The Real Union News

May 29, 2008

American Axle gearing up to destroy the environment

Filed under: American Axle, China, travesty, UAW, wto — Tags: , , , , — theunionnews @ 3:16 pm

Who would have thought that those good guys at American Axle would wind up winning their labor dispute with the UAW here in the states, getting as much as wages of $10 less an hour and gearing up to shed 3 US factories and a little less than 2,000 US workers in the process. You would think that they have gotten a sweet deal. Figuring that the US worker is the absolutely highest production worker in the world. Theres gotta be some reasoning and considering all the new business it has recently gotten, its a cause for alarm, according to Automotive News:

American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. said today that it has a $1.4 billion backlog in new business beginning next year through 2013 — almost all of which will be sourced outside the United States, Automotive News reported.

You would think they would be opening factories on every block, but that simply isn’t the case. For some reason, be it governmental labor regulations or environmental standards, American Axle is pledging to do more business outside of the US, according to Crains Detroit (5/28/08):

Despite those gains, American Axle said about 85 percent of its new business will be made in non-U.S. operations, increasing its business in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Poland and Thailand. That means more than 50 percent of the supplier’s production will be done outside the United States, Dauch said. About 65 to 70 percent of that production will be shipped back to the United States.

About half of American Axle’s new business will be for rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive products for cars and crossovers. But the company said it is also looking to begin offering electronics products, including transmission differentials and transfer cases.

“Record-high fuel prices, rapidly shifting consumer preferences and fast growth in the emerging markets are quickly changing the product development requirements of the global automotive industry,” Dauch said in a statement.

“American Axle’s success in growing its new business backlog demonstrates that our long-term strategic goals of expanding and diversifying American Axle’s product portfolio, customer base, served markets and global manufacturing footprint are on track and in balance with the needs of our customers.”

How on Earth is all that product going to wind up in the United States?

Is the Starship Enterprise gonna beam it here? What about the exceedingly low environmental standards of these countries that are getting the AAM business? how much more fossil fuels are going to be burned to import back the product? Brazil is destroying its wetlands, for biofuel crops and blatant deforestation, China is burning coal like its the 1900′s and cares enough about the environment to still be mining coal with its prisoners. That doesn’t even tip the iceberg of China’s infractions and most of us are aware of India, but what about Poland and Thailand? heres a clip from Nations Encyclopedia (note some of it is a bit dated)

Poland

The labor code prohibits employment for children under the age of 15. There are strict rules governing the work standards for those between 15 and 18 years old, however these are not regularly enforced. The minimum wage in state-owned enterprises was $180 per month in 2002, although large number of workers earn less than the minimum wage. The legal standard workweek is 42 hours with one 24-hour rest period. The labor code defines occupational safety and health standards but they are not consistently enforced.
(on energy)
The main domestic energy sources are coal, lignite, and peat; rivers remain a largely untapped source of power. In 2001, the net installed capacity was 30,559,000 kW. Production in 2000 was 135.2 billion kWh, of which 98.1% was from fossil fuels, 1.5% from hydropower, and less than 1% from other renewable sources.

Thailand

…Minimum daily wage rates in 2002 ranged from $3.01 to $3.71 depending on the cost of living in different provinces. Legislation regulating hours and conditions of labor, workers’ compensation, and welfare also exists, however, these laws are weakly enforced.

While forced labor is prohibited by the Thai constitution, there are reports that workers are physically prevented from leaving some sweatshops, especially ones which employ illegal immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, and Burma. These same sweatshops have also been accused of using physical coercion to meet production goals.

American Axles, is not only fucking the US workers, by exiting our country for places with little or no enforced labor standards. This multi national corp is now helping destroy the entire planet while we are so caught up in the “Green” movement here in the states, AAM and other wonderful corporations are skirting laws and regulations by just moving away. I only wonder where the outrage is? Where’s the environmental tariff? Why do I have to sort shit in green and blue bags so some corporation makes money off of my labor? Now I have to put leaves in a separate bag and American Axle is getting away with burning coal to make it’s products. What a sham. We all work harder and get less and they convince us its for our own good. I’m not going to disagree, but how is this country going to allow this? A big fuck you to AAM, Dick Dauch and all the bullshit rules and regulations that are selectively sentenced upon our people.

