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UAW statement on retirees and 2011 Big Three negotiations

The UAW has a long history of fighting for and protecting its retirees, and through the years, we have been able to bargain good pensions, Christmas bonuses, pension increases, health care benefit improvements and other improvements for our retirees.  We accomplished all these gains for retirees even though many years ago a Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that we do not have the right to strike over retiree issues.  

In 2008, when the economy collapsed and General Motors and Chrysler were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, many Republicans wanted to strip retirees of all health care benefits and throw our pensions to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC).  If they had succeeded, GM and Chrysler pensions would have been reduced to about 65 percent of the basic pension, and retirees would have been left without any health care.  The UAW fought for retirees in the congressional hearings, through lobbying, protesting and many other activities.  GM and Chrysler retirees’ pensions and health care were saved as a result.

In the current round of auto bargaining, we were faced with two insurmountable obstacles to winning the gains we wanted for our retirees.  First, in the past we were able to fund pension increases and Christmas bonuses out of the UAW Big Three pension funds because the pension funds were either fully funded or, in some years, even overfunded.  This year, we face the worst shortfall in our history of pension underfunding.  Because of Wall Street’s continuing problems, the GM, Ford and Chrysler hourly pension funds are all underfunded.  Obviously, because of this shortfall, we could not use the pension funds to pay for the Christmas bonuses or any other improvements.

The second insurmountable obstacle to winning Christmas bonuses for retirees is the current retiree to active member ratio.  The current active UAW membership at GM, for example, is 48,000 members to 405,000 UAW GM retirees, making it nearly a 10-to-1 ratio of retirees to current working members. During these negotiations, the UAW also explored the idea of paying for retiree Christmas bonuses by having each active member contribute to a fund to pay these bonuses. With the almost 10-to-1 ratio of retired to active workers in GM and similar ratios at Chrysler and Ford, funding a $600 retiree bonus for GM retirees would require nearly $6,000 contribution from each active UAW GM member.  The problem is similar at Ford and Chrysler. At Ford, the retiree to active ratio is about 3.5 retirees to each active, and at Chrysler, there are almost four retirees to every active member. Obviously, it is not possible in these economic times with these ratios to fund retiree lump sums out of active members’ earnings.
Finally, we were able to negotiate and ratify a 10 percent contribution from active members’ profit sharing that will be diverted to the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA).  This diversion helps to make possible the modified dental and vision coverage that will be restored by the VEBA for our UAW Big Three retirees in January 2012.

Our hope is that all of the Big Three – with the continued dedication of our UAW members – will return to being a strong and viable company which will help the profitability and stock of these companies rebound, and that the economy and our pension funds will also rebound, making it possible to win yearly bonuses for our retirees in future negotiations.
 

UAW and General Motors agree to contract extension

09/15/11

DETROIT – Yesterday the UAW and General Motors agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement while we continue negotiating toward a tentative agreement.

The current contract was set to expire at midnight Sept. 14, 2011.

The UAW will not provide further comment regarding negotiations or speculate about timing or the potential outcome these negotiations at this time.
 

UAW and Chrysler agree to contract extension

09/15/11

DETROIT – Yesterday the UAW and Chrysler Group LLC agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement while we continue negotiating toward a tentative agreement.

The current contract was set to expire at midnight Sept. 14, 2011.

The UAW will not provide further comment regarding negotiations or speculate about timing or the potential outcome of these negotiations at this time.
 

Media Advisory: UAW and Chrysler Group LLC Kick Off 2011 Labor Talks

07/21/11

What:
Chrysler Group LLC executives Scott Garberding aoo AI Iacobelli will join UAW leaders Bob King and General Holiefield for the official handshake signifying the start of the 2011 labor negotiations.

Where:
Chrysler Group LLC Headquarters
1000 Chrysler Drive
Auburn Hills, Michigan 48326

When:
Monday, July 25, 2011 - 10 a.m.
Press Room opens at 9:15 a.m.

