hard to maintain excellent benefits and preserve existing contract language. That was the priority.”
“As a taxpayer and state employee, I think this is a good contract for our members, especially in light of the state's ongoing economic problems,” said Local 6000 member Jan Brown. “It is not the best contract we have had, but it is the best for these troubled economic times.”
The local represents 17,000 state employees in human services and administrative support, including workers in every department of state government and in every county of the state.
Got a story to tell about our union? Then go to www.IAmtheUAW.org and join the union’s new interactive campaign.
You can submit your story in text, audio or video. Tell us how your local union is improving your community. Or about a new contract or organizing drive. Or just shout out how proud you are to be a UAW member.
Stories from UAW members will be featured on broadcast and cable TV and the Internet, showcasing the accomplishments of our union.
UAW members just like you are talking about workplace safety, the connection between toxic toys and fair trade standards, and our proud record of providing help to our neighborhoods and communities.
The campaign kicks off with five TV ads – but our union has far more stories to tell. And you could be one of them. Help us find more – and see what we found – at www.IAmtheUAW.org.
Chevrolet Malibu/Malibu Hybrid
Saturn Aura/Aura Hybrid
Dodge Ram Pickup*
Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Lincoln Mark LT
Cadillac Escalade ESV
Ford Escape/Escape Hybrid
Ford Taurus X
GMC Yukon/Yukon Hybrid
|GMC Yukon Denali
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Mazda Tribute/Tribute Hybrid
Mercury Mariner/Mariner Hybrid
|Ford Crown Victoria
Lincoln Town Car
Mercury Grand Marquis
Pontiac Grand Prix
|Chevrolet Silverado*||GMC Sierra*|
|Chrysler Town & Country||Dodge Caravan|
GMC Envoy Denali
Jeff Morales remembered the skepticism with which Kansas City Assembly Plant workers greeted the introduction of the Ford Escape Hybrid three years ago.
“People weren’t too sure that this thing would even sell, and they didn’t really understand the technology, either,” said the UAW Local 249 member and 13-year veteran utility repairman who road tests hybrids as they roll off the final line at the KCAP facility in Claycomo, Mo.
This skepticism has long since disappeared, though, as Local 249 members began to realize that Ford could sell every one of the 20,000 hybrid SUVs they could build — and more.
Today KCAP workers are putting in 10-hour days, five days a week and still can’t meet the demand for the Escape Hybrid, its siblings, the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute hybrids, and their older brothers, the standard Escape, Mariner and Tribute. Management is requesting an additional 16 Saturdays to the plant’s 2008 production schedule.
With pump prices staying high, Americans are clearly shifting their buying patterns toward smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
And Kansas City isn’t the only place where UAW members are kicking out fuel efficient cars and trucks to meet this new consumer demand.
Besides Escapes, Mariners and Tributes, UAW members in Fairfax, Kan., and Arlington, Texas, are building five other hybrid models, including the Saturn Aura, Chevrolet Malibu, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe.
In fact, the Tahoe was just named Green Car Journal’s 2008 Green Car of the Year. The Tahoe uses a new General Motors’ transmission that began production in October at the company’s Baltimore Transmission plant.
GM’s two-mode transmission represents the only hybrid transmission designed and built in the United States by a major automaker. The Baltimore plant will also be supplying two modes for the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUV hybrids.
Meanwhile, Chrysler is also improving its fuel efficiency and emissions by moving in a different direction. Its Jeep Grand Cherokee has a diesel engine which uses bio-fuel.
Lack of access to sufficient numbers of transmissions, as well as storage batteries, has prevented KCAP from producing even more hybrid SUVs to meet market demand. However, Local 249’s leadership reports that Ford’s supplier of storage batteries is expected to ramp up production enough to allow KCAP to increase hybrid production from four an hour to 10 an hour, or 50,000 a year.
And Morales expects there will be a buyer for every one of them.
The UAW has faced many challenges over the past year.
A continuing decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs has had a significant impact on our membership. Our nation's failed health care system and flawed trade policies have severely affected many of our members, especially those affiliated with the domestic automotive industry. Meanwhile, workers who want to become UAW members still face considerable obstacles that interfere with the basic right to organize.