A huge thanks to UnionGal for pointing this out

May 23, 2008

American Axle strike of 2008 ends

From the LA Times (5/23/08) :

Workers for GM supplier vote to accept cuts, end strike
From Bloomberg News

Workers for American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. approved a contract Thursday that cuts wages and shuts two plants, ending a 12-week strike that idled production at its largest customer, General Motors Corp.

A majority of the 3,650 United Auto Workers members at five plants in Michigan and New York voted to approve a four-year agreement that will reduce wages and provide buyouts to workers who agree to quit, said Adrian King, president of union Local 235, which represents workers in Detroit.

“It passed,” King said of the vote at the largest and last union to ratify the agreement. “Good or bad, now we can start getting our lives back together.”

The approval paves the way for GM to open 20 plants that have shut or partially closed because of parts shortages.

American Axle will reduce wages and pare its U.S. manufacturing presence while avoiding the bankruptcy filings that were the fate of other suppliers, including Delphi Corp. and Dana Holding Corp.

Under the agreement, hourly pay will drop by more than one-third for some jobs, to a range of $10 to $26 across all five plants involved in the strike, according to a proposal distributed at a UAW meeting in Detroit on Sunday.

The base pay for production workers would be about $18 an hour, down from as high as $28.14. Worker contributions for health insurance would rise 3% annually starting in 2010.

American Axle will close a forge plant in Detroit and a factory in Tonawanda, N.Y., union leaders said at Sunday’s meeting.

The company will also provide buyouts worth $140,000 to workers with more than 10 years of experience. Cash payments over three years adding up to no more than $105,000 are designed to soften the blow from lower wages.

About 1,172 members voted yes and 429 voted no at Local 235 on Thursday, King said. Four other locals, including two more in Michigan and two in New York, voted in favor of the agreement earlier this week.

“I think with the economy the way it is, with the truck sales the way it is, I feel that’s what people thought they had to do,” said Local 235 shop chairman Dana Edwards.

More American Axle strike headlines below

May 19, 2008

American Axle: Voting Underway Now

Filed under: American Axle, dick dauch, Labor, UAW — Tags: , , , , — theunionnews @ 12:04 pm

By uniongal (aka bendygirl)
crossposted on Dailykos and Uniongal

Obama made his first public comments about the American Axle strike last Thursday in Macomb and then, suddenly, there’s an agreement. I highly recommend seeing the video and listening to what he says about American Manufacturing jobs:

Let’s take a look at the “agreement” Mlive has the skinny:

DETAILS OF THE DEAL
Details of the tentative agreement between the United Auto Workers and American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc.:

WAGES: Varies by factory location. Production workers in Detroit would see pay cuts from $28 per hour to $18.50, up from $17 the company was offering. Factory support workers would make $14.35 in Detroit and $10 per hour in Three Rivers.

BUYOUTS: Workers with less than 10 years of seniority could get $85,000 to leave the company. Those with 10 or more years could get $140,000.

PLANT CLOSINGS: Company will close forges in Detroit and Tonawanda, N.Y. No date was revealed for the closures.

EARLY RETIREMENT: Workers who are 60 or above with 10 or more years of service could get $55,000 to retire.

BUYDOWNS: Workers would get three annual payments to make the transition to lower wages. The maximum amount would total $105,000.

BONUS: Workers would get a $5,000 signing bonus.

THE VOTE: Starts Monday at some UAW locals. A large local in Detroit votes Thursday.

The “deal” is pretty darn disappointing especially in light of American Axle’s profitability, rare in the GM spin-off companies. So, let’s take a look at the striker’s reactions from the AP to step up their coverage of the American Axle strike:

After the meeting, Adrian King, outgoing president of UAW Local 235 in Detroit, said the session didn’t go well. Workers were angry about the deal, and their frustration was compounded by a malfunctioning public address system that hampered questions from the crowd.
“We had a lot of angry brothers and sisters,” he said. “It’s definitely a hard-looking contract, very tough pill to swallow for the membership.”

>snip<

Most workers leaving the meeting Sunday predicted the vote will be close. One worker tossed pages of the summary into the air as he walked out.

“There will be a lot of unhappy people,” Reed said as he carried a picket sign outside the school. “But I think it’s going to be accepted.”

