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Paid to do nothing

Monday, June 27, 2005



General Motors wants to pay Rich Cusumano for doing nothing.

All Cusumano has to do is show up every morning at his old job site, Linden's GM Truck Assembly, punch in, spend eight hours sitting around, then punch out.

But after 29 years working the assembly line and driving a fork-truck - call it pride, call it boredom - Cusumano said no.

"I'd be looking for a rope to hang myself," says Cusumano, 50.

Cusumano is one of 950 workers who lost their jobs April 20 when GM closed the Linden plant. Under its agreement with the United Auto Workers, GM will pay laid-off workers' full salaries until the current labor contract expires in September 2007.

The program is called the Jobs Bank, and it gives employees three options for getting their paycheck: They can work for a non-profit community organization, take classes or show up at the plant - and do nothing. It was designed to help laid-off auto workers transition into other occupations.

Fast facts

General Motors will pay laid-off workers' salaries until September 2007. Employees have three options while they're in the Jobs Bank:

# Work for a non-profit community organization.

# Take classes at the plant or off-site.

# Punch in, sit around - and do nothing.

GM's annual per-worker health-care cost

In the United States: $6,500

In Canada: $800

GM hourly employees in U.S.

1977: 580,000

2004: 150,000

GM retirees and surviving spouses (both hourly and salaried workers):

1977: 183,000

2004: 458,000

United Auto Workers membership

1977: 1.4 million

2004: 650,000

Sources: General Motors, United Auto Workers

But to what?

For Rich Cusumano and thousands of other laid-off auto workers, the future is looking dark.

Continuing pay is important, but it isn't the only thing workers will miss, says Clara Rose, who worked 29 years at Linden. Think of the relationships with co-workers, she says, the feeling of sharing a common goal. Rose says she worries about co-workers who will be "walking a thin line" now that they have nothing to fill their days.

"You might see people divorcing, taking their own lives," she says. "It's happened before when plants close. The bond with co-workers is gone."

The decline of the Linden plant happened slowly at first, and then all at once. In May 2002, 850 workers were laid off as the facility went from two shifts to one. In 2004, another 300 jobs were cut. The last to go, Cusumano and Rose among them, had the most seniority. They remember a time when 5,700 employees worked two shifts at Linden pumping out Cadillacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles.

In those days, whatever GM built, the world bought.

Now, every month brings more bad news for the automaker and its hourly employees. Three weeks after Linden closed, GM shut its Baltimore facility, putting another 1,000 out of work. On June 8, the company announced it would close more plants in the next three years, cutting its workforce by 25,000.

"They've taken away the American dream," Rose says.

Rose will work for community organizations in her Newark neighborhood, while Cusumano, a Jackson Township resident, plans to take classes at Ocean County College. GM will pay him his $28 an hour and kick in an extra $4,600 a year for tuition.

"GM has been good to us," he says. "The UAW has been better."

But after September 2007, who knows?

When the current contract runs out, the union may not be able to help workers like Cusumano and Rose. And it certainly won't be able to help people their children's age.

"The good-paying jobs won't be out there for the kids who don't want to go to college," Cusumano says. "What are they going to do?"

Downsized dreams

The Jobs Bank is a reflection of the state of manufacturing in America. Skilled workers who want to work, but can't, collect paychecks for sipping coffee - from a company struggling to be competitive.

The number of manufacturing jobs in New Jersey has declined 40 percent in just the last 15 years. That's 218,000 families since 1990 that have downsized their dreams.

"America is at war with its workers," says William R. Adams, author of "Facts & Tactics for Resisting Unions." "We send the jobs away, subsidize foreign countries to do things for less and we expect our employees to love us."

When companies foul up, it's the wage-earners who end up paying with their jobs, Adams says. GM lost $1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2005.

Ask a dozen experts what's causing GM's decline and they're liable to offer a dozen answers: Promoting rebates and low financing rather than the cars and trucks, relying too much on gas-guzzling models, shortchanging research on alternative-energy vehicles and making a product that's inferior to foreign brands.

Always, however, the discussion returns to the cost of worker benefits.

"The U.S. system is based on companies paying for special benefits, so treating workers better puts companies at a competitive disadvantage," says John Budd, professor of industrial relations at the University of Minnesota. "In other countries, like Japan and Canada, those benefits aren't paid by the employer - the state takes care of those things."

Competition is fierce and Japanese automakers are winning, even when they build cars in the United States. They run non-union shops in the South and Midwest, where newer factories and a younger workforce mean pensions and health plans cost the companies a lot less.

