SAGINAW, May 22, 2012 — My work on behalf of Freedom to Work recently resulted in contact from a General Motors employee in Saginaw, Michigan. The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, disclosed some disturbing information.
In 2007, the United Auto Workers and GM agreed to a memorandum of understanding which specified that GM could, depending on product demand, hire temporary workers to complete orders for terms that would be mutually agreed on by both GM and the UAW.
Temporary workers would be drawn by lottery from a pool of applicants, and be employed for a fixed term after passing assessment exams, drug screening, and an interview.
The GM employee who contacted me was hired on a temporary basis in early 2011, on a contract that was to run until August, 2011. He remains at GM due to an extension requested by GM management and agreed to by the chairman of UAW local 668.
Bob King, president of the UAW, understood the situation about long-term temporary workers, and in April, 2011 stated in the Detroit Free Press, “We don’t want anybody on temporary status long-term.” He added that one of his goals during contract talks with the Detroit Three was to “convince the automakers to hire more of their long-term temporary employees.” He further added that, “We never want to have long-term temporaries, and so that is what we are working to correct.”
The contract passed without any mention of long-term temporaries. By contrast, the 2007 contract mandated the hiring of all 3000 temporary workers then employed by GM.
The current temporary workers work alongside seniority employees and do exactly the same work. However, seniority employees make twice what temporary workers earn. Moreover, in most cases, the temps are not afforded full benefits.
In September 2011, the day after the contract was passed, one temporary worker suffered a mild stroke which caused him to miss several weeks of work. He did not have company-paid health insurance because of his status as a “temp.” As his medical bills rose in excess of $40,000, all the union rep could say to him was, “we can’t help you.”
Although temps are dues-paying members of the unions, they are not afforded any vacation days, health insurance, sick days, or any other benefits enjoyed by seniority employees.
Another slap in the face occurred on March 2, 2012, when GM paid out $7,000 to every hourly employee except the temporary workers, even though some of them had more than two years in service. The biggest slap of all came when local 668 chairman Bill Savage, local president Harry Cripps, and UAW International Servicing Representative Rick O’Donnell, told the temporary employees of local 668 that the former Delphi/Nexteer and TRW so-called “flow back” workers had rights to assume their former positions with GM before the temporary workers could ever be hired permanently.
That will put every temp out of a job once the flow back workers return. These flow backs were given $105,000 payable over three years from their respective employers to take a pay cut, with an option to flow back to GM via an agreement reached by the UAW and those companies (Delphi/Nexteer and TRW).
This is a display of naked union greed and is a true job killer. Once the flow backs return to GM, they will fill the positions once held by temporary employees. The only consolation for the temporary employee is the promise of employment if GM decides to invest further in the Saginaw, Michigan plant.
The option to transfer to another plant due to lay-off status does not exist for long-term temps, according to language in the UAW-GM national agreement. Their UAW union apparently did not negotiate in good faith on the behalf of all of its workers. The local UAW left hard working Americans out to dry, even as they paid their dues each month.
Is this what the unions refer to when they claim to champion worker protection?
“All I can think about is that, when the time comes, the foreman will reluctantly tell me and the rest of the temps that we no longer have a job while the ‘flow backs’ that have current jobs with Nexteer/TRW will come and steal ours. How shall I provide for my family then?”
The burden rests not only on the UAW, but also on GM for giving in to most of these outrageous demands.
In the final analysis, what the UAW and GM have done to “temporary” workers could be considered a violation of the 14th amendment equal protection clause, the very Constitutional provision they claim to fight for on behalf of union workers – both permanent and temporary.
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