New details from FCA-UAW contract reveal plan to create casual labor workforce
By Eric London
19 October 2015
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Workers are growing increasingly suspicious of the many pitfalls and traps hidden in the second tentative agreement reached by Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union earlier this month. The UAW is trying to push through the sellout contract in ratification votes scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
As workers report their findings to the World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter, it is becoming increasingly clear the new agreement is aimed at eliminating higher paid workers and creating a permanently lower-paid work force with little or no rights.
Though the UAW has sought to keep the contents of the deal secret by dumping thousands of pages on its web site and giving workers little time to prepare for this week’s vote, workers are poring over the documents and discovering new drawbacks each day.
One Michigan worker with knowledge of the subject told the WSWS that the agreement allows the company to lay off senior workers, forcing them to take one of two miserable options. Either they accept a temporary position at a lower wage and reduced benefits, or they face unemployment. The catch is that workers who choose the second option will not receive unemployment benefits because many states prohibit workers from receiving unemployment benefits if they reject a job offer.
“It’s a ‘trick bag’ or better known as ‘Hobson’s Choice’ for the employee,” the worker told the WSWS.
According to Paragraphs E and F of page 2 of the Supplemental Agreements section of the contract, “At the time of a reduction in force, a seniority employee who is scheduled to be indefinitely laid off from the plant pursuant to such a reduction may request to displace a Temporary Employee.”
Moreover, “Such employee shall also be provided the level of life, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, and the HSM (Hospital-Surgical-Medical) coverage, but not Supplemental Employment Benefits (SUB).” (Emphasis added).
The Michigan worker says, “with this language FCA can move each and every seniority employee to temporary status AT WILL simply by laying them off, and it does NOT have to be in any sort of economic downturn. And with this language FCA can convert each and EVERY seniority employee to temporary status without SUB or Pension Benefits. If you thought Alternative Work Schedules were bad, wait till you get your head around THIS ONE!!!”
The new agreement also cuts funding for SUB benefits. Page 133 of the benefits portion of the contract notes that after the 2011 contract, “the parties agreed that the SUB Plan no longer needed to be funded by the Trust and that the Trust would be terminated.”
In other words, the UAW is colluding with management to exploit the economic distress of laid off workers and to force them into the status of temporary workers. Last week it was revealed that the contract would allow a doubling of the percentage of temps in the factories—from four percent to eight percent. It will also allow the company to use temps 365 days a year, instead of just on Fridays, Mondays, weekends and holidays.
In addition, a Ford worker contacted the WSWS to send a warning message to Chrysler workers regarding the profit sharing plan.
“To Chrysler workers: they’re dangling a carrot and it is a lie!”
The worker explained that “the FCA Highlights are touting the Profit Sharing Plan as ‘improved’ and ‘payout based on uncapped compensated hours’…What the IUAW (International UAW) is not telling the membership is that the FCA pay-in is capped. Therefore, the ‘pool’ amount being divided up by ‘uncapped compensated hours’ is not going up as the overtime hours are going up.”
It appears that the UAW is using a cheap accounting method to dupe workers out of profit sharing money while selling profit sharing as a “plus” in the highlights. The highlights say, “we will return to a method where the more hours you work, the bigger your share of the profit sharing pool will be.”
But, the Ford worker says, “this not only saves the company money, but it also sets up another point of division among the ranks,” adding later: “Sure, the high hour checks are bigger than those with low hours, but unless the formula gets changed, the more one member makes the less someone else makes.”
In other words, the UAW has expanded the multi-tier system to profit sharing!
The UAW rejected another autoworker’s appeal for further information about this issue. A letter from Al Wilson, a bureaucrat from Dennis Williams’ office, notes that the worker’s “appeal is respectfully denied…the matter is closed and there shall be no further appeal.”
This was not due to a misunderstanding. According to documents provided to the WSWS, one UAW bureaucrat wrote to the UAW-Ford National Programs Center that, “the question that [the autoworker] raises is a good one, and we spent a lot of time talking about this when we were working on the profit sharing section.”
