The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Workers Can Refuse to Give Up Any More Concessions!

Dec 12, 2005

On December 10, Ford and the UAW leadership announced a deal giving Ford health-care concessions similar to those at GM. The UAW’s Ford Council is to vote during the week of December 12. Ford said it wants Ford workers’ votes to be completed before January–that is, workers will be pushed to vote hurriedly, in the midst of their preparations for the holidays.

The following is from a SPARK newsletter given out at Ford’s Rouge Plant and Chrysler’s Warren Truck Assembly Plant shortly after the GM concessions were ratified.

Ford and Chrysler want cuts now

The new GM contract, with health-care cuts and wage give-aways, is on its way to Ford and Chrysler workers. Some UAW leaders will try to sell it, saying we need to follow the pattern. The only pattern worth following is one that protects us. Dump the GM pattern!

What active workers would give up

The GM deal takes away $1 an hour from raises that were promised for next year. And that affects everything else. When base wages don’t grow, future raises will be calculated on less pay, and raise after raise afterwards will shrink,percentage-wise, from what it should be.

Overtime premium will be less, SUB will be less, profit sharing less. Contributions to a range of benefits will be less.

From now on, workers will also give back two cents from COLA, every three months. Workers will fall still further behind inflation.

What the plan would cost retirees

The GM plan breaks years of promises by GM to fully cover retirees’ healthcare. Retirees will now have to pay:

" $21 a month insurance premium for family plan, or $10 a month single.

" The first $300 of "included" medical expenses in every calendar year, or $150 a year single.

" Either 10% or 30% of charges beyond the $300, depending on PPO coverage, until the retiree has paid either $500 or $1000 out of pocket in a calendar year, depending on PPO coverage.

Plus retirees must pay for all these extras, which are NOT "included":

" $50 emergency room visit if not admitted

" Office calls

" Mental health & substance abuse treatment

" Dental and vision co-pays

" Medical equipment

" Drug co-pays.

The biggest takeaway of ALL

Medical care for retirees will now be funded by a complicated plan that limits how much money GM will put into the plan. The result is that money to cover a major part of retiree medical benefits can run out–as it did at Detroit Diesel and at Caterpillar, where the UAW negotiated similar plans.

And there’s tons of small print

Active workers also have to start paying new drug co-pays, from $5 to $18, depending.

There are cutbacks in the GM plan that will hit active workers’ health care but they are not spelled out. PPO plans will be changed. Payments to doctors will be reduced. More workers’ claims will be denied. But the actual details are still held in secret.

All of these take-aways are included under something called "administrative" changes.

Remember the "administrative" changes in the 2003 contract

"Health care protected. No Cost-Shifting. No Benefit Take-aways." These lies appeared in the contract highlights put out to sell the 2003 contract.

Before the ink was dry, workers and retirees in traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans discovered they were no longer in that plan. They had been shipped into a new PPO.

The new plan eliminated more than a thousand doctors. Many workers and their families had to find new doctors.

"Administrative changes’ are used to hide the biggest take-aways.

LIES about how pensions are paid for

Ever since 1950, when pensions were brought in across the auto industry, workers’ hourly wages were kept lower. The deal was that the company would put the extra money into pension funds. They even called pensions "deferred wages." Retirees already paid for their pensions and medical care–long ago.

If that money isn’t in the funds now, it means the companies stole it. Time for them to pay up!

Lies about how broke the companies are

The companies claim they have no money for health care. Baloney.

By their own figures, GM sat on 53 billion dollars in cash and securities as of September 30, 2005. Ford on that date had almost 37 billion in cash and securities, five billion more than it had last December. Chrysler took six billion dollars cash into the merger with Mercedes. In the last 24 months DCX made more than six billion more in profits.

These companies had, and have, plenty of money to fund the promised health care for retirees and give active workers their promised raises.

Lies about foreign competition

The companies try hard to shift our attention. They complain that they can’t compete with other countries. Another hunk of baloney.

When Delphi filed bankruptcy, Delphi’s lawyers asked the bankruptcy court to give 21.5 million dollars to an "unspecified" number of Delphi executives for their first six months" pay. An analyst found that 21.5 million is more than was paid to Toyota’s top 33 executives, combined, in all of 2004!

Does that sound like a company with a problem with competition? Only to "compete" over who can rip off the most for themselves!

Lies about high wages

If the auto companies can’t compete as they say, it’s NOT because of workers’ wages. The U.S. auto worker still produces by far the most value per hour. The companies take more value from U.S. auto workers’ labor than in any other country. In this "competition" they are already in the lead!

Moreover, U.S. companies don’t pay the taxes that other industrialized countries charge to support national health care and social safety net systems.

Companies here get more breaks than in any other industrial country. Should we be sucked into their lies and let them have our retirements too?

Not allowed to vote?

Retirees, who suffer some of the biggest cuts, have no vote on this set of concessions. But there’s another way retirees can vote–with their feet protesting outside union headquarters, or marching into the convention, with their presence at any union meeting, with their anger at any local official who dares to push this contract. And against those scoundrels, they do have a vote!

Turn it around

Ford and Chrysler workers have a chance to stop this slide to the bottom. But just voting "No" won’t do it. In the first place, who usually counts the votes? The very people pushing this disgusting sell-out. Companies and union bureaucrats need to have their feet held to the fire. Both active and retired workers can do it.