UAW prepares to override skilled trades workers’ rejection of GM contract
By Joseph Kishore
The United Auto Workers is preparing to override the rejection by skilled trades workers of its agreement with General Motors, even as it moves rapidly to push through a similar deal at Ford.
9 November 2015
Though the UAW employed a mixture of lies, threats and economic pressure tactics to pass the deal at GM, thousands of skilled trades workers rejected the contract by a margin of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent. Overall, the UAW has claimed that the contract was supported by a narrow majority of 55 percent of all autoworkers.
According to the UAW’s own bylaws, for a contract to pass it must be supported by a majority of both production and skilled trades workers. In 2011, it overrode this requirement when it announced that a contract at Chrysler passed even though skilled trades voted it down. In a transparent attempt to justify this action, the UAW claimed that workers were motivated by issues that were not specific to the skilled trades portion of the contract.
The UAW has begun going through the motions of asking skilled trades workers why they rejected the deal, with local officials preparing reports to the UAW executives early this week. In the corporate media, the rejection by skilled trades workers is being presented as an unfortunate “quandary” for the UAW that requires it to “hold up” official ratification of the agreement pending a meeting by the UAW executive board.
Behind the scenes, GM is implementing a plan to slash the number of skilled trades workers by 15 percent over the next two years through consolidation of classifications and harassment of older, higher-paid workers. This is part of the company’s overall strategy, worked out in close collaboration with the UAW, to increase the percentage of tier-two and temporary workers by pushing out tier-one workers.
A skilled trades worker at GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in St. Louis, Missouri told the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter that he was concerned over the fact that the deal continues the process of consolidating skilled trades classifications. “They are looking at consolidating pipefitters, millwrights and tool fitters,” he said. “From a trade position, the lines of demarcation for your work is all that guarantees your job. They are going to combine those three trades into a general mechanical trade.”
At Fairfax, he said, the company has reassigned a group of production workers as a “tech team” doing a lot of the work that electricians would do. “They are making less for doing a lot of similar work,” he said. “I have nothing against the production workers, but we have been trying to stop this.
“They already got rid of carpenters and painters,” he added. “They are going to eliminate ‘red circle station engineers’ at our plant. They watch and maintain the boilers. That is going away too.”
While saying that he is “not anti-UAW,” the worker added, “I am not sure why we are not getting the representation that I think we deserve. They have stock in GM through the VEBA [retiree health care trust fund], and that is a conflict of interest. I have called the NLRB, but they don’t seem interested.
“We don’t vote for anyone in the UAW leadership,” he added. “I am pretty sure this week that the UAW International will override our vote. It is disturbing that the people we can’t vote for will override our vote.”
Many GM workers have taken to Facebook to denounce the GM deal and the plans to push it through. One skilled trades worker said, “The international can pay PR yes men, but they couldn’t do anything for us gray beards or retirees at GM.”
A production worker added, “Trades are our union and they shot it down! Get your ass back to the table and make it right! United we stand, divided we fall! I’m production, but our trades turned it down! As a production worker I have trades back 110%!”
Income inequality grows FOUR TIMES FASTER under Obama than Bush... Is that news to you???
Never have the rich increased their wealth so quickly as in America since the financial crash of 2008. But side by side with the amassing of previously unthinkable private fortunes, the infrastructure of America is crumbling, education, health care and other social services are starved of funding, and the living standards of the vast majority of the population, the working people who produce the wealth, are declining.
“All of Obama’s policies have been geared toward increasing social inequality. … The claim that the health care overhaul is an oasis of progress in this desert of social reaction is simply a lie”—
Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began November 1 for plans taking effect January 1. The coming year will be the third in which the ACA, signed into law by President Obama in March 2010, will be operational. The World Socialist Web Site’s assessment five years ago that the “reform” commonly known as Obamacare would usher in a frontal assault on the health care available to working people is being richly confirmed.
The ACA has nothing in common with universal health care. That was merely the slogan initially advanced to disguise a corporate-designed scheme to dramatically shift health care costs onto the working class.
The central component of the scheme, the “individual mandate,” requires that individuals and families without health insurance through their employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid obtain insurance or pay a tax penalty. Low-income people can qualify for modest tax subsidies to go toward premiums.
The uninsured are required to purchase coverage from private, for-profit insurance companies on the health care “exchanges” set up under the law. This vastly increases the market for private insurance firms without placing any real restraints on the prices they charge—a formula for windfall profits.
By the government’s own forecast, enrollees will face a 7.5 percent average premium rate increase in 2016. Other sources project rate hikes in excess of 20 percent. A recent study showed that many insurers are requesting double-digit rate increases next year and state insurance commissions are approving them.
A frenzy of mergers in the health care industry will fuel further premium increases. In the space of a few weeks in July, Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. merged in a $37 billion deal, and Anthem Inc. agreed to acquire Cigna Corp. for $54 billion. As a result, the five largest health insurers in the US were consolidated into three.
Drug makers Allergan and Pfizer are in the advanced stages of talks to merge and form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, valued at $330 billion. The price of top brand name prescription drugs are already surging, having increased by 12.9 percent in 2013, the last year for which data is available.
