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Lansing Labor News
Established 1945
 
 
May 26, 2018
Archived Articles for Bob Smith
Print Icon Apr 08, 2011

December 2017: Reagan tax plan 2.0

1.5 trillion dollars. You could buy all of the teams in the NFL (and no, you can’t get a discount if you include the Lions!) and have change left over. You could buy 3.2 MILLION homes at today’s US median home price. You could pay the US Department of Defense budget, one of our largest budget items, for all of 2016 … TWICE! That’s the amount of new debt the proposed Republican tax plan will add to the deficit over its first ten years.
So, let’s look a little closer.
The right has claimed they are the party of the balanced budget … NOPE!
The tax cuts being proposed are expected to increase the deficit (1.5 trillion dollars from above). This is being acknowledged from members of both the right and the left.
The right has claimed this is a tax plan for the middle class … NOPE!
Around 70% of the tax benefits would go to people earning six figures or more (about 23% of all filers) and the majority of that would go to the highest earners, the infamous 1%, who will see a 40 to 60% tax cut!
The right has claimed this tax plan will benefit workers … NOPE! NOPE! NOPE!
A linchpin of this plan is a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% and assorted rules changes that concern money earned outside the US (allows this cash to return to the US with little to no tax) which would allow businesses to invest more, creating jobs, increasing economic growth, and generating additional taxes to help pay for the cost of reductions. That’s all fine and dandy, but then Trump’s own Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, addressed a gathering of businessmen and merchants in Columbus, Ohio recently and asked for a show of hands on who would invest tax savings in manpower and facilities. Only a few hands were raised. Befuddled, he asked what the group would do with it.
They responded with a litany – increased dividends, mergers and acquisitions, stock buy-backs, etc. Jobs and increased wages for employees were conspicuously absent—and I suspect Trump knows this, he is a businessman after all. His intent seems to be to help those who have the most while the rest of us get “trickled” on. That’s something I am getting a little tired of and I sincerely hope you are too! A quote from Frank Mathews with the Communication Workers of America is chilling – “Once this millionaire tax scam is complete, those in power will cry poor, and then they will come after Medicare and Social Security.” Many believe these to be off-limits but as any retiree in Michigan knows, nothing is off-limits when it comes to tax breaks for business. Think about it.
The Skilled Trade Christmas Meeting is scheduled for December 14 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Local 652 Union Hall. Food and beverage provided with a $3 donation at the door. I hope to see you there!
I’d like to wish a safe and happy holiday to everyone! Enjoy your loved ones and enjoy the time you spend with them. It all passes too quickly!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

September 2017: A tribute to our Yanfeng members

Hello all! I’d like to use my space this month to thank a group of Union Brothers and Sisters for their hard work, loyalty, and unionism. This group, now known as Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, previously Johnson Controls and before that, Plastech, have been a part of Local 652 since 2008. Near the beginning of 2017 the members of Yanfeng received the news that their plant was being closed in spite of being the top plant in many of the company’s metrics.
It was totally unexpected, and when the Local was notified of the closing the UAW attempted to intervene. Local 652 former President Mike Green, International Servicing Rep Jeff Beegle, and Yanfeng Bargaining Chairman Mike Pattison went to great lengths to find work to keep the plant operating.
In concert with the plant’s management team, work was identified and a list was given to corporate management. Their answer? Yes, they would gladly take all the work we could find, but it would NOT be done at the Lansing plant. Instead it would be distributed to other Yanfeng plants that were remaining open. This is a bitter reminder that this industry is a callous business and as such, it’s driven by money and profit.
What I can’t understand is a decision that seems to be illogical. The Lansing site was tops in the corporation. They were #1 in profit margin, quality, throughput, scrap reduction, everything—and still they are closing it. Seems unusual until you notice that Yanfeng had previously (July 2016) closed their #2 plant located in Whitby, Ontario.
I guess this should be a warning to the other plants in the corporation. Don’t be a top-level plant or you will be closed! That’s a hell of a corporate strategy, isn’t it?
The real shame in this is the Brothers and Sisters in the plant who are some of the best union people you could hope to be around. They have stood together from their first Agreement through their most recent.
They have acted professionally throughout this difficult time, continuing to perform their duties to the best of their abilities, continuing to produce quality parts right to the end. I’m proud that UAW Local 652 has the privilege of representing this group.
From Plastech to JCIM to YFAI you’ve been an example for all of us. I thank you for your service, your patience, and most of all your membership in this Union and I wish you all the best.
–Your friend in Solidarity, Bob Smith

May 2017: Welcome to summer

Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of summer and I have to tell you, it’s been a loooong winter! It will be nice to have a little good weather and I hope Mother Nature gives us a bunch.
It’s been a busy time at the Hall this spring. Our triennial elections were held and I’d like to congratulate all the members who took time to participate. I really enjoy the elections, the camaraderie, the campaigning, the oldies but goodies … “Hey, here’s Bob, must be election time again!” Yes, wouldn’t miss it.
But seriously, I’d like to thank everyone who participated. Whether you won or lost, were a supporter or an opponent, you involved yourself in a critical process that makes us stronger as a whole. It keeps us on task, focuses our efforts, reminds us who we are serving and gives us the guidance we need to keep our organization strong and moving in the right direction. Thank you to all!
Meanwhile …
President Trump (I still can’t believe I’m saying that) has been busy, filling out his cabinet and his other government positions, firing people whom he doesn’t like, trust or in general agree with. (A hint for people of the Beltway, if you’re involved in any investigations concerning the President or his aides, don’t get too comfortable in your surroundings. Change may come very quickly!)
He and his Republican hangers-on have proposed many changes, not the least of which is a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Traditionally, when legislation is proposed, the Congressional Budget Office publishes a report projecting costs and consequences of that legislation. The House chose not to wait and passed a bill that they assured would cut costs, give better coverage, give coverage for previous conditions and overall, make Americans forget all about Obamacare.
Recently the Congressional Budget Office published their report and we find that the proposal would in fact remove coverage for over 14 million people immediately and the total with lost coverage would jump to 23 million by 2026. The sad part is the people losing coverage are the people that Obamacare helped the most, the poor and people that are enrolled in private, non-job based plans.
The CBO also concluded that premium costs, especially for older Americans and people with previous conditions, would increase dramatically. Older Americans would pay 10 times more than a young adult and 9 times more than under Obamacare.
Additionally, the report indicated that starting in 2020 individual markets in areas of the US representing 1/6 of the population would become unstable and unsustainable! This is not what I would consider an improvement over current law! 
We already know what happens when we have great numbers of uninsured. Health care costs rise dramatically. The uninsured become a burden because their only avenue when sick or injured is the emergency room. We’ve seen how that works … It doesn’t! Please contact your representative and tell them we need a better solution. Going back to the old way is not a solution, it’s a nightmare!
Golf!
The Local 652 Women’s Committee is holding a “Save the Girls” Golf Scramble for breast cancer awareness at Centennial Acres on July 22. Registration starts at 8:00 a.m. with a shotgun start at 9:00. All proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society to find a cure and put an end to Breast Cancer! Everyone welcome. Cost is $75 per person and food and refreshments are provided. Reserve your team by July 14 at Local 652. 
Call 517-372-7581 for more info. Please come and participate in this event!

