Constitutional Death of the UAW-- Part #6

 

William Hanline and Friends!

 

From the beginning, I have shared the authorship of all six "Constitutional Deaths of the UAW" with "Friends." Why, well Brothers and Sisters, I am nothing more than an assembly worker employed by Delphi Corporation in Athens, Alabama. Moreover, without hesitation I would be the first to admit that without the help and encouragement from several good friends, colleagues, and union brothers and sisters (some I consider my mentors), I probably would never have written these six articles. 

 

My friends and colleagues come from all walks of life and occupations and they help in many different ways. Some help with research, some with editing and others with distribution. Together their combined knowledge of UAW issues stretches across decades of experience as members of the Executive Board of the UAW International Union, former UAW International Representatives, and former presidents of local unions, a labor lawyer and a student of labor history. Even though, as diverse labor activists as we are, we have a couple of things in common, we are all UAW members and we all concur that the "Cooperation Partners," Gettelfinger and Shoemaker are leading the UAW down the road to moral, philosophical, and ethical bankruptcy, in spite of the fact they understand what the legal purpose of a union is and how a union is supposed to act. 

 

Therefore, during past conversations I requested that my colleagues write down their thoughts so I could share them with you instead of you reading what I have to say. I am pleased to introduce a piece written by Brother Thomas Adams from Buick City UAW Local 599 in Flint Michigan. Tom is the Labor Student and we have been sharing information for the past 5 years. I have a very deep regard for Brother Adams. In a personal e-mail to me, Tom wrote.

 

Intelligent Design? by Tom Adams

 

"Bill,

 

As we discussed on the phone earlier, the UAW-GM, "TEAM" is even cozier than we originally thought.

 

In the beginning (of the 1970s) there was great suffering on the shop floor.  Autoworkers were afflicted with the "blue-collar blues," a malady that was characterized by too much work, speed-ups and more money than time to spend it. So the TEAM created QWL.  QWL satisfied some, but calmed few of the most disgruntled membership, but little did it matter because GM still held 46% of the market share—and the TEAM saw that it was good.

 

"Joint Activities" was indeed a noble effort—but this was not enough. So the TEAM created "Quality Network," a project that promised a safer and more humane work environment through education and joint problem solving.  The Quality Network was a logical extension of joint activities.  Quality Network meant TEAM-work for everyone—a kind of return to Eden, a place where everyone loved one another and toiled together for the common good of creating products of superior quality and of course, satisfied customers.  

 

QN promised to reward UAW members with the keys to worker’s paradise.  A place where dignity, job security and quality products would coexist in complete harmony. And QN blossomed into a sprawling bureaucracy with a mysterious god-like organizational structure with bottomless financial resources—the amount of which could only be revealed to the TEAM.  Although GM’s product quality plummeted, vehicle recalls skyrocketed, market share by 2000 dropped below 29% and the UAW membership lost over half its membership, the TEAM built themselves a new $300 million temple on Walker St.  The TEAM called it the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources—and the TEAM saw that it was good.

 

At the turn of the twenty-first century health care was apparently GM’s biggest problem.  Forget about selling cars, satisfying customers and creating a real return for investors. Yet the universe was not complete, nor was the TEAM ready to rest.  So in 1999 UAW-GM decided to the same thing for health care benefits as had proven so effective in product quality and job security for the UAW membership.  The TEAM pulled health care into their fabulous temple 

on Walker St and created another bureaucratic tentacle with endless potential for expansion—and the TEAM saw that it was good.

 

And just like QN, The TEAM washed their hands of any accountability for this creation and blamed their sins on the rank and file, all the while punishing GM’s investors as well. You see, GM investors are management’s rank and file, and the TEAM clearly has as little respect for GM investors as they have for GM employees.  Today the loyal investors are left with stock that lost 50% of its value in 2005 (Delphi CEO Miller says Delphi stock is worth $0) and loyal employees are left with pink slips—while everyone is left wondering if and when GM will follow Delphi into bankruptcy court. 

 

Now here we are in 2006 with an additional 30,000 GM jobs on the chopping block, Delphi in bankruptcy demanding poverty wages and primitive working conditions for its workers.  The UAW has experienced an overall loss of nearly 2/3 of its membership since the TEAM supplanted interest-based collective bargaining with consensus-based "Quality Councils" throughout the auto sector. The full extent of concessions remains a mystery. 

