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Ken Lortz elected director of UAW Region 2B


Ken Lortz was elected by acclamation as director of UAW Region 2B by delegates to a special convention held April 30, 2009. Lortz had served as assistant director of the region, which covers the state of Ohio, since 2002 when he was appointed to the position by UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

“Ken brings a lot of experience to the position of director,” said Gettelfinger. “He easily relates to the problems that our membership incurs as well as the problems working people across America face. He’s a strong advocate for workers’ rights and civil rights.”

“I’ve known Ken for at least 20 years and watched him grow as a local union leader, International staff member and as our assistant director,” said outgoing Region 2B Director Lloyd Mahaffey who retired from the position April 30. “I can’t think of anyone better to replace me.”

Following a successful organizing drive at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo in 2000, Lortz was assigned as the lead negotiator for the three newly organized bargaining units in UAW Local 12 that include nurses, technical and service employees. He helped win significantly improved pension, wage and health benefits for nearly 2,800 new UAW members when they won their first contract.

Lortz carried out servicing responsibilities in northwest Ohio as a member of Region 2B staff from 1993 until 2002. His assignments included Independents, Parts and Suppliers; Technical, Office and Professional contracts, and national Chrysler facilities.

Lortz has been a UAW member since 1970 when he joined Local 336 at Atlas Crankshaft in Fostoria, Ohio. He served the members of Local 336 in a variety of positions from 1974 to 1993, including as president and chairman of the bargaining committee.

Active in his community, Lortz is a member of the board of directors for Wake Up Youth, an advocacy group for at-risk girls in Toledo. He is also sits on the board of directors for Camp Courageous, an organization that provides camping experiences and respite weekends for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Lortz was born Oct. 2, 1952 in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. He and his wife, Karen, were married in 1973 and have a son, two daughters, and two grandsons. They live in Carey, Ohio, and are members of Our Lady of Consolation Parish and Basilica.

UAW to present ratified agreements to Bankruptcy Court


DETROIT -- The UAW will join with the U.S. government, Chrysler and Fiat in urging the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to give immediate approval to labor agreements ratified by UAW members, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said today.

President Obama today announced continued government support for Chrysler as it continues its restructuring process.

“UAW Vice President General Holiefield and I spoke with President Obama this morning, and he asked us to let our active and retired members at Chrysler know how much he appreciates the substantial sacrifices they have made to help save this company,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “The president’s goal is clear: to assure the long term future of Chrysler.”

The next step in that process will be the filing of a petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

The first order of business in the bankruptcy proceedings will be to seek court approval of the agreements recently reached between the UAW, the U.S. Treasury, Chrysler and Fiat. Motions seeking that approval will be filed immediately.

“We will urge the court to act swiftly,” said Gettelfinger. The agreements incorporate the modifications to the UAW collective bargaining agreement and retiree health agreement that were ratified by the UAW’s membership in voting that concluded yesterday.

Chrysler, the U.S. Treasury Department and Fiat all remain in full support of these UAW agreements and will join in urging the Bankruptcy Court to give them immediate approval. At the same time, the parties will be urging the Bankruptcy Court to give immediate approval to the terms of the Chrysler/Fiat alliance.

Under the UAW agreements, the pension plan covering UAW-represented employees and retirees will continue in effect without change. The agreements also include the previously announced changes to the retiree medical program, including 55 percent ownership of the restructured company by the retiree benefits trust fund.

“The UAW agreements have been ratified by our membership and approved by the United States Treasury, Chrysler and Fiat,” said Gettelfinger. “We believe it is in the best interests of all concerned for the Bankruptcy Court to give those agreements swift and complete approval. We look forward to presenting those agreements to the court.”

“The UAW membership at Chrysler, both active and retired, has once again demonstrated its strength and steadfastness in the face of great uncertainty,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department. “While we work to complete the process of court approval, the steps taken today are important milestones in restoring a great American car company to financial health, keeping manufacturing jobs here in the United States, and preserving a secure retirement for tens of thousands of American workers.”



UAW members ratify Chrysler settlement agreement


DETROIT - UAW members at Chrysler have ratified a settlement agreement with Chrysler, Fiat and the U.S. Treasury.

Eighty-two percent of production workers and 80 percent of skilled-trades workers voted for the agreement in balloting that took place at UAW Chrysler locations throughout the United States. Ninety percent of office and clerical workers voted in favor of the agreement, and 94 percent of UAW-represented Chrysler engineering workers voted for approval.