Meanwhile, GM pays $1,525 in health-care costs for every vehicle that comes off its assembly lines - more than it pays for the steel. The annual total for health coverage |is $5 billion. GM retirees, who receive pensions and health insurance but produce nothing, outnumber current employees 2½ to 1.

'Still here'

At the UAW's Local 595 hall, a split-level brick building on Routes 1 and 9 in Linden, a sign out front announces: "Still proud, still strong, still here."

In his upstairs office, a wood-paneled room overlooking the highway, Guy Messina takes a call from a union member who was laid off from the Linden plant. The man is in trouble for driving drunk. "He's depressed," Messina explains.

Messina, the wiry, bearded president of the local, began his GM career in 1968, fresh off a stint as a staff sergeant in Vietnam. On April 20, Messina followed the last Chevy Blazer as it rolled down the Linden line, shaking hands along the way.

"It was a very emotional time for everyone," he says.

Down the hall, Jerry Harper, 54, sits on a folding chair in the union's auditorium. Behind him, weak sunlight seeps in through windows high on the walls. Harper says he started at Linden on Dec. 13, 1967, making $2.95 an hour on the assembly line.

"We thought we were doing pretty good back then," he |says. After 36 years, Harper was making $28 an hour as an electrical repairman.

Harper signed on to do community service through the Jobs Bank and found work - at the union hall. He helps with mailings and keeps the building tidy, inside and out.

"I'm still young," he says, with a shrug. "I can't just sit around. I have to do some kind of work."

Harper's friend paces the room. He won't give his name.

"You been working at a place like this all your life, how do you go out there and work, for what? Eight or nine dollars an hour?" he says. "You got professional people, educated people out there who can't find work."

Mostly idle days

Neither GM nor the UAW will say how many workers are in the Jobs Bank, but participants say about 300 punch in at Linden on any given day.

If GM managers want them to do odd jobs, such as filing documents or photocopying, they ask for volunteers. The former autoworkers spend most of the day chatting, reading or watching CNN on the cafeteria TV. A gym is available, and some walk laps around a track. Some have signed up for computer classes taught at the Linden plant.

In the union hall basement is a bar, and at midday eight men are gathered around, drinking Budweiser and an occasional shot of whiskey. Among them, they have 250 years' experience with GM. None wants his name in a newspaper.

"We love to work," says one man, who put in 29 years. "We had the pride of making something. Now it's gone."

"It was the saddest day of my life" when the plant closed, says another.

"What is this country going to do without manufacturing?" asks yet another. "We want to work, be the heads of households, be men."

One of the long-timers buys the house a round of drinks. While his former co-workers toast, a tool-and-die man speaks softly.

"I had 30 years at that plant," he says. "The best years of my life."

Copyright © 2005 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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If you really want to make people safe drivers again then simply remove all the safety features from cars. No more seat belts, ABS brakes, traction control, air bags or stability control. No more anything. You'll see how quickly people will slow down and once again learn to drive like "normal" humans.

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GM could afford to pay these workers for the rest of their lives I'm sure these jobs are going to some country where the workers will make 20 cents an hour.

That's exactly what is wrong with the US outsourcing of jobs. I try to purchase American made things getting harder to find them all the time. When the US was the greatest job market in the world we made all of the items we purchased. It needs to go back to this Hey we all need a source of income. This global sh-- has to stop and we need to take care of ourselves This profit driven economy at the expense of Americans has to stop. F the rest of the world and worry about our own backyard

Just my 2 cents worth



I just had to vent a little but this really needs to stop and the part that really pisses me off is John Q public is doing nothing about it

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" Under its agreement with the United Auto Workers,"..."The program is called the Jobs Bank"...On the surface it sounds almost too good to be true. Money for Nothing...But alas, it is true. If you think "That's" something, consider the "Package" provided by THE LARGEST EMPLOYER in America...The Government. As the manufacturing ranks decline nationwide, the US "Jobs Bank" continues to grow. as well as government spending. The "Product/Performance" of manufacturing IS measurable...units out the door, cost per unit, labor productivity...If you consider the number of units produced NOW and the manpower needed for said production (1977: 580,000..2004: 150,000), there seems to be an increase in productivity. Contrast that with the Government "Product" in terms of measurable performance and "Units" out the door. A GM purchase IS optional. TAXES, take a guess. As we shift from "Products" to "Service" so goes the validity or value of our "Shares (Dollar)" in the "World Stockmarket". A "Service-Only" share value can only be measured by past performance-reputation. We must STOP shooting ourselves in the feet. A small 5% DECLINE in DEMAND for FOREIGN goods, be it OIL(gas), or foreign made products, could send the message to the powers that be, that they must rethink their stance. Remember what GW advised after the big event, "Go Shopping"...QUIT Shopping, till they hear us!!!