Today, American Axle workers are voting on this “deal”. From Mlive for some, it’s good news like:

Jeff Claussen, 58, of Three Rivers, said he is prepared to take a buyout and will retire after 28 years at the Three Rivers plant. His 59-year-old wife, Ruth, retired last year.

“If you prepared for retirement, and we have for the past 20 years, then I guess you’re all set,” Claussen said.

For some, it’s really bad news (from AP)

I’m voting no. It’s totally unacceptable,” said Gary Reed, 52, of Warren, who criticized American Axle Chairman and CEO Richard Dauch for making millions while asking production workers to take a pay cut from $28 per hour to $18.50.

“It’s a slap in our face,” Reed said. “We’ve been watching this guy making millions and millions of dollars even while we’ve been on strike, and were going to accept a stab in the back and just walk away with a smile on our face?”

And for others, it’s a mixed bag, from Freep

“I feel like I’m done, but I have no choice,” said Tod Rippe, 43, of Dearborn. He said he plans to accept a buyout and may move out of Michigan. “It’s a nightmare. It really is.”

Mike Ulicne, 39, of Trenton said the contract would be tough to accept.

“I’m relieved, but not happy or satisfied,” Ulicne said.

>snip<

Terasiena Cunningham, 36, of West Bloomfield started a similar chant for workers gathered outside the school.
Cunningham said she feels workers gained little, if anything, by going on strike.

“We can get better than this,” she said. Cunningham also said she wished the two sides had extended the contract that expired Feb. 26, allowing workers to stay at their jobs as negotiations continued.

Former Local 235 UAW Vice President Erik Webb, 39, of Detroit said a much calmer meeting was held Sunday afternoon at the Local 235′s union hall in Hamtramck, and predicted the contract would pass.

“Everybody who has been out on the picket line has been frustrated. People are ready to go back to work,” Webb said. “We didn’t really get what we wanted to get, but something is better than nothing.”

>snip<

“Most of us are at a point where, financially, we are so ruined that this contract beats being homeless,” said Michael Dudun, 46, of St. Clair Shores.

Workers at American Axle are hurting and some are willing to vote for anything. After 11 weeks (Wednesday marks 12 weeks out), it’s understandable. Again, from Mlive

Local workers have been living on $200 a week in strike pay. Many workers who said they were unhappy with the settlement said they would vote for it anyway.

“It’s just a nasty situation,” said Curtis McCall, 45, an American Axle worker who attended an informational meeting Sunday in Detroit. “You almost have no choice. If you vote no, then really you’re out in the cold.”

Workers will see their wages slashed under the deal.

A 54-year-old worker from Lockport Township, who declined to give his name, said he will see his pay drop from $27 an hour to $14.50. The 15-year employee said Sunday he hadn’t decided how he would vote.

“We’re putting one of our trucks up for sale, I’ve sold some scuba equipment on eBay — but I just don’t think we can adjust to such a drastic rate in pay,” the worker said.

The summary of the contract distributed by the union said there will be buyouts of $85,000 for someone with less than 10 years with the company and $140,000 for a worker with more than 10 years. An offer of a $55,000 early retirement bonus also was included in the proposed contract.

Workers would get a wage “buydown” of up to $105,000 paid over three years to help ease the transition to lower hourly pay. The size of the buydown would vary with the size of a worker’s pay reduction.

It’s even tougher to swallow a contract like this when you know that Dick Dauch will be shelling out nice bonuses to himself again next year.

But then again, what can we expect in this day and age? The haves like Dauch can reap $10 plus millions dollar compensation packages while the working stiff gets a whopping $14 to $17 an hour. Seems an awful lot like the times of the Robber Barons and I for one don’t want to return to the days of ole and the likes of Carnegie and Rockefeller.

I don’t know how I’d manage with a 50% reduction in income even with the 3 year buy down. I suppose, like many others, I’d be looking at a new line of work or a new job, just like Jerd0708:

I have been on the hunt for a new employer. Going well. I think I am going to take the buy out either way. I had a real nice interview with a forging / machining company out in Wayne. My pastors brother in law works there and loves it. They have been looking for CNC experienced guys to start up a new machining building. They can only handle about 20% of there work there right now so they are building a huge new building with all new equipment to bring all the work back in-house. Good money and they just got a huge contract with a wind mill company making rings for the shafts and generators. They are 100% non automotive. Quarterly bonuses to the workers and great benefits.