 

Still, the membership cannot account for the joint-funds or the super-natural joint processes—for that is exclusively the holy province of the TEAM.  The UAW membership cannot formally grieve their losses any more than they can touch the face of God. Its like original sin, there is no forgiveness even though there was no direct participation in the sin itself! 

 

The TEAM is imposing health care concessions on retirees because they can—or at least they think they can.  Remember, this was indeed a mutually agreed upon joint process and apparently the TEAM saw that it was good—for the TEAM.

 

Maybe its time to give the TEAM a rest! Verily, Tom Adams"

 

Brother Adams’ thoughts grew from an ongoing telephone conversation and research project we have about joint funds programs. 

 

Do Joint funds programs pay off?

 

The membership’s heightened sense of interest surrounding healthcare and pension benefits motivated us to do a comprehensive review of past and present language of the GM/Delphi –UAW national "Supplements." Our research took us back to the 1984 GM-UAW concessionary agreement. Notwithstanding all the deletions, reductions and other changes in GM-UAW healthcare benefits from 1984, one element of the healthcare language remained virtually unchanged until 1999. That element is the Corporation-Union Committee on Health-Care Benefits (CUCHCB).

 

GM UAW National Agreement Language CUCHCB. 

 

1984 Corporation-Union Committee On Health Care Benefits, October 1, 1984 (White Book) 

 

"The Corporation-Union Committee On Health Care Benefits will engage in activities which have a high potential for cost savings while achieving the maximum level of health-care coverage and services for the money spent for such protection. The Corporation will make available funds up to $500,000 per year for the three years beginning October 1, 1984 to fund such mutually agreed upon activities as studies, pilot projects, and use of consultants." 

 

The CUCHCB is made up of six people, three members from the UAW and three members from GM. Since 1984 the six member committee had a total of $18.45 million made available by GM to jointly execute COST SAVINGS? The emphasis had to be placed on cost savings because they certainly did not protect the level of coverage for us members over the past two decades. 

 

Later the CUCHCB was integrated with the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources (CHR) because of the 1999 contract negotiations. The change allowed the CUCHCB to receive one-half of its annual million dollar expenses from the Joint Funds and the other one-half from GM Corporation. Now do not be fooled by this for it is nothing more than smoke and mirror accounting, for the money comes from only one entity, GENERAL MOTORS! 

To add insult to injury a Delphi equivalent of the CUCHCB was created in 1999 and in 2003 was renamed the Joint Committee on Health Benefits or the "JCHB’, and it also receives revenue of $1 million a year. Again, one-half of the money from the Joint Funds.

 

That’s right folks, the UAW GM Delphi joint funds! When the Delphi spin-off happened guess what did not happen? GM did not give Delphi workers their share of the accumulated joint funds. That would have required financial disclosure of the joint funds, and let heaven forbid that to happen! For over five years, a small but tenacious group of us has been trying to see the annual audits of all the Big Three joint funds. But, the Cooperation Partner have moved heaven and earth, even in the face of the U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and her Department of Employment Standard Administration ESA, to keep the joint funds audits a secret! Where was the Government? Why did they simply let GM place a Delphi management person on the National Joint Activities Committee rather than give the workers of Delphi their share of the joint funds accrued since 1985?

 

According to a GM report filed in the 2000 CHR publication "Millennium," GM spent over $3 Billion Dollars and if we add, what they have reported in the 990 tax forms of the CHR up to today, they have spent nearly 4.2 billion dollars earned generated and earned by people working on the shop floor.

 

What did your $4 billion plus get "you: as a UAW Member 

 

Nothing, but a Center for Human Resources, and to name a few others, Quality Network, speed up of work, relaxed safety rules, a compromised grievance procedure, fewer jobs in your plants and in the industry, more and more concessions and as of recently, a new form of concessions being forced upon GM UAW retirees! Wouldn’t it be interesting to have GM and Delphi post a company wide roster in alphabetical order, then start form the first person in the "A"s and go down the line asking each person the following questions. How much joint money has been spent on you from joint funds that you know of? What event or program directly improved your quality or work or working conditions that you know of? Be sure to exclude the Tuition Assistance Plan. TAP money comes from another fund and is recorded as a Fringe Benefit Plan Not a Welfare Benefits Plan and is not as Joint money with the Federal government, that’s why recipients of TAP have to pay taxes on the money! The number of people answering "NONE" to those two questions should out weigh the others by one hundred to one, maybe even greater.

