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✊ Why Iím Voting No on UAWís Deal With GM: A ďThird-TierĒ Worker Speaks
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2019, 12:07:31 AM »

Friday, Oct 18, 2019, 2:17 pm
Why Iím Voting No on UAWís Deal With GM: A ďThird-TierĒ Worker Speaks
BY Mindy Isser

Raina Shoemaker, a General Motors employee and a UAW member, speaks to the press from the picket line. (Photo by Mindy Isser) 

After 33 days on strike, the leadership at the United Automobile Workers (UAW) has negotiated a tentative agreement with General Motors (GM). Nearly 49,000 UAW membersóconcentrated mostly in the Midwest, with a few plants scattered in the South and Northeastówill stay out until their contract is ratified. And although union leadership has encouraged the rank and file to ratify the contract, many workers are unhappy with the highlights of the proposed deal. Numerous workers at the General Motors plant in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, tell In These Times that local union leaders are travelling to Buffalo, New York today, to read the full tentative agreement. Members have until October 25 to vote the contract in or to send the bargaining committee back to the table.

There are many important issues facing UAW members and leadership during this contract fight. The leadership is under a watchful eye by both its members and the media, thanks to multiple corruption scandals. But workers themselves are concerned about a myriad of issues: health insurance, giving temporary workers a path to become permanent, closing the gaps between different tiers of workers, and keeping GM plants in the United States. This tentative agreement does not appear to solve many of these problemsóand, in fact, allows the closure of three plants.

In These Times spoke with Raina Shoemaker, a GM employee and a UAW member at a facility in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

Mindy Isser: Tell me what you do, and how long youíve been at General Motors.

Raina Shoemaker: I work in the GM Customer Care and Aftersales (CCA) facility, where we distribute parts to all of the different dealers. Iím in the Philadelphia one thatís on the East Coast. What I do is I pick parts, fill orders, and then they get shipped out. Iíve been at GM for four and a half years.

Mindy: Whatís your reaction to the tentative agreement?

Raina: Well, the agreement doesnít bring all of the temps onto immediate hiring stage: I would like to see temps become permanent with this new contract. If youíve made your 90 days, you should be brought on permanent. Thatís what we wanted with this contract. GM has increased some time off for temps, but not nearly enough, I donít think. Because itís such a physical job that we have, our bodies break down. So you need that time off, and we cherish that time off, because we need that time to rest our bodies. So I think itís lousy for the temporary employees.

Mindy: What about for you? You are a tier-two worker, right? Could you explain what being a tier-two worker and what a tier-three worker means?

Raina: Under the new contract, in the manufacturing plants where they make the automobiles, they are all on the same payscale. For your first year, youíre paid $17 an hour. But four years later, youíll be at $32.32. Everyone in the manufacturing plant gets to that maximum wage. In the GM Components Holdings plants, where they make certain parts, they are all on the same payscale, but that payscale is lower. You only max at $22.50 after eight years there, which I think is just wrong.

At the CCA, where I am, there are multiple pay scales. The top scale people, which we call tier one, theyíve been there forever. They have pensions. They max out at $31.57. With this new contract, the scale below them, which we call tier two, they max out at around the same pay. But they donít get a pensionóthatís the big difference between them now. 

You can consider me tier three, which they call ďin progression.Ē It takes me eight years to max out, and my max rate is $25. But we are in the same building, doing the exact same work. At these other buildings, theyíre all in the same building, doing the same work, with the same pay scale. But not here. There are different pay scales that go all the way down to the temps, and if you take them all, there are four tiers. Weíre still not considered one whole union, like weíre not all equal.

Itís just not a good contract. You can say you want the ratification bonus, yeah, theyíre giving us $11,000, theyíre giving the temps $4,500, just to sign the contract. Thatís a one-time deal. Thatís just not good enough. I donít even want to look at that. If you take that out of the equation, the rest of the contract is lousy.

Mindy: Do you think your coworkers feel the same?

Raina: I think a lot of them do, yes. And you know, theyíre not even bringing back any of the jobs from the facilities that theyíre closing. Those plants are done. So we didnít even get job security because of that. So I hope every one of those workers from Lordstown and some of the other plants, I hope every one of them says no to this contract. Because weíre going to need numbers.

