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THE AMERICAN WORKER

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NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE ...NOW!

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MIKE WESTFALL

 

 

 

 

By MiKE WESTFALL

2005

 

 

Key Words…national health insurance, corporate mismanagement, union leadership issues, Wall Street opportunists

 

Today’s domestic auto industry dilemma was all predicted 30 years ago. See… westfallmike.tripod.com

 

“Auto workers are greedy, self centered, over paid, under worked and we shouldn’t give a damn about them! They need to be brought down to their knees to a level equal to the domestic auto makers exploited foreign workers who have been paid starvation wages and treated like slaves”!

“Auto workers don’t deserve job security or secure pensions and they and their families have no right to expensive health care!” After workers have spent all of their lives in the factories and they retire they should have to spend all of their retirement years worrying that they will lose their pensions and the health care that they need so badly.

Autoworkers don't deserve a strong union but they do deserve being pitted one plant against another plant in a competitive effort to reduce all workers to the lowest common denominator.

That is what Wall Street is really saying and now GM and Ford credit is rated “junk”. Even billionaire Kirk Korkarian is buying large amounts of GM stock in an effort to garner a voice strong enough so that workers health care can be slashed and more jobs eliminated. Demonizing workers in the public eye is the grease they use to get what they want.

Where is the voice of the top leadership of the UAW? Autoworkers cannot afford their top union leadership to quietly hide in the corner with their tails tucked between their legs like whimpering cowards. This industry has lost hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs that have been allowed to “quietly” dwindle away over a time period of three decades. Why has there been no UAW leadership outcry until it got to this point? These are lost jobs that our children needed.

“It is time for UAW leaders to grow a stiffer back bone and come out swinging in defense of American workers. They must let the world know in no uncertain terms that if the corporations want cooperation on a comprehensive national health insurance program they will get it but on concessions for hard won "necessary benefits" if they want a fight then it will be a war! Workers and retirees are not stepping back 50 years.

Contrary to the Wall Street money folks, autoworkers have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of the products they produce and they have improved their efficiency. Autoworkers are a hard working, dedicated, highly skilled workforce and have been paid back with criticism, no appreciation, sliced jobs and now the companies are demanding the workers health benefits.

Autoworkers know what the difficulties of job loss are due to corporate mismanagement. No one knows better. They have seen their plants close and they and their families have been uprooted and moved around like checkers on a checkerboard. They have seen and experienced the continual worry on their family’s faces.

For too many autoworkers their employment situation has gone to ruin and their world has gone to ruin and for those that follow it isn’t getting better it is getting worse.

Working Cheaper has never created one jo it has only shifted jobs.

If autoworkers gave back every benefit that was ever negotiated and up to 75 percent of their wages they may starve in Flint and they may starve in Detroit but they would still not be competitive in the eyes of the companies and Wall Street.

The problems that the auto industry is experiencing are not limited to auto and the ultimate cure will impact all workers and all segments of America.

GM's active and retired salaried employees have seen their benefit packages hammered for several years by GM.

GM has cut their benefits so as to use them as comparative examples to the UAW leadership in an attempt to get equal cuts from the bigger plum, which is the blue-collar workers/retirees benefits. GM has betrayed their white-collar employees.

The health care problem in our country has gotten beyond the point of pain for all Americans in all occupations and in all walks of life. This is a national tragedy and a dilemma that has to be fixed for the good of our society. There are no alternatives.

Why is that so difficult to understand?

In America the auto industry has not been just any industry. It has been our premier industry.

What has happened? Why wasn’t it protected?

It is clear that corporate leaders have been allowed to reduce our domestic auto industry to its present state through a combination of deliberate corporate restructuring techniques including global sourcing and incredible mismanagement and do it without government or union leaders stepping in and sounding an alarm until now.

The U.A.W. has always been and remains the greatest force for representation that blue-collar autoworkers have.

Where is the UAW leadership now? Are they caught in the headlights like a herd of defenseless deer? Shouldn’t they have better used their power and influence to protect the jobs of the people they were elected to represent?

Many Americans dislike autoworkers because they have good wages and excellent benefits. This is misguided. The wages and benefits have provided a decent standard of living for workers and retirees, as they should have. That is nothing to be ashamed of.

Autoworkers wages and benefits were always the standard that other workers across our nation used to upgrade their contracts. This brought up the standard of living of the entire country and benefited our nation immensely.

When Walter Reuther died his vision died with him beginning with Doug Frasier’s Chrysler concessions that were never won back to today’s company union. It has been a spiral downwards ever since the Reuther days. The Reuther vision has evaporated at Solidarity House.

In the last 30 years auto jobs have been decimated because of corporate mismanagement.

I remember bringing Victor Reuther, one of the founders of the UAW, back to Flint in 1987 to be keynote speaker at our huge combination 50th anniversary of the UAW/ anti concession Rally.

My Westfall Committee sponsored this very important and historic event. People were bused in from all over the country.