Another company I have been dealing with is in South Carolina. Had two phone interviews and now they are flying me down for a plant tour and sit down on Tue the 13th. I really like this company too. They are a German firm that make Engines and Crankshafts. Huge in Germany. They have a lot of new equipment. They are offering me a shift leader position. Money will be close to what I was making Pre-Strike. All Benefits and a lot of time off. Wife really wants to stay here but is cool with leaving too.

Voting on the contract is taking place today, so we should know tonight if the contract has been ratified. I’m very happy that they might be going back to work this week, but I still have to say that this is a really awful pill to swallow. For those choosing to go down the path that Jerd0708 has now chosen, there are profitable forges in the States doing good precision work with owners who aren’t trying to reap for themselves on the backs of their workers. Unfortunately, AAM isn’t one of these companies and Dick Dauch isn’t one of these owners. For me, it really all comes down to Dick’s entitlement mentality; he’s entitled to all of it and hell with his workers.

So, would you vote for this contract?

May 17, 2008

American Axle/UAW reach tentative pact, Cheektowaga to stay open, Tonawanda Forge to close

There is a tentative agreement between AAM and UAW, not many details as of yet. Buffalo Cheektowaga facility to stay open, Tonawanda Forge to close, don’t know much more yet, details will be released Sunday morning. WSBT DTV reports “A spokesperson who was briefed on the agreement says the auto part supplier has boosted its wage offer and increased payments it will give workers to take a wage cut.”

From AFL-CIO Blog (5/17/08):

The UAW and American Axle Manufacturing have reached a tentative agreement to end a strike by 3,600 UAW members at American Axle plants in Michigan and New York. The workers have been on strike since Feb. 26. The tentative pact was announced late yesterday.

Says UAW President Gettelfinger:

Our members at American Axle have displayed extraordinary solidarity during this strike. the bargaining committee worked extremely hard to achieve this tentative agreement and they have voted to recommend it to the membership.

Details of the tentative agreement will be presented to UAW members who work in the two Detroit area plants at a meeting tomorrow morning. Meetings for workers at the other three American Axle facilities are being scheduled.

Buffalo’s News 4 reports:

About 116 people work at the Cheektowaga plant.

The agreement does call for closing the Tonawanda Forge, which employs around 400.

State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, who was Town Supervisor when American Axle moved into Cheektowaga, has mixed feelings.

Gabryszak said, “For them to be able to go back to work knowing they’ll have jobs for at least the next four years that’s the good thing. Of course the downside is losing those jobs in Tonawanda plant.”

Klostermann said, “There’s a lot of skepticism, sure there’s probably a general uplifting feeling but for the most part until we see what’s going to be offered you really can’t let your guard down.”

The workers have been on strike for eleven and-a-half weeks.

More American Axle strike headlines below

May 9, 2008

GM Finally Says Enough!

Filed under: American Axle, dick dauch, GM, strike — Tags: , , , — theunionnews @ 4:55 pm

By UnionGal (Aka, Bendygirl)

General Motors said Thursday that it had agreed to give as much as $200 million to a parts supplier, American Axle and Manufacturing, to help settle a 10-week strike that has reduced or halted production at 32 G.M. factories.

About Freaking time!! Way to step up GM, way to freaking step up!! More from the New York Times

G.M. said in its filing that the deal to pay American Axle was reached recently but did not say when. A spokeswoman for American Axle, Renee Rogers, said, “This is sort of a breaking news situation. It happened very quickly.” Ms. Rogers said a deal to end the strike was not imminent but that “multiple” issues had been resolved.

Of G.M.’s cash infusion, she said, “It makes us hopeful that the parties can quickly reach an agreement to bring an end to the terribly costly and disruptive strike.”

Gee, GM, it’s about time you realized how costly this strike has been. For the workers, it’s been even worse as Food Pantries have run dry all over, take the report from the Toledo Blade:

Linda Crouch-Roepken, associate executive director of The Foodbank, said the strike has raised demand and lowered donations. She said the hardest hit food pantries have been AFL-CIO satellite sites, including one spot where 300 people picked up food a recent day.

“We have been able to address the need, but it has been a strain on the entire network,” Crouch-Roepken said.