 

I believe warning lights should be going off in your minds by now! For based on the information above some very important questions should be raised by GM/Delphi-UAW employees. Even GM and Delphi white-collar employees, auto industry analyst, reporters and stockholders should be scrambling to the next stockholders meeting demanding answers to the following questions from Rick Wagoner and Steve Miller. However, before anyone ask one question, they need to reiterate that from 1984 to now GM spent over $4 billion dollars in the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources for the purposes to improve product quality and help the corporation to COMPETE in the Global market place (Article II of the 1023 Forms, Article of Incorporation filed with the IRS). Here it is twenty years later and GM continues to lose market share every single year. What is more, is the number of recalls, (in 2004GM recalled 10.4 million vehicles, that was more than they made), high warranty cost (this is a corporate secret), and an average incentive in 2005 of over $3,500.00 per vehicle, while the Cooperation Partners say your health-care cost $1,500 a vehicle. (Do you know vehicles have healthcare?) On January 27, 2006, Rick Wagoner reported that GM lost $8.6 Billion in 2005, which translates into $15.13 a share, and that GM’s market share fell to its lowest level since 1925. One has to ask. 

 

Just what are the results of your contribution of over $4 billion dollars to make GM competitive? They, not YOU, they the UAW/GM "Cooperation Partners" managed to lose $8.6 billion in 2006, and still counting. Just for your interest and to refresh your memories, are the other charitable contributions You made to make GM Globally competitive, and to underwrite criminal mismanagement for the past two decades. They were nine paid personal holidays in 1985, COLA diversions every year since 1964 to offset YOUR BENEFITS COST and lump sum payments instead of annual improvement raises. Please keep in mind; this is money you are not getting. This is money, like the $1.00 and hour in wages and 17 cents in COLA diversions UAW Members just voted to give up, will be money you will never see for the rest of your lives! 

 

Then we need to ask, what exactly did the $4.2 billion dollar joint programs accomplish for GM/Delphi, even its stockholders? What was the rate of return on that money? Where did it go? BUT MOST importantly, why won’t GM/Delphi and the UAW disclose the annual audits that are mandated by federal law? Do they think they are above the law? The law states that the funds are to be audited once a year by outside accounts. Why have the joint programs and the UAW-GM CHR been such a dismal failure? Additionally, since it is such a failure, why then don’t the UAW and GM negotiate cuts in the cost of the joint programs, maybe even end them? 

 

Next, we need to look at the $20 million worth of GM funded activities of the Corporation-Union Committee on Health-Care Benefits and the Delphi Joint Committee on Health Benefits. What was the rate of return on that money? Where did it go? What was the money used for? Where are the annual audits of the CUCHCB fund, especially since it is part of a Welfare Benefits Fund? How exactly did the $18.45 million help maintain coverage while reducing cost for GM and Delphi? Could the only answer after spending more than twenty million dollars be "MORE CONCESSIONS?" Just think of the lobbying that amount of money could have bought for National Healthcare. 

 

Since the newly negotiated UAW-GM and Ford Direct Contribution-VEBAs for health-care will create another new source of income for the UAW International Union, an insider of the UAW might consider the creation of the new VEBAs a plus for the union. Especially if it would help to maintain the level of benefits UAW staff get before and during retirement. Yes, income for the union for the charge-backs that the union will eventually receive from the new VEBAs will help to replace the loss of income the UAW will lose from 60,000 plus dues paying members whose jobs they negotiated to cut over the next few years. Nevertheless, by the end of 2007 the "Cooperation Partners" might negotiate away another 50,000 dues paying members’ jobs. Where will the UAW International Union get the money to operate then? Will they hit the helpless retirees for more concessions?

 

NOW is the time for the UAW "Cooperation Partners" to get up off their complacent asses and put an end to the concession merry-go round they have their membership on. As I explained in Constitutional Death of the UAW Part 5, there is no need for the UAW to be negotiating health-care and pension benefits unless they plan to consent to more concessions. Delphi and GM negotiated the benefits guarantee language for former GM employees who were forced to work for Delphi back in 1999. The only people that should be negotiating how the companies are going to pay for the Benefit Guarantee should be Delphi and GM.

