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"The Language Isn't Strong Enough"
A Report on the 2007 UAW Bargaining Convention

THE 2007 UAW BARGAINING Convention format was sanitized, 
preshrunk, and bleached. The one-size-fits-all style was 
designed to control the rancor of the rank and file. But 
work to rule is a tool for all trades and a master of one: 
tipping the balance of power.

Mike Parker, a delegate from Local 1700, busted the seams 
of uniform decorum before Gettelfinger could pound the podium.

When the chair requested a motion to accept the Rules 
Committee Report at the start of the convention, Parker 
demanded a point of order and made a motion to amend the rules.

The proposed rules restricted delegates from making amendments 
to the resolutions; limited debate with tedious time consuming 
recitations rather than summaries; and relegated precious 
time that should have been allocated to debate to political 
dignitaries. Parker's amendment declared:

"The agenda for the Wednesday morning session will be Organizing 
to Fight Back. This session will cover how we can mobilize our 
members, build solidarity, resist company whipsawing and divisive 
strategies like two tier, and pitting older workers against 
younger workers. To make time for this session, short 
presentation summaries will be used instead of reading the 
complete resolution book, and guest speakers will be asked 
to keep their comments brief."

Voices from all over the convention floor yelled, "Support".

The Chair attempted to dispose of the point of order, but Parker 
stood his ground. Since a motion to accept the rules had not 
been approved, there were no rules governing the convention 
except Robert's Rules of Parliamentary Procedure. The amendment 
was in order, it had been seconded, and was now open for discussion. 
Parker proceeded:

"The key to these negotiations is not whether we have a nice wish 
list of bargaining demands but how we are going to fight the 
companies. The companies have made it clear they are not our 
partners and will take everything they can get.

    How do we take on their whipsawing?

    How do we take on the cancer of Two Tier, this pitting of 
    older workers against younger workers?

    I would point out that I find nothing in this resolution 
    against Two Tier and indeed some vague justifications for it. 
    We can not afford to be unclear on this question which 
    rots the foundation of unionism.

    Even before official bargaining starts the company is tearing 
    the union apart in the Big Three. The companies are forcing 
    concessionary contracts which undermine our pattern bargaining

    This union is in a crisis. The companies have launched an 
    ideological attack on unionism at work and in the media.

    Doubtless, as at the last convention, there will be delegates 
    who will get up and read the Administration Caucus cue cards 
    about and how these rules have always worked for us.

    Well, we had better start addressing the fact that we are in 
    crisis and we have to start by figuring out how to get the 
    membership in this union re involved and mobilized rather 
    than trying to have nicely scripted conventions. That means 
    starting with the delegates here.

    We are supposed to be the leaders of this union. I ask you 
    to start acting as leaders and let's get this convention 
    addressing the real problems."

The charade was over. The emperor was naked and everyone knew it.

The next delegate, Paul Baxter from Local 659, said, "I support 
the amendment to the rules. The strategy of cooperation with 
management is a failure. We cannot go on pretending that the 
companies are our partners. How can you ask us to be partners 
with liars, cheaters, and thieves?

This resolution book is nothing but a wish list. We need a 
more effective strategy to fight back."

A sister from Local 7 opposed the amendment. She denied 
knowledge of any "cue cards" but relied on the time worn 
cliché, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." She called 
for the question to end debate which is standard "cue card" 

Wendy Thompson, a delegate from Local 235, demanded a point 
of order. She said, "It is broken" and appealed to the 
delegates to continue discussion and not prohibit debate.

The chair ruled her out of order and cut her speech short.
The delegates turned the amendment down with a voice vote but 
Parker's challenge set the tone of the convention. Delegates 
unaccustomed to opposing the administration came forward to 
"oppose the resolution because the language isn't strong enough." 
The phrase became a common refrain.

Fine Print vs. Bold Print

In regard to contract workers several delegates complained 
about having to work side by side with non union workers. 
"Why are they in our plants?" asked Don Dekker from Local 371.

Jerry Urn, a delegate from Region 4, stated his wholehearted 
support for President Gettelfinger and the UAW but opposed 
the resolution and echoed the refrain, "because the language 
isn't strong enough." He reaffirmed his support of the UAW, 
but he repeated twice for clarity and emphasis, "My members 
hate two tier."

