Disgruntled Autoworkers #1
Clingers and Appointees
Almost thirty years ago the UAW went on strike for, among
other things, a thirty and out pension plan and won. It's
now considered to be one of the best in the country. If
a person were to retire today with thirty years, based on
a forty-hour week, they would only lose about two dollars
and change an hour; gas and lunch money. With thirty-five
years they would pretty much break even. Not bad considering
you don't have to punch a clock anymore. You'd think everyone
would take advantage of this, right? Wrong!
We have what I call clingers, (employees with over thirty-five
years) for many, their only reason for not retiring is they
don't want to give up the job it took them fifteen years
to get. At the rate clingers are hanging around and hogging
good jobs, I'll have to be on the line thirty years before
I can get the job that took them only fifteen; not very
Looking around on the UAW's web site (uaw.org)
I noticed our International leaders are hogging jobs as
well, because the average seniority of our top UAW official
is over thirty-five years. The President and two Vice Presidents
have over forty years, two other Vice Presidents have over
thirty-five years, three regional representatives have over
forty-five years and six other regional representatives
have over thirty-five years. Wow!
The same members who fought for the thirty-and-out pension
plan almost thirty years ago are themselves Clingers and
it doesn't take a genius to know why. They make six figures,
have an expense account and go to conventions in all the
exotic locations around the country. There's also a hefty
retirement package on top of their corporate retirement,
so it's no wonder they're still clinging.
Then there's the other reason I'll be on the line for thirty
years and its a perk officials call appointments, used to
assign employees to positions ranging from quality to health
and safety reps, joint activities reps, and so on. Over time, it's
been and is being abused by officials here in Baltimore
and down the street at the Allison plant, because all appointees
are family, friends and brown-noses. They're appointed with
no regard for members with more seniority or experience.
Positions that should be posted so anybody may apply and
be selected or elected based on qualifications, not because
of Daddy, who you know or the brown-nose factor.
750 members of Local 239 submitted a petition to the International
on May 17, 2000 to change the by-laws governing appointments
for reasons stated above and without coming here or calling
any individuals who signed the petition for a heads up,
the Internationals response was that our local officials
acted within the guidelines. How do they know? They probably
called our President and who knows what he told them? The
750 members deserved to have their side heard in a face-to-face
setting with an International Rep, but I guess a line on their
web site stating "The highest authority in the UAW
is the membership" doesn't apply for the members of
After reading the biographies of our International representatives,
I understand why they don't want to change the by-laws,
because it would affect them, big time. The appointment
perks a practice that's been going on for years and it's
almost a religion with the International, because between
the President, Secretary, five Vice Presidents and twelve
regional representatives, all but two have appointments
in their biographies, some with multiple appointments. Now
that's abuse, because an appointment of assistant to the
Vice President for example, leads to Vice President, continuing
the good-old-boy network, convenient or what? Does anyone
else see anything wrong with this picture?
With over thirty-five years our UAW leaders are out of
touch with the average autoworker. In their day, after ten
or fifteen years you could get a decent job off the line.
However, the assembly lines a whole new world today, it
takes almost thirty years to get an off line job, because
in the last fifteen years or so the corporation has been
busy out-sourcing all the good jobs and what's left, clingers
and appointees have. Being in the loop, you would think
our leaders would have seen these conditions developing
and compensated for them, its not like they were blind-sided.
It's more like they have this "We've got ours, to hell
with yours" attitude. Why'd they allow these conditions
to get to the point they are? When they're no longer looking
out for the membership, selfishness and greed are the only
answers that come to mind.
Possible solutions? We can't force either of our Clingers
to retire, but how about caps? Since blue-collar clingers
don't accumulate any more towards their pensions after thirty
five-years, offer them a choice; retire or go back on the
line, freeing up the good jobs for members with less time.
Then stand back and watch how fast and how many retire.
As for our International Clingers, set term limits or put
a cap on them also, beyond thirty-five years is a stretch
for an official who's out of touch. And appointees, the
International had a petition on their desk in March dealing
with this and dollars to donuts they lit their Cuban cigars
with it. Heaven forbid they tamper with a perk that guarantees
the continuance of the good old boy networks for years to
come; a scary thought that deserves the attention of the
entire membership. With good jobs getting harder to come
by in this business, these issues need to be brought up
If I sound disgruntled, let me see. I've got Clingers at
the International level who have no intention of changing
the by-laws on appointments, since it would be like shooting
themselves in the foot, which also means when they retire,
they would be replaced by a self-appointed clones, leaving
me at square one. I've got blue-collar clingers hogging
good jobs, appointees being given the rest and I'm stuck
on the line for thirty years while some official's no-seniority-snot-nosed
kids walk by with shit eating grins on their faces. This
last incident happens often, so hell yes, I'm disgruntled.
Personally, I think the good-old-boys at the International
level are the problem, because the leaders we have in power
now are appointed clones of the leaders we've had in power
over the last twenty years when the union started going
down the tubes. With their average seniority being over
thirty-five years, they're looking out for themselves and
not the membership. When leaders are more self-serving than
serving, then those they serve should find a way to replace them.
The UAW needs new blood and fresh ideas to usher it into
the new millennium; leaders that know the way life on the
line is today, not thirty years ago. My guess is things
are going to stay the way they are with our current Good-Old-Boy
clones in power, which is why we need a two party system
to break it up and to keep new ones from forming. Somebody
please resurrect the Stand Up Coalition or something like
that; it's time for a change.
I'm aware writing this and putting it out isn't going
to make me very popular with the Clingers. At this point,
fair representation from my Local or the International is
nonexistent, so what have I got to lose? I'm hoping this
letter will put these issues under an international spotlight,
sparking debate and change.
Damn it, I'm only saying what everybody's thinking.