So, to sum this up, way to finally step up PUBLICLY GM, now Dick Dauch, stop being a freaking dickhead and let your workers return to work based on a FAIR CONTRACT. All workers should be able to put food on their tables and also into the pantries, too.

Lockhart says all the talk about pay cuts and buyouts is upsetting, but he has to prepare for the inevitable. He doesn’t want a pay cut, but he also wants to go back to work.

“I guess that’s what it’s going to be,” he said. “I refuse to stay mad and make being out here even worse.”

And right now, with this GM proposal, I finally have my fingers crossed and I’m holding my breath that this might really be near the end of this strike. It’s still not good enough, I’m sure it isn’t good enough for Lockhart or Jerd0708 or any of the other American Axle workers out on the lines right now, but it’s movement on the strike. And that to me, it’s a good sign.

April 27, 2008

Hilary Clinton letter to Dick Dauch in support of American Axle workers from 4/2/08

Maybe she read the story here by Bendygirl, or maybe she has an actual concern for New York workers, many labor leaders I have spoken to believe so. Heres a Senator letter from Mrs.Clinton in regard to the American Axle strike, a big thanks to Bendygirl, who also runs Women, Unions and Our Stories, for the heads up in finding this.


**Click on image to enlarge in a new tab or window**

Heres the most recent headlines on the strike from Google

Also check out the AAM Vs. UAW resource

April 26, 2008

American Axle strikers face a cruel police force, WTF is going on in Detroit?

I had to grab this article from fellow writer Bendygirls diaries at Daily Kos on 4/25/08

UPDATE: What the F&*K is Going On In Detroit

Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 06:15:46 PM PDT

Yesterday, families and strikers mounted a rally in Detroit to highlight American Axle’s desire to screw their workers while continuing to reap huge profits and dishing out million dollar bonuses to CEO and other executives.

And despite more than 37,000 workers off their jobs, 3650 American Axle Workers on strike, more than 30 plants shut AND 3 different countries affected, we still have nothing From Obama, Clinton and Mr. No-Right-To-Work-tax-your-benefits-anti-EFCA-McSame.

Not a F U C K I N G Word. Not one!

So, the union and other allies, families and friends, put together a rally. And then things went horribly bad.

So, I got this e-mail this morning (really early) and I needed to share and vent at the same time.

I went to another American Axle rally for Rich today. It was a great success through most of it. I was astounded and appauled by this site right before us.

This woman, an AAM employee, asked to “jay walk” along with other women. As she did a Detroit officer put her in a “chokehold” and litterally dragged her backwards to his cop car and arrested her. I was completely amazed. This woman is an older lady – I am told she is 65 with a heart condition – and she didn’t do ANYTHING!

Now, ya all know me. I am not one to keep quiet and I told Officer McGain this (the officer who did this to her). I am writing papers, tv stations and any parties connected with the Detroit Police force.

But don’t take my word for it, take a look at the pictures

AAM CHOKEHOLD2

AAM CHOKEHOLD

This isn’t the time of Pinkertons killing strikers and locked out workers.

AAM CHOKEHOLD 3

This is the 2nd incident with Detroit Police; police represented by a union as well. The first incident happened earlier in the strike.

Traditional media barely works. They haven’t been covering this, at all. But that means that WE have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of American Axle workers. Our neighbors, friends, countrymen. Isn’t it time to make a difference?

April 15, 2008

Kongsberg Automative, a History of Greed

Filed under: American Axle, Aramark — Tags: , , , , — theunionnews @ 6:52 am

By Bendygirl
crossposted on Dailykos and Uniongal

I have been watching the American Axle strike and now I’m also following the strikes at CBS (Aramark run Cafeteria) and the LOCK OUT in Van Wert, Ohio.
So, what do these things have in common? I think it’s money. Not necessarily the cost of labor or the cost of benefits. It’s about taxes, trade, environmental standards, in short, it’s about the American Way.

Over on my site today, I talked about the UNITE-HERE actions against Aramark in Canada and also at the CBS cafeteria. I also discussed the issues involved in the Kongsberg Automotive lock out in Ohio and it’s this action I want to draw your attention to now.

