May 3, 2004
The UAW has just announced a new deal that applies to all Delphi and Visteon workers hired from now until at least 2011. Delphi and Visteon used to be networks of GM and Ford parts plants before they were spun off into these imaginary "independent" companies. Supposedly, the companies agreed to maintain their wage and benefit levels comparable to what they had at GM and Ford.
The cuts just announced are staggering. Among the worst to be made public so far:
New hire hourly pay will now start at $14 instead of the current $22. And it will top out at only a little more than half what current classifications make. There are no raises, no COLA for 4 years, then a reduced COLA for 3 more years. New hires' medical coverage does not begin until workers pay up front each year the first $1000 (for an individual) or $2000 (for a family) of medical expenses. Drug co-pays are 50% higher. There is no traditional retirement plan. Workers will have a 401(k) plan in which they can save to pay their own pensions.
Future new hires will need a very powerful magnifying glass in order to see much difference between out-and-out non-union plants and these UAW-organized ones.
UAW leaders justify their great leap backward by saying they are saving jobs, and they point to the company's promise not to close any more plants until 2011 – unless the union agrees. This lie about sacrificing to save jobs is worn out. It's been told every time sacrifices were demanded of the workers – and every time there were fewer and fewer jobs with each passing year.
This deal is not about protecting jobs. It's about protecting profits. It's not even about turning an unprofitable company into a profitable one. Visteon and Delphi have always been profitable. It's just that the bosses prefer to be even more profitable – and they are being helped by the leaders of the workers' union to help them gain more profits.
Present-day workers know that this agreement creates a battering ram against their own future as well as that of new hires. Will the new hires feel solidarity, will they be ready to support the wages, medical care and pensions of the older group when the older group sacrificed them?
How long before all UAW workers in every factory are reduced to these new low conditions – in the name of "saving jobs?"
Perhaps the 55,000 Delphi and Visteon workers were once among the large group of workers who believed that their interests could be sustained by themselves, without actively fighting to help lift up others in the working class. The new UAW agreement – whose aim is to protect the bosses' interests at the expense of all the workers – symbolizes the futility of such hopes.
Workers once rose to the challenge and found the ways to organize. The working class will once again do what it has to do.