Saturday, September 16, 2006


Ron Lare talks about the Ford buyouts and the UAW

Friends of mine and folks who follow this blog will recall how much I have enjoyed appearing on the BBC radio call-in show "World Have Your Say" on three separate occasions this last year (discussing unemployment, immigrant rights, and Palestine and Lebanon). And I was blown away when they called me to be on the show again two weeks ago (see earlier entry for transcript).
Well they called again. This time they were doing a show on the buyouts at Ford Motor Co., what this would mean for the UAW, etc and wanted to know if I knew any auto workers they could talk to (knowing I live in Detroit).
I immedidately gave them the phone numbers of Ron Lare and Judy Wright, and then called up Labor Notes for three or four other numbers. I was pretty excited that I got to connect BBC radio with these people, who are dear friends of mine and who have BOTH taught me a lot about politics. There is no better trade union activists in Detroit to talk to about what's going on at Ford and in the UAW.
So after I gave her these phone numbers the woman form the BBC asked
"So, are these people Democrats?", and I said
"I think they are a little too pro-union to be Democrats"
"Oh, interesting"
"Yeah,these are people you would call 'shopfloor militants'"
Later that day my comrade Aaron in Ann Arbor called and yells in to the phone "Ron Lare is on PBS right now!!!!". I guess I'm not the only one who knew he was the guy to talk to.

Ron Lare
Ford employee

I think the UAW members are their best resource, and I think they're cutting back more than they need to. And certainly, I think this is the fault of bad management, not the fault of the workers.

A worker considers his options
RAY SUAREZ: Ron Lare, what kind of work do you do for Ford?

RON LARE, Member, United Autoworkers Union: I'm a skilled tradesperson, tool- and dye-maker at the Ford Rouge plant.

RAY SUAREZ: What does a tool- and dye-maker do?

RON LARE: Tool- and dye-maker makes or maintains machines that stamp metal parts.

RAY SUAREZ: And will Ford no longer need people like you? When they offer a buyout to all 75,000 production workers, how do they make sure they still have who they need?

RON LARE: Well, I think that's a very good question. I think they are going to get rid of more people than they can afford to. I think the UAW members are their best resource, and I think they're cutting back more than they need to. And certainly, I think this is the fault of bad management, not the fault of the workers.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, what goes into your decision of whether or not to take the buyout? What do you have to consider before you know whether you can take Ford up on the offer?

RON LARE: Well, there are some personal considerations. I'm 59 years old, but I have a young daughter. I'd like to spend more time with her. On the other hand, I need to save for her education. And I'd also like to stay in the fight to make the UAW stronger, because we're going to need that to be a fighting union again.

RAY SUAREZ: Have you had a chance to talk with fellow workers, especially those in your boat who might have thought of themselves as a little too young to retire, but kind of old to start over on a work career?

RON LARE: Well, yes, I have, and there's a very wide range of views from people. Some people are trying to recover from the news itself, although it wasn't totally unexpected. Many are angry at Ford management.

And others say that the UAW -- and others like myself say that the UAW needs to organize the transplant facilities in the U.S. from other auto companies around the world, and we can do that only with some changes in the UAW.

Looking elsewhere for jobs
RAY SUAREZ: Rebecca Lindland, a lot of guys and women, like Ron Lare, have lost their jobs working for the big three over the last decade, yet there are foreign plants popping up all over the country. Why don't those workers get those new jobs?

REBECCA LINDLAND: Well, because they're nonunion jobs, as Mr. Lare referred to. The transplant new factories, which are primarily moving into the South, are nonunion plants.

They tend to pay significantly less sometimes or, in fact, their health benefits are really the big difference that you'll see at a transplant location. And we talk about transplants, basically the imports like Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, building plants here in the U.S., but those plants are nonunion.

RAY SUAREZ: And so even middle-aged workers, workers still in their 30s and 40s, if they were willing to relocate, could they vie for jobs in Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, some of the states where those new plants have gone?

REBECCA LINDLAND: You know, Mr. Lare would actually probably be a better person to answer that. I'm not sure if the union prohibits you from taking a job with a nonunion facility. Does it, Mr. Lare?


RON LARE: Well, one would have to leave the company one is at now and give up a lot of seniority, so that would be a very risky proposition.

REBECCA LINDLAND: For younger workers, maybe.

RAY SUAREZ: Yes, yes, especially if you're not in line for a lot of money, the way the buyout plan has been structured, it might look like more of a proposition for you.

Csaba Csere, this must be hitting Michigan hard.

CSABA CSERE: Well, it's hitting Michigan extremely hard. The state already has the highest unemployment rate in the country. A lot of that unemployment is concentrated around the Detroit area. And ultimately, Detroit is still a company town, and the company is the domestic auto industry. And all three companies are hurting to a greater or lesser extent.

There have already been a large number of layoffs, both blue-collar and white-collar. There is a large number of layoffs already scheduled that haven't even happened at General Motors. And now Ford is bringing this forward, and it's extremely hard on southeastern Michigan.

RAY SUAREZ: And is there no compensating inflow of new manufacturing or investment that will soak up some of this workforce?

CSABA CSERE: Not terribly much, really. Part of the problem is that, for an awful lot of the manufacturing in the United States, it is going nonunion, and this is a very strongly union area of the country, and there isn't really that much moving in here.

I believe in the last census Michigan actually didn't gain much population. In the last five years that they looked at, the state is losing people, and it's because these jobs are going away.

PhotoThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?