Page 19 of the official resolution book states: "We also 
recognize the need for supplemental labor agreements, at 
different wage and benefit rates, in specific business 
circumstances where competitive pressure requires an 
alternative approach to maintain employment opportunities 
for our members and potential members."

The words "two tier" are carefully evaded but the intent 
is clear. A trade off is in the cards: reduced wages and 
benefits in return for "employment opportunities."

Two tier is not a union agreement, it's a prepaid funeral 
arrangement. In 2003 the UAW pushed through a ratification 
of the national agreement and then later negotiated a two- 
tier supplemental agreement for Delphi that was never 
ratified by the members. The two tier supplement cut wages 
almost in half, reduced health care benefits, and eliminated 
the pension. It wasn't enough to satisfy the "liars, 
cheaters, and thieves."

Wendy Thompson rose in opposition to the weak language of 
the resolution. She said we must clearly state, "No Two Tier." 
The tone of her voice underlined each word. She further 
advocated that we organize a campaign to "take Chrysler 
off the market."

"Make noise," she said. "Mobilize the membership. What we 
are facing is new and more difficult than ever. The membership 
is demoralized. We should not go away from this convention 
without a discussion of how to mobilize the membership."

The Concession Caucus started a campaign in 2005 called 
Mobilizing@Delphi but it never materialized. Their idea 
of mobilization does not include the rank and file. They 
consolidate power in the front office and function more 
like a human resource management team than a union. The 
Concession Caucus prefers to negotiate in the backroom 
and the courtroom but the results have been dismal. The 
compromise and retreat strategy not only erodes our wages, 
benefits, and working conditions, it divides the union, 
degrades new members, and discourages organizing. Who 
needs a union to bargain for concessions?

No Concessions

Gary Walkowicz, a delegate from Local 600, stated his case 

"I speak in opposition to the resolution because it does 
not say what needs to be said; It does not say what our 
members want us to say ? "No More Concessions"

That is the message that the members in my plant sent me 
to bring to this Convention.

This letter to the delegates signed by over 1,000 members 
of the Dearborn Truck Plant This letter was also signed by 
more than another thousand members in some of your plants, 
signed by retirees from your locals.

No More concessions. That is the message that I know many 
of you are hearing from your own members. It's time to 
stop concessions.

What has concessions gotten us, except more concessions?

We give up wage increases and promises to retirees are 

And then the corporations come right back and threaten us, 
pitting plant against plant, whipsawing us into passing 
C.O.A.s, outsourcing our own jobs. I know the pressure that 
puts on the local leaderships.

And then the ink is not even dry on the C.O.A.s and the 
corporations are demanding more concessions in the national 

Giving up concessions has only made the corporations bolder 
and made them more greedy. Fellow delegates, I know there 
are those of you who see the same thing. I say that the 
business of this Convention should be to take a stand 
against concessions.

The business of this Convention should be to organize a 
fight against corporate greed, to defend the hard won 
gains of this union. I believe this is what our members 
want us to do."

Mark Payne, a delegate from Local 1250, also objected to 
COAs. He said the companies keep redefining what they 
term "core business". He insisted, "All our jobs are 
core business."

Mike Libber, a delegate from Region 3, complained that 
the companies use money saved from concessions to invest 
in non union plants.

Paul Baxter, a delegate from Local 659, said, "Without 
stronger language we will be invested into oblivion because 
every investment is contingent on a net loss of jobs."

"This is not a CAP Convention, it's a Bargaining Convention"

Justin "Double Barrel" West, a four time delegate from 
Local 2488, eliminated any doubt that this was a business 
as usual convention.

    "I rise in opposition regarding "income security issues." 
    TWO TIERS is KILLING this union. This resolution hardly 
    mentions tiered wage scales amongst other concessions.

    Delphi executives continue to extract bonuses as rewards 
    for their heinous attack on workers across the globe. 
    Ford rewards its' executives with bonuses for extracting 
    wage and benefit concessions from workers and retirees. 
    Now, Daimler-Chrysler, in the midst of their continued 
    profitable corporate record, seeks to cover it all up so 
    they too can join the concessions bandwagon.

    We, the membership, as elected reps from across the 
    nation and Canada and Puerto Rico--from varying industries 
    and job classifications, need to share with the leadership 
    of the International--and with each other--our ideas on how 
    to combat the corporate economic terrorism being foisted 
    upon all working people across the globe. How do we fight 
    back? When will it end?