Last week the giant drug store chain Walgreens announced a deal to take over one of its main competitors, Rite Aid, creating a mega-chain to compete with CVS for total domination of the market.
Premiums and drug costs are only one aspect of the burden to be borne by those purchasing coverage under the ACA. The average deductible for the lowest tier “bronze” plans on the exchanges was $5,200 in 2015, and the prevalence of such “high-deductible” plans is sure to expand in 2016. This means that aside from mandated “essential services,” such as certain forms of wellness care and screenings, no medical care is covered until the entire deductible is paid out of pocket. Co-payments for doctor visits and other services are also required.
Research published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 135 health plans in 34 state marketplaces available during last year’s open enrollment period. The study found that as of April 2015, 18 plans in nine states lacked in-network specialists for at least one specialty. These included obstetricians/gynecologists, dermatologists, cardiologists, psychiatrists, oncologists, neurologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists and pulmonologists.
What all of this means is that a substantial portion of the 12 million people who have purchased coverage on the health care exchanges will be forced to self-ration medical care due to economic necessity. Workers and their children will forego doctor visits, prescriptions for life-saving medicines will go unfilled, needless suffering and deaths will occur.
This appalling state of affairs is not an unfortunate byproduct of the ACA. By design from its inception, the legislation has been crafted to cut costs for the government and corporations and boost the profits of the health insurers, pharmaceutical corporations and health care chains.
According to the big business parties and their corporate sponsors, Americans are living too long and health care costs are sucking up too much of the national wealth. There is a calculated drive to lower life expectancy for working people.
That is why the introduction of Obamacare has been accompanied by a concerted drive to restrict access to basic medical tests—that is, to ration health care for workers. In recent months, official bodies have called for reducing or delaying mammograms, pap smears, prostate tests and other standard screening procedures.
One indication of the catastrophic implications of the assault on health care is a recent study showing that since 1998, the death rate for middle-income white Americans age 45-54 has risen sharply, resulting in half a million deaths, comparable to the 650,000 Americans who have lost their lives from AIDS since 1981. Researchers point to suicides and substance abuse, driven by increasing financial stress, as the main contributing factors. The ACA will only increase the number of such tragedies.
The implications of Obamacare go far beyond those buying insurance on the ACA exchanges and extend to all segments of health care. The legislation is serving as a model for the assault on employer-sponsored health care coverage as well as the bedrock government-run programs Social Security and Medicare.
Today, approximately half of all Americans receive their health care coverage through their employers. Employer-paid health benefits was an important social gain wrested from the corporations by the struggles of workers in the aftermath of World War II and has been central in raising the living standards of working class families.
But the workings of Obamacare aim to destroy these gains. As Ezekiel Emanuel, a close ally of Obama and key architect of the ACA, predicted in 2009: “By 2025, few private-sector employers will still be providing health insurance.” These plans will give way to vouchers handed out to employees to purchase coverage on insurance exchanges, either those set up under the ACA or others.
In the current contract struggle of US autoworkers, the drive by the auto companies and their union partners to dismantle the “cradle-to-grave” medical coverage won by autoworkers and retirees is in line with the Obama administration’s policy of shifting health care costs to workers.
The recent budget deal between Obama and congressional Republicans rolls back a significant provision in the ACA, the requirement that businesses with more than 200 workers automatically enroll their employees for health insurance. And while employers are basically absolved of responsibility for providing insurance, fines for individuals for not obtaining insurance will rise substantially in 2016—to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is higher.
Paul Ryan, the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives, has advocated transforming Medicare into a voucher program and partially privatizing Social Security. That he is now presented as a “moderate” unifying force by the ruling elite and the media is an indication of how far to the right the political establishment in America has veered. The foundations are already being laid for the dismantling of Medicare and Social Security.
As the real content of Obamacare becomes clear to millions of workers and middle class people, who suddenly discover that they cannot get access to drugs or doctors and standard medical procedures are no longer covered by their insurance plans, there will be an explosive growth of social opposition.
The third year of the Affordable Care Act is the occasion to call the reactionary legislation by its rightful name: a health care counterrevolution. The only rational and progressive solution to the health care crisis in America is to replace the privately owned and controlled system with socialized medicine, in which the health care industry is nationalized, restructured, and placed under the democratic control of a workers government. This will make possible the provision of quality health care for all as a basic social right.
Wealth of America’s super-rich grows to $2.34 trillion
By Nick Barrickman
3 October 2015
Richest one percent
controls nearly half of global wealth
it’s been in the 33 years that Forbes has
racked American wealth.” Forbes makes note
that the wealth threshold was so high this year that 145 billionaires failed to make the list.
employees. Bezos joins several others in the top 15 notorious
for low-wage exploitation, including four heirs to the Wal-
Mart retail empire, James, Alice, Christy and Samuel Robson
Walton, and Phil Knight, chairman of Nike Inc., whose $24.4
billion fortune is extracted from his international network of
sports apparel-producing sweatshops.