The Lordstown Workers Gave Up a Lot in an Attempt to Save Their Plant

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A couple of weeks ago President Trump offered a helpful tweet to the autoworkers in Lordstown, Ohio, who had just lost their jobs after GM shut down their plant.

April Fools! It wasn’t helpful at all. The president just told the United Autoworkers local president, who represents a bunch of Ohio residents who are now weighing uprooting their lives and moving to a new GM facility against unemployment, to stop complaining:

Way to go, Mr. President! He’s just tellin’ it like it is, on Twitter. He tends to say stuff like thisabout unions whenever he catches heat (on a TV channel he watches) from a union leader for not following through on his specific promises to save American manufacturing jobs. A common suggestion is to “lower dues,” as if organized labor hasn’t done anything to keep production in unionized plants.   

Well, organized labor isn’t a monolith and not all unions operate in the same way, but the United Autoworkers in Lordstown were very accommodating to GM in their last round of contract negotiations before the company shuttered the plant. They were agreeing to what the company called a “super competitive operating agreement” in an attempt to ward off layoffs … which came anyway.

Seriously, just read some of this stuff from Bloomberg:

To cut costs, the UAW merged Locals 1112 and 1714, which saved the company $3 million a year in administrative costs. Then the union agreed to outsource non-assembly jobs like handling of parts and materials to lower-wage workers employed by a subsidiary called GM Subsystems LLC, according to a document reviewed by Bloomberg.

Next, they allowed GM to cut the number of skilled tradesmen including electricians, pipe fitters, mechanics and die makers in half to 130 by letting the company contract out for overtime skilled-trade work and by changing job classifications, said Scott Brubaker, who was chairman of Local 1714.

The union allowed outside firms to send in contractors to repair supplier parts and assembled vehicles at the plant. It also agreed to drop the number of extra workers employed to cover absentee workers to 60, from 150.

These companies are driven, ultimately, by turning a profit as they and bloodless industry consultants say over and over again, and there are profits to be made by offshoring jobs to Mexico where workers have grown more productive while wages haven’t really budged.

If the USMCA – the NAFTA rewrite the Trump administration negotiated with Canada and Mexico – is ratified, that will help. It would require autos to be built by workers making at least $16 an hour to avoid U.S. import tariffs. That will draw auto assembly jobs back into the States and cause Mexican wages to rise (and make American labor rates more competitive by comparison).

That would be a legitimately big deal for the American autoworker. So you can’t say President Trump, who heads the Trump administration, isn’t doing anything to help those that are getting jerked around by a company that reported record profits last year.

But there's no ratified deal yet to help make American auto wages more competitive, so there's no help for the workers in Lordstown. And in the meantime, the president just tweets.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: From Alliance for American Manufacturing, Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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