The Constitutional Death Of The UAW “Part Three” 

 

by William Hanline

 

Democracy

 

Sometimes I wonder how many people in our great country forget what it means to live in a democratic society. Below you will find the definitions of “democracy” and “democrat” as printed in the Merriam-Webster School Dictionary.

 

de-moc-ra-cy\ di-mak-re-se\n, 1a; government by the people; esp: rule of the majority b: government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through representation 2: a political unit that has a democratic government 3a: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges b: belief in or practice of social or economic equality for all people. dem-o-crat 1a: an adherent of democracy b: one who practices social equality

 

Since we do reside and live under a democratic republic we as Americans expect our government and all of our social organizations to operate and adhere to democratic principles. I for one agree! Since democratic principles are adherent in most of us, maybe we should take a quick look at how democracy is applied as the tool of governance in organized labor, especially our union the UAW. 

 

Most democracies first or foremost secure human rights. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men and women, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Within the orderly process of such government lies the hope of the worker in advancing society toward the ultimate goal of social and economic justice.

 

Whereby in the union: 

 

The precepts of democracy require that workers through their union participate meaningfully in making decisions affecting their welfare and that of the communities in which they live.

 

Henceforth since:

 

Managerial decisions have far-reaching impact upon the quality of life enjoyed by the workers, the family, the community. Management must recognize that it has basic responsibilities to advance the welfare of the workers and the whole society and not alone to the stockholders. It is essential, therefore, that the concerns of the workers and of society be taken into account when basic managerial decisions are made.

 

Therefore:

 

Essential to the UAW’s purpose is to afford the opportunity for workers to master their work environment; to achieve not only improvement in their economic status but, of equal importance, to gain from their labors a greater measure of dignity, of self-fulfillment and self-worth. 

 

In other words, The democratic principles which the UAW should always live by are as follows. 1) union members shall be entitled to a full share in Union self-government. 2) Each member shall have full freedom of speech. Furthermore, each member shall have the right to participate in the democratic decisions of the union. Each member shall have the right to run for office and participate in membership meetings in an atmosphere of fairness.

 

Additionally a union should: maintain adequate safeguards so that all of its operations shall be conducted in a democratic and fair manner. No corruption, discrimination or anti-democratic procedure shall ever be permitted under any circumstances.

 

Up to this point, do you agree? Have you learned anything? I hope so! For the words I used above came straight from the UAW Constitution. Yes, I was plagiarizing! I simply copied lines 13-16 on page 3, lines 1-7 on page 4, lines 16-21 on page 4 of the Preamble of the UAW Constitution and paragraph 4 on page 141 of Democratic Practices of the “UAW Ethical Practice Codes” of the June 2002 Constitution of the UAW. 

 

Did all the above surprise you? I would be surprised if it did not! For predicated on two decades of accumulated events of misuse of power and concerted efforts to deviate from the democratic tenants etched in the words of the preamble of the UAW Constitution. UAW members have become accustomed and resigned to the A.C.’s shenanigans. It would be difficult to find any shop floor UAW member who has not been indoctrinated into believing the A.C.’s actions has been or is democratic in nature. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. In other wards, if a person listens to the beeping of a car horn long enough that person will eventually become accustomed to the sound and shut it off mentally or stop hearing it. 

 

Gettelfinger and Shoemaker have repeatedly violated the very principles from which they get their powers as UAW officials. Their power comes from the consent of the governed, YOU! Furthermore, by continuing to do what they have done in the past they are openly and arrogantly violating and disrespecting the democratic rights of every dues paying and retired UAW member. Since 2003, they have negotiated a two-tier wage agreement without membership consent. They have reopened contract negotiations with FORD, GM, DaimlerChrysler and Visteon and have negotiated new concessionary benefits and retirement packages before the contract deadline came up in 2007. All of the latter was accomplished without your consent. By doing all the above they have removed the member (YOU) from expressing your opinions through the Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention system or resolution process. 

 

What did they Cooperation Partners accomplish? nothing more than negotiating concessions that benefit the private sector or stockholders instead of fighting for economic and social justice for their members and communities. By their actions, they removed the UAW member YOU and our retirees from full democratic participation in protecting your communities from the reign of economic terror Delphi and the automakers are waging. 