Who:

  •  Scott Garberding, Senior Vice President - Manufacturing/World Class Manufacturing, Chrysler Group LLC
  •  Al Iacobelli, Vice President - Employee Relations, Chrysler Group LLC
  •  Bob King, President, UAW
  •  General Holiefield, Vice President and Director, UAW Chrysler Department
  •  Negotiating teams from Chrysler Group and UAW


Details:
RSVP required by close of business Thursday, July 21 to ks855@chrysler.com.


Media parking is in the Tower visitors' lot. Enter through Tower lobby. Check in at the registration table in the lobby for pre-assigned badge.
For Satellite and Microwave truck parking, follow signs to Visitors' Parking entrance, but enter staging area through lower level gate.
A live satellite feed from the event will be available starting at 9:45 a.m. at the following coordinates:

amc 3 k16 slot A
DOWNLINK 12006.5 VERT
FEC 3/4
SYMBOL 6.1113

Additional information and news from Chrysler is available at
http://www.media.chrysler.com.

Update Wisconsin: Sweep!

07/15/11

Workers’ candidates in Wisconsin went six for six in primary elections July 12 against conservative opponents masquerading as Democrats. The Republican state party admitted to running fake Democrats in the primary to buy time for their candidates at a cost to Wisconsin taxpayers of more than $425,000.

Six Republican senators were targeted for recall by grassroots activists because of their support of Gov. Scott Walker’s radical agenda to dismantle the middle class and weaken GOP political opposition by destroying workers’ unions.

Tuesday’s victors (the real Democrats) will face off against the Republican state senators, who voted to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers, in general elections July 19, Aug. 9 and Aug. 16. Three Democratic senators targeted for recall by Republicans (for leaving the state to prevent a vote on the union-busting bill) also will need to be re-elected in the general elections.

Here’s a complete schedule of labor-endorsed candidates and election dates:

District

Location

Union-Endorsed
Candidate

Primary Election Date

General Election
Date

2

Green Bay area

Nancy Nusbaum

July 12

August 9

8

Milwaukee area

Sandra Pasch

July 12

August 9

10

Hudson/River Falls/Menomonie area

Shelly Moore

July 12

August 9

12

Rhinelander area

Jim Holperin

July 19

August 9

14

Ripon/Baraboo area

Fred Clark

July 12

August 16

18

Fond du Lac/Oshkosh area

Jessica King

July 12

August 9

22

Kenosha area

Bob Wirch

July 19

August 16

30

Green Bay area

Dave Hansen

None

July 19

32

La Crosse area

Jennifer Shilling

July 12

August 9

Democrats will need to pick up three seats to retake control of the Senate.

The Republican-forced primaries also gave GOP leaders time to quickly redraw the state’s districts to grab even more power and better their chances in future elections. According to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, the GOP’s new map places Bob Wirch, Nancy Nusbaum and Fred Clark outside of their own districts. It also eliminates heavily Democratic areas and adds heavily Republican areas to District 8, where Republican Sen. Alberta Darling faces a tough challenge from Democrat Sandra Pasch.

Republican leaders have scheduled an "extraordinary session," which has only been used 10 times since it was instituted in 1977, for July 19 to push through their redistricting plan before Democrats have a chance to retake the Senate. While the redistricting is not expected to affect the outcome of this summer’s recall elections, it will give state Republicans – as well as Sen. Paul Ryan and Rep. Sean Duffy – a formidable advantage in 2012.

Noted author and UAW member supports immigrant rights, social inclusion

07/12/11

Forty years after it was first published, the book Occupied America: The History of Chicanos has been banned, and its author, Rodolfo Acuña, a widely published professor and prominent immigrant-rights activist thinks he knows why.

To Acuña, a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, it boils down to two things: numbers and control. He says that banning his book and shutting down an ethnic studies program that has been widely successful in Arizona are part of an effort to undermine social inclusion and financial uplift for Chicanos, or people of Mexican descent. Not only has his work come under fire, but Acuña has received numerous death threats from unidentifiable individuals who are at odds with his commitment to improving the system of education and living conditions for Chicanos. 