March 2017: Who to trust?

The limits of propriety have been reached! I cannot think of a time in my life that the social climate of our nation could be any worse! Conservatives bash liberals and label them free spenders, welfare lovers, anti-religious elitist snobs. Meanwhile liberals bash conservatives, labeling them greedy, war mongering, racist, separatist, Cro-Magnon isolationists!
Who’s right? Both! Both sides have a minority of these classes along with many others, not necessarily all good or all bad. Taken together, these groups homogenize into the political groups we have today.
The problem as I see it is the fanatics from both sides have learned that the information age allows them to reach many more people than ever before. These groups have become very adept at using the new tools at their disposal to influence their parties in sometimes horrendous ways and they’re using a form of pigeon-holing ideology to win their arguments.
If you happen to be on the left and you would like to move towards the middle on a certain issue, the group will label you heartless and unfeeling. On the right any sign of cooperation has you branded a traitor, a Godless immoral, or worse! We can’t continue like this.
The problem is there are no easy solutions. The proliferation of internet opinion sites that masquerade as news sites has everyone confused. You can find any opinion on any issue that you can imagine. Even the news sites that were once considered dependable have been so contaminated that they barely hold their own over the trash sites.
I’d like you to try a little experiment. Find a quiet corner, sit and think about where your information comes from. Who do you trust? When I tried this I came to the realization that I didn’t know who to trust! There are no Walter Cronkite’s, Ed Murrow’s, Chet Huntley’s or David Brinkley’s in today’s world. The kind of newsperson that earned our trust over many years. I don’t see that kind of honesty and integrity in any of this era’s news people and I’m not sure how we correct this situation or if it can even be corrected. I do know that I’m studying my news outlets with a jaundiced eye, no longer trusting because it’s CBS or ABC or CNN.
Perhaps someday another Cronkite will emerge. I certainly hope so, but until then, I’m going to be very wary of my news sources. Just remember, don’t live in an echo chamber. Don’t be afraid to listen to an opposing view. If you never hear a narrative that contradicts your world view, you are probably not getting the full story. The real story is always somewhere in the middle.

January 2017: Last words on the election

Democrats! Please tone it down a little bit! We had our chance – we didn’t finish the race! I know a lot of dirt was thrown on the track towards the end and our nominee couldn’t overcome it, but the race is over! As much as it may pain me to say it, Donald Trump IS the President of the United States.
It’s time to suck it up and accept the facts. The democratic process was followed and that’s the important lesson in all of this. The same process that has been used in this country for hundreds of years has given us a result. That process is the key. It’s what makes our country what it is!
I don’t care about Wikileaks or Russian hacks or locker room talk or income tax returns. The process was followed, a winner was declared and we move forward, although I pray that we never have to suffer through another election cycle as distasteful, disgusting, distracting and divisive as this one has been. This wonderful nation deserves so much better!
Now, with that being said, Donald Trump was not my choice for President, BUT I WILL HONOR AND RESPECT the office of the President of the United States. Which means I WILL honor and respect President Trump. He deserves no less.
Please, fellow Democrats, don’t demean the office because of the man. We demean ourselves and our party when we resort to that type of behavior. No matter your beliefs, we all must be for the office and institution of President of the United States. That is what makes us great again!
Don’t forget the Olds Outdoor Club Winterfest event taking place February 17-19 at the Ramada Inn, 2560 S. I-75 Business Loop, Grayling, MI 49738, contact info 989-348-7611. It’s good fun with good people! You’ll be glad to be a part of it.

December 2016: Tax help from the United Way

If you make $62,000 or less the United Way sponsors a FREE software website by H&R Block that you can use to prepare your Federal and State taxes online. The following was taken from the Capital Area United Way website.
Welcome to MyFreeTaxes. Visit  http://www.unitedway.org/myfreetaxes/ in January to start filing your taxes for free.
Tax Preparation Checklist
Use this list to help you get organized to file your taxes — either online or in person. Note: If you’re getting free help filing your taxes in person (at a VITA site, for example), bring photo identification and a Social Security card for each adult in your household.
Step 1: Gather your documents
W-2s for each job held in 2016 for each person in the household. This form reports your name, wages, and other tax information to the IRS.
1099s showing other income (unemployment, social security, school loans, health care reimbursement, state tax refund, gambling winnings, contract work) that is reported to the IRS.
1098s showing payments you’ve made (school loans, property tax).
1095-A if you received credit from the healthcare.gov marketplace.
Income/interest statements received for any savings account/investments.
Bank account numbers: a voided check or your bank or credit union’s routing number and savings or checking account number for your refund to be deposited automatically into your account through direct deposit.
Last year’s return (if you have it).
Step 2: Collect information for everyone in your household
Name and taxpayer number as they appear on the Social Security Card (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number letter (ITIN) for you and all dependents (including children and elderly relatives for whom you provide care).
Date of birth and relationship (son, daughter, mother, etc.).
Current address (it may be different from the address on your employment records).
Step 3: Gather additional items to get a larger refund
Childcare expenses: name, address, Tax ID or Social Security Number of the child care provider.
Business expenses and assets: if you’re self-employed or have a small business
College: loans and/or scholarships received, and bills for technical/community college or university (Forms 1098-T/1098-E).
Educator expenses for teaching grades K-12 (school supplies and materials used in the classroom).
Charitable donations: list of contributions and amounts, receipts for contributions over $250.
Vehicles: vehicle sales tax, personal property tax statement for each car you own, total miles driven for the year and/or total miles driven for business.
Renters: amount of rent paid (in some states).
Homeowners: mortgage interest statement (Form 1098), real estate taxes paid, Statement of Property Tax Payable in 2016.
Retirement/IRA: amount contributed to an IRA and total value as of December 2016.
ITIN: if you need to apply for an ITIN for yourself or a family member, find out what other documents you need to take with you when you get help filing your taxes for free.
Step 4: File your taxes for free through MyFreeTaxes.com
70% of U.S. tax filers qualify to file state and federal for free with MyFreeTaxes. The service is brought to you by United Way, and powered by H&R Block. For your protection, keep any forms used to prepare your taxes and a copy of your return for seven years. This information will make it easier to file your taxes next year.
If you prefer not to do your own tax preparation you can dial 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment with an IRS Certified volunteer preparer. Central Michigan 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that helps people across North America find the local resources they need. They’re here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Holiday Wishes
My sincerest wish is that the members of the UAW, and especially the members and retirees of UAW Local 652, have a very Merry Christmas and a truly blessed New Year. May you receive everything you desire, but more importantly, everything you truly need, for they are never one and the same. 