“This has been a challenging time filled with anxiety and uncertainty for our membership,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “Our members have responded by accepting an agreement that is painful for our active and retired workers, but which helps preserve U.S. manufacturing jobs and gives Chrysler a chance to survive.”

UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department, said: “Once again, UAW members have stepped up to the plate and acted responsibly. If other stakeholders will join us in making difficult sacrifices, Chrysler will have a chance to rebuild and participate in the eventual recovery of the U.S. vehicle market.”

The concessionary settlement agreement, which will take effect on Monday, May 4, meets U.S. Treasury requirements for continued loans to Chrysler Corporation. It includes modifications to the union’s 2007 collective bargaining agreement with Chrysler and modifications to the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust.

The settlement agreement includes commitments from Fiat to manufacture a new small car in one of Chrysler’s U.S. facilities, and to share key technology with Chrysler.

UAW reaches settlement agreement with Chrysler, Fiat and U.S. Government


The UAW announced tonight that a settlement agreement has been reached with Chrysler, Fiat and the U.S. Treasury Department.

When Chrysler’s Feb. 17 viability plan was rejected, President Obama gave Chrysler workers and the company a second chance, union officials said. This concessionary agreement, while painful, takes advantage of this opportunity.

The settlement agreement, subject to ratification by UAW members at Chrysler, meets the requirements of U.S. Treasury Department loans to the company. It includes modifications to the union’s 2007 collective bargaining agreement and the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust.

“We recognize this has been a long ordeal for active and retired auto workers and a time of great uncertainty,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “The patience, resolve and determination of UAW members in these difficult times is extraordinary, and has made it possible for us to reach the agreement we will present to our membership.”

“In the face of incredibly trying circumstances,” Gettelfinger said, “UAW Chrysler members have risen to the occasion, day in and day out, building top quality vehicles in a productive manner.”

“We’ll present the details of this settlement agreement directly to our members,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who heads the union’s Chrysler Department. “Our ratification process must be completed on Wednesday, April 29.”

“Once again,” said Holiefield, “our active and retired members are being asked to make extraordinary sacrifices in order to help Chrysler return to viability. In order for the company to have a sustainable future, all stakeholders will have to show the same willingness to contribute to the common good that has been demonstrated repeatedly by our membership.”



UAW says talks with Chrysler and Fiat are ongoing


UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and UAW Vice President General Holiefield, director of the union's Chrysler Department, said today that talks with Chrysler and Fiat are ongoing.

Contrary to some media reports, the union officials said, no agreement has been finalized.

"We are continuing to work toward an agreement that will be in the best interests of Chrysler workers, retirees and the communities where the company does business," said Gettelfinger.

Casino dealers launch ad campaign in Atlantic City, tell consumers everybody loses when workers are treated unfairly


The UAW Atlantic City Dealers Union has launched a multimedia advertising campaign to inform gaming consumers about the ongoing labor dispute at Atlantic City casinos.

The ads are part of a multimillion dollar effort to inform the public that casino dealers have had their hours reduced, their retirement benefits cut and their seniority stripped away while casino management either stalls progress at the bargaining table or breaks the law by refusing to negotiate.

The first round of ads, which can be viewed and heard at, will run in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Press of Atlantic City and on New Jersey and Philadelphia radio stations.

While the casinos are implementing unilateral cuts to workers' hours and benefits, the radio and newspaper ads point out that executives like Gary Loveman, CEO of Harrah's, which owns Bally's and Caesars, are paying themselves millions in salary and bonuses. Loveman collected $39.6 million in total compensation in 2008.

"We think consumers have a right to know how the casinos in Atlantic City are treating their workers,"said Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey as well as parts of Pennsylvania and New York. "I've lived in this area all my life, and I've seen the gaming industry grow up and become an important part of our community.

"A lot of jobs have been created, and many of them are good union jobs with good contracts negotiated with management by casino workers. There's no reason that dealers and slot technicians should be left out.

"When workers vote to form a union, they have a right to a seat at the table," said Ashton. "It's time for management to stop stalling and start negotiating -- and we're committed to keeping the pressure on until they meet their obligation to bargain in good faith."

Full- and part-time dealers at Caesars, as well as keno and simulcast workers, voted 4-to-1 to form their own union and become part of the UAW more than two years ago. In the months following, casino dealers, slot technicians and other casino workers at Bally's, Trump Plaza and Tropicana also voted yes for UAW representation.

