Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
June 24, 2007

Oracle Not Needed To See Delphi Future
As of this writing the UAW leadership has acknowledged they have a deal with the wiseguys granted custody of Delphi, and the parts maker’s deadbeat dad, GM, but haven’t publically announced the details. However, usually reliable sources have been leaking some of the main features. These include:

* Four of the 21 plants targeted for termination were saved from shutdown or sale, and another five will be operated by a third party until they are sold. The remaining dozen or so are gone for good.

* The four thousand workers still retaining some rights under the old GM agreement will be offered three annual payments of 35,000 dollars to ease the transition to draconian wage cuts. The rest of the workforce left after earlier buyouts by GM is made up of either temp workers, or those hired since a 2004 two-tier agreement by the UAW--already making much lower wages.

* Top wages would be slashed from 27 dollars per hour to 18.50.

Presumably, the same settlement will be imposed on IUE represented workers as well. Indeed this is seen as the pattern agreement for all organized parts makers in the USA.

If the deal is approved by members GM will be relieved for both long and short term reasons. They have long sought to dump any responsibility for the new satellite component suppliers, such as the Delphi spin-off. Both GM proper and Delphi offshored tens of thousands of jobs. After Delphi became the second biggest private employer in Mexico they declared bankruptcy for their remaining U.S. operations and brought in slash and burn specialists to gut jobs, wages, and conditions.

In the short term GM feared a Delphi strike could shut them down and greatly complicate negotiations with the UAW for new national agreements with the Big Three. Those talks will formally begin July 23.

The UAW leaders will now be crowing that they saved many jobs and beat back Delphi’s earlier demands for nine dollar an hour wages. This is the best that can be hoped for, they will argue. It remains to be seen whether the ranks at Delphi will be as “pragmatic” as the Solidarity House leadership.

In any case, it looks to be a short, hot summer in Detroit.

Relatively Brighter At GE
UE and IUE members at General Electric are also in the process of voting on tentative national agreements. There appear to be no give-backs. Pensions got a positive tweaking, general wage increases and a slightly improved COLA formula should at least keep up with inflation and a twelfth holiday was won. In today’s dismal bargaining context such modest gains are considered solid victories.

The Senate Energy Bill
The Democrat Senate finally passed an energy bill late last Thursday night. What’s in it?

* Auto makers would have to achieve a forty percent reduction in average fuel consumption of cars and light trucks–within thirteen years.

* Mandates a seven hundred percent increase in ethanol and biodiesel production--36 billion gallons a year by 2022. Huge tax breaks and subsidies–yet to be completely quantified--will be needed for this food to fuel conversion. In the face of this mandate oil companies are refusing to invest in gasoline refinery capacity. Of course, in many important respects burning “renewable” ethanol is even more damaging to the environment than gasoline. It’s only value–other than windfall profits for AgriBusiness--is as a hedge against oil shortages, not as a genuine alternative fuel.

* Makes it a federal crime to charge an “unconscionably excessive” price for oil products. Sounds good but no guidelines delineating unconscionable from good business sense are spelled out.

* Sets new energy-efficiency standards for appliances and lighting. Requires the federal government to speed up its adoption of more efficient lighting in public buildings.

* Creates grants, loan guarantees and other assistance to promote research into fuel-efficient vehicles. It would be unfair to expect vehicle manufacturers to foot the bill for the future of their industry.

* Promotes large-scale demonstrations of technologies that capture carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants and inject it into the ground. Most scientists think significant success in this area is as likely as past attempts to transform lead in to gold.

A couple of things missing from the bill:

* The promised restoration of thirty billion dollars in taxes on the oil companies that were given away by the Republican congress.

* The widely heralded requirement that 15 percent of what power plants generate come from renewable energy sources also received short shrift.

Switching to CFL and LED lighting in public buildings is a good thing, though you wouldn’t think that would require an act of congress. The rest of the bill is good for the energy corporations and bad news for workers and the environment. As negotiations begin with the House and White House the evolving legislation will likely become worse.

A working class energy policy will be a major topic at the Labor & Sustainability Conference coming up in Kansas City October 5-6.

Reprieve for ILS
Beating a tactical retreat in the face of widespread outrage, University of Missouri Kansas City management has dropped, for now, publically announced plans to terminate the Institute for Labor Studies. In an e-mail message to supporters ILS director Judy Ancel said,

“Late Friday afternoon at a meeting between UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey and Garry Kemp, Business Manager of the Greater Kansas City Building & Construction Trades Council, and Missouri State Senators Victor Callahan and Chris Koster, Chancellor Bailey announced he would not close the Institute for Labor Studies for now. He committed to sit down with me to discuss a restructuring which will preserve what we have. What we agree to will then be put in writing for approval by the labor community.

“The struggle to save ILS isn't over, but I view this as a great step forward and appreciate the Chancellor's willingness to engage in further discussion about the future of labor education at UMKC.

“I also want to thank the hundreds of Kansas City labor union leaders and members, UMKC faculty and students, the many members of the KC community, and labor education supporters and scholars from across the country for their letters to the Chancellor and their messages of support to me. I also want to thank reporters at the Pitch, The Kansas City Star, EKC, and Inside Higher Education for their timely and accurate coverage of the issue.”

That’s all for this week.

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