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That is a very sad but telling story if you read between the lines. Enjoy your Caddy's while you can. The american automobile is going the way of the american televsion, VCR, camera, etc, etc. The writing is on the wall but the UAW is wearing sunglasses. Lucrative contracts are great when the company can afford it and they are on an even playing field. When the field is uneven, those contracts are just an IV in the arm with the tube running into the sewer. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti union. I am a union member but I have watched the pilots at UAL get contracts that tied the companies hands to the point that they could hardly be utilized. The president of that union once told the CEO. "I don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, I just want to strangle it long enough to get the last egg out of it", HE DID. Now they are all trying to give the goose mouth to mouth and CPR. Add to this inept managment and CEO's getting multi million dollar pensions while ours are terminated and you can see where this country is headed. All this while Nero (gov't) fiddles as Rome burns.

There is obviously enough blame to go around but no one while accept any, just point fingers and say it's not my fault, it's yours. And Rome continues to burn. :(

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I feel you. I often tell a simplified version of the story you just told. It never ceases to amaze me the number of disbelievers, "oh that could never happen here!", I run into or the people that simply give me the blank lost look. I'm realizing that many people seem to be living in a television sort of reality. A reality where common sense doesn't exist and the thinking is left up to someone else. I call it the sheep and the herder syndrome. Seems the herders are having an easy time leading the sheep to the slaughter house.

This country is/was about checks and balance. It keeps everyone "honest" and might I remind those suffering from memory loss that "absolute power currupts absolutely". When I was an adolecent the talk among the adults usually involved politics. Today I feel like an outcast in many circles because no one seems to know anything beyond the "runaway bride" or who got kicked off the island in last night's backstabbing episode. Getting back on track. Like Guru indicated, it's obvious that the playing field needs to be leveled. So why isn't it? Who are the people that create and pass such laws?(your elected neighbors) Why aren't they protecting our interests? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know when your home is being fleeced.

"Burns" rubber

" I've never considered myself to be all that conservative, but it seems the more liberal some people get the more conservative I become. "

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I pay way more in fuel costs, material costs, etc. than I ever save by having goods produced in China.....

I too wish Congress would wake up and start looking out for the interests of THIS country instead of China....

'93 Fleetwood Brougham
'05 Deville
'04 Deville
2013 Silverado Z71

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This is the General's problem in a nutshell. Grossly overpaying their employees, providing them with benefits above and beyond what they should! 28 bucks an hour to be a shipping clerk, or an assembly line worker?! A total joke! GM is finally building great cars again, but had to kill plans for a RWD Impala and Monte Carlo because of this BS! If you are laid off, you shouldn't get paid! It hurts, I know it does! But if most other Americans get laid off, they are on their own. Learn new skills before you lose your job! Workers are just like free agents in sports, the ones that get new jobs are the ones that deserve them! When Toyota finally takes control of the auto industry, the Toyota plants will close, and move back to Japan, think Zenith and Motorola! But Americans continue to purchase imported autos! Help yourselves by refusing to purchase imported crap! GM is making the best vehicles it has in decades! But they are hindered by the mistake they made by offering these insane benefits in the first place. But before you complain that you are laid off but are geting paid, consider the following. Gm helped you with this "nutso" agreement. Buy their cars exclusively, and jobs might be saved. I'm sorry, but if you drive an imported car with an American flag on it, you asked for it!

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Unions put us where we are, at one time they were useful but that was many years ago, actually decades. They out priced american products, qaulity suffered. Wages no longer where in line, college graduates with 4 years of schooling didn't make 28.00 dollars an hour with full benifits and a pension but a high school graduate with a union job did.America at one time exported more than it imported.We produced everything and it was the highest qaulity. Everything that was unionized has vanished.Railroads, steel,coal,automobiles,airlines. The reason to build companies was to make a profit, give a fair amount to the employees, reinvest and grow a larger company. The unions took the profits from the owners and gave them to the employees and the employees gave the unions their dues. and it pushed the prices up till it was no longer feasable to buy american products. Eventually it was not worth owning companies, putting up millions to lose money, better off selling off the company and let the Japs or chinese deal with it. Now we manufacture nothing, except fast food. Technology we do excede in, we spend years and millions of dollars developing it and then sell it for 1/4 of the cost it took us.And then we wonder why there are no jobs left but fast food.

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GM shouldn't have made the deals that they did concerning pensions and healthcare. Although trying to deal with unions must be a giant pita you still can't shift the blame to the unions.

I'm also against "Safeguards", the consumer does it to themselves. We choose our own path and that is part of capitalism even if we punish ourselves. Noone in thier right mind (eastern hemi) is going to buy GM or Ford.