More than 8,000 gaming industry workers are members of the UAW in Atlantic City, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan and Rhode Island.


New Gaming Workers Council announces bargaining, organizing and communications agenda


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Casino workers from Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Detroit and Connecticut joined together today in a new Gaming Workers Council, with a broad organizing, bargaining and communications agenda.

"We're excited," said Sharon Masino, a casino dealer at Caesars in Atlantic City and a member of the UAW/AC Dealers Union. "With everybody joining together, we'll be stronger than ever. We're going to win good contracts in Atlantic City and move on to help casino workers all over the country."

The new Gaming Workers Council will bring together the UAW, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Gaming Division, SEIU and the AFL-CIO, and will reach out to other partners to support a common agenda on behalf of workers in the casino industry.

The council's first order of business will be support for ongoing contract campaigns for casino dealers in Atlantic City. The council will also assist bargaining efforts on behalf of casino workers in Las Vegas, Indiana, Connecticut and elsewhere who have voted to form their own unions and are fighting to win first contracts; reach out to hundreds of thousands of unorganized casino workers; and communicate information about working conditions in the gaming industry to union members, the public, elected officials, casino regulators and investors.

"Our unity and the actions we are launching today will add new power to gaming workers who are courageously pursuing their dreams," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "We will be stepping up our efforts to ensure that these gaming workers receive the contract they deserve -- and they shouldn't have to wait another day."

Two years ago, 80 percent of casino dealers at Caesars in Atlantic City voted in favor of UAW representation. Full- and part-time dealers and slot techs at Tropicana, Trump Plaza and Bally's have also voted to form their own unions, but casino operators have either refused to bargain or stalled the negotiating process.

"This is about workers," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn. "It's about workers who have had their hours reduced, who are paying more for health care, who have lost their seniority rights, and who have been shut out at the bargaining table by casino executives who make millions of dollars a year."

Within the last two years, casino dealers at Wynn and Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas have voted for TWU by an overwhelming margin after management tried to grab their tip money and cut their pensions and other benefits, but casino executives there have also failed to meet their responsibilities to bargain fairly with workers.

"The casinos we are dealing with were once Nevada-only businesses but today are national and multinational in their reach," said TWU Executive Vice President Harry Lombardo. "If we are to best represent workers in the gaming industry, unions need to take a national, and perhaps global, approach and that is exactly what we are doing today."

"I can tell you first-hand: A good contract for workers and a successful casino go hand in hand," said Tina Phillips, a back of the house banker at MGM Grand in Detroit and chair of the MGM Grand bargaining unit of UAW Local 7777. "We negotiated our first contract in 2000, and two more since then, with good pay, a grievance procedure, and secure benefits. Our casinos in Detroit have actually increased revenue this year. Having a union contract works for us -- and I'm sure it will work in Atlantic City and Las Vegas as well."

"When we organized, our employer said the same thing the casinos are saying in Atlantic City and Las Vegas -- you'll never get a contract," said John Delmonte, a member of UAW at Foxwoods and a dealer at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, the largest casino in the United States. "Our casino had a different twist. They're tribally owned and they said that U.S. labor law didn't apply to them.

"But our members stuck together, and we have reached an agreement that we believe will respect tribal sovereignty and also protect workers' rights. Our bargaining committee is meeting with casino management and making progress. If Foxwoods can come to the table, so can the casino operators in Atlantic City and Las Vegas."

"Let there be no misunderstanding. We stand side by side with the women and men who have formed their own unions to ensure the gaming industry hears their voices and does right by them," said SEIU President Andy Stern. "We hope the power of persuasion will bring the casinos to the bargaining table, but if it takes the persuasion of power to bring these workers justice, we will be by their side."



Blue Care Network of Michigan workers overwhelmingly ratify agreement


DETROIT -- UAW members at Blue Care Network of Michigan have voted 99 percent to 1 percent in favor of a new contract.

Voting in favor of the three-year agreement took place March 3-5. The contract, which covers 579 UAW-represented Blue Care workers, includes a $2,500 ratification bonus, a 3 percent automatic progression increase in each year for workers who are below their maximum pay grade, expanded tuition benefits and increases in retirement benefits. The contract also maintains current health care benefits for 2009 and guarantees no benefit premium for the life of the contract.

