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April, 2006

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Regardless of 'Settlement,' Auto Barons Will Still Go After Retiree Health Care and Pensions

BY THE PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE FLINT, MICH. CORRESPONDENT Auto workers protesting Delphi cuts.

GM has reached a new agreement between UAW and Delphi. The packages pave the way for over 100,000 GM workers that they don't need to either leave, retire or quit outright. The package at Delphi gives 13,000 of it's 23,000 UAW members a chance to retire.

As of this writing, many retirement eligible workers are greeting the deal with elation and relief -- especially those at Delphi. They'll take the money and run. Others have a healthy dose of skepticism waiting to see the fine print. In the meantime, Delphi has not withdrawn its bankruptcy filing and in fact has declared that the March 30 filing deadline is still the Hit Day for dissolving the UAW contracts. This should give great pause to the Delphi workers. Legacy costs are still setting out there for the company to cut, gut, or destroy wholesale through court action. With Delphi paying Chinese workers $3 an hour, they are still seeking draconian wage and benefit packages from the reduced workforce left behind, along with plant closings, which could very well include Delphi East in Flint.

Hurricane Delphi appears to be quickly morphing into Hurricane GM. Many analysts see GM heading towards bankruptcy as they scramble to raise cash selling off shares of Suzuki stock, selling a majority of its interest in its commercial mortgage unit and frantically seeking a buyer for it's shares in GMAC, its profitable finance company. GM's Junk Bond status continues to slide downward. The Wall Street Gods momentarily smiled on the recent 'settlement.' Yet, GM is going forward with plans to shutter 12 plants by 2008.

Whether workers accept the buyout or not, the reality is these auto barons are not finished with us yet. We cannot afford to retreat from this fight and what's more we must strenghthen the fight. Technology and cheap labor overseas has rendered us useless to the corporation. They are spending cash to get us out of the plants and, as retirees, we will become a financial drain on them.

Future Town Hall-style meetings in Youngstown, Ohio and Toledo, Ohio, as well as Detroit will no doubt generate more aggressive action as events unfold, especially as the March 30 deadline (absent an agreement Delphi will seek to void union contracts) draws near. Some of these events are sponsored by grassroots Soldiers of Solidarity a.k.a. SOS.

A march sponsored by UAW Local 599 in Flint, Mich., scheduled for April 29 at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., at 2 p.m., will go a long way in advancing the cause of fighting in our own interest. The march, which will raise issues of health care, saving pensions and jobs, is another step in the right direction.

The carrot and stick tactics of GM and Delphi are manifestations of a high stakes class war. When the stick was used to cut retirees' health care a couple of months ago, it was called "historic." When the carrot was used to offer buyouts to GM and Delphi workers, it was called "unprecedented." The combatants in this class war must take up the fight not only to defend hard won wages and benefits of the past, but also with a view to fighting for a society where the system is organized around the needs of humanity rather than the needs of the GMs and Delphis of the world. In the end, that's what the struggle is all about.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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