92 Deville w/210k miles

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"The bottom line is that people are not buying GM cars" AND SHEEPEOPLE think they're "Buying Smart" when they buy foreign products." The only answer is that our government officials are on the take and looking after their cushy job as a "lobbier" when they leave office. Plain and simple. They are not looking out for the US and leveling the playing field. " TRUE with a capitol T. We should follow our "Free Trade" partners policies to the LETTER. Whatever restrictions they place on our goods SHOULD be placed on THEIR goods. PERIOD." I too wish Congress would wake up and start looking out for the interests of THIS country instead of China...." I think AMERICANS can wake them up by REFUSING to be party to THEIR "Free Trade" "Anti-Protectionism" Propaganda Pabulum that has DUPED SO many SHEEPEOLE into thinking buying foreign products is an exercise of their "Freedom", or a "Capitolist" choice. The preservation of privilege requires the exercise of power. The power to inform, or dis-inform. Decisions, disguised as Democracy-"The Will of the People", DON'T empower the "People", but rather continue the "Privilage" of a few. To obtain control over public opinion, it is first necessary to confuse it by the expression from various sides of so many conflicting opinions. Increasing and intensifying the shortcomings of the people in their habits, passions and mode of living, so that no one will be able to collect himself in the chaos, and, consequently, people will lose all their mutual understanding. Understand this: We only vote for our representatives every two or four years, but we vote with our wallets and checkbooks every day!

When President Harding was challenged by the argument that consumers benefit from cheaper imports, he replied "One who values American prosperity and. . . American standards of wage and living can have no sympathy with the proposal that easy entry and a flood of imports will cheapen our cost of living. It is more likely to destroy our capacity to buy." Surely a system that creates an over-abundance of goods but reduces the ability for the average American to buy them cannot be headed for general prosperity. "Free-trade gives the foreign producer equal privileges with us. . . . It invites the product of his cheaper labor to this market to destroy the domestic product representing our higher and better-paid labor. It destroys our factories or reduces our labor to the level of his. It increases foreign production but diminishes as home production. . . . it destroys the dignity and independence of American labor, diminishes its pay and employment, and decreases its capacity to buy the products of the farm and the commodities of the merchant. "

Gov. William McKinley, 1892

Representative William McKinley

The foreign producer, he went on to say, had no "right or claim to equality with our own. He is not amenable to our laws. . . . He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties. . . . He contributes nothing to the support, the progress, and glory of the nation. Free foreign trade. . . results in giving our money, our manufactures, and our markets to other nations, to the injury of our labor, our tradespeople, and our farmers." Remember the "Giant Sucking Sound" (RP) spoke about. Have a listen today.


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A buddy of mine is an A&P (airframe and powerplant) mechanic with United Airlines for 25 years...Most of the guys there like him are just sitting around, or doing menial tasks (checklists and such). The only reason he and a few others are still there is because of senority. Most others are gone. (layoffs) Why? Unions. They wouldn't negotiate, so United (and MANY other airlines) are outsourcing this MAJOR work to...(here comes the warm fuzzies) El Salvador and China...

Think about that next time you or your family is sitting on the runway with the engines spooling up....

'93 STS.. opened, dropped, wide...fast.

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Before you blame the unions for ALL that is wrong with the world let me say that I am a flight dispatcher for UAL. I am coming up on 40 years of service and I can tell you that if it where not for unions we would be working for minimum wage while the parade of robber baron CEO's and VP's would have even bigger loads of cash...... if that is possible. I would not work here without a union. This site does not have enough band width for me to even begin to explain. That is not to say that unions are without blame. Like I said, there is enough of that to go around.

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Interesting comments.

I've never been in a union but can see where they've added some quality of life to the rank and file worker. On the other hand, I've seen unions vote to strike and their workers are hung out to dry with their day-to-day bills on mediocre compensation while on strike. Have they (unions) out lived their usefulness? I don't think so, but the corrupted union officials have to be kept in line. I would be totally pissed if I had to pay union dues and then those dues go to support some political candidate whom I disdain! Did I read someone complained about $28.00 an hour as to much pay for someone? Depending on where you live, $28.00 per hour is hard to live on, though I will confess; “that is a lot of money for someone right out of high-school, or in other words… starting out" and find that hard to imagine but I guess it’s possible! Look at it this way; GM, Ford nor anyone else can put their products out there without these workers, so why should they just be paid minimum wage?

Quality of cars. I for one believe the Japanese cars in particular have forced the US automakers to make better quality cars. The oil crunch of in 1973 also helped this along. Having said that is the Ford Explorer, Chevy Trail Blazer or Dodge Durango is well built as say ... the Toyota 4-Runner? I would like to thank so, but I really don't know. But one thing I've found out is the 4-runner has a higher resale value and a reputation for durability.