As a consequence, the UAW has made difficult decisions in order to maintain a solid financial structure, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to our members.
As a UAW member, your investment of two hours' pay every month in dues not only earns improved pay and working conditions, but secures a foundation for the union to continue advocating on behalf of all working people.
This financial report provides information about the union's financial position. Among the highlights:
• The union's total fund balance at the end of 2006 was $1,216,655,332.32.
• Total income in 2006 was $255 million, while total expenses were $259 million.
• In June of 2006, delegates to the UAW Convention approved changes to the UAW Constitution. As a result, approximately 50 percent of all dues collected since June of 2006 went to local unions, 5 percent went to the Strike Assistance Fund, and 45 percent went to the International Union's General Fund.
• Overall active and retired membership stood at 1,151,170.
• During 2006, organizing drives brought 57 new bargaining units, accounting for 26,011 potential new members.
• Approximately 4,600 UAW members went on strike or were locked out in 2006, and they received over $17 million from the union's Strike Assistance Fund, which pays for weekly benefits, medical assistance, and other expenditures.
The following is a summary from UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn in Adobe PDF format. The full report is available for examination at all local unions.
Even though they’re from different plants in different towns in different states, UAW members at 11 newly organized Dana Corp. facilities all share something in common: Forming a union with the power of the UAW Dana National Framework Agreement behind them was the catalyst to gaining respect, a voice and fairness in the workplace.
Dana workers decided to go union for different reasons.
For some it was the company’s takeaways: overtime eliminated, and vacations and holidays suddenly not counted as time worked.
For others it was the fact that they’d gotten a $1 raise in the last six years.
For Cindy Rich of Dana's McKenzie, Tenn., facility, it was when her son, Billy Doupis, a National Guardsman, was deployed to Iraq, on his 22nd birthday no less, in November 2005.
Rich requested a two-day leave of absence to visit him at training camp in Indiana before he left for his tour of duty. Dana denied it.
The next time she saw her son was when he came home safely on leave nine months later.
On Dec. 11, 2007, that same son, now 24, and Rich’s husband, Victor Rich, 48, who are military police in the same unit, were deployed to Iraq for a year.
This time, when Cindy Rich requested a five-day leave of absence, it was approved, no questions asked.
What changed between November 2005 and December 2007?
In July the UAW and Dana signed a National Framework Agreement that ensures fair treatment of workers, and includes contract language on personal leaves of absence.
In September Dana workers in McKenzie took advantage of the new pact to form their own union and put the existing national agreement in place.
That’s the difference having a union makes.
* * *
There’s a 60-foot tall replica of the Eiffel Tower in northwest Tennessee. It’s in a park next to a playground in Paris, after all.
But this Paris, population 9,763, is home to the “World’s Biggest Fish Fry.” It welcomes visitors heading in from the south on U.S. Highway 79 with a 20-foot catfish sign boasting the annual cookout (always the last weekend in April).
For Connie Peridore of Dana's Paris facility, about 90 miles west of Nashville, deciding she needed a union was clear when her fiance’s father died and she asked for a day and a half off to attend the services. First the company said yes; then they said no.
In her nearly 20 years there as a press operator, she had never used all her vacation time.
“It was time for everyone to start getting treated fairly,” said Peridore, a bargaining committee member at McKenzie’s sister facility, which held its card-check recognition Oct. 8. They also opened local contract bargaining in November.
“Management always did what they wanted, when the wanted and how they wanted,” said Joe McClure, a certified process technician for eight years.
During the organizing campaign, McClure appreciated that Dana stayed neutral and let workers decide for themselves. He was also impressed by the union’s upfront approach.
“The UAW told us to do our homework and make an educated decision about voting for the union,” said McClure, 27, a bargaining committee member.
McClure’s goal for this first local contract is “a level playing field.”
“It’s not like we’re looking to win the lottery,” he said. “We just want to be treated fairly.”
Overtime was one of the takeaways at Dana Paris. For Terry Mooney, a 45-year-old National Guardsman and Iraq War veteran, it hit hard.