You see, Kongsberg has a most unsavory recent history of closing a profitable plant in order to maximize profits not only by lowering wages from one operation to the next but also through lowering the taxes they pay from one country to the next and the cost it takes to meet specific work or environmental standards. Here’s what Kongsberg had to say on their closure of Amotfors seat heating system plant.

“We are one of the world’s leading suppliers of seat heating systems for cars. To maintain this position we must adapt our production costs to a level which yield acceptable earnings also in future,” said Olav Volldal, CEO of Kongsberg Automotive.

“The potential closure is not because our employees have not performed. It is due to the significant cost gap between high cost and low cost countries,” Volldal added.

Wow, you can work for a company, do really well there and then kiss it good bye, because, well, Poland does it cheaper. That’s right, POLAND.

Kongsberg closed their Swedish Amotfors plant to move operations to Poland where the tax rate, according to the Kongsberg annual report from 2005, is 19%

The Group is reporting a tax cost percentage of 26 % in 2005. The tax cost is around 28 % for all the countries where Kongsberg Automotive operates, except for Poland where the tax rate is 19 % and the USA where the tax rate is around 33 %.

Hmm, 33% for the US, that must be why they refused to negotiate with the Kongsberg employees in Ohio. After the employees rejected the contract with steep losses in income and benefits, Kongsberg advertised for SCABS and locked out the Steel Workers! and, now they’re also threatening to just move all those operations to Mexico, hmm, what a surprise, right?

But this just seems par for the course in World Wide Corporate standards. I mean, it’s the same kind of thing that Dick Dauch is suggesting at American Axle and has been since the workers went on strike on February 26th.

The thing is that Kongsberg and American Axle don’t seem to get that their actions have consequences to the rest of the automotive industry. More specifically, American Axle not only has already shut down production at about 28 different GM factories and related industry factories nationwide, but the continued strike now will shut down Lordstown prodcution, TOMORROW. From the Mahoning County Tribune Chronicle

Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714 of the Lordstown Metal Center plant, said management told him Thursday afternoon the estimate for running out of a brake part had been moved to Tuesday from the previous estimate of April 18.

Green said he’s scheduled to meet management at 9 a.m. today to get more details about how the situation may develop.

The Metal Center stamps and fabricates steel body parts for the small cars built at the next-door assembly plant. Some of the plant’s 1,000 hourly workers may stay on the job to make parts to bring inventory levels up to required levels, Green noted.

A UAW Local 1112 handout at that plant on Monday stated the factory was second in priority to GM’s Fairfax, Kan., plant for closure if the strike at American Axle continues. No update on the assembly outlook was available Thursday.

So, anyone taking bets on when Dick Dauch is going to take his head out of his ass and bargain in good faith?

And while we’re at it, do you think we might all take a step back from the Presidential race and actually ask these candidates on Wednesday what they’re doing today to help Aramark workers who make $400 a week in NYC after 9 years on the job, or locked out workers in Van Wert Ohio and the workers walking the picket line at American Axle? Can we have a real discussion about why we’re bitter, angry and frustrated? I’d appreciate such a conversation. Um, it’s still called Solidarity.

Some of the Dailykos Diaries I’ve written on the American Axle strike

End in Sight
Equality of Sacrifice
Help Wanted?
Clinton, McCain and Obama SILENT on Strike
Dick Dauch’s Entitlement Mentality
I Remember the Day the Shop Closed
When Strikes Happen
When Are You Going to Get Off Your Ass?
9 Million Reasons to Support Strikers
We Aren’t Disposable
Strike An American Tragedy

April 13, 2008

From the picket lines: American Axle and Kongsberg Automotive workers speak out on the internet

With the “Free Trade” threat over their heads and information getting even harder to find, as media outlets continue to narrow their pool of journalistic talent, having those affected by these labor disputes speaking their minds on the internet is one of the only ways to reach into the lives and get an understanding of the human side of these events.

Kongsberg Automotive Of Norway Lock Out of Steelworkers in Van Wert, Ohio

Not much of the goings on at Kongsberg Automotive Of Norway is known, aside from the fact that the company, formerly known as Teleflex was acquired in the first quarter of 2008. After the local USWA Steelworkers rejected a new contract on April 2nd., the company locked them out, then proceeded with temporary worker replacement and threats of moving outside the country, while the community leaders of Van Wert, Ohio have been trying to convince the company to stay put at any costs, oddly enough, the new owner Kongsberg , “has not paid their property tax for the first half of the year, which was due Feb. 13″, according to Van Wert County Treasurer Bev Fuerst.