The only plants that look really good right now are the manufacturing plants, some of the facilities that build the cars. They have a pretty good deal there. But the problem with that is theyíre gonna all vote yes.

But GM, their future is to not manufacture anything in this country. Theyíre on their way to just take everything across the borders. And the only thing that will be left for GM in the future is the parts division that Iím in. Because you need to be able to get the parts to warehouses and then distribute them. But do I see manufacturing sticking around at all? Not the way that GM is going. They just want to keep throwing things into every other country, Mexico especially. They want to pay their people $3 an hour. They donít care. An American company should really be an American company. And when youíre putting things everywhere else but America, then I donít look at you as an American company anymore.

Mindy: You said that your plant would be safe in the United States. Why do you care about the other workers across the country? Is it just because you think an American company should be an American company and work in the United States, or is it something bigger, like youíre concerned about the other members of your union?

Raina: Iím totally concerned about the other members of the union. Theyíre families. GM is playing with their lives. Theyíve broken down their bodies for 30-plus years, many people, for that company. And then GM turns around and doesnít care. GM just looks the other way. People need these jobs! This country is going in the wrong direction, itís not even funny. And itís not just GM, itís other big corporations. Theyíre just leaving. They donít even care. The middle class is just getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And poverty is just getting worse.

Mindy: Do you think this contract will be ratified?

Raina: I hope not. But I donít know the numbers. Anyone in a CCA I think will vote no. Any of the manufacturing plants that are closing, I think theyíre all going to vote no. I donít know if we got the numbers. I hope we do vote no. Because this is a lousy contract.

Mindy: What were your hopes for this contract?

Raina: Considering Iím in the third tier, my hopes were to at least be brought up to the second tier. That was my hope: to bring people more equal. More as one, the whole union. And itís just not. They did a little bit better for the temps, Iím not gonna say that they didnít. But did I think they did enough? For everything that weíve done, being out there for five weeks? No. They shouldnít even have brought this to the table, to be honest with you. I think itís an insult. I do.

Mindy: What are the next steps for the union?

Raina: Local elected leadership is going to Buffalo to hear everything, to be told why this is such a great deal. And then itíll be brought to us, the membership, and then I guess weíre going to be told why this is such a great deal. Iím not drinking the Kool-Aid, sorry. And I hope none of us drink the Kool-Aid. We need this vote to be exactly the way we need to vote, and thatís no.

Mindy: Any big takeaways from this strike?

Raina: My big takeaway is what we feel amongst each other: the unity. But we donít feel the unity from the higher up union officials. I just feel like theyíre not fighting enough. I donít know what the other side is saying. Iím not in that room with General Motors. Theyíve got multi billions of dollars, so are they willing to lose another 2 billion? Probably, because itís like chump change to them, they can do it. Theyíve got that much money. And do they care that they hurt us as we sit on that picket line? No, they really donít.

And obviously they donít care too much about their dealerships, because the dealers are really hurting at this point. And thatís their customer. I donít get it.

It breaks my heart that big companies really donít care about anything except the bottom line. They donít care about people.

Mindy: Is this your first strike? What did you think about going out on strike for the first time? Did you have any fears about it?

Raina: I didnít have any fears about it. I thought it was definitely about time, because I know what we endure every day in that facility. I know how bad our bodies break down. I know that we deserve to be paid for. Especially the ones that are in the tier that Iím in. I know we needed to keep our health care good. A lot of us get hurt. Weíre constantly twisting, bending, turning, walking 8 to 10 miles a day on a floor thatís stronger than concrete. It really breaks your body down. I really think that this was time. Because they donít see it.

Our supervisors in our facility, the ones that are now doing our jobs, have actually voiced to me that they want us to come back so bad. One of our supervisors said, ďI hope you get everything youíre asking for.Ē Thatís huge, for someone like thatóa supervisor who supervises us every dayóto say, ďI hope you get everything youíre asking for.Ē Because theyíve endured for five weeks, a small five weeks, what we do, and have been doing, for multiple years.