“It may seem minor, but that OT amounts to thousands of dollars a year for us,” said Mooney, an automation technician with eight years at Dana.
* * *
“Everybody has a story,” said Cindy Rich, 47, who has 12 years as a quality auditor. “That was just a really crappy thing to do to our family,” she said on being denied a leave of absence before her son went to Iraq the first time.
Even when a former Dana manager told Rich that “you just can’t win with these people,” she never gave up. “I thought, maybe so, but I’ll die trying,” she said.
She’s now on the bargaining committee, which opened local contract talks in November. They’ll negotiate with management on local issues such as wages and classifications, overtime, work scheduling, job bidding and bumping.
“It feels great to finally have a voice at work. We just want to be treated with respect,” Rich said, “and it’s good to know the UAW’s got our backs.”
With nine years at Dana McKenzie, Sandra Conley saw things changing, but not for the better.
“Some were small, some drastic, but the turning point for me was when management froze our cost-of-living raise and then took a big raise for themselves,” said the 47-year-old post-cure operator and grandmother of four who said she “bakes auto parts at 350 degrees just like bread.”
“You know what they say: ‘If you don’t stand for something, you’re going to fall for anything,’” she added.
She welcomed the National Framework Agreement, which was ratified well in advance of her plant’s Sept. 21 card-check recognition.
“I felt more secure with that agreement in place,” said Conley, a bargaining team member. “We gained pretty much everything we’d lost, and you knew what was expected of you going in.”
Her goals for local contract negotiations include fairness in job bidding and transfers.
* * *
Known as “Pet Rock” to just about everyone in this town 70 miles north of Paris, Tenn., Mike Petrakovitz said he never had any doubts about joining the UAW.
“The question for most of us was, ‘Why not join the union?’” said the 18-year support technician.
Petrakovitz, 60, recalled a time when UAW organizers stood at the Hopkinsville plant gate handing out leaflets. “As we drove in, we’d roll up our windows and keep on going,” he said.
But with neutrality and a card-check process in place, the environment for change — an organized workplace — improved.
A bargaining committee member, his goal in negotiating a first contract includes wage gains. “In six years, we’ve only gotten a $1 raise,” he said. “I think we’re worth a whole lot more than that.”
Hopkinsville’s card-check recognition, held Oct. 18, was the UAW’s most recent Dana victory. They haven’t been assigned a local union number yet, and first contract bargaining is set to begin in January.
Bargaining team member Jannie Ford continues to get input from her co-workers.
“You don’t always know what others are dealing with when you’re in your own area all day long,” said Ford, a product technician for 12 years.
“I haven’t had much of a problem myself, but I hear others since I cover the floor,” she said, adding that “morale was so low the last few years” because workers felt mistreated by management.
“But it’s gone up so much since we voted in the union. It’s like a different place,” added Ford.
* * *
Respect, a voice and fairness. They’re key ingredients to a unionized workplace.
For UAW Local 9024 member Sandra Conley of Dana McKenzie, that recipe includes a lot of solidarity.
“We want a UAW flag outside our plant to remind the company that it’s no more just ‘me.’ It’s we.”
Vol. 53, No. 1 - 2
International Union, UAW
President: Ron Gettelfinger
Secretary-Treasurer: Elizabeth Bunn
Vice presidents: General Holiefield, Bob King, Cal Rapson, Jimmy Settles
Regional directors: Joseph Peters, 1; Rory Gamble, 1A; Duane Zuckschwerdt, 1C; Don Oetman, 1D; Ken Lortz, 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 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.
A year ago Billy Shea would have stepped to the front of the line to vote down the union.
“I was a company man,” said Shea, a dealer at Foxwoods Casino Resort in Norwich, Conn. “I believed that you went to work, the company took care of you and that was all you needed.”
Not any more.
Now Shea is one of about 2,600 Foxwoods dealers who overwhelmingly voted to join the UAW on Nov. 24.
“We are just ecstatic,” he said. “I never had any idea I would be standing on this side of the fence, but now I know that it’s the only place where you can stand and be counted.”