Autoworkers may not have the resources to hire high-powered lawyers to read the contract for them, but in the days since the contract was released they have found plenty of bombshells like these.
What is emerging is that the new contract lays the framework for an unprecedented assault on workers’ wages and living standards. Senior workers may be forced to accept temporary work and SUB benefits may be slashed while workers are fleeced out of profit-sharing funds. On top of this, none of the demands of workers are met in this deal: the Alternative Work Schedule is maintained, overtime after eight hours is not restored, a multi-tiered system remains intact, there will be no cost-of-living-adjustment, and the door is wide open to a co-op type healthcare scam.
The WSWS Autoworker Newsletter calls on workers to treat this second deal as they did the first: with an overwhelming “no!” We urge workers to circulate our statement and build up opposition to reject the sellout.
In an effort to overcome the resistance demonstrated in the 2-to-1 rejection of the first deal, the UAW is forcing workers to vote in a 2-day span, to prevent the “no” vote from gaining momentum. It is also keeping a lid on how votes will be counted, although workers at Warren Truck in suburban Detroit have expressed widespread suspicions of vote-rigging. Farm equipment workers have also leveled such charges against the UAW in the recent John Deere vote.
In recent weeks the UAW has spun a web of lies with the help of the BerlinRosen public relations firm. Workers can expect the UAW to pull every trick to ensure the sellout contract is ratified, including intimidation, lies and job threats.
The powerful movement in the first ‘no’ vote should be taken to the next stage through the establishment of rank-and-file factory committees to monitor the votes and take the conduct of this struggle out of the hands of the UAW. FCA workers should reach out to all autoworkers—at GM, Ford, in the parts factories and transplants in the US, and among workers internationally—to begin a counter-offensive against the decades of union-backed concessions.
By Eric London
UAW caught covering up plan to double temporary workers in new Fiat Chrysler agreement
By Eric London
14 October 2015
With a week remaining before workers at Fiat Chrysler vote on a new contract, the UAW has been caught in a cover-up with the company to hide a bombshell buried deep in the agreement.
Bloomberg Business reported yesterday afternoon that “Fiat Chrysler can double its use of lower-paid temporary staffers under a new labor agreement being voted on by the UAW.”
The new agreement allows the company to use temporary workers for eight percent of work hours instead of the four percent figure listed in the first proposed agreement. Temp workers can now be used 365 days a year.
According to Bloomberg, “The new rules on temps weren’t in the highlights distributed to union members.” To put it another way, the UAW and FCA tried to sneak one past the autoworkers in order to ram through another sellout deal.
“I haven’t been this shocked in my life,” a Toledo Chrysler worker told the WSWS. “For the UAW to bend over and let FCA do this is wrong.”
The revelation undercuts all the lies being put forward by the UAW and its propaganda public relations firm BerlinRosen.
First, while the UAW claims that the deal creates “a clear path to traditional wages,” new temp hires will max out at just $18.41 at the end of the proposed four-year (48 month) contract (pp. 282-3 in the pdf file). Those temp workers hired before ratification will reach $21 at the time that the contract term expires.
Second, while the UAW says that this agreement is “huge progress toward eliminating the gap,” this deal will create a permanent low tier of new temporary workers.
Third, while the UAW claims that the contract “strengthens job security,” the doubling of temp positions will pave the way for a massive reduction in higher-paid, permanent positions. This also underscores the real character of the so-called “job growth” that the UAW and the company promise—the UAW is helping the company transform the auto industry so that low-wage, temporary work is the new standard.
One GM worker in Colorado said that this was part of the UAW’s plan to maintain a lower tier by bringing in “temps with lower wages and no benefits. For them it’s a new Burger King—‘have it your way.’ The union takes union dues from them and doesn’t represent them.”
A Mopar parts worker in Michigan said, “It’s a new tier 3, or whatever number tier it is now. Why would they ever hire a permanent worker again? Some of the temps took a massive pay cut during the bankruptcy. They were at $23 an hour and were told if they didn’t hire in at base tier-two rate as full time they would not be called into work ever again.”
