Bieber outlines goals for UAW for contract talks with GM, Ford
The Kansas City Times
By Rod Perlmutter of the Business Staff
April 13, 1987
CHICAGO — The United Auto Workers will demand that workers be guaranteed jobs, that vehicles sold in America be made mostly of American-made pans and that workers get an increase in base wages, President Owen Bieber told the union Sunday.
Kansas City area UAW delegates at the four-day UAW bargaining convention said they agreed with the goals announced by Bieber but said some of the goals would require trade and investment policies that the Reagan administration has rejected.
(And some Missouri delegates said they were upset that the union had refused to consider a proposal to vote on the overall bargaining resolution part by part, as opposed to voting again on the entire resolution at the end of the convention on Wednesday.)
Bieber, addressing more than 3,000 delegates at the convention, said that increasing pressure from automakers to close U.S. plants and send work overseas would make this year a “very difficult bargaining environment.”
“We have a country of manipulators, not producers. People who know how to roll bank notes, not steel,” Bieber said. “By depriving our industrial base of needed investment, this group is creating enormous hardship for today’s generation of workers.”
The UAW will start bargaining in July with the General Motors Corp. and the Ford Motor Co. The current three-year contract’ with the two automakers expires Sept. 14.
Bieber said the union hoped to make progress in several areas this year.
- Job security. “Guaranteed employment is a concept whose time has come,” Bieber said. When Bieber said that the UAW was ready for “war” to guarantee that right, he got the only standing ovation of the day.
- Use of U.S.-made parts. In reference to Chevrolet’s “heartbeat of America campaign,” Bieber said, “I’ve been listening to GM’s so-called heartbeat, and what I hear is the sound of a triple bypass.” GM bypassed American production to go to Japan for subcompacts and to Korea for mini-cars, and now is planning to go to Mexico to build the Chevrolet Celebrity, he said.
- Increase in base wage and retention of cost-of-living adjustments. In 1984 the UAW got a lump-sum increase of 2.5 percent; the union wants a return to its traditional 3 percent annual increase.
- Higher pensions.
- Reduction of overtime, to force the automakers to rehire laid-off employees.
- Automaker-union lobbying for more aggressive trade policies aimed at protecting American jobs.
Dale Lamberty, president of Local 249, which represents about 4,300 workers at Ford’s Claycomo assembly plant, said the UAW should concentrate on changing trade policy and using boycotts to protect American jobs. Bieber’s suggestions of guaranteeing that each car be made mostly of parts made in the United States might not be negotiable, he said.
“You’re never going to get anything in the contract to restrict them from going overseas,” Lamberty said. “You have to get everybody, corporations, small businesses, everyone, to buy American.”
But Ford workers have a different perspective from GM workers, said Charlie Knott, president of Local 31, which represents about 5,000 autoworkers at GM’s Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan.
Ford’s move to sell foreign-made cars in the United States has cost thousands of American jobs since 1979, he said. GM workers, on the other hand, are just now beginning to feel the effects of a similar program to manufacture overseas, he said.
Knott said he supported specific language in the upcoming contracts to prohibit “outsourcing.”
Knott said that because of Ford’s outsourcing, less than 40 percent of Ford car parts are made by UAW workers, compared with 70 percent of GM car parts.