This work is very much tied to the immigration issue, which Acuña, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrants, says, “puts panic in people [and makes them think] ‘We’re losing our country.’”

This might be why so many politicians have rallied against his groundbreaking work in Chicano Studies – an academic program he helped develop in the late 1960s at California State University, Northridge. While this initiative remains the longest running and largest such program, many others have since been established at universities across the country, and even some middle and high schools. 

Not everyone is so keen on seeing Chicano studies expand. Among the program’s most vocal critics is Arizona’s attorney general, Tom Horne, who has called it a sort of “ethnic chauvinism.” He has also claimed that the program is “an officially recognized, resentment-based program,” even though the National Education Association has shown that such curriculum instead increases interracial understanding and significantly enhances students’ interest in academic pursuits. 

These were the very reasons why Acuña first decided to promote Chicano studies. “To me, it’s a pedagogy: everyone has to feel proud of themselves.” And in a society where immigrants are so often made to feel inferior, teaching students their heritage means giving them access to a sense of personal pride and social worth.

Acuña has been called the “father of Chicano studies,” but he scoffs at such a title. “No one could control this movement,” he says of the continued push for educational institutions to teach about the influence of Mexico natives on the United States. Now that the program has been cut from the public education curriculum in Arizona, students are taking a stand to show how much their education means to them. Many of them have expressed their views on the legislation that banned ethnic studies through Tucson Students Rise Up, and some staged a demonstration at a Tucson Board of Education meeting in April at which they chained themselves to board members’ seats.

Acuña and those he has educated through his books and classes think that there is inherent importance in learning about the history and culture of Chicanos – not only for those who are Chicano themselves, but for all Americans. Latinos already make up the largest minority population in the United States, and their population figures are only expected to grow in the coming decades. 

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center Project, the Latino population will increase exponentially in the coming decades. They predict that Hispanics will make up 29% of the U.S. population by 2050, compared with only 14% in 2005. “A group that size deserves some attention,” says Acuña. 

He also sees a clear parallel between the immigrant rights movement, and the labor movement. Walter Reuther was instrumental in providing support to Chicano leader Cesar Chavez as he formed the United Farm Workers to demand fair wages and respect for agricultural workers who are often Mexico natives. 

Invited as a speaker at recent meeting of the National Writers Union (NWU) in Detroit, Mich., he had a simple message for his fellow UAW members: “Help us raise funds, help us get the word out, help us to tell other people what is happening.” 

Larry Goldbetter, the president of the NWU, hopes to see increased awareness among UAW members for this cause, and is happy to report that his local has already made a financial contribution to the campaign to save the ethnic studies program in Arizona. 

“Unions are about more than dollars and cents,” he says, “We’re about social justice and fighting racism and this anti-immigrant hysteria in Arizona. We need to mobilize the whole union around supporting the struggle in Tucson.”

To find out more about the campaign to save ethnic studies programs in Arizona, visit saveethnicstudies.org.

Wisconsin’s conservative high court green-lights anti-worker bill

06/20/11

Wisconsin workers opposed to Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators’ anti-union budget repair bill protested at the Capitol Tuesday, June 14, the same day the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that the bill’s passage violated the state’s constitution.

With lightening speed, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to let stand Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill that takes away public workers’ collective bargaining rights.

The June 14 ruling, issued the same day the case was considered by the justices, tracks the court’s 4-3 conservative majority and overturns a lower court decision that halted implementation of the anti-union, anti-middle class budget bill.

In May, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that in passing the governor’s budget bill – which includes a measure stripping teachers, nurses and all other public employees (except police and firefighters who supported Walker’s 2010 election) of their bargaining rights – the Republican-controlled legislature violated the state’s open meeting law, and issued a permanent injunction against the bill.

The majority justices found GOP legislators did not violate the constitutional provision that states “all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.”

In her dissenting opinion (pg.37), Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said the majority justices "make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891.”

Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites have been protesting at the state Capitol since the budget bill was first introduced in February, and opponents have vowed to fight on. To that end, on June 15 a broad coalition of Wisconsin unions filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The suit charges that the budget repair bill violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by stripping away basic rights from most Wisconsin public sector employees to bargain, organize and associate to engage in union and political activity.

UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInroy said the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision has more to do with partisan politics than upholding the law. “They are basically sending the message that Governor Walker and the Republicans in the Statehouse can do whatever they want because the rule of law doesn’t apply to them,” McInroy said.

“But the people of Wisconsin who work hard and play by the rules will not be silenced,” he said. “They will have the final say by voting against the Republicans facing recall elections because of their extreme anti-worker, pro-wealthy votes.” Recall elections for six Republican senators will take place July 12.
 

Ohio bikers ride to kill SB 5

06/03/11

Motorcycle riders from throughout Ohio will descend on the state Capitol June 11 to protest Senate Bill 5, legislation passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.

SB 5, which takes away collective bargaining rights for teachers, police, firefighters and other hardworking public-sector employees, is deeply unpopular with a majority of Ohioans and is
quickly heading toward a referendum vote this November.

The event, Ride to Kill the Bill: Thunder at the State House, is sponsored by the grassroots group
We Are Ohio. Bike enthusiasts will gather from noon-5 p.m. at the corner of Front and Rich streets in downtown Columbus to show their opposition to SB 5 and the harm it will cause to working families. An anti-SB5 ride around the Statehouse will take place from 1-2 p.m.

Food and drink will be available for purchase from
Proud Ohio Workers a group of small business owners who support Ohio’s public-sector workers.

Get the flyer.

Ohio Republicans attempt to restrict minimum wage
The Ohio State Senate slipped into the omnibus budget measure an amendment that would roll back minimum wage protections for an untold number of Ohio workers. The
amendment (pg.4) would alter the state constitution by exempting from the state minimum wage law workers who are not already protected by the federal minimum wage law (those who work at companies with an annual gross under $500,000).

If enacted, the Republican amendment would
upend 78 years of wage protection for Ohio working families. 

Republican ruse on right-to-work in Maine
GOP state lawmakers in Maine are trying to put one over on the voters. In an attempt to deceive their constituents, Republican senators circulated a release June 2 under the heading "Right to Work Dead This Session."

Thing is, it's not.

The release refers to LD 788, a union-busting bill targeting private sector workers that generated an angry backlash from the community and lacks support in the legislature. But LD 309, another right-to-work bill that would weaken public sector collective bargaining, is still very much alive.
LD 309 conveniently emerges at time when Gov. LePage and his
$295-an-hour lawyer, who helped draft the amendment, are in negotiations with Maine's largest state workers' union.
More than 1,000 protesters jammed the State House June 2 ahead of an 11th-hour public hearing on LD 309, which would allow state employees to receive all the benefits of union representation and union contracts without having to pay a "fair-share" fee (about $5 a week).
Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, which includes Maine, called LD 309 “an attack on all Maine workers.”
“Governor LePage and Republican legislators should be focusing on policies that create good jobs in Maine. Instead, they're ripping down labor murals, weakening child labor laws, cutting pensions for teachers and other state employees, and pushing so-called right-to-work laws that will drive down wages across the state,” Kushner said.
“It’s time these politicians stop their partisan gamesmanship and start working together to find fair and reasonable ways to build the state's economy."


Sunset in America

05/09/11

Our voting strength in 2012 will return us to new dawn

A demonstrator sums up her thoughts at a rally in Benton Harbor, Mich., on May 7.
Credit: Joe Vermillion/UAW Local 602

 

If you get by on a modest income, be forewarned: The life you’ve grown accustomed to is beginning to unravel.

The 2010 election that flipped 20 state legislatures, 10 governors’ seats and the U.S. House of Representatives to Republican control has brought with it an onslaught of anti-middle class, anti-worker legislation.

GOP members have wasted no time advancing their corporate donors’ agenda. From dismantling Medicare and Medicaid (they’ve got their sights set on Social Security, too) to gutting public education through deep budget cuts and sweeping voucher programs, to raising taxes on poor people and pensioners, all while lowering taxes for the very rich and corporations, Republican lawmakers are leaving no stone unturned in their search for more profits for their big business backers.