I've owned nothing but American cars. In fact, the closest I've come to owning a foreign car was a 1992 Ford Taurus SHO with a Japanese engine. The only bad car I can I’ve had was a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with one of those gas-to-diesel conversions. I owned that car 373 days and spent more in repairs than I had in car payments. Anyway, just recently I was having a conversation with my co-workers who drive Toyota's regarding the quality of cars. They noted with distinction the condition of my 1992 Bronco (156K and solid as the day she was built). Their take was, my car was a fluke (the condition) and that I have mostly highway miles on my cars. They also mentioned all the "rave" about the quality of the foreign cars whereas their American counterparts just don't last. I tried, “in vain” to them that for starters, foreign cars have their problems and, most importantly, if you don’t maintain your cars they will fail, particularly if you’re like me (puts a lot of miles on them).

But they do point out a very clear belief among Americans car owners, American cars just don’t last. IMO, American cars a better today than they have ever been, but that stigma still hangs around. Too, there is the issue with car dealers who will … well for a lack of a better phrase … “rip you off”. Customer service is better than it ever has been. And yes, I’ve been taken advantage off by dealer (repairs) but only when it was beyond my control, however this isn’t unique to just American car dealers. As has been noted here many times, the beloved Cadillac dealer is just as guilty. Just recently (I’m approaching 60K) I inquired as to what a 60K check up would be. I was quoted, “seven Ben Franklin’s”. (Not having looked at my owners manually recently) I inquired what this consisted off. The answer was: plugs, plug wires, transmission fluid change, coolant fluid change … and so on. Now most of us know this is nothing more than a gimmick to add dollars to the dealerships coffers.

My question is how do we save the American car market, how is the playing field leveled? I don’t know, but I don’t feel the American taxpayer should pick up the tab for the pension plans as is being done with the certain airlines.

The main problem I believe lies (as in so many cases) with the “I’ll get mine and be damned everyone else” mentality of corporate America. In other words, not looking out for the future whether it’s GM, Motorola, or … America’s future! Coupled with rising health care, drug prescription, litigation, and some of yours (and mine) rights (our sovereign status) being stripped away by certain treaties that our Government signs away for us.

Also, every American company who exports jobs overseas only to send their products back here for resale should be loaded down with some heavy tariffs (Thank you NAFTA)!

Basically, it’s a big crap sandwich and it’s our turn to take a bite, but if we don't change our ways, it's going to be our children & our children’s children who have to finish it off!

I could go on but as Ranger has said, there is plenty of blame to go around.


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My question is how do we save the American car market, how is the playing field leveled? I don’t know, but I don’t feel the American taxpayer should pick up the tab for the pension plans as is being done with the certain airlines.

The american taxpayer aka public doesn't mind paying 1980's air fares, they should not mind paying for the pension I worked 40 years for. Maybe I should say a portion of it. It certainly won't be what it was. Everything has a price. The government created this mess with deregulation. Now it comes home to roost.

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Hope I didn't come across as the retirees (past, present & future) have to bite it ... didn't mean to sound that way if I did. That would be a "horrible" in justice!

On the other hand, as a tax payer it's a constant fight to keep the government's hands out of my pocket. Generally speaking, I don't mind paying taxes but "gawd" ... there has to light at the end of the tunnel at some point. Also, I don't oppose helping out major industries, as was done with Chrysler in the late 1970's because in the end it helps the country and I think there was a return on the investment and as I recall, Chrysler paid that loan off. Besides if we can give billions away every year around the globe, we should be able to help the home folks out for a change. I've always believed that "charity begins at home".

It would seem to me that the quicker the airlines and the auto industry (presuming they haven't done so already) can get out from under the pension plans the better they would be. Accordingly, this would have to be a long-term issue. Hopefully the steps have been taken to do this. Heck, the same can be said for the defense department, almost half of their budget goes for retirement programs, or so I've been told.

Kinda' reminds me of the Social Security debates ... the pigeons are coming home too roost!


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The plunge in the US peso over the past few years should

have made Japanese cars relatively more expensive than

US cars. There's your tax. But magical hands manage to

peg their currency, or buy truck loads of US pesos to balance

our $trillion deficit.

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As far as wages go.....I'll put anyone of you that thinks that assembly line workers get overpaid on the line for one day and you will change your tune.

I will agree to that Guru. I worked in a plant for 3 summers while in college (you had to have a relative who worked there). Let me tell you, it made me really appreciate my college education.