    Let there be no doubt that the UAW is in a fight for survival: 
    the media calls it a "fight for relevance." Meanwhile, the 
    UAW International's approach has been to espouse "Good things 
    come from competitive corporations." Or that partnerships 
    fostering cooperation with the corps is the way to go. 
    Brother Gettelfinger gave a tremendous opening speech but 
    even within his oration, he stated that we should not 
    confuse cooperation with capitulation.

    Brother Gettelfinger--I am from Peoria, Illinois and I was 
    at the convention in 1998 when our late President Steve 
    Yokich called the concessionary filled settlement at 
    Caterpillar Tractor a "victory." Caterpillar is hiring--
    2nd tier wages, no benefits, no seniority, and full-time 
    temps! Concessions, be they at GM, Ford, Chrysler, American 
    Axle, Delphi, Visteon, Mitsubishi, NUMMI, and or elsewhere, 
    will not be a victory!

    Brother Gettelfinger: we gave Delphi the GM PLANTS; we gave 
    Delphi two-tier wages; we gave Delphi the GM workers' pensions! 
    These concessions have not sated that corporation's thirst 
    for more blood in this race to the bottom. Delphi has declared 
    a bankruptcy organized to destroy every last shred of dignity 
    and security that generations of union members fought and 
    sacrificed to achieve. My point is, Brother Gettelfinger, 
    concessions do NOT save jobs! To you, the International 
    leadership, I urge you not to confuse "victory" with 

    Brother Gettelfinger: you say much of these problems need 
    to be addressed through government legislation--but this 
    is not a CAP Convention, this is a BARGAINING Convention--
    what can WE as workers do, DIRECTLY, NOW, to help fight 
    this onslaught of corporate greed before the Big Three talks--
    on our jobs, at our Locals, amongst our brothers and sisters? 
    To this body, I urge you to vote this resolution down until 
    we address strategies to mobilize and fight back at the 
    grassroots level.

    Lastly, Thank you, Brother Gettelfinger, for mentioning the 
    struggle at Conn-Selmer, the Vincent Bach plant. Those locked-
    out members are on the front lines, suffering but hanging 
    in there to defend the American Dream."

The delegates burst into applause and Gettelfinger added another 
name to a list that was growing longer.

Vicky Varaclay, a delegate from an American Axle plant related 
how the lack of a pattern agreement was undermining collective 
bargaining. "We need stronger language on whipsawing."

Several delegates objected to takeaways from retirees who 
"can't afford copays" on a fixed income. "Retirees are worried 
sick" about medical expenses. "When you go in and change a plan 
[in the middle of a contract] you make people afraid," a retired 
delegate said.

The strategy of containing rebellion against the corporate 
agenda by channeling anger toward politics instead of employers 
is on its last legs. Too many delegates said, "The language 
isn't strong enough."

The Rank & File is the Backbone

The next morning at a Concession Caucus breakfast for delegates 
Gettelfinger ridiculed the small group of union members who 
carried picket signs in front of the convention center the day 
before. Their signs said things like: Equal Pay for Equal Work, 
No Two Tier, Equal Rights for New Hires, Protect Our Pensions, 
Hold GM Accountable for Delphi Pensions, Hands Off My Pension, 
Put the Backbone Back into the UAW, Stop Whipsawing.

What exactly did Gettelfinger disagree with? How do those ideas 
conflict with the UAW agenda for bargaining?

On the first day of the convention soldiers of solidarity 
distributed the No Concession leaflet to delegates. On the 
second morning they distributed the leaflet about Delphi 
pensions which reiterated my conversation with UAW-VP Dick 
Shoemaker at the Constitutional Convention. Shoemaker declined 
to speak publicly for the record but admitted privately that 
the issue was unresolved and still had to be negotiated. The 
flip side of that flier was titled "Put the Backbone Back in 
the UAW". Gettelfinger took one from a soldier and went into 
the hall.

One Question: The Delphi Pension

Before the convention started I saw Gettelfinger in the lobby 
glad handing delegates. I waited my turn, shook his hand, and 
asked, "What will happen to the Delphi pension when the 
Benefit Guarantee expires at the end of this contract?"