September 2016: Union hall gets updated

If you haven’t been in the area lately you should stop by the Union Hall and take a look. We’ve made a few improvements! We have replaced the suspended ceiling in the auditorium and installed a brand new audio/video system! No more garbled speeches or washed out videos.
We are also replacing or updating most of the fluorescent light fixtures with state of the art LED lighting. This lighting is brighter, runs cooler, and is many times more energy efficient than the old lighting.
We are hoping to cut our electric bills by a good percentage and along with a rebate program from Lansing’s Board of Water and Light we were able to reduce the cost of replacement even more. Many thanks to the Local 652 Retiree Chapter and the Ryder Unit for donating funds for these projects! Stop in and take a look!
Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting
The 2016 Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting will be held at the Local 652 Union Hall on Thursday, December 15 from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm for all active and retired Trades. Food and beverages provided. There is a $3.00 donation at the door. For more info call me at the hall, 517-372-7581. Hope you can make it!
Election 2016
Last but not least. You didn’t think I could pass up a chance to talk about THE ELECTION, did you?
We have a choice this election cycle. A choice between someone who is campaigning using fear, anger and vitriol and one who has served the public in some capacity for most of her life. Someone who has used the bankruptcy laws to wipe out his bad business decisions not once but four times. Someone who has refused to reveal his income tax return because it’s “over 12,000 pages long.” Someone who is on his third marriage. Someone who has a pretty good catchphrase, “Make America Great Again!” but doesn’t present a cohesive plan to make it happen.
We must recognize this strategy for what it is! Donald Trump is a master of manipulation and he’s using the discontent of the electorate to pave his road to the White House. Don’t fall for it. Look behind the mask and see the person. He’s only in it for himself.
Please, vote for the people that support you! You can find a list of UAW supported candidates on page 5 in this edition of the Labor News. You may find it convenient to cut it out and take it with you to the polls. If the wrong people get elected we’ll all suffer!

May 2016: A little Trump goes a long way

With the presidential primary season in full swing, I wanted to comment on a strategy that the Republicans, specifically “The Donald,” has been espousing recently. It’s an idea that’s particularly meaningful to members of the auto industry: opposition to trade. On many of his campaign stops, especially in the so-called Rust Belt, he’s arguing that America has lost many of its manufacturing jobs because our trade negotiators aren’t smart or tough enough to work out shrewd deals with Mexico, China, Japan, etc. He’s promising that if he’s elected President he’ll bring these jobs home, apparently by reopening negotiations and being “more shrewder” than our current negotiators. A lot easier said than done, Mr. Trump. But it is an example of his strategy to win the White House. Find an angry, disenchanted block of voters and say anything to appeal to them, no substance necessary (and by the way, Trump is not the only GOP candidate to use this tactic)!
Although NAFTA and things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now being debated add to the problem of out-sourcing and offshoring our jobs, the simple fact is a company will go wherever they can to realize the most profits. Why pay someone in Michigan a living wage when they can pay slave wages in any number of countries around the world. But headway is being made. Higher wages are being realized by many of these countries, changing the cost balance more in our favor. Along with lower cost energy availability in the US and the advantage of bringing production closer to consumers, over a million manufacturing jobs have been created here in the past six years. Nowhere near our heyday in the ‘70’s, but a step in the right direction. Trump claims he can return many more of these lost jobs by changing trade agreements and tariffs, but with efficiency increases and technological advances many of these jobs will never return.
One claim that is incredibly irksome to me is that he will save the auto industry and restore it to its past glory. The last time I looked he was a few years too late. As a matter of fact, a good percentage of those manufacturing jobs created in the last six years can be directly attributed to the domestic auto industry! AND the people that are most responsible for that success are the autoworkers themselves, the people that took sacrifices during the bankruptcies to insure that there would be future jobs available. AND let’s not forget that President Obama stuck his political neck out for us and we should forever be thankful for his courage and leadership during that crisis.
The auto industry is healthier today than it’s been in decades and Trump and the rest of the Republican Party can take none of the credit. Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric is fear mongering at its worst! Don’t fall for it!

January 2016: Legislature must repeal emergency manager law
By now everyone is probably aware of the problems facing Flint. The water crisis has attracted national attention. The Department of Justice and Attorney General have announced independent investigations. Our Governor has formed several task forces and declared a state of emergency while the Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and his spokesperson have resigned. President Obama is providing federal support for the problem. But little is being said about the root of the problem, PA 436 or the Emergency Manager Act (EM Act).
Originally the EM Act was designed during the James Blanchard era to provide financial advice and assistance to cash-strapped cities, towns, school districts, etc. The manager would investigate and suggest solutions that the properly elected officials could then act upon. Unfortunately, our business oriented present Governor Tough-Nerd decided that wasn’t enough and in 2011 signed a new EM law that gave almost unlimited power to state appointed managers, denying people their democratically elected representation, eliminating the checks and balances that make a democracy functional.
Being the intelligent and thoughtful voters that we all know and love, the people of Michigan promptly, through a statewide referendum, voted against the law and in so doing told the Legislature in no uncertain terms that we like our democratically elected form of government. Of course the Republican-controlled state government recognized that the citizens of our great state really had no concept of what was in our best interests and passed a new Emergency Manager Act within a few months of the referendum. And just to make sure we wouldn’t hurt ourselves by voting it down again, added an appropriation to the bill to make it referendum proof! Those Republicans! Always looking out for us! Almost makes me want to cry … no really, it does make me want to cry. Damn! How the hell did we get to this?
Unfortunately, the EM Act does NOT require an Emergency Financial Manager to have any expertise outside of the financial area—and that fact causes him to focus in that area above all else. With absolute power he is able to stay the course and ignore citizen complaints, scientific processes, and manipulation of data (sound familiar, Flint?), all to achieve the desired results—less cost.
We need to look at the situation in Flint and refocus our efforts. Michigan’s Legislature passed this law. They govern this state and they have a responsibility to keep our citizenry safe: ALL of our citizenry, even the ones from areas that are hit hardest by poverty. It’s time for them to repeal the law that made this possible. If they cannot do this on their own, I hope the voters will remember in November!
Conservatives believe that power should be as decentralized as possible. “No one can be fully trusted with public power and … self-government in a free society demands that we reject the siren song of politics-as-management,” wrote Yuval Levin, editor of the conservative journal National Affairs, a respected right-leaning national publication. Seems the exact opposite of the track Governor Snyder is taking. Maybe Michigan Republicans should look to their own for advice. There could be hope still.
Until next time …

