At UAW Monitor VPs Debate, Solidarity House Candidates Lie About Eliminating Tiers
Will Lehman is a rank-and-file worker and socialist running for president of the UAW. He wrote the following in response to a debate involving vice presidential candidates on Monday.
Watch rank-and-file worker and UAW presidential candidate Will Lehman debate Ray Curry on Thursday, September 22 at 6 p.m. EST. For more information, visit WillforUAWPresident.org/debate.
During Monday night’s UAW vice presidential debate, I heard the most outrageous lies from Chuck Browning, Bryan Czape and other members of the Solidarity House bureaucracy running on the same slate as my opponent in the presidential race, UAW President Ray Curry. One of the biggest was the claim that the UAW had eliminated levels at Detroit automakers as well as Volvo, Mack Trucks and other heavy-duty truck makers.
Excuse me, I’m a second tier worker at Mack Trucks, so I can assure you the tiers haven’t been knocked out here. My brothers and I have to work side by side doing the same job for less money than older workers and only reach the top salary after six years. In fact, employees are on several levels of progression in my factory. In some cases, you can work for four years and not get a $1 an hour raise, if you’re lucky enough not to be laid off.
Not only are there salary levels, but there are also pension levels. Previously, you could retire at full rate with 85 points (years of service plus age). The UAW gave that a long time ago. New hires no longer receive pensions, only far inferior 401(k) plans. Basically, this means you’re saving your own money for someone else to play, and Mack will match some of what you put in.
At GM, new hires take another eight years to reach top pay. Virtually all new employees hired at GM and other Big Three plants are now temporary or “extra” workers with no contract rights, no paid vacations and starvation at $16.67 an hour. These workers must work two years without being fired to become full-time. The starting wage for new full-time workers at GM is down to just $18.04 an hour.
A temp worker at the GM Flint truck plant told my followers last month that many of his co-workers had been working as temp workers for well over two years because if a temp worker is laid off for 31 days, the clock goes back to zero.
He said: “Although workers at all levels perform the same work, temps and those without seniority receive significantly lower wages and receive little or no benefits outside of the most rudimentary healthcare plan compared to their seniority and heritage counterparts.
“In addition to the insulting pay inequality, there is the fact that part-time workers only get 24 hours of unpaid leave a year, but only after working at least 12 continuous months. Part-time temps also don’t have a guaranteed, stable work schedule, necessitating a second full-time job for many.
When hearing Browning’s comments, a Toledo Jeep factory worker said, “That’s a lie. The former receive pensions, the latter do not. Anyone who earns full time after the last contract gets a dollar less per hour. It also means they don’t consider supplements as a level, they don’t really consider us workers.
Workers should also remember that Curry’s management orchestrated the defeat of a resolution at the 2022 Constitutional Convention that would have banned the negotiation of a tiered salary structure in all future UAW contracts. If they really thought the levels had already been eliminated, why would they have opposed this resolution?
In addition to escalation workers and temporary workers, there is another set of tiers: contract workers who take jobs with the Big Three at considerably lower rates of pay and are not covered by the national agreement. The UAW not only sanctioned the use of contract workers, but encouraged their use to increase “competitiveness.” Last July, the UAW negotiated a contract for GM Subsystems workers that keeps those workers at poverty wage levels, with temporary workers hired at $15 an hour and capped at just $22 after six years. . The UAW told Subsystems workers that if they voted against the contract and went on strike, the union would order GM workers to cross their picket lines!
It’s also important to know that older full-time autoworkers haven’t had a real wage increase in years. The 2019 national auto deal included two 3% wage increases and two lump sum bonuses. All of this was swallowed up by inflation.
When my followers were in Toledo recently, a Stellantis Jeep factory worker told them, “I’m doing the same thing my brother was doing here in 1986.”
I actually did some math based on the consumer price index, and the top autoworkers in the Big Three UAW are earning a lot less in real terms than they did in 1979. If the UAW had maintained the 3% annual improvement factor in 1979 and the cost of living allowance, the standard base salary would have increased from $9 an hour to over $100 an hour in 2022.
Browning also had the nerve to claim that the contract he helped negotiate at John Deere was the “best in decades”, when he failed to meet workers’ demands for a substantial increase in wages to compensate. decades of wage freezes and concessions and when he left pensioners out by failing to restore health care for all pensioners.
If this was truly the “best deal in decades,” why was the UAW forced to force workers to accept it with threats of retaliation? Why did Deere workers twice reject Browning’s ‘best’ contract, before ramming it through in a re-vote? Why did the largest local in Waterloo, Iowa, reject the contract for even a third time? To say it was the best contract they ever negotiated speaks volumes against Curry and Browning and the rest of Solidarity House.
As one Deere worker said after hearing Browning speak, “Yeah, they tried to shove that deal down our throats… BS, that’s what I’m saying. It’s a bunch of liars; don’t believe any of them.
At John Deere, to the extent that improvements were made, it was because workers rebelled against repeated attempts by the UAW bureaucracy to impose another dealership contract and organized a committee of the base.
And that leaves out our brothers in the auto parts industry that the UAW has abandoned. In the 1980s, auto parts workers still earned an average of 80-90% of the wages of workers in the Big Three. At the Ventra Evart auto parts plant in Michigan, the UAW refused to call a strike earlier this year, in defiance of workers’ demands. An international representative told workers they couldn’t get higher wages because “you’re not the big three”.
One more point about Browning’s lying performance. He said he was “fighting for Case workers.” Oh good? The UAW suspended striking Case New Holland (CNH) workers for five months, isolating them from other UAW members and starving them with $400 strike pay.
Monday’s debate showed the futility of trying to reform the bureaucracy at Solidarity House. It is not a question of stirring up a few faces but of emptying the whole apparatus, which has completely lost all connection with the rank-and-file workers.
We need to discuss a strategy to reverse the decades of handouts and win what workers need, not what management says they can afford.
My campaign is underway to empower the grassroots and abolish, not reform, the UAW bureaucracy.
If workers want to end all levels and salary progressions by raising the lower levels to the highest salaries and benefits, and all temps to full-time salary and benefits, with full funding for pensions and high quality health care for all current workers and retirees, they should support my campaign.
If you agree with me, I invite you to visit my website, WillforUAWPresident.org. Watch me debate UAW President Will Curry and other presidential candidates on Thursday, September 22 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. You can watch the debate and find more information at WillforUAWPresident.org/debate.