The Spark

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

Editorial:
No money for pensions?
Take it out of the bosses’ hide!

Nov 7, 2005

Workers with pensions are a dying breed – in more ways than one. And if the bosses have their way, there won’t be a single one of us left.

The attacks on pensions and retiree medical care now hitting at Delphi and GM show that no worker is guaranteed a life after work. Every boss believes they are within their rights to turn their back on promises made over the years – promises made over and over again.

At GM, the bosses actually have the nerve to complain that there are too few active workers to support all those retirees... and furthermore to complain that retirees are living longer these days.

What a filthy, disgusting lie! On average, blue collar production workers live 10 fewer years than white collar workers – and both live many, many fewer years than those in the upper classes, who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Anyone who works in a plant can tell you how many workers die soon after they retire, or else never make it. That is why the auto workers fought so hard for “30 and Out,” the right to retire on a full pension after 30 years of seniority no matter how young they are. Having to work up to the legal retirement age was little more than a death sentence, one that the auto companies are obviously trying to bring back.

But that’s not bad enough! Oh, no, the GM bosses, like many others, tell us there are too many retirees and not nearly enough active workers to support them.

There are so many lies in these assertions, it is hard to know where to begin. First of all, these are the same bosses who got rid of the active workers by spinning off companies, outsourcing, and increasing the intensity of work. Now these same slave drivers want to tell us there aren’t enough active workers. We know that – and we want more of them brought back into the workplaces.

But the lack of active workers doesn’t create problems for the pension funds. The money for retiree pensions wasn’t supposed to come from the wealth produced by today’s active workers. It was supposed to come week after week, year after year from some of the profit that today’s retired workers produced during all the years they were working.

The compact the companies made with the workers a long time ago was that if workers’ would accept lower wages, the companies would guarantee pensions for those workers when they retired. Pensions were simply deferred wages.

It’s obvious that workers are not paid high enough wages so they can save for their own retirement themselves, like millionaires do. The companies could have paid the workers more. Someone working for an auto company adds $240,000 of wealth to a company in one year’s time. That money could have gone to the workers. Instead, the companies pledged to put the money away year after year to pay out in pensions for those workers when they retired. They made a promise that all the money needed for each workers’ retirement would be put into a pension fund. That promise was enshrined in the contract, and it supposedly is backed up by federal law.

But guess what. The auto companies didn’t do it. Neither did other companies – despite all their promises. Their pension funds are now short by almost half a trillion dollars.

The companies did not put that pension money aside, despite their promises – they stole it. And the government stepped aside and let them do it. And one union after another turned a blind eye to what was going on. A number of unions even asked the government to change rules, allowing the companies to put still LESS into their pension funds!

So don’t tell us there’s no money today. Someone stole it – take it back out of their hides. Let the bosses who stole it over all these years cough it up. Let the billionaire stockholders, who raked in millions upon millions of dollars out of the workers’ labor, pay it back. Let the government tax all the banks, all the companies making a cent of profit, and use that to cover pensions owed to the workers.