December 2015: Proud to be union
I have been putting off writing this article for as long as possible so I could include a report of the UAW-GM 2015 Contract Ratification vote and comment on the issues brought forward by our Skilled Trade members.
For those that haven’t heard – the ratification vote was passed by a majority of our brothers and sisters (55% yes) but was turned down by a majority of the Skilled Trades (60% no). Following those results, the UAW International Executive Board asked that all Locals hold special meetings with their Trades members to gather their concerns.
Local 652 held their meetings on November 9. After hearing the issues from a good number of the Trades, a letter was drafted and forwarded to the UAW International Executive Board outlining these issues.
As of Friday, November 20, we have received the results of the UAW-GM National Council Meeting. The information forwarded to the National Parties indicated three areas of common Skilled Trades issues to be discussed. It was explained in the meeting that changes were made to address all three issues (please contact your Local representative for details, or visit UAW.org). Based on full Council, support a recommendation to ratify the 2015 UAW-GM
National Agreement was sent to the UAW International Executive Board.
I for one am encouraged by the process being followed by our Union. The time that has been taken to investigate and correct the concerns of our Trades members shows how a Union should work! It also supports the fact that Skilled Trades, even though it’s a much smaller group, are still a very important and critical part of the UAW.
As a Tradesperson myself I am very proud of our Union, standing up for the issues that are important to me. In today’s world, it’s awfully easy to feel overlooked, to feel that you’re taken for granted, but the support we are getting from the UAW International Executive Board and the Bargaining Committee in these negotiations proves we are still relevant, important, needed, and most of all WANTED!
Thank you, UAW, from all of us!
Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting
The 2015 Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting will be held at the Local 652 Union Hall on Thursday, December 17 from 3:00 to 7:00 pm for all active and retired Trades. Food and beverages provided. There is a $3.00 donation at the door. For more info, call me at the hall, 517-372-7581. Hope you can make it!
Don’t Forget
The Oldsmobile Outdoor Club is hosting their annual “Winterfest” family getaway at Grayling, Michigan starting on Friday, February 12 through Sunday, February 14. Registration starts at noon on Friday at the Ramada Inn of Grayling. This will be the location for registration and headquarters for all events.
The weekend is packed full of events starting with family bingo Friday evening. There will be a Poker Run, Snowmobile Safari, adult and kid’s fishing contests, good food, great company, and as always, lots and lots of prizes!
Whether you are an old hand at the club’s Winterfest or a complete newbie, you are sure to have a great time! Please come and join the fun! Rooms are available at the Ramada Inn of Grayling, phone (989) 348-7611, and other area hotels. Please tell them you are with the Oldsmobile Outdoor Club. For more information, go to the club website at:
 www.oldsmobileoutdoorclub.com.
It’s that time of year again, time to spend with friends and family. My sincere wish for all of you is a safe and happy Christmas and New Year!

September 2015: Labor Day
Labor Day! Welcome … to the end of summer. It’s a little depressing really. Kids are going back to school (WATCH FOR THEM). We’re closing up the cabins or swimming pools, taking that last trip up north or maybe getting the hunting equipment out. It’s never too early! Me, I like fishing and golf this time of year. Two of my favorite pastimes done during my favorite season, what could be better? Get out and enjoy. The white stuff will be here sooner than you think!
I hope everyone had a great summer. Here at the Local it has been an extremely busy one! We have welcomed many new members and welcomed back many returning members. Whether you’re a newbie or a returning member, all of us at the hall would like to say hello! With the Camaro launch and the new models of the Cadillacs being built it’s a great time to be a member of the best Local around!
And then we have the political season that’s starting to heat up. Look at the number of people that announced a run for the presidency. You have to search pretty hard to find someone that hasn’t announced. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more crowded or more confusing set of candidates than the list the GOP is presenting this cycle. Wow! One of the more creative news pundits described it as a “clown car” of candidates and I guess I can’t argue with his choice of words!
Meanwhile the Dems have what I think is a very solid list of candidates. I am looking forward to the primaries, which should be very interesting. As always, I encourage all of you to study all the candidates carefully with an eye to supporting the folks who support us. We need to take the state and country back for the middle class!
Don’t forget, membership meetings are the second Sunday of the month at Local 652 Union Hall, 426 Clare Street, Lansing. Meeting times are as follows; Ryder at 2 PM, JCIM unit and GM LOC unit at 3 PM, Android at 4 PM and the General Membership meeting at 6 PM. Hope to see you there!

May 2015: Wecome to the UAW
I’d like to welcome the members of our newest unit, General Motors Subsystems Manufacturing. They are housed in the new logistics center built just south of our Lansing Grand River General Assembly building. The employees of the unit are engaged in several production related service and support roles, e.g. kitting, sequencing and other subsystems work that may be negotiated. Welcome! It’s always nice to have fresh, new faces around the Union Hall. Remember, if you have questions or concerns, contact your area bargaining committee member or call the hall, 517-372-7581. We will be happy to help!
One of the nice things about having a new unit is the chance to educate a new generation AND to re-educate an old generation on the importance of Union Solidarity and the principles of collective bargaining. All members, young and old, should be aware of the changes in the political climate in Michigan. The recent adoption of Right to Work (for less) laws are designed to create divisions in the workplace, pitting one member against another, eroding and weakening the fabric of our collectively bargained contracts.
Our new brothers and sisters may not be aware of the sacrifices made by our predecessors, who fought and died for the things many of us take for granted. They were probably not born when unions won the right to an 8-hour workday or a 40-hour workweek. They weren’t around when we won paid vacations, holiday pay, overtime pay, weekends, lunch and rest breaks, seniority rights, pensions, health insurance, bereavement, workplace safety, and the many assorted leaves that we have. We need to understand and we need to make the new members understand that these things weren’t given to us by benevolent corporations from the goodness of their hearts, they were EARNED at the bargaining table and on the factory floors. 
AND let’s not forget the things our unions influenced, social structures and laws that we had a major role in bringing to fruition: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, OSHA, workers comp, child labor laws, unemployment insurance, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), equal pay, civil rights, whistleblower protections. I think you get the idea. We’ve been at the center of most of the progressive and successful undertakings of the last century! Imagine where our country would be today without unions and their influence.
Some people say that the modern worker no longer needs a union or collective bargaining. The rules and laws in place are all the protections needed. Don’t believe it for a second! We need them more than ever to defend against the attacks that are coming daily from so many different directions. The UAW has an old song that’s called “Solidarity Forever.” Kind of a corny old thing but it has a refrain that’s as close to the pure truth as you can get, “…and the Union Makes Us Strong!” It does. It really does.

