The Spark

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

Laws are stacked against GM retirees

Mar 13, 2006

On Monday, March 6, GM retirees brought their case to U.S. District Court in Detroit, Michigan. The retirees are challenging the re-negotiated contract that forces them to pay monthly premiums for their health care, plus co-pays and higher deductibles. All retirees have for many years been guaranteed coverage with premiums fully paid by GM.

The court hearing lasted one day and it was clearly stacked against the retirees. High-priced lawyers for GM and the UAW simply read into the record the cases they had designed and prepared months ago. The lawyers took advantage of a long string of legal rulings and intricate procedures – and the fact that GM doesn’t answer to anyone.

The retired workers and their lawyers were then allowed to state their case. Their testimonies made it very clear that, as one retiree said, “This is shameful. Discriminatory. Illegal.”

The retirees’ attorney pointed out that GM’s case was based on the judge simply accepting whatever GM says, because the actuarial and financial tables they used to concoct their case were kept secret and “... cannot be cross-examined. This violates the normal codes of evidence that lesser mortals than GM are held to.”

The retirees brought documents, UAW statements, and GM statements to prove their retirements were based on a contract for lifetime health insurance “with no cost to you.” One witness had been a union benefits representative for 20 years. He had signed hundreds of retirement contracts together with GM’s representative. He showed his manuals: on retirement you will receive “the same healthcare as active workers at no cost to you for life.”

Retirees told the judge: “If I buy a GM car on a payment plan, and then I run into some financial problems, can I go to GM and make them give me a break?”

A retiree said he had witnessed other years when GM was in financial trouble and in the plant they put “a lock on the purse strings.” Nothing like that is going on in the plants today. “The only urgency is to take from us. The bear is eating the honey made by the worker bees and he won’t stop until it’s gone.”

Another retiree stated, “We sold our youth one hour at a time. Fire the executives who planned this.”

Retirees were not intimidated by the robed judge and the stylish lawyers. One pointed at the GM lawyers and said, “You Rhodes scholars, look at yourselves. Think of your own fathers and grandfathers.” Another said, “Greed is motivating this whole thing. It’s fraud. It’s breach of contract. You all should go hunting with Cheney and see how things turn out down in Texas.”

The last retiree witness told the judge, “If my contract isn’t any good then let me have my job back.”

The judge is to issue his ruling by the end of March. But the judge already told the press, two weeks before the hearing, that he didn’t see how anyone could object to such a “fair and reasonable” deal.

Fair and reasonable? The only fair and reasonable deal is to toss these two-faced double-dealers out on their rear ends.