Retired Auto Workers Have Their Say

A series of discussions with a group of retired autoworkers in Detroit

Washington, DC, June 24, 2009 --( Retired autoworkers in Detroit speak to TRNN Senior Editor Paul Jay in this series of videos about the automobile crisis. The retirees discuss the concessions made by the UAW that have deepened the economic crisis for the retired and active autoworker; the need and capability in Detroit to produce mass transportation and green energy from the old plants; and the negative image of the unionized autoworker in the media.

Bob McReavy emphasizes that he "can't fault the [UAW] union" for the benefits that he has received over his life. He does, however, agrees with many autoworkers at the Detroit rally that the image of the "greedy worker" with the high wages and generous benefits package has unfairly dominated the media. The union package for the autoworker has been cited as a reason for why the automobile industry has felt the impact of the economic crisis worse than other industries.

The autoworkers at the Detroit rally refuted this idea that their benefits caused a large part of the automobile crisis. "A lot of what we have fought for are now gone," Al Bencic says of the disappearing union benefits for new workers. "So what we've seen in the interim 39 years is yeah autoworkers have had decent contracts in the '80s, and then we started taking concessions to save jobs. We went from 440,000 active GM workers to today, we have about 69,000 - so obviously the concessions have not saved jobs. What we have seen is a greater and greater concentration of wealth at the top couple percent. It isn't that the wealth is gone - it's that the pie has been redistributed so that a small amount of people get a huge percent of the wealth."

In another video in the series, Greg Shatwell, a retired UAW-GM retiree, says that the concessions that the UAW made to save the automobile industry have done more harm to the new worker than anything. "The UAW has severed the solidarity between generations. By that, I mean the new hires coming in not only making half the wages," Shatwell says, "but they don't have any pension, or health care, in retirement." Shatwell says that when he came into the union, he and the other employees had a solid relationship with the retirees.

"That solidarity between that new worker and this retiree is effectively broken. And the UAW has negotiated a conflict of interest in collective bargaining, because now the health care for retirees is dependent on General Motors stock. This means that the interest of my health care is in conflict with the interest of the active worker," he says.

To view the complete series, please click go to the link below:

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