January 2015: On Day One …
I recently came across an interesting article by Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik titled “On Day One, the new Congress launches an attack on Social Security” and what it contained sent chills up and down my spine. The story describes a rule change in Congress that will seriously undermine efforts to keep Social Security solvent.
The rule hampers an otherwise routine reallocation of Social Security payroll tax income from the old-age program to the disability program, reallocations that have taken place in both directions at least 11 times since 1968.
Without the transfer the disability program is expected to run dry next year; but with the reallocated income the programs will be solvent until at least 2033, allowing politicians plenty of time to work out a long-term solution.
The rule enacted by the House Republican caucus will prohibit the reallocation unless it’s accompanied by “benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds.”
This effectively makes reallocation an impossibility since across the board benefit cuts aren’t politically acceptable and politicians that support tax increases aren’t electable.
The Republican caucus claims the rule is necessary to “protect the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund from diversion of its funds to finance a broken Disability Insurance system.”
The problem is disability isn’t broken, it’s been meddled with. Funding shifts in 1983 and 1994 have hurt disability’s funding and if the rates had stayed at pre-1983 levels the fund would be flush today.
A lot of factors play into Social Security’s problems today: the aging of the American population, the entry of more women into the workforce, and the increase of the full retirement age above 65. But the system has been successful for decades with just minor tweaking.
The solutions are simple to describe but extremely difficult to implement. One simple solution would be to increase the payroll tax from its current rate of 12.4% to 15.28%. Since the payroll tax is split between employer and employee, it would be an increase of only 1.44% to each. Done, problem solved for the next 75 years! Like I said, simple!
The problem? No one likes a tax increase! Other ideas are benefit changes (read reductions), combating fraud, or increasing the full retirement age even further, perhaps 70 or more.
Would you be willing to contribute 1.44% more to Social Security if this meant that everyone would get what’s coming to them for the next 75 years? Would you be willing to accept some of these other changes? It’s time to start thinking about what IS acceptable. Something needs to be done and the Congressional rule change assures that the discussion will happen, whether we like it or not. Until next time…

December 2014: A little bit of the Grinch …
In the last edition I wrote about the development of a members-only union movement at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This type of union is voluntary and only represents the workers who choose to join. Volkswagen recently announced that organizations that represent at least 15% of the active workers in the plant will be allowed to meet and present ideas and proposals to local plant management. Volkswagen has not put a restriction on the number of organizations this would be limited to, so there could be six or more groups meeting on the employees’ behalf.
This in itself is a little unusual but what is really mind-blowing is that one of the groups touting representation is the very group that fought against the formation of a union in the first place. So we have the strange case of the anti-union union, the group that successfully fought against collective bargaining has formed the American Council of Employees to compete with the UAW for members. It is a quasi-union group that believes that workers should come together to negotiate with their bosses.
One of the group’s organizers, Sean Moss, is quoted as saying, “It’s really to the benefit of everyone that everyone have a say, the opportunity to step up and speak for themselves…” So we have the same people that fought against the organizing campaign which would have assured worker involvement and collective bargaining making statements that support the ideas of worker involvement and collective bargaining! Please, someone wake me up from this nightmare!
I am hoping that the workers at Volkswagen are sharp enough to realize that they have been bamboozled by their political representatives. After all the innuendos, threats and outright lies even the co-workers who were against organizing were really not, they were just doing what they were told to do. It appears almost everyone in the plant supports unions, they just have to tell all the others to mind their own business!
A little bit of coal …
Did you know that wages in construction, production, transportation, installation, maintenance and repair in Michigan have dropped so low (or, depending on your view, not risen) that 59% of the nation has higher average wages? Based on a study done in 2012 by the Michigan Department of Management and Budget looking at 202 different occupations, Michigan’s wages were equal or higher in only 83 of those occupations. The occupations were primarily in the industrial areas, historically the jobs that pushed Michigan near the top of the average U.S. wage scales. I can’t specifically pin this on our state’s preponderance of Republican representation but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t help. Remember this in 2016. Get out to vote!
And a little bit of Santa …
It’s that time of year again, time to spend with friends and family. My sincere wish for all of you is a safe and happy Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year! Happy Holidays! 
Just a reminder, the Local 652 Skilled Trades Christmas meeting is Thursday, December 11 at the hall, 426 Clare Street, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. Food and beverages provided. A $3.00 donation is requested. Hope we see you there!

September 2014: The birth of a movement?

On July 10th the UAW chartered Local 42 in Chattanooga, a members-only union to represent the workers of VW. While not a completely new strategy, the UAW has never before embraced the idea Unlike a traditional union, a members-only union is voluntary and represents only the workers who choose to join. A company has no legal obligation under the National Labor Relations Act to negotiate with a union of this type; however, the UAW and Volkswagen have come to a “consensus” that the company will recognize Local 42 once it has signed up a “meaningful portion” of the workers. With a majority, Volkswagen may choose to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining representative of the entire worksite, effectively bypassing the need for another NLRB election.
Of course, the anti-union forces are already crying foul, commenting that their hard-earned victory in the last election could be thrown out on a technicality. But I find it encouraging that a strategy like this is being attempted. We have been at a disadvantage for too long in the South and this type of effort could be a game changer!
If the UAW can be accepted by enough workers voluntarily, it gives us a greater chance to win all their hearts and minds, to prove the worth of collective bargaining.
Under this course of action employees can take the chance on collective bargaining without the stigma of the old style union, which in the South is reviled by a good portion of the populace. There, a union security clause is seen as a detriment, not an advantage.
As of this writing, more than 670 employees have voluntarily signed up for membership in Local 42. That number is very significant. If those same 670 people had voted yes in the NLRB election it would have constituted a majority and the Volkswagen plant would today be a UAW-represented plant.
While the outcome of the efforts in Chattanooga are not clear, it is a positive step. Will it work? Maybe, maybe not, but the thing to take away from it all is that the effort was made.
We’re not sitting on our hands waiting for the cards to fall. We’re taking the fight to the enemy and ultimately, that’s all we can ask.
If you would like more information, please google “The New Volkswagen Model: Minority Unionism” or visit www.uaw.org or www.labornotes.org.