Mindy: Back to the big takeaways from the strike, a lot has been written about community support. Do you think itís helped keep morale high?

Raina: Weíve gotten huge community support that we are so thankful for, especially from Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which you know a lot about. Unbelievable. Our hearts are so warmed from the community and all the other unions and DSA. We canít say enough: thank you. I wish we could do other than just say thank you. Itís just overwhelming. And everybody feels the same way, we all talk about it. Thatís one of our main things: We canít believe the support weíve gotten. Everyone is supporting us except GM.

Minday: Why do you think everyone is supporting you so much?

Raina: Because I think we have so many middle class, hard-working people that feel like theyíre being treated unfairly in their own jobs, whether itís union workers or non-union workers. They just feel that itís getting so hard out there, and the owners of these companies, and the greedóitís just so big in todayís time. They donít care. People just donít care. All they care about is money.

Mindy: Any final thoughts to share?

Raina: Iím going to give final thoughts to anyone who feels like theyíre being treated unfairly at work. They need to fight for themselves. Whatever it takes.
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There's a stark reason why America's 1.8 million long-haul truck drivers can't strike
Rachel Premack
13 hours ago

American laborers are striking in droves. Why aren't truckers joining in? AP Photo/John Froschauer

    Trucking is powered by 1.8 million long-haul truck drivers, who move around 71% of America's freight.
    Many of them were unionized as recently as the 1970s, but a deregulation bill passed in 1980 revamped the industry. Labor experts argue that change was not for the better.
    As a result, truck drivers aren't easily able to strike. Many have tried, but the movements haven't gained traction.
    Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tens of thousands of truck drivers were scheming earlier this year to strike. Such a work stoppage could have tremendous implications ó some 71% of freight is moved by long-haul trucks, including groceries, manufactured goods, and even money.

"We're not all fat slobs, and we don't all do the stereotypical trucker things," Will Kling, a truck driver based in Reno, Nevada, told Business Insider last year. "Trucking has been forgotten."

"When you go to that store and you pick up that bottle of wine or that ketchup, you don't think about the process it took to get it where it is," Kling said.

But, instead of teaching America at large to respect the 1.8 million big rig drivers, the much-hyped protest was a dud. Ultimately, just a few dozen people participated in the April "Black Smoke Matters" strike.

Read more: Thousands of truck drivers are organizing a strike in a Facebook group called 'Black Smoke Matters' ó here's the origin of the provocative name

Blue-collar workers in general have struggled in recent decades as pay and job security tumbles. But, following the largest strike since 1970, General Motors employees represented by the United Automobile Workers secured this week an $11,000 bonus, a pledge to retain 9,000 jobs, and other wins, according to the Detroit Free Press.

And that strike held serious economic implications for America's largest automaker. Bank of America estimated that the walkout cost GM a whopping $2 billion.

It's not just auto workers who are demanding pay and benefit boosts, either. In 2018, a record number of American workers went on strike; the most since 1986, Vox reported. That's 485,000 employees ranging from public school teachers to Marriott hotel workers.
The reason truck drivers can't achieve the same wins dates back to the Carter era

This drive for collective action raises the question of why one of the largest labor forces of blue-collar workers can't seem to strike, too.

The reason goes all the way back to the late 1970s, when even liberal lawmakers were jumping on the bandwagon of deregulation. Trucking was seen as a key area in which deregulation could benefit consumers.

Read more: Truck driver salaries have fallen by as much as 50% since the 1970s ó and experts say a little-known law explains why

In the mid-20th century, truck drivers had to buy specific routes to move a certain type of product from one location to the other. But goods exempt from regulation moved at rates 20% to 40% below similar products that were regulated, according to Thomas Gale Moore, then a senior fellow at Stanford University's conservative public policy think tank Hoover Institution. Moore noted that rates for "cooked poultry" were 50% higher than rates for "fresh dressed poultry."

