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Gettelfinger: 'We did what we had to do' to save UAW jobs

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Gettelfinger: 'We did what we had to do' to save UAW jobs

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

Detroit -- Outgoing United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said it is a "fair question" whether the $14-an-hour starting wage for new workers at Detroit's Big Three automakers is enough so they can buy the cars they will build.

"That's an open debate, a democratic process," Gettelfinger told a group of reporters at an Automotive Press Association event this afternoon.

"We did what we had to do to get to tomorrow," he said, referring to the concessions the UAW made in the past few years to help the domestic automakers survive.

Those sacrifices include paying new auto workers nearly half the wage of existing workers.

"I'm confident and very proud, and we made the right decisions," said Gettelfinger, who retires as UAW president at the union's convention in mid-June.

Gettelfinger also said he believes the declining UAW membership has "bottomed out." In the past couple of months, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC have all announced they plan to add workers at some facilities in the next year.

link:

http://detnews.com/article/20100527/AUTO01/5270465/1148/Obama-administration-wants-auto-dealers-subject-to-new-oversight/Gettelfinger---We-did-what-we-have-to-do--to-save-UAW-jobs

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Gettelfinger defends lower wage

BY GREG GARDNER

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who will retire next month, defended the 2007 concessions allowing Chrysler, Ford and General Motors to pay new workers about half as much as their veteran line mates, saying “we did what we had to do to get to tomorrow.”

In one of his last public appearances before stepping down at next month’s UAW convention here Gettelfinger spoke today to the Automotive Press Association at the Detroit Athletic Club.

The union agreed in its 2007 contract to the second-tier wage, which starts at about $14 an hour, and a larger worker contribution to health insurance. While GM hired some workers at the lower rate, neither Chrysler nor Ford needed to as sales plummeted in 2008 and 2009. All three were offering buyouts of current workers to slash costs.

Now that is changing as car sales and production recover slowly. Last Friday Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announced plans to begin hiring 1,080 workers for a second shift at the company’s Jefferson North assembly plant. Most of them will be new hires, Marchionne said.

Former GM and Chrysler investors argued that the UAW came through their bankruptcies better than they did. But the UAW lost tens of thousands of active members who accepted buyouts, it converted billions of dollars automakers’ owed to their Voluntary Beneficiary Employee Association, fund for retirees’ health care into stock in the restructured companies.

Still some rank-and-file UAW members and retirees say too much of the sacrifice has been pushed onto retirees’ or future members who will earn less and pay more for their benefits.

"It’s an open debate. We’re a democratic union,” Gettelfinger said. “We will have a bargaining convention in 2011 and our members can decide then. I’m comfortable that our leadership, our executive board and our local presidents made the right decision.”

Gettelfinger is expected to be succeeded by Bob King, now vice president of the UAW’s Ford department.

While this is the union’s 75th anniversary, membership fell 18% last year to a post-World War II low of about 355,191 and less than 24% of its 1.5 million peak in the 1970s.

“I think we’ve hit bottom,” Gettelfinger said. “Just recently at the Foxwoods Resort Casino (in Ledyard, Conn.) just ratified their first contract.”

He cited organizing and advancing the union’s legislative agenda, particularly in areas of safety and easing the process for unions to become certified to represent new members as the biggest challenges for his successor.

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100527/BUSINESS01/100527039/1210/Gettelfinger-defends-lower-wage-

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Gettelfinger defends lower starting wage

So far, only GM has had to hire at that rate

BY GREG GARDNER

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who plans to retire next month, defended the 2007 concession allowing Chrysler, Ford and General Motors to pay new workers about half as much as their veteran line mates, saying, "We did what we had to do to get to tomorrow."

In one of his last public appearances before stepping down at next month's UAW convention in Detroit, Gettelfinger spoke Thursday to the Automotive Press Association at the Detroit Athletic Club. He is expected to be succeeded by Bob King, vice president of the union's Ford department.

The union agreed in 2007 to let new workers start at about $14 an hour, and pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums.

While GM hired some workers at the lower rate, neither Chrysler nor Ford needed to as sales plummeted in 2008 and 2009.

Now car sales are rising slowly, and automakers are making more of them. Last Friday, Chrysler said it would begin hiring 1,080 workers for a second shift at the company's Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit. Most will be new hires at the lower wage.

Investors argue they took a harder hit in the two bankruptcies than the UAW suffered. But tens of thousands of union members took buyouts. Plants were closed or sold. Wages were frozen.

The UAW made an unprecedented pledge not to strike GM or Chrysler through 2015. Plus, the union accepted stock in the restructured companies in exchange for billions owed to a retiree health care fund.

Still, some UAW members and retirees say retirees and future members who will earn less and pay more for their benefits are bearing a disproportionate share of the sacrifice.

"It's an open debate. We're a democratic union," Gettelfinger said. "We will have a bargaining convention in 2011 and our members can decide then. I'm comfortable that our leadership, our executive board and our local presidents made the right decision."

He dodged when asked whether he is leaving the UAW stronger than when he became president in 2002.

"I'll let somebody else make that judgment," Gettelfinger said.

He led the UAW through the most harrowing years since its founding in 1935. Massive buyouts of tens of thousands of workers drove membership to a post-World War II low of 355,191 at the end of 2009, less than a quarter of its 1970s peak of 1.5 million.

The Indiana native, who entered the industry more than 45 years ago building Ford trucks in Louisville, Ky., joined Ford, Chrysler and GM CEOs for the November 2008 congressional grilling at which the latter two companies sought government help.

Reversing the decades-long membership decline will be among King's toughest challenges, Gettelfinger said. Recent history suggests new members are more likely to come from outside the auto industry.

"I think we've hit bottom," he said. "Just recently ... the Foxwoods Resort Casino (in Ledyard, Conn.) just ratified their first contract."

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100528/BUSINESS01/5280340/1331/BUSINESS01/Gettelfinger-defends-lower-wage

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UAW CHIEF: WORKERS CAN’T AFFORD OWN PRODUCTS

By Andrew Ganz

United Auto Workers union chief Ron Gettelfinger indicated yesterday that the $14 per hour base wage earned by an entry-level worker building Chrysler, Ford and General Motors products isn’t enough to buy a new car.

The argument comes nearly 90 years after Henry Ford began paying workers $5 per day in hopes that the workers would be able to afford one of their own products, a Ford Model T.

Gettelfinger said that it’s a “fair question” whether or not auto workers can afford the products they’re assembling. An economist for Comerica, Dana Johnson, confirmed Gettelfinger’s comments by saying that a single income UAW worker making $14 per hour probably can’t afford a new car.

But a dual income family? “Then they could clearly afford a new car,” Johnson told the Detroit News.

The UAW negotiated the $14 hourly rate in 2007 and, despite his concern that workers can’t live up to the standard promised by Henry Ford, Gettelfinger nonetheless defended the concessions. More tenured workers earn more than double the $14 hourly rate.

“We did what we had to do to get to tomorrow,” Gettelfinger said.

link:

http://www.leftlanenews.com/uaw-chief-workers-cant-afford-own-products.html

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Drew Dowdell    5,159

It's a starting wage.... and $28k a year will certainly get you a new Cobalt or Focus as long as you live modestly. No, you're not going to live in a 3,000 sq/ft McMansion with a flat panel TV in every room and have 2 new vehicles and a boat when you start.

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FAPTurbo    1,093

Well Robbie, Ford paid that wage to all his workers, instead of those who were tenured. Perhaps if the unions didn't reward seniority on such a mammoth scale, then all employees could afford a nice new car after getting their jobs.

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