May, 2014: Road woes
Recently there has been a very lively debate taking place at the State Capitol concerning funding for road and other infrastructure repairs in the state of Michigan. A survey by Marketing Resource Group found that 82% of their sample group thinks that the roads and bridges in the state are in poor condition or worse, and 72% favor spending an additional $1.8 billion a year for the next ten years.
The problem is where is the money coming from? While 68% of this same group are willing to pay an extra $10 a month in taxes to maintain and improve our roads and bridges, many others are more reticent.
Since anyone who travels even a little bit in our state realizes our roads need improvement, it would help to start with a bit of information. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 38% of Michigan roads are rated poor or mediocre, and 29% of all bridges in the state are either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient, with their average age being 42 years.
Michigan’s overall infrastructure is given a grade of “D”. This compares with a 32% national average for poor road ratings and an overall grade of “D+” for the entire country. This is a telling statistic, one that indicates not just a state or regional problem but an indication of how far the deterioration has been allowed to go on a national level.
Some of the ideas being proposed are a House bill that would replace the state fuel tax with a 6% wholesale sales tax that in combination with streamlining and squeezing a little more out of vehicle registration fees would raise an additional $450 million annually.
The Senate has announced their own version that would bump the wholesale tax to 7.5%, which, along with the same registration changes, would add $1.3 to $1.4 billion per year. Others oppose the idea of a wholesale tax and would rather increase the existing fuel surcharge (which is currently sixth highest in the nation) and tie it to inflation. They argue that this would ensure that available revenue would keep pace with rising costs. 
Another faction believes that users of the infrastructure must be willing to pay the appropriate price for its use. They argue that tolls, mileage taxes, or other use taxes are the best way to secure funds. Their contention is that the people who use the facilities the most should pay the most.
To add a little more to the discussion, an argument can be made that since the infrastructure of the nation was originally financed and built using federal revenue and that a central strategy for the improvements to our infrastructure would be the most efficient, a federal solution would be in order.
An increase of the federal fuel tax has been suggested, because the current 18.6 cents per gallon that has been around since 1993 is stagnant and has not kept pace with rising costs. The only way that federal funding to the states has remained at current levels is through patched together, short-term bills that are funded by general tax revenue transfers. An increase here may be the best solution, allowing oversight and vision from a central source rather than a scattergun approach by each state.
The bottom line to all this is that no matter what solution is found, it will be costing us. Whether we pay more at the pump, the Secretary of State office, or a toll booth, the truth is we will be paying more to drive in Michigan. And we need to. The real truth is that the increase in cost today is an investment in our future. We can’t stand idly by and allow things to fall down around us, too much of that has gone on already. My hope is the politicos can work together to come up with funding strategies that can be a slight pain to all, not a huge burden to a few. It wouldn’t be good to have perfect roads in Michigan but no one with the money to drive on them.

March 2014: The VW fiasco
An excerpt from an article by Laura Clawson:
“Their senator said publicly and repeatedly that if they voted against joining a union, their company would bring more jobs to the region.
A state senator said that if they voted for a union, their legislature would vote against funding for jobs expansion.
And the threats to Volkswagen workers apparently had their intended effect: The workers voted narrowly against joining the UAW in results just counted.
According to an emailed press release from the UAW:
At the end of voting on Friday, Volkswagen workers voted against joining the union in a vote of 712 to 626. [...]
“While we’re outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union, we’re proud that these workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from outside,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams, who directs the union’s transnational program. “We hope this will start a larger discussion about workers’ right to organize.”
If all of your elected officials were saying that you choosing more power in the workplace and better wages and working conditions would mean fewer jobs, wouldn’t you think twice? Fear works for Republicans. They use it effectively.”
I had been searching for a way to discuss the Volkswagen union vote and was having some problems with getting my feelings to come through on paper when I read the above couple of paragraphs.
Ms. Clawson, in a few short sentences, hit the bullseye on why the vote at the Chattanooga VW plant bothered me so much.
The workers at VW should have been allowed to make a personal decision in this matter. Instead they were browbeaten and threatened, BY THEIR OWN ELECTED OFFICIALS! What does that say about the state of our nation? Not too much, I’m afraid. Stay tuned.
Winterfest 2014
The 2014 Oldsmobile Outdoor Club’s “Winterfest” at Grayling, Michigan was a rousing success. Lots of snow, good people and a friendly atmosphere added up to a great time had by all.
A big thank you needs to go out to all those who attended, to the Ramada Inn for being a gracious host, and an even bigger thank you to all of the volunteers that give their time and energy to make this event a success. Well done, guys! I’m proud to be a member!
If you didn’t have a chance to go this year, do yourself a favor and mark it on the calendar for next year. It’s a great time for the family and one of the things that your kids will remember forever.

January 2014: Budget surplus?
Michigan budget officials recently announced that they expect the state to have in the vicinity of a $971 million dollar surplus this year and everyone in our state government had an idea on what to do with the money. Republicans are calling for a tax cut. Democrats would like to increase funding for education, restore the Earned Income Credit, and repeal the pension tax that was imposed last year. Local governments would like to get back some of the revenue-sharing that they’ve lost. Others are requesting more funding for roads, highways, and other infrastructure. Still others are suggesting to bank it or to use it to pay down the debt. Whichever strategy is used, I think we should first look at where the surplus comes from.
When Governor Snyder came to office he proposed a series of cost-cutting austerity measures. These included cuts to education, cuts in state revenue-sharing to local governments, the elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The list goes on and on. But let’s not forget what else he did. The $1.8 billion dollar gift in tax concessions to Michigan business was the crown jewel of his first years in office. So, in essence, he robbed from the poor and gave to the rich. (Funny, but that’s not how I remember that old Sherwood Forest story.) 
So, here we are a couple years down the road and we have a surplus which in my opinion is largely attributable to the success of the automobile industry recovery. What to do with it? If our law y will first look at the people hardest hit by the austerity measures, the middle class and low-wage workers. Reinstating the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Credit would be great places to start. A reduction or full elimination of the pension tax would be another. Our state recovery should not be on the backs of the poor or those on a fixed income. Increasing school funding across the board, not just to those schools who “earn” it is another worthy cause.
$971 million may sound like a lot of money but it will be gone in a flash with the huge list of “wants” out there. I want you to contact your legislators and encourage them to help the ones who need it the most, the working poor and pensioners. A tax cut to everyone is a politician’s dream, especially in an election year, but I’d like to think that if we all communicate our common desires we may be able to influence them to do the right thing. What can I say, I’m an eternal optimist!
Don’t Forget…
The Oldsmobile Outdoor Club is hosting their annual “Winterfest” family getaway at Grayling, Michigan starting on Friday, February 14 through Sunday, February 16. Registration starts at noon on Friday at the Ramada Inn of Grayling. This will be the location for registration and headquarters for all our events.
The weekend is packed full of events, starting with family bingo Friday evening. There will be a Poker Run, Snowmobile Safari, adult and kid’s fishing contests, good food, great company, and as always lots and lots of prizes!
Whether you are an old hand at the club’s “Winterfest” or a complete newbie you are sure to have a great time! Please come and join the fun!
Rooms are available at the Ramada Inn of Grayling, phone (989) 348-7611 and other area hotels. Please tell them you are with the Oldsmobile Outdoor Club. For more information, go to: www.oldsmobileoutdoorclub.com.

