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September, 2006

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Retiree tells UAW convention: 'We should have a vote when our rights or benefits are at stake'

Editor's note: Gary Walkowicz is a retiree from Ford Motor Co. and a member of Local 600 in Detroit, MI. Though his motion (printed below) ended in defeat, he spoke on behalf of retirees and future retirees from around the country when he gave this heartfelt speech at the UAW convention in Las Vegas in June, 2006.

Fellow delegates. I am Gary Walkowicz from Local 600. My membership passed a resolution to change the constitution to give the right to retirees to vote on any contract that would take away rights they have in their retirement.

Let me repeat. The resolution would give retirees that right only on contracts that would take away rights or benefits. Let me just say, I support calling out this resolution, because of circumstances that affect our retirees at Ford.

As people know, our contract was re-opened and re-negotiated, and as a result, not only are active workers' raises being deferred, but retirees are now being asked to pay for their hearth care premiums and increased co-pays.

Worst of all, these premiums are now made dependent on a VEBA, which means their health care is no longer guaranteed. As peop|e may or may not be aware, the VEBA program has been negotiated at other locations, and those VEBA trusts have run out and the full cost of health care premiums has fallen on the backs of retirees.

I say this is wrong. I say we should not be giving up what we have fought for all these years in pensions and health care. To take that away from retirees without giving them the right to vote is wrong.

I believe this body should call forth from the committee this resolution and have a discussion to give our retlrees the right to vote so they can go forward and know that their rights cannot be taken away from them without them having a chance to have their say.

I believe retirees have earned that right.

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