Reject the wage-cutting contract!

(from Detroit Workers' Voice #74, May 17, 2008,
which was distributed at the UAW meeting of May 18
in Detroit to discuss the tentative American Axle contract)


. AAM workers have waged a long strike. It's hard and difficult because it's over a principle. American Axle demands cuts in wages and benefits even though it's profitable, even though it can pay these wages and benefits. This is a struggle that will have consequences for many other manufacturing workers.

. Workers have sacrificed to keep the strike going. As a result, the strike has gradually become more and more effective. AAM and GM have lost huge amounts of money during the strike. Yet the UAW leaders say they must give up, and workers must take most of the huge cuts that American Axle asked for in the first place. This means giving up at the crucial point.

. This leaflet is written before the final details have been revealed. But sell-out leader Gettelfinger has let it be known in advance that this contract will have hundreds of concessions. It will be up to workers to look closely into its provisions.

A settlement which shreds wages

. This is a contract where wages are to be slashed. Most workers will see cuts of perhaps $10 an hour, and even more for non-core workers. It is a contract where some plants may get even worse wages: at Three Rivers, the wages may be as low as $10 an hour. This will set the stage for yet more wage-cutting at other plants in the next contract.

. New hires are to see the full force of these cuts immediately. But this contract is the first one in which current workers will see such major cuts themselves. It is bound to start a whole new round of wage-cutting throughout UAW plants, with each company demanding what Axle got, just as Axle is demanding what Delphi and Dana got.

Buy-ins -- the soft landing into poverty

. Workers may get a big payment in return for accepting wage cuts. At best, this will make up for the wage cuts for a few years. And then what? And then the buy-in will be gone, and the wage cuts will remain. And pensions will be gone, replaced by investment plans. And medical benefits will be cut.

. And what happens to the workers who accept buy-outs? What other jobs will they find? And what will happen to their medical and pension benefits?

. When wage-cutting capitalists come bearing gifts, look them over very carefully. You won't have a chance to return these gifts once they are unwrapped.

Plant closings and big job losses

. In addition to these wage cuts, AAM will continue to close plants. It is expected that the forge plants in Detroit and Tonawanda will be closed. Maybe other plants as well. The top UAW leaders claim that they can save jobs by agreeing to wage cuts. But this contract will cut both plants and wages in half.

Work rules

. It is said that the UAW has surrendered on work rules as well. Look carefully into what the contract says about this.

Why has the UAW leadership given up on the strikers' demands?

. Actually, the UAW leadership never fought for these' demands. That's why it kept the negotiations on wages and benefits secret from strikers. Even before the strike, it conceded big wage and benefit cuts. And Gettelfinger shamelessly admits that the more he conceded on this or that, the more Axle demanded.

. The UAW leadership has tried to wear down the strikers' resolve. It could have doubled strikers' pay from the huge UAW strike fund. But it didn't. It could have mobilized against scab-produced axles. But it didn't. It could have said that it had learned its lessons and was finally going to fight tooth and nail against concessions, but it didn't. Instead he established a new rule -- concessions to profitable companies.

. AAM workers need to form their own independent groups to wage the strike vigorously. They need to watch over the UAW leaders, and to force them to put forward the workers demands.

Is there the strength to continue the fight? Yes!

. The business press has pooh-poohed the strike, and the national UAW leaders say that this contract is the best they can get. But the strike is taking its toll on American Axle and GM. GM admits losses of $800 million in sales alone this year, while American Axle wouldn't be offering signing bonuses and buy-downs and buy-outs if they weren't worried.

. Indeed, if American Axle has the money to pay for buy-downs to make up for wage cuts for several years, then this means they have the money to pay the wages in the first place.

. True, it will be a hard struggle to get a better contract, and there are no guarantees. But this is a struggle to maintain one's dignity and livelihood. It is a struggle that will affect all other manufacturing workers, because other companies are watching.

. Workers, send a message to American Axle that wage-cutting is not acceptable! Send a message to the UAW leaders that AAM workers haven't walked picket lines for two and a half months in order to see their jobs and wages sold down the river! Reject the wage-cutting contract! <>

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Last modified: May 18, 2008.