Strike Over: Did UAW Sell Out Future Auto Workers to Protect Current Membership?
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The UAW's national strike against General Motors came to a quick end at 4 a.m. today, with the announcement that a tentative agreement had been reached. Though most details of the agreement are not yet available, it does include a provision for the creation of a VEBA health care trust. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has assured his membership and the New York Times that the deal "will absolutely protect their jobs and keep jobs from being reduced." But he has not provided specific information on the job security guarantees the union was seeking when it walked out Monday morning.
According to a report in the Detroit Free Press , the deal also includes an attrition program to clear out current workers whose positions will be re-classified as "non-core" and their wages reduced, while implementing a two-tier wage scale and benefits packages for new hires.
If this is the case, and pending any further details that emerge on the agreement, the UAW leadership would appear to have acquiesced on GM's two most significant demands--the VEBA trust and the two-tier wage plan--and will now have to see if it can sell its membership on a disappointing contract that is sure to enflame dissidents within the union who have already been critical of the way Gettelfinger has handled negotiations.
Assuming the contract is ratified, expect Ford and Chrysler to quickly follow suit with their own health care liabilities; and the UAW's already diminished position in the domestic auto industry to be rendered even more irrelevant after effectively selling out future auto workers for the sake of the current membership.