“Every contract we wonder how we are going to get shafted”

US autoworkers speak on bribing of UAW official

Autoworkers contacted by the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter spoke out strongly on the alleged bribing of the late General Holiefield, the UAW top negotiator at Fiat Chrysler. A federal indictment Wednesday charged that a former vice president at Fiat Chrysler funneled more than $1 million in bribes to Holiefield, a UAW vice president, between 2009 and 2014.

“I’m not surprised,” one worker said, expressing the general sentiment. “We all know they’re corrupt. They’re all in this for themselves.”

Holiefield, who died in 2015 shortly after retirement, pushed through agreements in 2007, 2009 and 2011 that imposed deep cuts on Chrysler workers, including a 50 percent pay cut for new hires and the imposition of the hated alternative work schedule (AWS) that forced workers to labor 10 hours a day without payment of overtime after eight hours.

Also named in the indictment is Holiefield’s widow, Monica Morgan. Both Morgan and FCA negotiator Alphons Iacobelli are charged with violating the Labor Management Relations Act, which prohibits employers from bribing union officials and bans union officials from accepting bribes.

The vehicle for the payouts was the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC) in Detroit, one of the labor management schemes set up by the UAW and the auto companies. The NTC received some $13 million to $31 million in annual payments from FCA between 2009 and 2014.

According to the indictment, top UAW officials knew of the payments to Holiefield and Morgan. In 2011 UAW President Bob King allegedly confronted Holiefield and Iacobelli and told them that “paying Monica Morgan was a bad idea and that they could ‘go to jail.’”

A WSWS reporting team spoke to autoworkers Friday at the Fiat Chrysler Warren Truck Assembly Plant outside of Detroit. Typical were the comments of one worker who declared, “I think they should redo the whole contract.”

Another added, “It doesn’t surprise me. It calls into question all of the contracts. How can they represent us when they are in bed with the company?”

The exposure of open bribery further confirms the anti-working-class character of the UAW and the contracts it negotiated, including the 2015 sellout deals signed with the Big Three. Even the FBI admitted the bribery scheme “calls into question the integrity of contracts negotiated during the course of this criminal conspiracy.”

Many workers spoke about the impact of decades of concessions on the living standards and working conditions of autoworkers.

Tony, a worker with 18 years, said he suffered from cerebral palsy and had been off seven and a half years on medical leave, just returning earlier this year. “These guys robbed me of seven and a half years of service. They were negotiating deals that were bad, with no checks and balances. You have a company and a union that do what they want.

“I called Holiefield in 2012, and he hung up on me. I finally got called back to work in April. Now they say I have to make up that time I was off. They found a doctor to say that I had no restrictions on the jobs I could do. They will no longer negotiate ‘reasonable accommodation.’

"The UAW told me that if I didn’t like the decision I could appeal. But, they gave me just one day!”

Another worker, Julius, said, “This has been going on for years. Are they going to give us back everything we gave up in all those concession contracts?”

Workers were in general agreement that the charges against Holiefield were not just a case of personal corruption, but spoke to the character of the UAW. They noted details of the endless series of sellout contracts negotiated by the UAW, which have handed back basic gains won through the bitter struggle and sacrifice of past generations of autoworkers.

A young temporary worker noted that under terms of various sellout agreements negotiated by the UAW, workers could be kept as temporary employees for up to five years. “They roll you over when they feel like it and start you back at $15.76 an hour,” (about half of standard wages for senior workers), he said. “We do a different job every two hours. We pay union dues, and it is BS.”

A young worker who said she was a janitor employed by a subcontractor at the plant said, “I hope they get what they deserve.” She remarked that she was “represented” by the UAW. “Holiefield negotiated our contract,” she continued. “And our contract ain’t shit. But we still have to pay union dues.”

Another worker with 20 years at Warren Truck said, “I want our money back, I want all of it back! We put our blood, sweat, and tears into keeping this truck here and they’re just living large with our money.

“Ever since I’ve been here the contract hasn’t been honest. The union negotiated away our COLA, we’ve got two tiers. It’s not honest and there’s a lot more of this going on, it’s just now it’s coming to light.

A veteran worker at the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas also spoke to the WSWS by phone about the indictments. “It kind of made my stomach sick when I heard it. If it is true, it has been going on since 2009. He [Holiefield] was going to the highest bidder and swung the way they wanted.

“It is so easy for those guys to be bought. I’ve been in auto for 37 years and I have seen many contracts mishandled. I can’t remember one that actually benefited the rank-and-file.

“How did the last contract pass when everyone that I know voted ‘no’? The whole system is rigged. Every contract we wonder how we are going to get shafted. Corporate America is basically running the country.”

He spoke of the conditions at his facility, which builds the Chevrolet Malibu. “We are losing a shift in September. We call it feast or famine. You are either working your butts off or sitting at home. We have some very upset young people. They quit what in some cases were good jobs hoping to be full-time.

“They [the UAW] are going to do what the stockholders want. Here in a couple of years we have another contract coming up. We are going to really have our eyes peeled. I am sure they are spending a lot of our dollars partying.

“Another thing that irks me is they took over the retiree health care from the company. I don’t like it, because they are in bed with management. They will benefit from everything that benefits the company. Whose future are they looking out for, theirs or mine? Of course their own.”