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The Power of Unions

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 31, 2010

There are many people out there in the right wing of the world that have been hammering at the meme that unions aren’t needed anymore and that they are obsolete. They claim that so many people are making good money without belonging to a union. They also argue that OSHA ensures job safety, etc. etc. etc. However, we keep seeing stories where they are continuously proven wrong.

Retired Delphi management personnel are finding out the hard way the importance of unions:

But his career was cut short after GM spun off parts-maker Delphi Corp., which closed the plant in November 2008. Now, Richards and thousands of other Delphi salaried retirees could see their monthly pension checks cut between 30% and 70% as the government-run Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has taken over the company’s retirement fund.

As a result, the average Delphi salaried retiree – many of whom were forced into early retirement by Delphi’s bankruptcy – stands to lose $300,000 in pension payments over his or her lifetime.

“I am not sure how I am going to survive, going forward, because of this,” said Richards, who as mayor was known for being a fiscal conservative.

It’s especially upsetting given that the pensions of Delphi’s hourly wage retirees, represented by the United Auto Workers, will not be reduced.

That’s because when General Motors spun off Delphi in 1999, it agreed to “top up” the hourly employees’ pensions if their plan ever fell short of what the employees would have earned had they remained at GM.

It’s crappy that these people that worked most of their adult lives for one company doesn’t get that loyalty returned to them. Unfortunately, they gave up the benefits of being a union member when they chose to take the promotion. At the time, it probably made a world of sense, and I don’t blame them for making that choice. It is just too bad that they are paying for it now when they should be able to enjoy life a little more.

The people in Oklahoma also learned the hard lesson when the unions were able to swing a last minute deal, albeit a very crappy one, with Mercenary Marine last year. That deal kept the plant from moving to Oklahoma.

Even the conservatives who like to bash unions at every chance actually unionize themselves, even though they would never admit it. But if you stop and think about it, are these TEA Party events really any different than a union? Or groups like WMC? They are a group of people or groups of people forming a larger group for a common cause, just like workers form a union to fight for their rights.

In these bad economic times, and with so many politicians and businesses playing “Gimme” with our livelihoods, it makes perfectly good sense to still have unions and to strengthen them before we all become victims of the money-grubbers.


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