December 2013: ’Tis the season
Hard to believe that it’s almost Christmas again! Time sure flies when you’re having fun. I’d like to take a minute and remind everyone that this time of year, the holiday time, is a time of sharing. A time of giving to people that might not have as much as we do. Many people are still reeling from the great recession and may not be able to provide for their families as they would like to. Local 652 has partnered with many area organizations designed to assist people in need. A couple I’d like to bring your attention are Toys for Tots and Old Newsboys.
Taken from www.ToysforTots.org:
 “Toys for Tots” is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which donates toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The mission of the program “is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.”  The stated goal is to “deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.”
On November 9th Local 652 joined other Lansing-area UAW Locals  to hold a “Toys for Tots” Drive. The drive was a huge success with $20,000 in cash donations and many new toys collected.
From www.lansingoldnewsboys.org:
Since 1924, Old Newsboys of Greater Lansing has been providing shoes and boots to deserving children. Last year we spent $182,000 on shoes, boots, and socks for 5,800 children. The Lansing tradition of raising money to provide shoes and boots for deserving school children began around 1910 when truant officer George E. Palmer established the Palmer Shoe Fund.
In 1924 the Old Newsboys Association, led by its first president R. Guy Brownson, was organized to assist in the efforts begun by Palmer. The Old Newsboys cooperated with The State Journal and the Lansing Capital News to publish and sell a spoof newspaper during a one-day fund-raising drive.
The “Spoof” Edition sale is held on December 5 every year. In fact, December 5 is declared as “Old News Boys Day” in the state of Michigan. We at Local 652 would like to thank everyone who donates to these fine charities. It’s a testament to our workforce that so few can give so much to so many! 
Congratulations …
To all our brothers and sisters who helped make the 2014 Cadillac CTS Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year.” This is a very prestigious award and as a follow-up to the 2013 ATS being named “North American Car of the Year” proves that the workers in the Lansing area are the best around. Just a little suggestion to GM: If you want it built right, with world-class quality, bring it to Lansing. I can’t wait for the Camaro! I wonder what award we can get for that?
And more congratulations …
To all the volunteers who helped to elect our Lansing area UAW/CAP endorsed candidates. Our winning candidates were Mayor Virg Bernero and City Council Members Judi Brown Clarke, Kathie Dunbar, Tina Houghton, and Jessica Yorko. We look forward to working with this labor-friendly group.
Don’t forget the Annual Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting at Local 652 on December 12 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Food and beverage provided with a $3.00 donation at the door. We look forward to seeing you there!

September, 2013: Labor Day
As we are coming up on Labor Day I thought it might be fun to look at a little history of the holiday that celebrates the American worker.
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Labor Day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York, New York. The celebration occurred on the same date in 1883, and changed to the traditional day of the first Monday in September in 1884. The Central Labor Union was the first group to celebrate the holiday and following the event in 1884 urged similar organizations in other cities to follow their example and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country. Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday on February 21, 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day.
Labor Day has come to be celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. In U.S. sports, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons. Many school districts mark the date as the end of summer vacation and resume school shortly after Labor Day. To this American, Labor Day remains what it has always been, a testament to and a celebration of the hard work and dedication of all the “workingmen.”
A quote from the Department of Labor website sums it up: “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership—the American worker.”
Upcoming Events at Local 652 hall
September 15 – Local 652 active and retired Toolmakers are having a get-together at 2:00 p.m. For more information call the hall at 517-372-7581.
September 23 is the date for Local 652 Skilled Trades to get-together for coffee, donuts, and friendship from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All active and retired trades are welcome. For more info call Alex McPherson at 517-676-2414.
December 12 – The annual Local 652 Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting will be held from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. All active and retired trades are welcome. Food and beverage provided. For more info call the hall at 517-372-7581.

May 2013: Wealth inequality in America
I recently received an e-mail from a friend that suggested I watch a certain video that had gone “viral” on YouTube. The video is an interpretation of a study performed by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely, professors at the business schools of Harvard and Duke, respectively. The duo do research in behavioral economics and try to describe their results in plain language. They recently performed a study that asked 5,000 Americans what their ideal distribution of wealth would be, splitting the population into five 20% groups. Then they asked them what they thought the actual distribution of wealth was. Less equal than their ideal, came the answer. But the truth, as Ariely and Norton noted, was that America was much less equal even than that. Reality was twice as far from the average American’s ideal as the average American thought.
The study group’s “ideal” distribution chart was about what I would choose, the top 20% owning 30+% of the wealth, with the next two groups having about 20% each followed by 14% for the fourth group and about 11% for the poorest group. This breakdown represents a strong middle and upper class with lots of support for the lower. The “estimated” chart started to slide to the top 20%. On this chart the top 20% was believed to own almost 60% of the wealth of the United States. The second group held 20%, the third a little over 10%, the fourth 6% and the poorest 4%. The real eye opener is at the “actual” chart. The reality is the top group owns 84% of the wealth, the second 11%, the third 4%, and the fourth and fifth group less than 1% combined.
A couple more facts from the “actual” distribution chart need to be highlighted. The top 1% of the population holds 40% of the nation’s wealth. The bottom 80% only holds 16% between them! And it’s gotten worse in the last 30 years. Today the richest 1% take home 24% of all income while in 1976 they took home only 9%. The top 1% owns over half the nation’s stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The bottom 50% of Americans hold only 1/2%, meaning they are not able to invest and are just barely scraping by. America’s CEO’s now earn 380 times what their average worker earns. Not their lowest paid worker, their AVERAGE worker. The average worker has to work one full month to make what the CEO earns in ONE HOUR! That’s just not right!
So, here’s what you should know about wealth inequality in the United States: It’s worse than Americans want it to be, much worse than they think it is, and it’s increased over the last few decades. Which is one reason that there’s been more talk of a wealth tax lately.
It’s very hard to describe on paper how skewed the charts actually look so I suggest you view the video interpretation yourself by Googling “wealth inequality” or at the following web addresses:
http://economy.money.cnn.com/2013/03/08/wealth-video/ or
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0ehzfQ4hAQ.
After viewing, I urge you to encourage friends and family to watch it. Our nation’s poor and middle class are now hurting as much or more than at any time in history and we need to do something about it.
Maybe increasing taxes on the wealthiest 1% isn’t such a bad idea. What do you think?

January 2013: True freedom
I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. I know my family and I had a great one. Nothing like a new product announcement wrapped up in a new Camaro wrapping to make Christmas special! The American muscle car coming back to the States! How cool is that?! This will be huge for our Local. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in bringing this to fruition. That includes every single member of 652. Once again you’ve proven that we have the best, most skilled workforce in the world! Congratulations!
Unfortunately, we never seem to get just good news. There’s always some bad to offset it. I’m talking about the heinous actions of the lame-duck Republican Legislature and our dishonest Governor. Together they took Michigan back 75 years! Right to Work! Governor Snyder had stated repeatedly that he had no interest in this. Suddenly, within three days everything changes. But, he had no interest in it. Yeah, right. And I got a bridge in New York you might be interested in….
The worst part of the whole situation is the hypocrisy. The political right makes claims that this is all about worker freedom, that everyone should have the right to choose a union or not. This is a flimsy excuse, and an absolute charade! Everyone that is a member of a union today had the freedom of choice when they took the job! I chose to work at GM because of the Union! I knew the benefits and pay were better with union representation. Anyone that says different must be related to Governor Snyder!
This is what I propose. If this Right to Work stuff is truly about worker’s rights and freedoms, then let’s truly have freedom. I believe that every working person in Michigan no matter the employer, should be free to walk into their boss’s office and state that they want to join a union and START paying union dues whether the employer has a collective bargaining agreement or not. That would be true worker’s rights! Too bad that this action is considered illegal under the National Labor Relations Act but laws can be changed and changed quickly, as we saw in the last session. I would hope that the Republicans and Governor Snyder will continue their “fight” for worker’s rights and work with us to change this law. If all workers were free to join a union I think we would be pleasantly surprised at the positive response. So, Governor Snyder, I call on you to help, and when pigs fly…

