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

2011 Auto Contracts—Filled with Concessions

Sep 19, 2011

Announcing they had a new contract at GM, which is supposed to set a pattern for Chrysler and Ford, UAW leaders immediately began to “leak” some selling points. Of course, they kept the concessions buried.

But even the “selling points” show that the 2011 contract is filled with concessions.

Everyone Up to Full Pay, Now!

The new GM contract supposedly raises the “second-tier” wage range from $14 to $16 an hour today up to $16 to $19—but only over four years time.

Even if two tier workers at GM and Chrysler got the whole $2 an hour the first year, that would not make up for the concessions stolen from them in the 2009 re-opener, which amounted to more than $4,000 a worker.

By the way, if Ford second-tier workers are making more than their counterparts at GM and Chrysler today, it’s because all Ford workers voted down the October 2009 concessions!!!

Two Tiers Destroy Solidarity!

Workers at the Labor Day march were asked about the contract. Many shared the view expressed by one Ford worker: “Even auto workers who don’t make the lower wage would like to see it brought up to full pay.”

Top national UAW leaders may not understand the need for solidarity, but workers do.

Everyone Loses Money with a Bonus

Trying to sell auto workers more of what they already hate, the pitchmen sugar-coat it with a signing bonus, apparently $5,000 at GM.

That is $13,000 LESS than what first-tier workers would get with a simple 3% raise every year.

And it’s $20,000 LESS than what second-tier workers would get if their wages were brought up to the current standard wage.

Profit-Sharing—or Three-Card Monte?

They admit they haven’t paid us our “share”—but under the new formula they won’t either. For years, they’ve put most of the profits made from the autos we produce into the accounts of their finance companies and the banks!

Nothing in the new deal stops them from shifting profits to finance.

Heck, Bob, We Do Want a Wage Increase!

Speaking to corporate bosses at the Detroit Economics Club just before Labor Day, UAW President Bob King said, “We are going to make sure the companies are competitive coming out of these agreements.... Heck, we all want a wage increase, but is that the best way?”

Apparently it was the best way for you Bob, and the rest of the top leadership of the UAW when you voted yourselves a salary increase at the last UAW convention. It sure was the best way for the top guys at all the companies, already making millions of dollars a year.

Hidden Concessions, Part 1: “Creative” Health Care Costs

When King and UAW Vice President Joe Ashton announced the contract, they said they had “protected” workers’ health care.

Yes, and we know exactly what they did. King already publicly admitted that he would help company negotiators find “creative ways” to cut health care costs—in other words, the kind workers can’t see when they look at the contract “highlights.”

What’s creative about putting more on us, Bob?

Hidden Concessions, Part 2

Nothing has changed in those other concessions lost in the last contracts:

BREAK TIME—ten minutes less a day kills you.

SKILLED TRADES COMBO—classifications merge with more work put on everyone.

HEALTH—we have hernias, repetitive motion injuries, torn rotator cuffs.

TIME WITH OUR FAMILIES AND SLEEP—these so-called Alternative Work Schedules destroy all that.

OUR HOMES—some of us have worked at as many as five different plants; some had to walk away from their homes; some were separated from their families or even lost their marriages.

This is all part of keeping the auto companies “competitive”—meaning more profit for them, a worse life for us.

Hidden Concessions, Part 3

King and Ashton also said they had “defended” retiree pensions and health care.

Sure—except they left retirees with the same low pensions they went out with 6, 7, 8 or 9, even 10 and 11 years ago—while inflation ate away their monthly check.

Avoid an Arbitrator?

UAW officials won’t be able to convince most auto workers that this is a decent contract.

So, at GM and Chrysler, they will try to scare workers into voting “yes” on it with threats—don’t let it go to the arbitrator. It would be worse, they say.

Maybe, maybe not. But why vote for something you know is awful? Why stab yourself in the back? It’s an open invitation to the companies to come back and ask for more concessions a year or two down the road, just like 2009.

Promises, Promises

Union leaders have also said this contract will keep certain plants open and outsourced work brought back “in-house.”

These are the same promises made for job security in the 2007 contract. And where did that get us? In 2007, GM had 86,000 hourly workers, Chrysler had 47,000, and Ford had 58,300, for a total of 191,300. Today, only four years later, there are only 112,000 workers at the three companies all together.

That’s what their job promises are worth: 79,300 jobs lost!

We Are Not a “Fixed Cost” Problem!

If the companies are worried about higher “fixed costs,” let them cut their executive and upper managements’ salaries, big, big bonuses and perks. Let them get rid of all the wasteful ways they manage white collar workers—engineers, pattern makers, designers, office workers—as well as the wasteful way they organize production on the factory floor. Above all, stop paying out profits to shareholders who do nothing but collect dividends every three months.

Let the benefit of the work go to those who do the work.