After cross-posting the original Kongsberg story at Union Review on (4/5/08), I got a response from one of the locked out workers, Mr. Tom Potter:

(4/8/08):The Union came to the bargaining table expcecting to bargain in good faith. The Company only wanted to take back. Take back in wages, pension and health insurance. Maybe one or two but all three concessions at one time could not be acceptable. Especially not in light of any facts to back up any claim the Company made in reference to competitives.

This Company bought a plant that was making money the day it became their property. The Company negotiator even clarified that the company was not pleading poor mouth. One of the main issues of contention is that the company wants to implement a two tier wage system that would drop the current worker down to a lower rate of pay simply if a part number would change. This would have the negative effect of a wage reduction ranging from $2.54 up to $7.38 hour. The company is a billion dollar co. every worker at this location has the potential of being placed in this two tier before the new contract would run out, put that with a freeze in the current defined benefit pension, higher insurance premiums and out of pocket, and deductible on the insurance with no raise in wages over the three year agreement – without any real explination – the members did not think so – so the turned the offer down.

This meeting took place in the christain life center church – may “god bless” those for standing up to tough obsticiles

I asked on 4/9, “Thank you Tom for adding that info, I take it you are one of the locked out workers?” and on 4/11 Tom responded:

I am on the front lines of this battle.

I will inform you of what happens when a Foreign National Company, buys a U.S. Company. How that Company comes in and tries to destroy the will of the u.s. workers, to break their Spirit And Determination. How it reeks havoc upon those u.s. workers by the Company Locking Them Out of the plant so they cannot perform their work.

The picket line in Van Wert, Ohio tonight is wet and windy but brave men and women walk those lines. Standing up against all obstacles, having the Courage to know what is right. These workers are members of the community of Van Wert and the surrounding area. They are honest and respectful people. They are U.S. Veterans, leaders in the community, neighbors, friends and patrons, the list could go on forever, they are community.

Kongsberg Automotive Of Norway is intent on breaking the will of these Made In The U.S.A. Workers – Kongsberg Automotive Of Norway will “Preach a Company Code Of Ethics but they do not practice it in The United States.

Before I could respond, Mr. Potter added…

This Company now has stooped as low as contacting former workers of the Company, that the Company claimed to “Terminate For Just Cause,” asking them if they would come back to work. What a “Code Of Co. Ethics.” Even their own salary group that they just let go are being asked to come back to work.[All have said "No"] All in their attempt to run this plant with temporary workers and put not only themselves in jeopardy but that of the customers and the general public. If certain components for Ford, Chrysler or General Motors are not made to specifications then they are prone to failure and potential recall after the components have been installed on the car makers vehicles.

Kongsberg Automotive Of Norway is wanting to impose upon these U.S. Workers their philosophy on competitiveness in a global economy by bringing them down to Chinas’ living standards rather then bringing China’s up to the United States. In other words lets pay our U.S. Workers less. I do know that Kongsberg Automotive V.P Of Operations N A Operations Driveline Systems Kevin McMahon was present one day at these negotiations and pretty much was raising the flag of China all across the table.

It’s Cold on the picket line today, the wind in much stronger and the temperature is dropping. It will be a cold night.

Tomorrow will be Sunday and the Community will be in prayer, Kongsberg will keep busing in temporary workers and the guards will meet them at the gate. These proud U.S. Workers Of Van Wert will man their post. May all the prayers be heard to bring this Company to their senses, for this senseless act. Amen .

Tom Potter brings the news into our living rooms, from a community that is behind the workers and built around this plant, he lets you view the real story from that front line, where the media doesn’t bother, they would rather you didn’t care about your fellow American workers.

