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Latest News - September 2011

September 27, 2011
UAW retirees threaten dues boycott
Source: Daily Tribune
By: Joseph Szczesny

Angry retirees are threatening to withhold voluntary dues payments after being shut out in the United Auto Workers tentative contract with General Motors.

For the first time in two generations, the tentative contract with GM includes no pension improvements. UAW President Bob King also said the retirees will not receive the $700 Christmas bonus, which retirees have interpreted as a pension cut. The elimination of the Christmas bonus was necessary to protect the financial integrity of the underfunded GM-UAW pension fund.

Last week, the union tried to soften the blow by announcing the voluntary employee benefit association, or VEBA, which is now responsible for providing health care for retirees, will add back dental and vision coverage that was eliminated during GM's financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Preliminary figures indicate the tentative agreement without pension improvements will be ratified by a relatively narrow margin. Final results are due Thursday or Friday.

Nevertheless, retirees have been adding comments on websites, Facebook and Twitter denouncing the tentative agreement.

“Retires need to stop their $2 dues and their $3 TAP contributions," noted one comment on a UAW website. "I hope the UAW/Ford retirees are looking on because you’re next up.”

"The union said that (there are) not enough employees to help the retirees. Bunk. We made concessions for our retirees. Have you all forgotten? The membership has to give like we did," noted a retiree named John Blackwell, in another post on the UAW website.

In a post on wall on UAW Local 651 in Flint's Facebook page, Karen Finley Martin said, "Just so you know, there are 100's of retirees getting ready to cancel their union dues! People are very angry about how the retired members got (treated.)”

Critics of the UAW executive board are also warning that more changes are pending under a letter that calls for further negotiations on pensions between the company and the union.

"GM doesn't want to fund the pension. It's a drain on liquidity. And they have a plan to plug the drain," said Greg Shotwell, a longtime critic of the UAW's leadership in a message Tuesday widely circulated on the Internet through his website, www.soldiersofsolidarity.org.

“In a letter buried in the pension supplement, which is not distributed to UAW members, the UAW agreed to meet with GM after ratification and amend the pension plan so as to help GM improve its equity and liquidity," Shotwell noted. "If UAW members ratify the 2011 UAW-GM contract, they grant the union and the company permission to amend the pension plan."

Just what that means is not clear because it is not spelled out. What is clear is that it is open ended and UAW members, if they ratify the contract, have agreed to go for the ride, said Shotwell.

The letter states: "… the parties agreed that the national parties may mutually agree during the term of this agreement to amend the plan to add retirement options for some or all existing retirees to help GM reduce the volatility and risk related to the plan and benefit existing retirees by providing an additional voluntary option," according to Shotwell's email.

GM has offered no comment on the pension plan, but it appears what the company is proposing is to offer retirees to take out a pro-rated lump sum from the fund, which they could re-invest on their own.

The company has advanced similar plans in the past, but the union has repeatedly shot them down over the past 15 years, insisting the union members are better off in the fund than trying to re-invest a relatively small lump sum.

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