Conciliation, Imprudence or Shirk-ness 

 

What ever happened to the man who in 1998 during the Flint, Metal Fab strike said, “If there are things that GM doesn’t like, and they consider uncompetitive, we remind GM – you entered into that agreement.” We have the right to expect as do GM’s dealers, customers and people in the community, that when GM enters into an agreement they will abide by that agreement until its termination.” “We will be in National and Local negotiations a little more than a year from now, and as in the past, that’s the appropriate time for GM to seek the changes they say they need.” He continued, “The corporation has repeatedly reneged on its side of commitments made to the union - breaking and ignoring contracts is not good business, will never be good business and should not be condoned.” (Copied from Richard Shoemaker’s comments in the 06-10-99 “NEWSUAW” UAW Leaders Comment on Flint Metal Fab Strike)

 

Instead, all we hear is defeatism in Shoemakers words, and coward ness in his mannerisms. Words Brother Shotwell quoted in Live Bait and Ammo #59 Shoemaker said we must “try and save jobs,” “presumably with concessions,” Shotwell wrote. In addition, Shoemaker went on to say, “the best we will probably be able to do is buy time for retirement and save some plants.” Brother Shotwell wrote, “in other words Shoemaker is waving the white flag before the fight begins.” Where is the fight he exhibited during the FAB strike? What does Shoemaker have to loose? His term of office is up and he is going to retire in June of 2006. Why won’t he get off the corporate bandwagon and go after the economic terrorist before retirement? What ’s more, do it with both guns blazing. Why wait to pass the responsibility on to his replacement? Apparently, Mr. Shoemaker does not realize this is the opportune time to make history and he is passing that opportunity up, and for what reason. Why will he not tell the Cooperation Partners both in the A.C. and company to go to hell and just shut everything down, at least until he retires? Hell, why don’t he use the power he derives from consent of his members? He won’t miss a dime of his retirement so why not go out with a BANG! Shut down Delphi, then GM, let the dominos fall, and lie where they may. Is he afraid? On the other hand, could it be, he has been threatened with the loss of his accrued 80 to100 dollar per month, per years worth of service retirement as negotiated in the staff councils agreement? Do not forget, UAW Vice Presidents positions are filled by appointments they are not elected and he could be fired. Then again, maybe he is afraid of loosing the portion of his retirement that is Joint Funds Reimbursed. Who knows, for he is too cowardly to come before his members and give us a reason? UAW members need leadership, not cowards hiding behind the guarded gates of the CHR. We need leadership NOW! Apparently he does not understand that through God’s grace we will find leadership if we have to do it through organizations such as SOS.

 

UAW miss-leadership has repeatedly reminded members how important it is to Vote and be a Democrat. Maybe the following words will inspire Shoemaker to get off his complacent, cooperative and cowardice ass and do something for his UAW members before he leaves office next year. 

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he signed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) “NO business which depends for existence on paying less than livable wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. The aim of this whole effort is to restore our rich domestic market by raising its vast consuming capacity.” How do concessions accomplish what FDR said? The concession freight train as some members refer to them is contrary to democratic methods and beliefs.

 

Obscene?

 

“Obscene” is when the UAW joins hands with GMC Files suite against its own retired members to win concessions for the corporation. “Obscene” is the text of the recent letter from the UAW to its retirees about those concessions. Let us compare facts. In a December 14, 2005 “New York Post” article “General Misery” it was reported, “when asked about GM and rumors of an appending Chapter 11 filing last week, Wagoner said something to the effect that Bankruptcy wasn’t in the cards because he hadn’t been raised to run from a fight and he didn’t plan to do so now.” In another article by Dee-Ann Durbin, AP, written November 2, 2005 Wagoner was reported as saying in an e-mail to employees, the company has a turnaround strategy in place and has NO plans to file for bankruptcy.” The latter are just two of many examples where Wagoner publicly stated that GM does not intend to file bankruptcy. His conciliatory and reassuring remarks had a positive but short-term effect on GM stocks.

 

Then on December 20, 2005, the UAW sent a message to the union’s retirees attempted to mitigate the benefits concessions the Cooperation Partners signed. What was the reason? Here are a few of the phrases taken from the UAW letter, 

 

1) “in view of GM’s precarious financial situation-healthcare benefits would be endangered” 

 

2) GM’s financial difficulties have been widely reported, it went on to explain, healthcare benefits has grown from $38.4 billion in 1992 to $77 billion today. $61 billon of that liability is associated with union-represented benefits to which we believe you and your family are entitled.” (Boy what a guilt trip)

 

3) The letter went on to say that a team of specialist was hired by the UAW to review GM’s books and their conclusion was 

 

“That “GM’s financial condition was distressed to the point that its long term viability – and thus its ability to provide the health-care benefits promised to retirees – was questionable unless significant cost-savings measures were instituted.”

 

4) “While the settlement will modestly increase what you must pay for your health care, we believe that the alternative would be the very serious risk of BANKRUPTCY – or worse- that could mean far more drastic reductions in, or complete elimination of, GM’s retiree health care benefits.”

