The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Ford double-crosses retirees

Apr 29, 2002

White-collar retirees of Ford Motor Company retired with a promise of full medical coverage. Ford has reneged. On June 1, 50,000 white-collar retirees must start paying anywhere from $20 to $75 a month for their health care. They will also have to pay from $7 to $15 per prescription.

Ford says they must do this because they are in bad financial shape. Ha! They are doing it because the courts have okayed it. GM reneged on their white-collar retirees in 1988, and Chrysler did in 1991. Retirees sued and won their case, but GM pushed it through the courts. And the Supreme Court recently ruled in the companies’ favor.

Ford isn’t hurting. They are just falling in line at the feeding trough.

And so are other companies. A consulting firm, Hewitt Associates, did a survey showing that most big employers intend to demand that their workers start paying up to 30% of their health care costs. That’s around $8.90 more per week, or $463 more a year.

We have seen these tactics all too often. A company claims it is doing bad. It claims it can’t compete with other companies because it doesn’t have a level playing field. It claims it will have to close down some operations, eliminating many jobs – unless the workers sacrifice.

But the companies don’t have only white-collar retirees in their sights. Nor only retirees! Going after a target that looks easier is just a way to get the wedge in against all the workers.

They may soon decide to attack the pension plans in union contracts. And when they decide, they have a convenient pretext: under the law, unions cannot legally bargain for retirees.

Workers did not gain pension plans, nor Social Security either, by getting laws passed. Millions of workers on strike were the power that won those rights. It’s the same power that can protect them.

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