Jacqueline Little, a 15-year dealer at Foxwoods, said she and her co-workers “were prepared to do whatever it took using honesty and facts to show that we knew what we wanted.
“There’s now a sense of empowerment, and even those who didn’t support the union are excited that we have one,” added Little.
The election follows another organizing success in Evansville, Ind., where 183 dealers and full-time supervisors at Casino Aztar recently voted 106-59 to become part of the UAW.
“The recent casino election victories in Connecticut and Indiana are part of a movement of dealers for workplace justice,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs organizing for the union’s Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department.
“When Foxwoods casino workers decided they wanted a union, nothing was going to stop them,” said Bob Madore, UAW Region 9A director. “They stood their ground and fought with dignity for dignity.”
Union manufacturing jobs are supposed to be an endangered species in the United States. Employers routinely move work away from union facilities and fiercely resist organizing efforts by nonunion workers.
For 20 years that was the strategy followed by the Dana Corp., a key supplier to U.S. auto plants.
In the 1980s workers at 25 Dana plants had UAW contracts. By the beginning of 2007 that number was down to nine – with two slated for closure.
A year later, there’s a turnaround at Dana.
Since last July workers at 11 Dana facilities in seven U.S. states and Canada – from St. Clair, Mich., to Milwaukee, Wis., and Dry Ridge, Ky., to Barrie, Ontario – have organized their own local unions. The new bargaining units total nearly 2,500 new UAW Dana members.
There are now 18 Dana plants with UAW contracts, twice as many as a year ago.
How did the turnaround happen?
In 2006 the UAW Independents, Parts and Suppliers/Competitive Shops (IPS/CS) Department, headed by UAW Vice President Bob King, and nine UAW Dana locals formed a coalition with United Steelworker (USW) local unions, also representing Dana workers, to confront challenges at the company. A strategic plan was developed to take advantage of this opportunity to boost UAW and USW bargaining strength and to expand the rights of the unorganized.
In March 2006 Dana Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company asked a federal judge to cancel the company’s labor contracts, and a trial was under way. Union members made it clear that such drastic action could result in a labor dispute.
The high-stakes bargaining led to a successful outcome.
Working together, UAW and USW members hammered out the UAW Dana National Framework Agreement, ratified by Dana workers July 24, 2007.
The four-year national agreement covers wages and health care for active workers, and pensions and health care for retirees. Dana also will contribute more than $750 million to a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust fund to pay health care benefits for current and future UAW and USW Dana retirees.
In an important and innovative feature of the settlement agreement, the two unions recruited and encouraged Centerbridge Partners LP of New York to invest $500 million and sponsor a reorganization plan to allow Dana to emerge from bankruptcy.
In addition, to expand the rights of unorganized Dana workers, the union insisted on fair procedures, including card-check recognition, a process where employers agree to recognize a union once a majority of workers indicate their preference by signing union authorization cards.
In July, with the framework agreement in place, it was time to move forward with the neutrality and card-check agreement. The entire UAW teamed up to assist Dana workers, including the union’s National Organizing Department, directed by UAW Vice President Terry Thurman, the IPS/CS Department and UAW regions.
When workers at the 11 newly-organized Dana facilities achieved majority status they were not just forming their UAW local unions but also deciding whether to accept the national agreement. All 18 local contracts at UAW-represented Dana facilities will expire June 1, 2011, as will contracts at the Steelworkers locals.
With a common expiration date, Dana workers from different locals will be united during the negotiations process and will have more power at the bargaining table.
“Our members at Dana had a clear agenda in negotiations: protect jobs and retirees and correct the mismanagement that led the company into bankruptcy. We also insisted that from now on, Dana must respect workers’ right to organize,” said King. “Dana agreed to our conditions, and they have kept their commitments.”
“I can’t think of a better illustration of why we need the Employee Free Choice Act,” said Thurman, referring to federal legislation that would require all employers to recognize unions on the basis of a majority card check.
“It’s the same company, and the same workers who tried to organize for years without success. But with card check and neutrality , all of a sudden, it’s a different story,” Thurman added.
An active UAW organizing drive continues at Dana’s Danville, Ky., facility.