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Any one that posts that GM shouldn't have agreed to such arrangements in the past has their head where the sun doesn't shine...

Heartfelt Guru...

Ok, so lets say GM gets the tariff, then what? People still want japanese cars and they will pay the difference for them. Not to start a flame war but I don't see how the tariff will be enough for a complete turn around at this point. $1.1b in loss for 1Q is a lot more then tariffs would make up, right? The percentage of american to import ownership in the US has been at a steady decline in their favor for some time.

92 Deville w/210k miles

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Well put Guru;

Actually, I kinda' like the idea of the $1700 tariff you spoke of. Furthermore, as I mentioned previously, those companies that take their assemblies off shore and then bring them back in should pay some tariffs/tax ... or what have you and this would include those vehicles that are assembled in Mexico & Canada by GM & Ford. Maybe not the whole $1700 for the pensions as you explained but for the lost US job. Actually, why does GM & Ford have cars assembled in Mexico & Canada and then sent back here for re-sale? Is it because of labor cost? Is it because of some treaty (NAFTA or WTO)? Furthermore, could the $1700 be tacked on without some foreign government screaming an unfair tariff under the one of these (or other) treaties? It seems like several times a year some “world court”, or such is making rulings on unfair tariffs or government subsides to their industries.

Hourly salaries for the rank and file worker? Huh, you won't hear me complain about this. I whole heartily agree with a decent quality of life, for those employees as you mentioned. Since I've retired from the Navy I too work in a production industry (computer chips) and there are times when it's slow (rarely) and other times when there just isn't enough hours in the day (the norm). In reality, if the US taxpayer had to pay overtime rates to the military, the country would be in deeper financial doo-doo!

US Government retirement plans in particular the US Senate & House of Representatives is probably not as lucrative as you’ve heard. Here is their plan, it’s the same for all government employees, excluding the US Military.

- Members of Congress receive retirement and health benefits under the same plans available to other federal employees. They become vested after five years of full participation.

- Members elected since 1984 are covered by the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS). Those elected prior to 1984 were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). In 1984 all members were given the option of remaining with CSRS or switching to FERS.

- As it is for all other federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants' contributions. Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3 percent of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2 percent of their salary in Social Security taxes.

- Members of Congress are not eligible for a pension until they reach the age of 50, but only if they've completed 20 years of service. Members are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach the age of 62. Please also note that Member's of Congress have to serve at least 5 years to even receive a pension.

- The amount of a Congressperson's pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest 3 years of his or her salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member's retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.

- Data compiled in 2003/4 showed 413 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service. The average age of those retiring under CSRS was 75.5 and had at least 20 years of federal service. Those who retired under FERS had an average age of 68.3 years and 21.6 years of federal service. Their average retirement payment was $3,909 a month.

Look, I'm not defending these people, instead I'm just pointing out their retirement system isn't what it's made out to be. The perks and the automatic pay raises ... well that's a different story.

The most underpaid folks around is the US Military, where OT is always authorized. If OT was forced to be paid to the military it would bankrupt the country. Their retirement plan is:

Prior too and including September 8, 1980:

- You put in 20 years, and you got 50 percent of your base pay immediately upon retirement. You put in more than 20 years and you got 2.5 percent more for each year of active duty after 20 years (up to 75 percent).

From September 9, 1980 to the present:

- If you entered active duty after 8 September 1980, the base pay is the average of the highest 36 months of active duty base pay received. Additionally, your initial (first) cost-of-living adjustment will be reduced by 1 percent.

- The "multiplier" for the above two plans is 2.5% (up to a maximum of 75%). For example, a person who entered active duty on or before 8 September 1980, and spent 22 years on active duty, would receive 55% of his/her base pay as retirement or retainer pay. A person who entered active duty after 8 September 1980, and spent 22 years on active duty, would receive 55% of the average of the highest 36 months of active duty base pay.

A good deal some would say, but consider this:

- Military retirement pay is unlike civilian retirement pay systems. First and foremost, there is no "vesting" in the military retirement system. There is no special retirement accounts, no matching funds provision, no interest. You either qualify for retirement by honorably serving over 20 years in the military, or you do not. If you are discharged from the military with 19 years, 11 months, and 27 days of service, for example, you do not qualify for retirement pay (other than a few "early retirement" programs, which were designed to reduce the size of the armed forces).

Now here’s the good part:

- Another significant difference between military retirement, and civilian retirement, is that a retired military member can be recalled to active duty. According to Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 1352.1:

Involuntary Order to Active Duty. The Secretary of a Military Department may order any retired Regular member, retired Reserve member who has completed at least 20 years of active military service, or a member of the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve to active duty without the member's consent at any time to perform duties deemed necessary in the interests of national defense in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 683 (reference (B)). This includes the authority to order a retired member who is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to active duty to facilitate the exercise of court-martial jurisdiction under Section 302(a) of reference (B). A retired member may not be involuntarily ordered to active duty solely for obtaining court-martial jurisdiction over the member.