According to Kristin Dziczek, director of the Center for Automotive Research, “This will cause some tension with the membership. Taking on more temps is part of the compromise to get the tentative agreement and they could agree to more for a new deal. FCA has a limit on what they will spend on labor.”
For that reason, workers want to know: What are the other secret giveaways in the contract that the UAW has kept from the workers? Why wasn’t this important piece of information in the highlights?
In its conspiracy with the company, the UAW’s aim is becoming all the more clear. It has sought to split tier-two workers and pit them against one another by giving more appealing, front-loaded raises to workers with 4-8 years experience and a $1,000 bribe to tier-one workers. All of this is aimed at passing a sellout deal that is effectively the same as the one that workers have already rejected.
The UAW is employing divide-and-conquer tactics not only within Chrysler; it is also seeking to prevent workers at Ford and GM from uniting with their allies at FCA.
In a letter sent Monday, UAW Vice President James Settles told workers at Ford to “allow [FCA workers] the time to discuss their agreement amongst themselves… I respectfully ask that you wait to pass judgment until we reach a tentative agreement at Ford.” He implored Ford workers to “fight together, not against each other.”
Workers at Warren Stamping in the Detroit suburbs are also reporting that the UAW is engaged in a fierce intimidation campaign against tier-two workers. One tier-two worker said that the UAW’s intimidation was “terrifying,” and that workers are being told if they don’t vote “yes” they will be fired.
This treatment shows what is really behind the UAW’s public relations campaign. The UAW is paying the New York/Washington DC firm BerlinRosen over $115,000 to create a handful of social media graphics spreading lies about the contract.
One Toledo Jeep worker told the WSWS, “If the UAW was for the workers and for the truth, why would they hire a PR firm to push this contract?”
As the details of the deal trickle through the UAW-FCA information blackout, workers are growing increasingly opposed to the proposed agreement.
“Sergio Marchionne said American workers had to give up their ‘culture of entitlement’ and accept a ‘culture of poverty,’” the Toledo Jeep worker said. “It’s my blood, sweat and tears that creates their wealth. You can’t sit on top of the pillar and push everyone else down. I make you rich and I have to worry about what my kids won’t get, what bills I can’t pay. It’s obscene.
“If we don’t fight now it’s going to affect our children’s children. For the last eight years, and now if this deal passes for a total of 12, this contract has been a movement for the rich. I don’t want to see people losing their homes and living in the gutters.
“If we don’t stand up then what we say about loving our children and doing anything for their future is meaningless. Instead, it’s going to be, ‘I love you son and daughter, get ready for enslavement and try these chains on for size.’”
By Eric London
UAW hires public relations firm to sell Fiat Chrysler deal
By Eric London
13 October 2015
The United Auto Workers has hired New York City-based public relations firm BerlinRosen Public Affairs to conduct a propaganda campaign aimed at securing the passage of its new contract proposal with Fiat Chrysler. The goal of the $115,000 campaign, complete with online graphics and Facebook postings, is to rebrand a product that has been exposed as dangerous to workers’ health.
The Detroit Free Press, a mouthpiece for the auto bosses and the UAW, praised the move, noting that “the UAW is devoting resources to providing more details and controlling the message this time—before someone else does.”
“Controlling the message” has nothing to do with telling the truth. On the contrary, it means attempting to reassert the monopoly over information by the UAW and the corporate-controlled media, which was broken when rank-and-file workers used Facebook, Twitter and other social media to exchange information from the World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter and other sources to defeat the first sellout by a two-to-one margin.
BerlinRosen is made up of several former Barack Obama campaigners and administration officials and has previously worked for a host of Democratic Party campaigns, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. In 2014, it helped the Ford Foundation push through a union-backed “Grand Bargain” during the Detroit bankruptcy, which slashed the pensions and health benefits of thousands of retirees.
According to federal labor records, the PR firm did $4 million in business with “labor clients,” such as the Service Employees International Union and the Communication Workers of America.
The company’s website boasts: “we are quick, discreet, and experienced, helping clients prepare ahead of time for potential crises, and, when that’s not an option, jumping on board in urgent situations to get the story under control with our disaster recovery specialists.”