 

What in the world is going on here? Who is lying? Is GM, in financial trouble or not? Wouldn’t Rick Wagoner know if GM was in financial trouble? On the other hand, is this an indication the UAW knows more than Wagoner and he needs the UAW to inform him of the companies pending financial doom? Then again, remember what the union’s hired analyst pontificated in the retiree’s letter? Why, is the UAW simultaneously and seriously propagating bad news about GM’s financial future to their retirees when the CEO of GMC is trying to assure his stockholders that the company is in good financial shape? The letter read, 1)”The analysis made it clear that in order to provide UAW-represented GM retirees and surviving spouses the strongest possible long-term protection for their health-care benefits, action had to be taken sooner rather than later.” 2) “class counsel reached the conclusion that GM’s financial condition was distressed to the point that its long-term viability was questionable” LONG-TERM????? It makes a UAW member wonder why Shoemaker would say what he did during the 1999 FAB strike but now turns his back on his convictions. If the out look and forecast is “long term” why couldn’t GM wait till 2007? 

Was the UAW Duped?

 

In the December 12, 2005 edition of “Automotive News”, page 66 in an article by David Barkholtz titled “UAW struggle is just latest in rich history of dissent” former UAW President Doug Frazer and Barkholtz did their best to down play or make irrelevant Soldiers of Solidarity. The (SOS) movement that has sprouted from the ever increasing dissatisfaction and mistrust UAW members have in their leadership or Cooperation Partners is increasing faster that fat around my mid-section problem they are having is they cannot control it anymore from the bunkers of Solid-House or the CHR anymore. So they got a person who has not been inside the loop for twenty years to do their dirty work, Fraser?

 

Fraser tried to tie SOS and all those who have been attending Gregg Shotwell’s Rank & File meetings to the old New Directions Movement. He said, “In 1986, a movement known as NEW Directions grew out of the industrial restructuring of the early to mid - 1980s, Fraser says. The movement, symbolically headed by Victor Reuther said workers were being ill-served by too-cozy relationship between management and labor.”

 

“Frazer said the movement mistook pragmatism for conciliation. The union had to operate on the premise that the survival of the members depended on the survival of the companies employing them.

 

Now first of all I recent being called a dissenter, because the dictionaries definition of dissenter is One who doe not conform. Wouldn’t the Cooperation Partners and or A.C. be better described as dissents because of their anti-democratic, anti-constitution and anti-collective bargaining believes? Furthermore, wouldn’t their actions be more line of not conforming since those of us who have been attending S.O.S. meetings have been fighting to preserve our adherent democratic, constitutional and collective bargaining rights? 

 

I was there! I know what New Directions stood for because I was a NOC member during those years. Pragmatism for conciliation, hogwash, he must be suffering from dementia or something! Oh! Oh! I forgot! That is what he and others A.C. members said about Brother Victor Reuther in a letter titled “An Open Response to Victor Reuther.” Predicated on past events its apparent that the Cooperation Partners already graduated from pragmatism to conciliation a long time ago and now the describing words should be capitulation and collusion. Any intelligent person should conclude that after twenty years of trying mutual interest based bargaining - joint programs and QWL - four billion dollars of GM’s money disbursed into joint programs. Then add up a conservative 9 billion dollars generated for joint funds by all three automakers since 1984 and lets not forget the loss of over half of the UAW’s due paying membership and a 1.5 percent average loss of GM’s market share per year since 1986, along with the failure of the Saturn Project. How could Fraser not realize jointness has been a dismal failure and not just for the workers, but a failure for the union the companies and their stockholders and the nation as well! What will it take to prove to the clowns in the international union that jointness does not work and does NOT save jobs? Nothing, absolutely nothing! There is no sense in even trying, for the Cooperation Partners already understand the International Union cannot continue to exist without joint funds reimbursements that pay for their wages and life long retirement benefits and high style of living. Therefore, until the A.C. can be convinced that the Union can operate with out joint funds reimbursements they will continue to support their corporate Cooperation Partners. Secondly, you have to look at what Shoemaker controls financially as Vice President of the UAW and Director of the CHR. His budget for the year 2001 for the GM Department of the UAW International Union according to the annual audit or trustees report was just over 4.7 million dollars including salaries wages and employment taxes etc. However, that same year he managed over 179 million dollars in total expenditures and joint reservoir funds. Ask yourselves a question, if you were in his shoes, which organization would your priorities and commitment lie? 

 

Was the UAW duped? Absolutely NOT! However, because their wages are written on checks with the UAW logo on them I believe there are a handful of staff members who even today do not understand that the real source for their paychecks is GM, Ford Chrysler via the joint program centers. Just as democracy becomes adherent from generation to generation in our country, I believe cooperation and joint funding has become adherent in those in office in our Union. I refer to the latter as Institutional Corruption.

 

The onus cannot be placed on anyone individual for the situation at hand. The change in the A.C. has taken place slowly and has grown worse over time. Like a cancer, silently and growing slowly with very little notice of discomfort or pain the financial cancer of the International Executive Board took place over time. However, eventually the cancer does enough damage it becomes uncomfortable a diagnosis has to be made and an appropriate treatment implemented to save the patient.

