Huge support is building up for US Delphi workers confronting a massive attack on their wages, healthcare and pensions.
The former General Motors subsidiary, still its main supplier, wants to slash Delphi workers’ wages and benefits by 62 per cent.
Marcello Malentacchi, General Secretary of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, has pledged his organisation’s full support and cooperation with the six unions that make up Mobilizing@Delphi.
Malentacchi conveyed the collective outrage of union members around the world at Delphi’s union-busting tactics in the US.
He said in his letter last Tuesday 9th November: ‘Dear Colleagues,
‘The International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) and its affiliates worldwide stand shoulder to shoulder with your coalition’s collective stand against Delphi management’s assault on US workers, their families and communities.
‘We too are outraged by the Delphi Corporation’s attempt to abuse the bankruptcy process to destroy the living standards of US industrial workers, while so-called “key employees” enrich themselves with tens of millions of dollars in stock and cash bonuses paid out once Delphi emerges from bankruptcy.
‘The attempt by Steve Miller, Delphi’s Chief Operating Officer, to undermine the jobs, wages and working conditions of your members through a radical restructuring, signifies a basic disdain and disrespect for workers and their livelihoods.
‘It is an affront to basic fairness and decency.
‘And it is not only the tens of thousands of Delphi workers who are threatened by years of mismanagement of the company and Steve Miller’s drive to abuse the country’s bankruptcy laws; so too are countless others working in Delphi’s supply chain potentially impacted by Miller’s actions.
‘That supply chain encompasses people in businesses and communities stretching across North America and indeed around the world.
‘Metalworkers globally support and stand in solidarity with your unions and Delphi workers in the fight to protect jobs and uphold the wages and working conditions that have been fought for over decades.
‘In this spirit, the IMF pledges to your coalition our full cooperation. Please let us know how we can in any way assist you.
Yours in unity, Marcello Malentacchi, General Secretary.
US union federation AFL-CIO President John Sweeney issued a statement last week: ‘The attempt by Delphi Corp. to use the bankruptcy process to slash wages and benefits for workers and then award company stock and nearly $90 million in cash bonuses to managers and executives is obscene.
‘It is an insult to the 33,650 Delphi workers from six AFL-CIO unions who made this company the world’s biggest auto parts manufacturer.
‘It is a threat not only to the wages, benefits and job security of every industrial worker in America, but to the company’s shareholders, suppliers and customers.
‘The AFL-CIO stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Delphi workers and their unions.
‘Not only can they count on the 5.5 million active and retired members of the six unions that formed the Mobilizing@Delphi coalition, they can count on the support of the entire nine million member AFL-CIO.
‘Together we will fight to force Delphi management to change the company’s anti-working family strategy.’
Meanwhile, reports on the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) rank and file website reveal workers at Delphi have been getting organised for a fight.
‘Rank & File auto workers from across the country gathered in Kokomo, Indiana, on Sunday, November 13 to discuss strategy and the importance of their fight against corporate exploitation.
‘Key topics included:
‘The need to reach out to all union and non-union people in this country and around the world who are concerned about corporate disregard for working families.
‘How to get that global group involved in the struggle.
‘The work to rule strategy.
Quoting local press reports, the website said: ‘Approximately 150 people attended the nonunion-sanctioned meeting where Delphi workers were encouraged to come.
‘People attended from Ford, DaimlerChrysler, American Axle and Caterpillar, as well as rank and file United Auto Workers union members from across the nation, including Boston and New York, according to Todd Jordan, 28, Kokomo, a Delphi production worker who is helping organise meetings.
‘Jordan has a wife who also works at Delphi, a child and one on the way. When workers are looking at their wages dropping to $10 per hour, Jordan said they have nothing to lose by organising.
‘He said: “I have 11 family members who will be affected by this. . . . This is my livelihood . . . . This is a battle for our lives.”
Jordan saw the meeting as a success, saying the group liked “Soldiers for Solidarity” as its new name.
‘Dave Reynolds, 53, was one of the Delphi workers also attending the special meeting.
‘He has been employed with Delphi for 32 years and hopes to work until he’s 55. He came to the meeting for help.
‘He said: ‘A 60 per cent wage cut is beyond belief. I want to look at every angle and hope the union is doing the right thing for us.”
‘Reynolds has seen jobs slashed from past numbers. In the 1980s, there were 10,000 to 11,000 workers at Delphi, whereas now there are only 2,300 to 2,500 people working there.
‘He added: “I don’t know why the union wasn’t stepping in then.”
‘After the meeting, Reynolds said: “I’m glad to see so many concerned people from around the country. It’s amazing.”
‘Delphi worker Norman Knowlton, 62, also is worried about wages.
‘He said on Sunday: ‘People can’t feed their families and keep a roof over their heads (with the wages Delphi CEO Steve Miller’s recommending).
“If a judge lets him take what he wants, this country’s going to go into rebellion.” ’
A further report said the Kokomo meeting was one of several organised by dissident UAW group Future of the Union at cities where Delphi plants are located.
Rally organiser Jordan added: ‘There was not much talk of a strike as much as we talked about work-to-rule.’
‘UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has endorsed a work-to-rule action at Delphi, a move that could slow production at its plants.’
Delphi, the largest US auto supplier, filed for bankruptcy protection last month. It has asked its unions to accept wage and benefit cuts of up to 62 per cent as part of its restructuring.
The company has proposed wages of $9.50 to $10.50 an hour, compared with the current UAW scale of $27 an hour.
Delphi is Indiana’s third largest industrial employer, with 6,500 workers in Anderson and Kokomo. Both cities are north of Indianapolis.
Additional meetings are planned for Flint, Michigan; Saginaw, Michigan; Lockport, New York and Milwaukee, the group said.
‘The long-term goals must be outlined and addressed to win this battle for Delphi. To solely focus on short-term battles is to fail before we begin,’ Jordan said in a statement.
‘The battle for Delphi, the battle against globalisation, social security, health care, and living wages – these things are mere battles of a greater war.
‘We cannot continue to fight the battles and forget the war.’