Ultimately, that meant consumers were paying more because trucking was an industry with little competition and high barriers to entry. But it also meant truck drivers were better paid.
trucker protest 1973
1973: Truck drivers gather ahead of a fuel price protest in Worcester, Massachussetts. Spencer Grant/Getty Images

The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 removed many of the cumbersome regulations that the previous law, passed in 1935, had put in place. Most notably, it allowed new trucking companies to open with relative ease and removed many of the route regulations. Companies also had more control over changing their rates.

The law was passed by President Jimmy Carter, who declared that the MCA would save consumers as much as $8 billion ($25 billion in 2018 dollars) each year.
That deregulatory act also clamped down on unions

Following the passing of the MCA, truck drivers' salaries tumbled. From 1977 to 1987, mean truck driver earnings declined 24%, according to research by Wayne State University economics professor Michael Belzer. And from 1980 to the present day, a Business Insider analysis found that median trucking wages have sunk as much as 35.8% in some metropolitan areas.

"To be able to be a truck driver used to be quite a good blue-collar, middle-class job, but over the past 40 years, it has kind of dwindled away," Gordon Klemp, principal of the National Transportation Institute, previously told Business Insider.
trucker wages 1980 vs 2017
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

Unions also lost much of their power. Membership in Teamsters, which was once one of the most powerful unions around, has declined dramatically. In 1974, Belzer wrote that there were 2,019,300 truckers in Teamsters. Now, there are 75,000.

When truck drivers were largely in Teamsters, work stoppages were common ó and sometimes quite dramatic. In 1970, a nationwide trucker strike went on for more than a month, dealing a serious economic blow in cities like Chicago and St. Louis.

In Cleveland, Ohio, the impacts even became one of domestic security as rock-throwing protesters drew 3,000 National Guardsmen to the city. "Helmeted troops, armed with M‐1 rifles, were stationed in pairs on some overpasses, while other guardsmen rumbled along on patrol in quarter‐ton trucks," reported The New York Times on May 1, 1970.

The strike led to a pay increase of nearly 30% for all Teamsters truckers. The average nationwide hourly pay of $4 got a $1.10/hour bump, the Times reported.
Without a union, a nationwide strike to force wage and benefits bumps is nearly impossible

Bob Stanton, a longtime truck driver who didn't support the Black Smoke Matters strikes, said it's too challenging to wrangle all of America's truck drivers to strike together. "You can't get enough of trucking to participate," he told Business Insider.

Truck driver Lee Epling noted that truck drivers don't have enough time or money to strike. "In order for a movement like (Black Smoke Matters) to actually happen, you need the two things independent owner operators like myself do not have," Epling told Business Insider. "That's the luxury of time, and a whole lot of money."

But unionization would ease the barriers to striking. Most strikes are called by labor unions as a last resort while bargaining for a new contract. Even those who might not necessarily agree with the strike are prevented from working, because strikes are called after enough union members vote to stop working.
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Chicago's teacher strike heads into another week, with no end in sight. Here's what's at stake
CNN Digital Expansion Shoot, Holly Yan

By Holly Yan, CNN

Updated 12:11 AM ET, Tue October 22, 2019
Chicago teachers strike for better conditions

<a href="" target="_blank" class="new_win"></a>

(CNN)Chicago public schools students will miss classes for a fourth day on Tuesday as a teachers' strike drags on.
The Chicago Teachers Union and city officials negotiated through the weekend but couldn't reach a deal. On Monday, about 10 different proposals on various issues went back and forth, a senior city official told CNN. The Chicago Teachers Union enlisted the help of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who attended a bargaining session, to mediate.
A Democratic presidential candidate will add her voice in support of the teachers. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is set to join Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, and educators on the picket lines on Tuesday, the union said. Bargaining resumes Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union said.
Chicago Teachers Union members gave Mayor Lori Lightfoot a grade of 'F' for the latest round of negotiations, union president Jesse Sharkey told reporters Monday night.