See… 1987 UAW 50TH ANNIVERSARY RALLY PART “B” WITH VICTOR REUTHER AT… westfallmike.tripod.com

At this rally we discussed what was happening in auto and in other industries. Profound changes had already begun back then.

Solidarity House was angry with Reuther at the time and wouldn’t recognize him or his ideas because of his criticism of top UAW leadership. Solidarity House was very wrong.

Even though they set me up offsite to develop benefit programs…See… 1990-retirement proposal at… westfallmike.tripod.com they still considered me a militant rebel. They were very right.

The UAW leadership stifles dissent and criticism as if they are above it. They are not above it. Victor Reuther had no problem "loudly criticizing" the UAW leadership when they were wrong and neither should the workers.

Today the door to “major concessions” for autoworkers in the 2007 auto agreement has been opened.

Some weak UAW local leaders are already declaring that retiree’s drug costs are too expensive and must be cut. This is not showing solidarity when Local union leaders target their own workers or needy retirees who have already tightened their belts to the point of pain and can’t protect themselves.

Some are saying that in the 2007 contract workers and retirees will have to concession away $1000-$1500 per year. The existing retirees who were unfairly targeted in the last 2003 auto contract and received “no increases to keep up with rising prices” cannot afford it.

When “GM leaders” talk of cuts they aren’t talking cuts to the highly paid top corporate executives health care or the health insurance of the “high paid” top union officials. They are talking health insurance cuts to the "workers and retirees, who built the industry, and cuts to their families.

To suggest that slicing the health care of America’s workers, retirees and their families will fix the problem in any way is insanity and it is a “lie”. It is not the answer and it won’t work.

See… 1990…LABOR BUSINESS HEALTH CARE COALITION PILOT PROPOSAL …at westfallmike.tripod.com

 

Union and corporate leaders must stop giving lip service and come together with our government to develop a sensible comprehensive national health insurance program for all Americans. There are no alternatives and it has to be done for the good of our nation. These “so called leaders” must be forced to collectively work together for once to protect America’s people, workers and standard of living from further decline before we do get past the point of no return. They didn’t listen in 1990 so they better listen up now.

Non-union American workers have been suffering with terrible health care costs for years and all Americans deserve protection.

“Concessions" are the wrong path to take and would only temporarily hide the problem and then the companies would be back for more. Hard won benefits given back would be just a down payment on future concessions that would be permanent.

The insulated and pampered group of political people autoworkers call their top union leadership has gifted themselves with vastly superior benefits, salaries and pensions then the workers they are elected to represent. This is wrong and should have never been allowed to happen and “it should be reversed”!

The “real” UAW is not made up of the folks at Solidarity house in their little “fiefdom” but rather the folks that toil hard in the factories of America and the older retirees that created and nurtured the UAW in the first place.

Walter Reuther said “ you can tell the quality of a union leadership by how well they take care of their retirees and we should “never” take a step backwards.

UAW President Gettelfinger will never be accused by anyone of being a Walter Reuther.

When Gettelfinger was sworn in as newly elected UAW president in 2002 he pounded the podium and told the delegates the UAW must not back down from those who stand in the way of improving the life of working Americans. The very next year in 2003 he forgot his own inaugural statement and betrayed UAW retirees by ignoring their need for pension increases and stood in the way of retirees keeping up with increasing prices. Gettelfinger fed the UAW retirees to the wolves.

This was a "terrible concession" for existing UAW retirees who were made scapegoats because they cannot vote on national agreements.

In “2003” Gettelfinger negotiated pension gains for new retirees but not even a token increase to existing retirees...”zilch”. Existing retirees standard of living and buying power, relative to new retirees, had already been spiraling downwards as prices have been spiraling upwards.

Historically the UAW leadership has refused to negotiate cost of living protection to protect retiree’s pensions saying that they would see that their retirees were treated fairly and until Gettelfinger became UAW president …they had.

In Walter Reuther’s world the term UAW meant “all” UAW members. In Gettelfingers dictionary the term UAW means all members “except the retirees who built the union”.

 

Now in 2005 Gettelfinger is connecting in important meetings with top corporate officials who want to slice the health care of their workers and retirees. These benefits are necessary benefits, took decades of contracts to achieve and once gone they will be gone forever.

Gettlefinger has gone on record that he is unwilling to have autoworkers and retirees pay more for their health costs. He must be “held accountable” to this and not be allowed to waffle.

We must not allow our workers to be tricked. Workers and retirees know that only they will pay if their UAW leadership snaps under political pressure and becomes cooperative puppets of the corporations and give back hard won worker gains.

The corporate leaders won’t sacrifice… On the contrary! They will get huge bonuses for stealing back hard won worker benefits.

The UAW leadership won’t sacrifice… On the contrary! They will reward themselves with large salary increases at their next upcoming constitutional convention, “like they always do”.

These large conventions are always held prior to bargaining conventions at “fun swank vacation destinations” and at huge "workers expense".

