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Retired Auto Workers Have Their Say

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

WASHINGTON - 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

To view the complete series, please click on the link below:


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