"The mayor has dashed our hopes for a quick settlement," Sharkey, said citing a letter Lightfoot sent to the union urging them to end the strike as negotiations continue.
"We are not going back to work without a legally binding agreement," Sharkey said.
Lightfoot's letter, which was shared on the union's Twitter account, said in part: "The students and families of Chicago cannot afford to be out of school for any longer, which is why we are asking you to end the strike and encourage your members to return to work while bargaining continues."
"Our team has been turning around thoughtful counteroffers at a rapid pace. We are hopeful that CTU will meet that pace ... so we can bring this process to a fair and responsible end."
The union's demands echo what teachers across the country are fighting for: smaller class sizes, more support staff, higher raises and more school funding.
But the mayor and Chicago Public Schools say it's just not realistic to fund everything the union wants.
"CPS is not flush with cash," the mayor said. "The fact is there is no more money. Period."
'Tragedies waiting to happen'
Chicago teachers say they're fighting for students who often face dire challenges.
About 75% of their students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In some neighborhoods, gangs and violence permeate the streets, forcing children to grapple with grief at a very young age.
Nine of 10 majority-black schools have no librarians, and there aren't enough bilingual teachers in a district that's "nearly half Latinx," the union said.
And many schools don't have a full-time nurse.
"There (are) just tragedies waiting to happen because we don't have enough staff in our schools," nurse Dennis Kosuth told CNN affiliate WLS.
Last year, Kosuth had to split his time among six schools.
"It was impossible for me to give the kind of care that I wanted to give to my students," he said.
Where Chicago students can go during the strike
Where Chicago students can go during the strike
This year, he's working at three different schools. "But I'm still just as busy."
Hiring more social workers, counselors, nurses, bilingual teachers and librarians is just part of of the union's demands.
Teachers also want smaller class sizes, higher pay for all school employees and more teacher prep time during the school day.
More than 41,000 Chicago elementary school students are trying to learn in classes with 30 students or more, the union said. Of those, 5,290 are in classes with at least 35 students.
And from the elementary to high school levels, CTU said, some classes have more than 40 students.
A bit of progress
Chicago Public Schools has offered to steadily raise teachers' salaries to an average of $97,757 by fiscal year 2024.
&#39;I&#39;m angry. I&#39;m not going to sit down,&#39; one Chicago teacher says

'I'm angry. I'm not going to sit down,' one Chicago teacher says 02:14
"We will also ensure every school has a full-time nurse by 2024," CPS said.
It said it would also commit another 200 social workers and special education case managers for the highest-need schools over the next three years.
A veteran teacher's aide makes less than $30,000 a year and must work other jobs
CPS' latest offer would also raise the salaries of teachers' assistants, nurses and clerks every year for the next five years.
But the challenge isn't just funding those new positions -- it's finding enough quality applicants.
"Social workers, nurses, counselors, and other similar positions are hard to hire," the school district said. "The candidate pool is limited, and hiring is competitive."
Desperate to fill teacher shortages, some US schools have started hiring from overseas
Desperate to fill teacher shortages, some US schools have started hiring from overseas
Last month, the union asked for "CPS to hire more than 1,000 new employees by October 1, 2019, across several hard-to-find specialties," the school district said.
"The (union's) proposal also calls for hiring approximately 3,000 more employees over the next two years at a cost of more than $800 million. Even if CPS could realistically afford such a commitment, it would be nearly impossible to meet those hiring goals."
After lengthy negotiations Saturday, the teachers' union said both sides are getting closer to an agreement -- but sticking points remain.
"We have tentative agreements on eight different items -- two in particular, I think, are huge," CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said.
"One goes with the pipeline for teachers of color," which could help reverse "the precipitous decline of black teachers," she said.
"The other one that's huge is that over the life of the contract, we effectively have a charter (school) moratorium."
Why many teachers are angry about charter schools

Why many teachers are angry about charter schools 10:55
While many parents have joined teachers on the picket lines, some oppose the strike.
"To me, it's a whole distraction and interruption to the school year," said Liam Boyd, the father of a fourth grader at Blaine Elementary School.
"I don't support the union. I think the school district and the city has been more fair this time and (are) trying to be more fair."

The union's president, Jesse Sharkey, said he has two children in the school district.
"We understand that a strike is a disruption to the parents of the city," Sharkey said. "It's worth a short-term disruption if that puts in place over the long-term the conditions that make education better in this city."
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