At these UAW conventions one of the first matters of business is union leaders voting themselves “healthy salary and benefit increases”, which workers must also pay for.

The UAW leaders benefits and salaries are "vastly superior" to what the workers earn. Workers would be "shocked" if they knew how well our UAW leaders have compensated themselves.

To get an idea of the mindset and values of today’s UAW top leadership relative to health benefits you only have to go back to August 2000. At this point UAW President Steve Yokich quietly took a piece of the auto workers health care benefits and gave it in the form of health insurance to the gay and lesbian partners of homosexual workers. The recipients of this “free health care “ had nothing to do with the auto industry. They hadn’t worked in the factories to earn it.

For the UAW leadership to be politically correct, in an ultra liberal sense, and quietly “back door” “same sex” partners, or any other group, into the auto workers “already troubled health care pact” in one contract and then turn around in the very next contract and ignore retirees needs and say that health care is now too expensive and must be gutted is to allow “freeloading” at worker expense. This is an incredible abuse of union leadership power.

Another recent example of the UAW leaderships moral compass relative to insurance benefit costs and moral values came when in the most recent 2003 national agreement the UAW workers were shocked as UAW leaders asked automakers in secret talks to cover expensive elective abortions in the workers healthcare benefits Package.

Rank and file members were not polled on the abortion issue and many were disgusted at this. The UAW leadership was amazed to see circulating petitions and the conservative rank & file abortion protesters springing into action.

The moral, economic and political ramifications of these particular issue’s have made many workers who are appalled at abortion coverage and the issues related to same sex partner coverage “question the UAW's liberal Democratic agenda” when it comes to family and moral values.

I am not suggesting that these two examples exclusively by themselves are the reason that autoworkers health care is in trouble but the question arises, “why would top UAW leaders decide to negotiate these controversial types of benefits into an autoworker insurance program already overburdened and in deep enough trouble that they were considering concessions?”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another dimension to these types of benefits.

There are many Evangelical Christian workers and retirees such as myself. These two benefits are not like other benefits to Christian workers. Leaders that profess faith and push these types of benefits should “examine their own faith” and seriously think about what they are doing.

Collectively the information in this Westfall Paper is very chilling. For us to continue quietly down the road of ignoring this situation as the grave, growing, competitive and social crisis that it is will be very dangerous to our country and way of life.
The debate aired in my position paper See…1990 …LABOR BUSINESS HEALTH CARE COALITION PILOT PROPOSAL at…
westfallmike.tripod.com should have been listened to many years ago but could still lead directly to a better way.

As a nation we can no longer afford to waste billions of dollars for an inefficient health care system that slices our competitive ability by forcing upwards the price of every product we produce. Our medical system is unfair, inefficient, uncompetitive and cannot be sustained “as is” any longer.

It is provider driven by the doctors, hospitals for profit, drug producers, medical equipment suppliers and insurance carriers. The medical establishment has turned the system into a big business, which blackmails, robs, takes unfair advantage of and feeds upon itself at the debilitating expense of our nation and our people who are held hostage and have little choice but to capitulate. It is insane.

The auto companies and today’s UAW leadership are confused and have it backwards.

The problem is not with workers, retirees and their families at the bottom end who need the health care. Any concessions should come exclusively from the top end bloated health care establishment, which has been allowed to create this problem with their greed.

Our overpaid and spoiled medical system has been a parasite on the backs of Americans for too long now and it is time to give them an attitude adjustment they will never forget before they bring our entire economy down.

Until this occurs there will be no solution. It will only get worse.

Folks, why is this so difficult for these so-called leaders to understand?

 

While I could easily go on I will conclude with GM quietly admits that the real problem is legacy costs and that they are competing with foreign producers whose governments provides the health care for “their” workers.

The UAW needs to “listen up” to what they are saying! The answer is to not declare open season on workers and retirees by giving more of our dwindling jobs away or granting benefit concessions but rather pool resources and go after the real issue and that is the need for a comprehensive national health insurance program not just for “autoworkers” or other unionized workers but again…for “all” Americans.

Aren’t “all” our citizens as important as the Japanese citizens are in Japan or the Canadians in Canada who both have national health insurance?

Many nations cover their citizens with health coverage and while they have experienced problems relative to funding and rationing these programs can be examined and used as a starting point. With our expertise and commitment we could craft a responsible, cost effective and sensitive program that works. What are our alternatives?

This would level the playing field for all American business making us competitive and provide much needed health care to "all" our citizens. That is the only solution that will solve the auto company's legacy issues.

If Americas leaders will just put the cause above ourselves for a period of time, we will become the social melting pot of the country by making history and delivering our system to a more modernized and much more competitive economy by protecting “all” of our citizens.

It is crystal clear that that the solution is not at the "concession" table but on the legislative table. Lets take a lemon and turn it into lemonade. Let us take these terrible problems with auto and other domestic industries and exchange these problems for a comprehensive national health insurance for “all” our citizens.

 

 


 


 

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