UAW Solidarity House | 8000 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48214 | p. (313) 926-5000
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In the face of an unprecedented crisis in the auto industry, UAW members have made painful steps to keep the car companies from collapsing.
Thousands of active workers at Chrysler and General Motors are now confronting plant closures. All of our retirees at these companies have lost important health care benefits.
We are all uncertain about what the future holds.
One thing we do know, however, is that without these concessions, the companies would be long gone, and all of our jobs and benefits with them.
The U.S. Treasury demanded these givebacks in return for its continued investment. At the same time, the Obama administration ensured that workers and retirees won't be the first casualty of a bankruptcy proceeding – as they typically are.
This is not to say the process has been exactly fair. UAW members did not cause the auto crisis, but we are paying a heavy price for it.
And if that wasn't enough, we must listen to pundits attack us for what we have and what we have been able to protect.
Our members at auto supplier firms are facing the same hardships – from plant closings to indefinite layoffs to loss of benefits. And the pain has spread to other sectors of our union as well.
Incredibly, some elite commentators seem to think workers should not earn a living wage or be able to visit a doctor when they're sick or spend their retirement receiving a decent pension.
Everyone deserves these basics of life, and there's no good reason our economy can't provide them. There are, however, plenty of reasons it doesn't, and most come down to one culprit: corporate power.
Corporate power – meaning corporate money – fills the campaign coffers of our elected representatives who in turn block legislation that would give working people a fighting chance.
From the health insurance lobby and drug makers that have prevented implementation of a national health care system, to banks and investment firms that have influenced financial regulatory agencies to look past their shady transactions, to past administrations that appoint the most anti-worker, anti-union people to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), corporations have been calling shots.
Another example we're all too familiar with are the bad trade agreements our elected leaders from both political parties have been negotiating for decades. These deals benefit multinational corporations at the expense of workers in this country and abroad. And they have contributed mightily – along with skyrocketing health care costs – to this auto crisis.
That's all the more reason we need to step up the pressure on Washington regarding trade agreements. We saw the impact we can have in May when thousands of UAW members and
others called and e-mailed the administration protesting GM's plan to import cars from China using taxpayer money. Now more than ever, we need to bring that type of outrage to Washington and hold President Obama to his campaign promise to renegotiate NAFTA and other bad trade deals to make them fair to working people.
Likewise, we need to keep the pressure on our U.S. senators and representatives to pass a public health insurance program and to block attempts to tax workers' health care benefits.
We simply can't compete globally when we're crippled domestically. It's long past the time to restore fairness for working families. And this Congress and administration give us our best opportunity in a long time to win these battles.
With solidarity we can get it done.