This is one of the many reasons I have started the series of Free Trade’s working victims, highlighting the conditions which American workers must try to compete against in parts of the world where our industrial base is being vacuumed into, the current focus is that these places the common workers cannot even afford to buy food. If the workers in America are going to drop to that level, we are all in trouble and any politician who is voting for more Free Trade agreements is the opponent of the American worker, union or otherwise. Which brings us to the other company that is being threatened by “Free Trade”…

American Axle UAW Workers Strike in Michigan and Buffalo, New York

American Axle, has been demanding overwhelming concessions from their employees, threatening to run itself out of the country if these demands are not met. Around 35,000 GM workers have been put out of work, laid off or have had hours dropped due to this struggle. While the owner and CEO of AAM, Dick Dauch, has finally came back to the bargaining table in the sixth week of the strike, he still has been sticking to his guns, in fact some of the companies points are very factual, the total labor costs of manufacturing auto parts has been declining because of Free Trade, concessions have been given in many other UAW affiliated shops and in a larger scale, the BIG 3 have recently received tremendous concessions, it is a different world, it’s the world of “Free Trade” where eventually it would seem if we keep bowing down to the effects of the actions of our Representatives, none of us will be able to afford rice.

Jolyna – A wife of AAM employee, has responded to the original story from 3/2/08, which I turned into a story here at the site, on 3/16, “An open letter to the AAM cofounder and CEO, Dick Dauch“, has made another comment, and it sums up what must be going on in the hearts and minds of those striking employees:

(4/11/08) Dick Dauch and the shareholders of American Axle, enough is enough!!!

I am sick and tired of the CRAP that Dick Dauch and American Axle is trying to dish to its employees and their families.
I can’t believe that this man has the nerve to sit there and offer insulting wages with insulting “buy downs” and “buy outs”. He should be ashamed of what he is putting our 3600+ families through. Let’s not forget the other hundreds of thousands families that are being affected by this strike too. Not only in our country; but world wide.

He seems to think that his “buy downs” and “buy outs” will be “cushy and comfy” for his employees. These figures must be enough to replace the 14 years my husband has in at your company, the fact that we have to completely start over somewhere else – without the same pay – and allow our families to keep our houses. In my opinion, this man will never offer enough for the damage that has already been done and the wrath we are about to endure.

He smugly accepts a huge salary and bonuses while he threatens to close our plants because we aren’t making a profit large enough. However, he fails to announce to the world that these 5 plants fund the off shore plants and the off shore plants rake in the profits. How do you expect my husband and his co-workers to produce enough to finance all of these operations? Meanwhile, he is taking machines out of my husband’s plant and sending them to non-union plants. It’s a disgrace! AMERICAN Axle …yeah, real American.

I resent the fact that he is turning our lives upside down. I resent the fact we have to start over. I resent the fact we may have to TRY and sell our home and my kids may have to leave their school and the friends they know. Above all, I resent the fact that this is all because of 1 company’s greed!

I hope the whole Dauch family and members of the board can sleep well at night with their million dollar salaries; knowing their jobs and salaries are safe. While we are worrying and wondering how we are going to repair this financial and emotional mess that he has thrown us into. We can only hope that he acquires a conscience before it’s not too late!

Thank you, Tom and Jolyna,

I continue to hope for the best and will continue to help spread the message of your families struggle, in solidarity,
Joe

4-13-08: American Axle Makes New Offer to UAW, union rejects Federal mediator

From Omaha Steve at Democratic Underground via Money (4/13/08):

DETROIT (AP) — Striking United Auto Workers union members are considering a new contract offer from American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. as bargaining continues through the weekend.

About 3,600 UAW members at five American Axle plants in Michigan and New York went on strike Feb. 26 against the auto parts maker, which demanded steep pay cuts.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers says company bargainers gave the UAW a new contract proposal Saturday. She says bargainers are returning to the table Sunday.

The six-week strike has caused parts shortages that have closed or curtailed work at 29 General Motors Corp. factories, affecting about 39,000 hourly employees.

The Associated Press left a message with the UAW Sunday seeking comment.

Also shared by Steve, from Money (4/13/08) :

DETROIT -(Dow Jones)- American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. (AXL), dealing with a seven-week-old strike at five of its U.S. plants, said it requested a federal mediator to help with negotiations, but that the United Auto Workers union refused to allow it.

American Axle said it was disappointed in the UAW’s decision.

A UAW spokesman wasn’t immediately available for comment.

American Axle, in a statement Sunday, said it requested a federal mediator from the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service “to assist in the company’s ongoing negotiations with the UAW. AAM had hoped that the involvement of an impartial third party at the bargaining table could assist both sides.”

Democratic Underground

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