 

The GM Delphi spin-off was a corporate activity only. The UAW was not a legal party of interest in the spin-off. The UAW negotiations in 1999 with Delphi took place after the legal fact! The benefits guarantee for Delphi workers was part of the legal proceeding between GM and Delphi. Every worker and retiree should call Shoemaker and Gettelfinger’s offices at (313) 926-5311 and tell them to "Stop" meddling in GM and Delphi’s corporate decision making and leave our health-care and pension benefits alone. Moreover, remind them that the UAW lobbied and fought hard for the passage of ERISA in 1974. Then demand they "stop" helping GM circumvent and undermine the very law the UAW supported. The UAW Cooperation Partners should withdraw from the GM lawsuit against the retirees’ benefits today. Remember if the UAW was not a partner in the law suit, then GM would not have a legal leg to stand on to unilaterally change the benefits.

 

Last, but not least, every one of my colleagues and I have discussed the lack of interest the UAW retirees are exhibiting and their willingness to allow GM and the UAW to cut their pension and health-care benefits. Retirees, where is your outrage? Do you not understand what the new healthcare program could do to you financially because of the HOLD HARMLESS clause being left out? If you were to get very ill and go to the hospital, you could wind up owing tens of thousands of dollars, which might drive you and your family into bankruptcy. Please do not sit back and wait for someone else to protect you! The UAW International Union is trying desperately to protect its own financial interest, for they are not the least bit worried about yours! If you are a retiree sitting back waiting for someone else to do something, you are badly mistaken. The main question to all retirees should be: What are "you" going to do about it? 

 

Please get involved and call UAW Brother Leroy McKnight’s attorney, Mr. Mark Baumkel at (248) 642-0444 or 1(800) 288-9080 or you can e-mail him at baumkelm@aol.com. Ask him, how can you get involved and help protect my retirement benefits. 

 

"Attention Retirees and Activists Who Support Brother McKnight’s Lawsuit!"

 

The UAW will soon be mailing out Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) call letters to all Local Unions, if they have not already started. We need all activist and retirees to announce their candidacy for Delegate to the Con-Con immediately and for good reason! Do you know a candidate for delegate to the conventions has the legal right to have his/her local union forward for you mailings to everyone on the local union mailing list, including retirees? Be sure to find out before hand from your local financial secretary and/or president if they are going to charge you for such a mailing. They can charge a candidate for postage, the printing of the address labels, any other printing, and the number of hours worked by the local union financial secretary or others’ time used on the mailing. However, you can reduce cost by copying your own handbill or letters and you can stuff the envelopes to make sure your letters are mailed. Keep in mind; they cannot dictate what kind of literature you put into the envelopes! This would be a great opportunity to get in touch with every retiree and send him/her copies of the objection forms and declaration form to join Mr. McKnight in his lawsuit. All we need is one person at each local to do what I describe above to get the word out to every retiree. Remember, announce your candidacy in a handbill and make it very clear you are running for Delegate to the up coming UAW Con-Con. You do not have to wait until after the nominations are closed to request a mailing, you can do it shortly after you make the announcement of your candidacy.

 

Retirees and active members alike, get involved and help get the word out. It might cost you a couple hundred dollars now, however, would that not be better than tens of thousands of dollars later on.

 

So What Happened?

 

Finally, it should be said that this series of articles (The Constitutional Death of the UAW) is being written because the Preamble and various Articles of the UAW Constitution have inspired my colleagues and me to write these pieces. When an organization strays from its fundamental stated purpose, regardless of its rationalization for doing so, it creates a vacuum, and in the case of our great union, that void or vacuum has been taken over by the language of joint activities, joint funds and the administrative bureaucracy associated with it. Was this a purposeful strategy of the UAW leadership? Probably not, but it has happened! The jointness advocates of the Administrative Caucus of the International Union have arbitrarily revised the purpose of the UAW. For over 20 years, the actions of the International Union have resulted in furthering the interest of the corporations through negotiations, while at the same time enhancing and enriching the UAW-automakers’ joint activities centers.

 

Please, Work To Rule I. S. Bill Hanline skiphanline@aol.com  

 

"What good luck for rulers when the people do not think!"

 

Adolph Hitler

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