So the story goes … “if ya’ think the grass is greener on the other side of the hill, remember something is making it grow. And, and in all probability, it’s “genetic” in nature

Didn't mean to turn this into a government retirement presentation. I don't know how the airlines and the auto industries compare. As previously mentioned, the pigeons are coming home too "roost". It's going to be real ugly when the whole flock arrives!


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Guru, there is one fault with your idea. It would require forward thinking and acting on it BEFORE it becomes a crisis, something this government and it's elected officials can't and won't do. To prove that all you have to do is look at history, the depression, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, fuel prices (refineries & pumping), just to name a few. This country is on a terrible downward slide and the quality of life is going with it. The problem is that it is moving slowly so most people don't realize it until it hits them..... and it will.

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You know, I was talking about this to my dad last night. He asked me a very good question. He asked, "why is there a $1500 burden on a car TODAY that pays for a retired worker from YESTERDAY?" The answer, of course, is that pension system was run much like social security. The benefits you receive aren't monies paid by YOU. They're paid by a youngster who just started. And, much like social security, the problem with the GM pension system (and other large corporations), is it's not a new problem. They've known social security was broke for decades...but nobody was willing to give up the money (and power).

Ranger, you're right that it requires foresight and responsible decisions. But this isn't the government's fault -- it's GM's. If GM execs really cared about the welfare of the employees, they would have changed the system long ago. The foresight and responsibility you call for was absent from GM, not the government (well, it's certainly absent from the gov't too, but we shouldn't turn this around and shift the blame elsewhere).

Is GM now switched over to a 401(k) type system...where YOU put in your OWN benefits? Why didn't GM brass make corrective actions 20 years ago when they could see this coming (and they could see this coming)? I understand UAL's pension has already been bought out by the government, and I'm sure GM will follow in time. GM selling cars in volume to pay for the $1500 retiree bill covers up the SYMPTOM, but does not address the PROBLEM. The simple fact is, a problem this big doesn't crop up over 3 months. It's been stewing and brewing for DECADES. Nobody wanted to relinquish the power though.

As Guru said, GM is just too big for itself now. They are "slimming down" to meet the needs of the current market (though job cuts and plant closures). That's a separate problem from a poorly-run retirement program, but it's a step in the right direction anyway. Unfortunately, the financial problems of a company reflect on the entire organization. We know GM cars are among the best in the world. We know the top quality manufacturing plants IN THE WORLD are GM plants. We know the engineering is top-notch. The miles on, and condition of, our beloved cars are proof enough of that. But the general public doesn't very well separate management actions with engineering actions, and the brand as a whole suffers. I really love the crop of new TV commercials. GM needs a lot of these types of pro-GM commercials. The new one from Buick about their plants being rated highest in quality is a good one. The new one where they state that JD Power said the top three plants in the world or something are GM plants is a good one. In my humble opinion, they need to stop pushing deals and start pushing an image. They're finally starting to deliver a great image for GM through these commercials. Let's hope it's in time.

Jason(2001 STS, White Diamond)

"When you turn your car on...does it return the favor?"

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I don't find it a problem that 1700 dollars is built into the price of a car to cover pensions for workers. It's just to cost of doing business. As far as social security being broke that's not the case the social security fund goes into the general fund which pays to operate many other things other than just social security. If the social security fund was left just for social security it would be very healthy. The politicians have been handing us a line of sh-- for a long time. As far as it going broke it's possible with all the jobs leaving this country. The younger worker paying for the older worker is how it's supposed to work it's a vicious circle that is broken. Something needs to be done as far as leveling the playing field as far as the foreign competition, Americans do a better job at inventing, manufacturing and marketing than any other country in the world. And I really get Pissed off when I watch these politicians hand us a line of BS that foreign workers are transplanted here in the US due to we don't have enough trained people to do the jobs that is pure BS and the said imported worker is working for half the pay is key.. and the only reason they are hired is no benefits and are job shopped out to a large company.. through a middle man who just happens to contribute to political parties Plus all the jobs leaving this country is just profit driven which we all need to get involved in and put a stop to . The rich are getting richer and middle class is going by the wayside Pretty soon it's going to be rich or poor well on it's way.

Ah sh-- this is a car forum so that's enough about this issue from me.