And you, your grandmother and your children are (or soon will be) paying the price.

If you live in Michigan, you’ll pay by way of a new tax on your pension, a loss of $300 for each of your children’s public education and higher tuition for their college. (These are just the highlights; Republican lawmakers also want to eliminate prevailing wage laws, institute right-to-work zones and repeal the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They’ve already passed an Emergency Financial Manger law that enables their appointed cronies to nullify local contracts and remove our elected city councils and school boards.)

If you live in Ohio, you might end up working for one of the governor’s  hand-picked contractors who won’t have to comply with workplace safety regulations or even pay a legal wage. And they don’t have to pay state taxes either.

For those of you in Maine and Missouri, Republicans want to exploit your children and drive down wages by rolling back child labor laws. These state Republicans also are seeking to enact right-to-work and other initiatives (paycheck deception, prevailing wage, etc.) that would undercut union members’ collective power in political races.

And thanks to the Republicans in Indiana, Hoosiers can look forward to their tax dollars funding unaccountable private, mostly religious, schools each year, despite Article 1 of the state’s constitution that states: “No money shall be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” The voucher program, the largest in the nation, is just one part of the governor’s

education reform agenda that also includes taking away teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

The list goes on.

Despite unprecedented grassroots uprisings in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio Wisconsin and elsewhere – and numerous polls showing their priorities are deeply unpopular with the vast majority of Americans – the GOP and their corporate bosses are making speedy progress toward returning the nation to the days of the robber barons, where workers (and children) toil for low wages in unsafe conditions, pay higher taxes and eek out impoverished retirements, and corporations and the very rich skirt their taxes and hoard their treasures.

Recall efforts, such as those under way in Wisconsin, and citizen vetoes, as in

Ohio, demonstrations and lobbying are all critical steps in making our voices heard in a democracy, but they haven’t yet proved powerful enough to prevent Republicans from passing legislation that is quickly advancing their corporate puppet masters’ goals: to disarm the middle-class and workers who support their democratic opponents.

In the end, it will be our voting strength in 2012 that returns us to a time of economic growth, shared prosperity and a new dawn for our children and our nation.

Deluge of anti-worker legislation rains down on Missouri’s middle-class

04/28/11

Violent storms aren’t the only threat to Missouri residents this spring. Workers there are facing the same politically-motivated attacks launched by Republicans in states from coast to coast. This week the Missouri House took another step closer to passing a “paycheck deception” bill, which requires unions to get annual written authorization for members’ voluntary contributions to political action funds. The bill, SB 202, was sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), who has sponsored other anti-worker bills including right-to-work and a measure that would gut Missouri’s minimum wage law. Republicans also want to abolish prevailing wage laws and overturn child labor laws.  

It’s ironic that Republicans are on a mission to silence the voices of the very people who are first responders to natural disasters like the tornadoes that ripped through the state last weekend and record floods that are now engulfing homes along the Black River.  

Missouri union members have been working around the clock to rebuild after the storms and to help those in need. Each day before and after work UAW Local 2250 member Mike Melson has been volunteering his time to cut fallen trees, haul away debris and distribute bottled water in Maryland Heights where a tornado struck last weekend.  

Along with members of the UAW and other unions, Melson’s also working to hold the line on SB 202. He says the bill is not about protecting union members but about eliminating the only remaining opposition to corporations’ political power. “I think it’s obvious what’s really going on. If they can break us down, there’s no one left to stand up to them,” said Melson. “It takes a lot of money to get people elected. Individuals can’t give what corporations can.”  

UAW members are also continuing to lobby lawmakers to oppose SB 1, right-to-work legislation that is temporarily halted in the Senate. Melson expects the bill to come back at any time. Proponents say eliminating workers’ right to collective bargaining is necessary to create jobs, but studies show states that have enacted right-to-work have lost jobs.  

Taking away workers’ rights has nothing to do with fixing the economy, but about lowering wages for corporations, says Melson. “I think it’s 100 percent political. It’s not about creating jobs. It’s about breaking us down.”