Monday, July 6, 2009

Cold day in hell for the auto industry

This isn't all about GM going down and thousands of individuals and other smaller companies loosing out. If so, the courts, the Obama administration, et. al. would be looking at the thousands of individuals, union or non-union that are going to suffer from within the company. I don't have the ability to have the exact number but these political heads could give you one, real or fictional, if they wanted to.

Before GM spun off Delco Products to become Delphi, a company just about as old as GM and made up of some of GM's founding fathers, they (GM) had retirees that retired under the GM umbrella. They retired as Delco Products employees, a Division of GM. They were from that other union, the IUE, the one that everyone forgot but is the one that gave up more concessions than any other union in GM's history. Now GM is saying that they don't have an agreement with the IUE/CWA because they don't have any active working members. Well, just how stupid do they think people are. I didn't work there but it was in my community, the GM truck plant in Moraine, OH. Closed in December of 2008 and was the last active IUE covered plant. Note here, the CWA part merged in with the IUE after the IPO of Delphi.. The truck plant received award after award and GM even spent huge sums of money putting in the latest and greatest paint facility. GM closed it for a UAW facility. One that did not have all the credentials, just THE union of choice backing it. You see, there has always been a war of unions in the GM family and the prevailing God Father is the UAW. The ironic thing here is that the hourly members of Delphi, the IUE/CWA union members were taken BACK into GM. I'm sure that the membership as a whole had no idea as to what their next fate was. GM and the UAW reached a VEBA agreement and the IUE/CWA was left out in the cold. GM accomplished what appears to have been the plan in the beginning, to divest itself of the unions. UAW healthcare is now covered by a VEBA plan and the IUE/CWA doesn't exist in their minds. The only thing left is the IUE/CWA pensions being left underfunded and then not funded and then voluntary move to the PBGC like the salaried retirees are getting from Delphi.

If there is truly five year business plans in corporations then one only needs to be in touch with what happened at Delphi starting in 1999. To know and understand how the equipment was being brought in for the next generation of automobile. Seven or eight pieces of equipment would make approximately 1,800 parts in a shift, replacing on piece of equipment that would make up to 5,000 pieces in a shift. Difference besides the obvious, you could pick the seven or eight pieces up and put each one in the back of a heavy duty pickup truck and send them across the boarder. The shock equipment that was in the Woodman Dr., Kettering, OH plant is in Mexico today. The equipment that made struts is still there in plant 14 but is now owned by Tenneco. GM, on all fronts, looks as if it was divesting itself of Delco by forming Delphi but yet they held on to them with buying leverage and other means to the point that they got what they wanted or will get what they want if the courts have their way. GM will be union free so to speak, divested of a company that they only wanted part of and the biggest "legacy" costs to human beings. These aren't stock holder being screwed, they are the real equipment of these corporations. They have blood and sweat running in and out of them instead of electricity and hydraulic fluid. They aren't made of steel but of flesh. They don't breakdown and get repaired with the twist of a wrench or a screw driver, no they get cancer from working around the chemicals that they aren't told about until OSHA or some other form of government warns them. They suffered when the temperatures reach levels over 100 degrees plus day after day in the summer and sometimes year round. They have lost fingers, hands, eyesight and hearing because safety wasn't number one for so many years. And yet, they are looked upon with envy one minute and thrown out as disposable assets the next. No obligation. You got paid. We're keeping our perks. Sorry about your losses.

The non-union parts of Delphi and GM are the salaried individuals. The union parts are of course the IUE/CWA members. GM, the courts, the government all say sorry for your luck or I am here to help protect your rights. The courts say sorry for your luck, the company had a contractual agreement with the union, YOU are nothing more than a "moral obligation". The courts can't make GM or Delphi have morals. There was a time when a handshake was a contract, that's what the salaried people had, a handshake. They would be given dream sheets annually that would show what they received in salary compensation, vacation time, holiday time, their healthcare package and a scenario of what their pension would look like if they continued to put into their 401k along with their GM/Delphi sponsored pension amounts. Now, with the help of the courts, the salaried scum do not have their healthcare and in some cases of this very large entity, GM/Delphi, may loose part of their pension to the PBGC. Let me say here that not all are in this boat. There is language, very similar to the masses of salaried individuals, that gives upper executives everything for life. After making millions a year, they loose nothing. Some of the execs that lead Delphi down the path of failure but really promoted the IPO and the quality of the company as a whole, are even asking the courts to have Delphi pay nearly $10,000,000 for THEIR legal fees. The way it looks is that GM will pay it with the taxpayer help. I was salaried and I had to sign permits for parts of the plant or a piece of equipment was tested for safeness to enter. IF, for some reason the meter was reading wrong and something happened and one of the employees had an accident I was told that I could be sued by him or his family and that I was on my own. I lost many sleepless nights over this worrying. that I could loose everything I worked for.

I agree with this paragraph from the article A Step Closer To Exiting Bankruptcy "That arrogance was a big factor in GMs long slide into bankruptcy. It's also a problem the executives have been working to break down for years. CEO Fritz Henderson knows the change has to continue. GM must become more nimble, responsive to customers, and its leaders must be willing to admit they don't have all the answers." As a former GM-Delco-Delphi salaried employee I have heard these same words time and time again. It is only the last thirteen words that are new. Bringing the Springhill, TN Saturn plant on was a big thing at that time. The union had fought for the right to stop the line to fix a problem in the assembly process. That is why the Saturn was such a dependable vehicle and they could show commercials of taking care of a customer in Alaska where there was no dealership. It gave you the idea that you would be treated like a Rolls-Royce customer.There is the story that a customer tried to think RR for fixing a problem during the night and RR responded that they had never had a problem. He must have been mistaken. I'm not sure what Mr. Henderson means by nimble, do we go back to Iacocca's days and bring a platform to market in months instead of years? Responsive to customers, well they still have the Buick of the older generation and I must say that I am glad they don't have a Cube in their arsenal. The question about the word responsive is, who wanted the SUV's, the public or the manufacturers. VERY profitable on the one side and American big on the other. I remember the noise when they did away with rear wheel drive. After all, rear wheel drive, big motors and huge tanks is as American as you can get.

Bottom line, I can't feel for GM, or any of the other corporations that treat their employees like they were never there unless they made the big bucks. I put 22 years in, all but 2 were with GM, until my heart gave out. Too many hours, twelve plus a day on the floor in the heat and noise? In one year alone the only days I got off were my vacation days and those worked averaged over ten a day. I had a couple of twenty-four hour days to get particular pieces of equipment back up and running. The thanks I got was a letter on Feb. 5th of this year stating that Delphi was filing to dump my healthcare. I was never asked if I would pay more of the monthly fee. I went from $143 a month to $1495 a month and the loss of life insurance as well in the blink of an eye or thirty days, which ever comes first. I also do not trust any politician after this year. There is NO protecting of our pensions going on. The good 'ol boys network will get what they want. After being treated like we, the former GM/Delphi retirees have been treated one tends to start getting involved, or at least should, and discovering things they wish they hadn't. Start with names like Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, John Thain, Robert Steele, Joshua Bolten, Mark Patteson, Ed Liddy, Jim Cramer, Harry B. Wilson and see what they have in common. I'll give you a hint, Goldman Sachs. The last one is the governments lead counsel in the GM bankruptcy case. There will be an IPO for the NEW GM, will Goldman Sachs get to sell it? Will all those unfortunate retirees get anything for their years of service? Someone is going to make money and it won't be the little forgotten true heroes of the corporate world. It will again be the brotherhood of the corporate world.

Matt Taibii's article in Mad Magazine or you can find it on the net in pdf form should be read by all.

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