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I was wondering when Jason was going to chime in with his two cents. While I agree with pumping up the image..... but isn't that what GM was doing by having the Hollywood "elites" drive Escalades?, I find it difficult to envision GM overcoming enormous obstacles simply by image and savvy retirement plans. Especially when much of the public is pro imports and can get them relatively inexpensively and even cheap. They don't see or understand the repercussions of their actions. Let's face it the general public is ignorant when it comes to this kind of understanding and I'm a conservative but there are times when the general public needs their hands held by the government. This country has a high standard of living and rules and regulations have been in place to safeguard these standards. Some of you may or may not agree with them but all enjoy the benefits they have provided. Some of these safeguards have been removed in recent years and our standard of living is now in danger. Look around at your friends, neighbors, family, and acquaintances, look at them in the eye and can you really say that this is all a good thing? It would be a sad day in US history if GM disappeared. I would be ok with it if they were able to go down fighting, not with their hands tied behind their backs and cement shoes.

The Hyundai’s are gobbling up the market where I live. Everywhere I look I see at least two Hyundai’s. But instead of Hyundai’s all I see are dollars that are going off shore. Dollars that could better contribute to preserving our way of life. After all they are selling their cars in OUR country. They want and need OUR money. GM and the other domestic automakers need a level playing field to ensure our standard of living. Unless living in third world conditions sounds appealing. Because let's face it, this deal favors the developing countries and US buyers. The buyer that says, "Wow what a great deal on an import!" and runs out and gets one and clueless to what he/she is contributing to.

Guru, just a quick ad suggestion. GM might want to consider using Asian people that speak "perfect" English in their car commercials/ads. I think it's great counter propaganda and has many appealing facets. I'm Korean, speak mucho goodly, :P and I get many second glances from other drivers. Not often you see an Asian male driving around in an STS. Happens a lot at the gas stations while filling up. I receive the head nods, grins, but mostly second takes. And all this time I thought it was my stunning good looks. Unfortunately my fiancé set me straight on this.

"Burns" rubber

" I've never considered myself to be all that conservative, but it seems the more liberal some people get the more conservative I become. "

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OK if my stomick will let me I will add something to this thread. In the 60s I left a non union job for union one, the pay was the same. Two years into my new job I bought my first house, everything was good. Over the years the cost of living went up faster than my pay. We had to go on strike 3 times just to get a raise. I remember when I was little my dad went on strike for 121 days and they got a 10cent raise we three boys did not eat the best in them days. Dad went back to work but that 10 cents never did pay him back for the money he lost while on strike. His working conditions were horrible there was outside strife too, the union was having a picinic one day down in the flats I think and the police came and killed a no. of union members. Our way of life did not come easy I think people should read books on labor unions to see where we have been and why. It might show you were we are going. Sorry back to me! when I retired my pay was 25.00 a hour that included licenses we were required to have. The new hire started at 17.00 a hour and that would increase over time. It seemed that in every new contract the new hires pay was reduced. Our PENSION in the early days was fully paid by the mechanics out of their pay. One day the company announced that they would give everyone there money plus 3% interest and they would pay the pension cost themselves. The old timers were happy as I was standing on the cat walk looking down on a no of them telling each other of there good fortune I was thinking something is wrong. Well some years later the company announced that they have recaptured the assets in our pension fund. They took the money used some of it to buy a anuity and put the rest into the company. (It was almost a billion dollars total) Well one day the company announced a 280 dollar a share special dividend on the stock, when you have millions of shares outstanding that was a lot of money guess where our pension money went to the stock holders. If that money would have been left in the old employee paid pension plan United would not have a pension problem today. I think employees get the blame most of the time we are ready and eager to blame some poor jerk for things beyond there control. Mike

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I don't find it a problem that 1700 dollars is built into the price of a car to cover pensions for workers. It's just to cost of doing business. As far as social security being broke that's not the case the social security fund goes into the general fund which pays to operate many other things other than just social security. If the social security fund was left just for social security it would be very healthy.

Yeah, no kidding!! If there was no corruption in the world, it'd all be peachy right? That's called the Country of Utopia. It's true that social security pays for more than social security. That's one of the reasons why it doesn't work! Another reason why it doesn't work is that it's a defined benefit system. No matter how much you put into it today, you have the burden of yesterday to take care of. Not so with a GOOD retirement account like a 401(k). YOU contribute to YOUR benefit. Sure the company matches and maybe the government matches, but it's in YOUR account, not some public or union pension fund that gets mismanaged and mishandled as bad as the SS system. $1700/car today to cover yesterday's workers is NOT the cost of doing business. That's the cost of mismanagement yesterday catching up with us today.

Jason(2001 STS, White Diamond)

"When you turn your car on...does it return the favor?"

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