 

Institutional corruption is a problem in organized labor, for example, the Teamsters Union and the corruption they experienced with their pension funds is a pristine example of institutional corruption. Members of congress understood how institutional corruption works and in1947 Section 302 of the Taft Hartley Act, better known as the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) was enacted. A statement made by Senator Ball best describes the purpose of that act. Members of congress have repeatedly used his statement since 1947. Senator Ball Stated, “Asserting that the purpose of Section 302 is to ensure integrity of Union welfare funds as trust funds for employees and ensure that payments by employers to union funds do not degenerate into bribes.” The underlined wording of Senator Ball’s statement does refer to institutional corruption as well as individual. Furthermore, Sections 302 has been written almost verbatim in the LMRDA the NLRA, ERISA and RICCO the section numbers are different but the language has primarily remained same. Degenerate would be and act or event deviating and changing for the worse from it initial purpose over a stretch of time.

 

In 1978, Congress enacted the Labor Management Cooperation Act of 1979. The law did not go into effect until late 1981, it is this statute Chief Finance Officer Thomas P. Hill of the UAW-GM “CHR” claims the organization is operating under. The LMCA created a loophole allowing unions to go into joint programs in accordance to seven conditions. It was this act that opened the legal doors for joint funds programs even though there were attempts made prior to 1982 to incorporate some form of joint program into UAW agreements.

 

Really, the automakers do transfer millions of dollars into the UAW International Union through the national joint programs centers and the money goes straight to the union’s operation fund through monthly charge backs. The UAW now collects a service charge on Joint Funds Reimbursements or (JFRs). Over the past two decades, JFRs grew as union membership diminished. Nobody knows when the union agreed to the JFRs. We do known, however, that in 1990 there were only 50 or so people whose full compensation was reimbursed who were assigned to the UAW-GM Human Resource Center. 

 

According to 1992 tax forms, the UAW International Union received in reimbursements 7.8 million dollars just from the UAW-GM HRC. However, we also know that at present date over 100 UAW member’s full time compensation now comes from the CHR alone. A conservative estimate for JFRs from the CHR is some where around 12 to 15 million dollars annually. When you combine the latter to the JFRs from Ford and DaimlerChrysler members can start to imagine how much money is coming from the Automakers to the UAW via the national training centers.

 

However, what is important was the slow unintentional growth of the IEB’s dependence on joint funds that has consumed them over the years. Though the funds from the employers did and do go to the operating funds of the UAW, those funds apparently degenerated into bribes because without the JFRs the UAW would implode financially because of the loss of dues from the attrition of UAW members. 

 

I believe there were those who colluded with the automakers in the writing of the script above. However, there are those who played an innocent or indirect part in what has and is happening to our International Union today. I believe there is no possible way anyone can truly say the UAW has been duped. Except, maybe the shop floor members because they had no understanding of how joint programs operated because, they were kept in the dark. They voted to except Jointness based on the lies of their leaders. So yes, the average worker in the auto companies were duped but not so much by management but by their own union officials 

 

Conclusion

 

I would be the first to say we cannot reform the UAW entirely. However, we can change one thing at a time. The first step we can take is demand the end of various corrupting influences such as Joint Funds Reimbursements or charge backs. That would restore our union from a capital driven corporation back to a membership driven UNION! 

 

To do that, UAW members such as you need to run for delegate and/or vote for delegates who will demand a change of leadership and work to eliminate joint reimbursements and programs all together. We need people in each region to run for regional directorships on a platform to end all JFRs. We need to talk to our delegates and demand from them a resolution written and collectively signed by them and all members of each local to stop all JFRs and keep them from ever happening again. 

 

Secondly, we must work to change the election process that will take place in Vegas in 2006 and see to it that every person who runs for IEB positions during the Constitutional Convention are challenged by true opposition candidates, which includes Gettelfinger, and I don’t mean corporate replace them with cooperation clones like Cal Rapson and Bob King!

 

Remember, there is nothing in our Constitution that covers joint programs and at this moment there is no oversight of those joint programs or their finances by either the NLRB or the DOL. NONE! I have repeatedly requested audits from Shoemaker and Gettelfinger and they remain steadfast in their refusal to provide me with the audits. WHY? What do they have to hide?

 

Consequently, I need your help! I need you to attend your next local union meeting and ask your local president to pass out copies of my Ethical Practice Codes request I made to Gettelfinger. I mailed copies of the request to almost ever GM and Delphi Local during the last quarter of 2005. If you need a copy, feel free to contact me I will send you one. Afterwards make a motion to support my E.P.C. request through membership action and send a copy to Gettelfinger. 

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