In the eyes of the UAW and the auto bosses, the resounding defeat of the sellout contract was certainly a “disaster.” Now they are scrambling to provide a new spin on the deal because if workers knew the truth, they would reject this deal as they did the first. As one FCA worker at the Toledo, Ohio Jeep plant told the WSWS, “If the UAW were about protecting the workers and telling the truth, then why would they need to hire a PR firm?”
It is worth reviewing some of the lies contained in the UAW’s new Madison Avenue campaign.
UAW Lie #1: “A clear path to traditional wages”
Under the proposed deal, a second-tier worker would have to wait eight years before reaching $29 per hour, or roughly the same rate in nominal terms that a first-tier worker makes right now. By contrast, in 1970 it took a newly hired UAW worker 90 days to reach standard pay.
The aim of the company and the UAW is to set a new, permanently lower “traditional wage” after higher-paid older workers are driven out of the industry. Moreover, any promises of increases four years after the expiration of the contract are not worth the paper they are written on. This was shown by the worthless pledge by the UAW to restore caps on the percentage of second-tier workers in 2015, and countless other promises over the last four decades that were dropped due to “economic circumstances.”
UAW Lie #2: “Huge progress toward eliminating the gap”
The new deal actually creates many different tiers. New hires will be brought in at $17 per hour, reaching just $22.50 by the end of the contract. There will then be a different tier for each “years of service” bracket, with only those with over four years reaching the pay cap.
What’s more, according to pages 256 and 257, new Mopar hires will top out at only $21 at the end of the contract, with axle workers reaching only $19.86. Page 277 of the contract notes that temporary workers will max out at $21 and new temporary hires at $18.41 after four years.
UAW Lie #3: “Health Co-op eliminated in this tentative agreement”
The UAW took the health co-op out of the deal while promising the company it will help enforce a similar cost-cutting program after ratification. The UAW has agreed to help FCA “reduce costs” in line with the imposition of Obama’s Cadillac Tax on supposedly over-generous insurance plans.
This includes the introduction of first-ever deductibles of hundreds of dollars for workers who refuse to sign up for inferior health plans. Second-tier workers already pay high out-of-pocket costs. The deal also includes an agreement between the UAW and FCA to transfer the health care plan for workers from Blue Cross Blue Shield to some other provider, with the clear intention of reducing costs and coverage.
UAW Lie #4: “Job security is strengthened and job growth promised”
The contract explicitly sanctions the destruction of over 3,000 jobs at the Warren Truck factory in suburban Detroit and other plants. The UAW has made a big deal of FCA’s supposed agreement not to “close, nor partially or wholly sell, spin-off, split-off or consolidate or otherwise dispose in any form, any plant, asset or business unit of any time constituting a bargaining unit.”
In fact, a letter of agreement between UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell and FCA executive Glenn Shagena nullifies this, adding an escape clause (page 129) that says:
“It is understood that conditions may arise that are beyond the control of the company such as acts of God, catastrophic circumstances, market-related volume declines or significant economic decline concerning the subject. Should these conditions occur, the company will discuss conditions with the union.”
UAW Lie #5: “Moratorium on outsourcing”
On page 196, the contract gives the company the right to determine sourcing actions based on “cost, technology, timing, quality, statutory requirements, proprietary rights, overall financial stability of affected facilities…” It simply requires the company provide “written notice” to the UAW for such plans, which the UAW will keep “confidential,” i.e., secret from workers. (Page 204)
The UAW can then force workers to accept massive wage cuts to keep work at the plant. “The National Job Security, Operational Effectiveness and Sourcing Committee, comprised of Company and Union representatives will act on requests from Local Committees to waive, modify or change National Agreement provisions when such action would result in the preservations or increase of job opportunities.” (Page 197)
These passages prove that the UAW is involved in a conspiracy to lie to the workers on the company's behalf. Nothing the UAW says can be trusted, and the above list is far from exhaustive.
As one worker said on the UAW International Facebook page: "This agreement is the same as the first. People, you have been shown fancy numbers to make your mouth water. The UAW did listen to our complaints on the first tentative agreement. That's how they made the same agreement look a lot better and renamed it to the new agreement."