"The bargaining team was successful in protecting the excellent benefits of members and maintaining health insurance for current and future retirees," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

"The contract will give our members pay increases to help them in this time of rising prices and economic uncertainty," said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the Technical, Office and Professional Servicing Department. "It also recognizes the shared sacrifice of our members. They have agreed to allow salary ranges to be frozen for the life of the contract."

The contract covers Michigan members of UAW Locals 38 (Ann Arbor), 1488 (Lansing), 1781 (Southfield) and 2145 (Grand Rapids).

The new agreement expires Dec. 31, 2011.

Ford workers ratify contract modifications, changes to VEBA funding


DETROIT -- UAW members at Ford Motor Co. have ratified modifications to the UAW Ford 2007 labor agreement, as well funding changes to the independent Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust for retiree health care.

Fifty-nine percent of production workers and 58 percent of skilled-trades workers voted for the agreement in balloting that took place at UAW Ford locations throughout the United States.

"Once again UAW members have stepped up to make the difficult decisions necessary to deal with the reality of the current economy, the deteriorating auto industry as a whole and specifically the negative impact the economic climate is having on Ford Motor Co.," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

"We are focused on doing everything possible to rebuild a great industry and keep manufacturing jobs in the United States," Gettelfinger said. "As we have stated many times, in order to succeed, shared sacrifice will be required from all stakeholders, including executives, directors, shareholders, bondholders, dealers and suppliers."

"We are facing an unprecedented loss of sales and revenue at Ford," said UAW Vice President Bob King, who directs the union's Ford Department. "Our bargaining committee made an extraordinary effort to negotiate changes in a responsible way that will help Ford be competitive, while still protecting our active and retired members.

"The voting results show that our members are prepared to make painful sacrifices in order to be part of the solution to the problems facing Ford and the U.S. auto industry."



Tropicana dealers vote to authorize strike in Atlantic City


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- An overwhelming majority of casino dealers at Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, members of the UAW/AC Dealers union, have voted to go on strike if they are unable to reach a first contract agreement with their employer.

Ninety-seven percent of dealers voted in favor of strike authorization during balloting which took place Friday and Saturday at the UAW/AC Dealers union hall in Atlantic City.

"Today's vote means we're ready," said Ernestine Dawkins, a Tropicana dealer who is a member of the elected UAW/AC Dealers union bargaining committee at Tropicana. "We're ready to take action to win the contract we deserve."

"We know these are hard times for Tropicana and for all the casinos," said Dawkins. "We're not asking for the moon. We just want a fair agreement -- that's why we voted for our union in the first place."

Full- and part-time Tropicana dealers, as well as dual-rate employees, voted by a four-to-one margin to become part of the UAW/AC Dealers union in August 2007. There are currently more than 800 workers in the dealers bargaining unit at Tropicana.

"Waiting 18 months to get a contract, that's just unacceptable," said Al Welenc, a Tropicana dealer who is also an elected member of the union bargaining committee. "We certainly hope a strike isn't necessary, but our members sent a very clear message today: It's time for management to quit stalling and meet us halfway at the bargaining table."

The UAW/AC Dealers union has filed several unfair labor practice charges against the temporary management of Tropicana, stating that the casino has illegally disciplined casino employees, failed to bargain in good faith and illegally changed the terms of the employee health care plan without first bargaining with the union.

Increases in health insurance premiums, unilaterally determined by management, are scheduled to go into effect on March 15. A typical Tropicana casino dealer eligible for family coverage could pay as much as $1,300 per year in increased premiums.

Tropicana Resorts and Casino is currently operated under the supervision of former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein, who was appointed as conservator in December 2007, when the previous management lost its casino license. Judge Stein is compensated at the rate of $600 per hour for his services as conservator.

"It's outrageous that Judge Stein is collecting huge executive paychecks, but refusing to deal fairly with workers who are struggling to pay their bills," said Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey. "We've got good proposals on the table and we're ready to meet at any time. There's no reason whatsoever for any further delay."

The strike authorization vote passed by members of UAW/AC Dealers Tropicana, union officials said, does not include a specific deadline.

"The deadline is now. Right now," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union's Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Organizing Department. "Every day of delay in reaching a first contract is a day that workers at Tropicana are without the representation they voted for in 2007. That's wrong -- and our union is going to stand behind AC Dealers to make it right."

Tropicana dealers now stand united with the Tropicana Slot Technicians who voted by an overwhelming 91 percent for a strike authorization vote earlier this month.