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The UAW's Ron Gettlefinger: Was He Lying Then Or Is He Lying Now?

We were reading the transcript of UAW President' Ron Gettlefinger's interview on the News Hour last week, where he was questioned by Paul Soman about their new agreement with GM. In the interview, Gettlefinger talks about their last two rounds of bargaining, saying in relevant part:

"RON GETTELFINGER: Well, I'm certainly not here touting it. It's a lifeline, is really what it's boiled down to. We would not have been in these negotiations.

And let me just step back and say that a light bulb went on in somebody's head, like they came up with a new idea in Washington when we were in those hearings, saying, you know, these companies are leveraged on their balance sheet.

Well, guess what? We knew that. We knew that in '03, and we started making movement in that direction. We knew that in '05. We made additional movements, mid-contract.

PAUL SOLMAN: Movements meaning?

RON GETTELFINGER: Meaning concessions in the contract, mid-contract in '05. We've made concessions again in '07, and we were moving along. (Emphasis ours)

That's funny -- because when the deal got done in '07, this is what Gettlefinger said on his website:

"The tentative agreement, reached at 3:05 a.m. Sept. 26, delivers solid economic gains for active and retired members, despite repeated attempts by GM to impose harsh takeaways

The agreement will deliver more than $13,000 in economic gains for a typical UAW member, including a $3,000 signing bonus, two 3 percent lump sums and a 4 percent lump sum.

Active workers will see their comprehensive health care coverage continue, with dental, hearing and other benefits improved. Retired workers will have their health benefits secured by a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), prefunded by GM with $29.9 billion in cash and other assets. The fund can only be used to pay retiree health benefits, and will remain solvent for decades regardless of the financial condition of GM.

The proposed contract will also deliver benefits to current and future retirees, with four lump-sum payments for current retirees, and a raise in basic benefit rates, the 30-and-out supplement, temporary and interim benefits for future retirees.

The company came into these talks looking to shred our contract to pieces,” said UAW Vice President Cal Rapson, who directs the UAW GM Department.

“But you can’t tear apart a group that stands together the way UAW members do.”

Guess not.

Let their be no mistake - the '07 agreement was not a "concessionary" agreement by any stretch of the word. The fact is, Gettelfinger and the UAW bargained like there was no tomorrow - literally. And for their sins -- along with plenty from the management side -- many will pay with their jobs. But even still, Gettlefinger has boasted that his employees will have no cuts in pay, benefits or pensions.

All this talk of concessions now in hindsight looks more like a fib and less like the truth. Comparing his earlier boasts of gains with his current cries of concessions, we are forced to ask the prosecutor's question:

Was he lying then or is he lying now?


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