    "Gregg, we know you're not supposed to be here,"
Gettelfinger said. "We know you're not a delegate anymore." 
He looked at my Press Pass. "And we know you're not a reporter 
either.  But that's all right. We don't mind that you're here."

    I repeated the question. "What will happen to the Delphi 
    pension when the Benefit Guarantee expires at the end of 
    this contract?"

   "I saw what you wrote about Dick Shoemaker," Gettelfinger 
   said. "Gregg, you don't hurt us, and you don't help us, 
   either way."

    I hesitate to interpret the motivations of superior 
    beings but I think he wanted to make me feel insignificant. 
    It didn't seem important to me, so I repeated the question. 
    "What will happen to the Delphi pension when the Benefit 
    Guarantee expires at the end of this contract?"

    "You should ask the UAW-GM department," he said.

    "I have asked them several times but I can't get an answer. 
    It's important to UAW members from Delphi. I know people 
    who worked more than 30 years for GM and have a Delphi 
    pension today. They want an answer."

    "We know you're not supposed to be here, Gregg. But 
    that's all right with us. We don't mind that you're here. 
    See? I'm not such a bad guy."

I don't know what his guyness had to do with it, but to his 
credit about an hour later here comes Mike Grimes and David 
Shoemaker from the UAW-GM department to talk with me. My cohort, 
Bob Mabbit from the UnCommonSense started rolling the video 
camera but they refused to speak on record. We walked down 
a hall way and talked privately.

They explained that "Ron Gettelfinger told us to come out and 
talk with you and answer your questions."

    I repeated the one question.

    They assured me that Delphi was a top priority. "We have 
    told GM It is our position that the Benefit Guarantee will 
    be triggered before the Delphi situation is settled."

    I told them I was glad to hear that the UAW was committed 
    to holding GM accountable for our pensions, but the UAW 
    can't trigger the Benefit Guarantee. Events trigger the 
    Benefit Guarantee. If Delphi doesn't stop paying the 
    pension before the Benefit Guarantee expires, there is 
    no triggering event.

    "We can cause them financial distress," Shoemaker said.

    "Do you mean a strike?" I asked.

    "As far as we are concerned they are already in 
    financial distress," Grimes said.

In other words it still has to be negotiated and no one, 
neither GM, Delphi, nor the UAW has stated publicly for 
the record that GM is accountable for the Delphi pensions.

The Fight for Dignity

Back in the convention delegates were debating a resolution 
on Health and Safety. Vanessa Williams from Local 155 said, 
"IPS [Independent Parts Suppliers] feel lost and left out." 
She reported that workers "injured daily" in her plant were 
harassed by management and they had to call MIOSHA despite 
the fact they have union representation.

Mike Parker from Local 1700 said the resolution failed to 
address "the fundamental problem: the right to refuse an 
unsafe job." He explained that too often workers were forced 
to work in conditions they felt were unsafe while managers 
took their sweet time making up their minds. He called on 
delegates to "empower workers" with the right to refuse 
unsafe work.

Paul Baxter from Local 659 in Flint said, "Unionism is 
about the fight for dignity." He said that assembly work 
cycles were "so tight you can't get a drink or put a stick 
of gum in your mouth." He cited a passage from the Bible 
on the treatment of farm animals. "We should at least hold 
management to the same standard."

At the end of the convention Wendy Thompson talked about 
the massive rally organized against Delphi's threat to 
close one plant in Spain. She said, "We should organize 
a rally for the opening day of negotiations." The convention 
burst into applause.

Where Do We Go from Here?

On the first day of the convention Gettelfinger waved his 
fist in the air and threatened to strike Delphi if they 
voided the contract. It was a strange act considering 
how much ground he has surrendered. However, the message 
from the floor was consistent and clear, "The language 
isn't strong enough."

Workers don't want more concessions, cooperation with 
corporate restructuring, or competitive agreements. If we 
wait for the Concession Caucus to mobilize resistance, 
we'll all get Delphied.

Continue to collect signatures on the No Concession Petition; 
whether you collect one or one thousand signatures 
mail the copies to:

No Concessions Petition
P.O. Box 202
Montrose, MI 48457

A soldier of solidarity will see they are delivered to 
negotiators on or before the opening day of negotiations. 
We are the backbone of the UAW. Let's show them what we're 
made of.

SOS, Gregg Shotwell
UAW Local 1753

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