American Axle: Voting Underway Now

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 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."


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.


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."


"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?

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