December 2012: Happy holidays
Best wishes to you, members of Local 652. After a grueling, and seemingly never-ending election cycle, a new car launch that is best described as hectic and a period of sometimes excessive overtime, it will be nice to have a few days off during the holidays to spend with friends and family. The automotive business has historically been feast or famine and during the last couple of years these situations have come with exclamation points!
Since General Motors’ bankruptcy we have seen more than our share of famine, but things are looking up. In the past year we have been blessed with a great number of new hires, many of them in our GM Unit, something we have not experienced in a long, long time.
As we go into this holiday period we should give thanks for the good things. As the old saying goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” We here at UAW Local 652 hope that your darkest hours are behind you, and that together we can enjoy the dawn of a bright, new day!
Merry Christmas and
Happy New Year!
Skilled Trades Meeting
Local 652 Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting will be held at the Local 652 union hall on Thursday, December 13 from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. All active and retired trades are welcome. Food and beverage provided with a $3.00 donation. Hope you can make it!
Winterfest 2013
Don’t forget to join the Oldsmobile Outdoor Club for their annual winter get-together. This year’s outing will be held in Grayling on February 22, 23 and 24. We look forward to seeing you there! For information call 517-420-5335.
Benefits Reps are available at Local 652 on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Fridays 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. Lunch hour is 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Phone number for Benefits is 517-372-7581 ext. 500.
Don’t forget that our union meetings are the second Sunday of the month, 6:00 pm at the union hall.

September 2012: If you care about your job...
Warning! The following contains extremely biased and one-sided material. If you care about your job or your pension please continue to read!
On November 6 we will once again take part in that great American tradition of choosing our leaders for the next four years. This election is extremely important to us! If you have been paying attention (and most likely even if you haven’t), there seems to be a huge amount of money that has been made available to purchase radio and TV ads, billboards, newspaper and magazine articles, even faux documentary films, all in an effort to influence our vote. Welcome to politics, post-Citizens United!
Although there has always been a great deal of money spent on the political trail, after the US Supreme Court decided in the above mentioned case that “…corporations are people, too…” the amount of money seems unlimited. For those that haven’t heard, the Citizens United decision allows billionaires, corporations, and others to donate practically unlimited amounts of money to Political Action Committees (you hear them referred to as Super PACs). These organizations then purchase the advertisements, etc., that I mentioned above.
The problem with this for us as autoworkers and retirees is that billionaires and corporations are closer to having “unlimited funds” than we or our organizations will ever be. The other problem with this is the billionaires and corporations don’t particularly like us (autoworkers, middle class, retirees, etc.). Well, I guess they like us when we are young, strong, healthy, and productive. It’s when we age a little, maybe slow up a step or two, or get a little close to retirement age, or we injure ourselves working that they don’t like us quite as much. That’s when we become the dreaded “legacy costs.”
Some companies (usually non-union) tend to trim “legacy costs” (read employees) by using whatever means necessary to get rid of more senior employees. Others just close their doors and move to another state or country where they can hire another set of workers until the time comes that this new set may become “legacy costs” and the cycle restarts.
Which brings us back to where I started, this election is very important to us! It’s a big deal! I know that our current President and the Democratic Party as a whole supported us during the GM bankruptcy. I also remember the Congressional hearings where several Republicans wanted us to fail. I hope you remember those hearings! Without President Obama and the rest of the Democrats we could have lost everything! We could still lose everything if this election goes the wrong way!
So … I am going to continue to support the people that supported me. President Barack Obama and the Democrats saved our jobs, now it’s time to return the favor and save theirs!
Skilled Trades get-together
October 1 was the date for Local 652 Skilled Trades annual get-together for coffee, donuts, and friendship. This was for all active and retired trades. We were glad to see everyone, and our thanks to Alex Mcpherson for his work on this.
Veterans’ Chili Cook-Off
On October 20, UAW Local 652 is the site of the Region 1-C Veterans’ Chili Cook-Off from Noon to 4 p.m. Please register by October 15 by calling Mike Malfi at 517-285-4070.

May 2012: Happy spring

Although this past winter may not have been one of the worst we have ever lived through, it is still nice to see the season change. Spring is the season of change and rebirth– new hopes, new dreams, and new hires! Yes, Local 652 and Lansing Grand River are finally putting on a second shift and new hires are coming in for the first time in recent memory! They will build the all-new Cadillac ATS along with all the CTS models currently in production.
I’d like to say “Welcome” to all of the folks that are coming in, whether this is your return to our Local or this is your first time with us. It’s certainly a pleasure to see all the new faces. We are proud of the membership of Local 652 and want you to be proud to be a part of the best Local and the best workforce in the world!
The Hall is open 7 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. Benefit reps are available at the hall Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 7 AM to 4 PM and Friday from 7 AM to 3 PM. The general membership meetings are held on the second Sunday of the month at 6 PM. For more info please visit us at www.uawlocal652.org or call (517) 372-7581. We look forward to seeing you.

January 2012: Think about it ...

Now that it’s 2012 we will start to feel the effects of the legislative changes to Michigan’s income tax that Governor Rick Snyder and his Republican cohorts have visited upon the citizens of our great state. We’ve all heard the stories and explanations but now we get down to the nitty gritty … what do these changes really mean? How will they really affect us? Unfortunately, unless you are a business, the answer in most cases is very badly!
Not that I have anything against business. I readily admit that the business tax environment in Michigan was a millstone around our neck when competing for business expansion or new business development. Something had to be done. My arguments start with the focus of the tax increases that are being used to fund business tax cuts.
Inordinate amounts of the tax increases are being placed squarely upon the people who can least afford it, the working poor and public/private sector retirees! For those who haven’t heard, most pensioners in Michigan will now be required to pay the full amount of income tax on their pensions (currently 4.35%, please see below for breakdown). Many of these folks are already struggling to make ends meet and it seems almost criminal to squeeze them for more. This is why I agree that Governor Snyder is one tough nerd! One would have to be practically heartless to sign this legislation!
Below is a synopsis of the new pension tax rules. For more information go to: www.michigan.gov/treasury or speak to your tax specialist.
Income Tax Changes For Retirement Benefits Effective For Tax Year 2012 (For Returns Filed In 2013)
Born before 1946
• Income taxed at 4.35 percent (4.25 percent starting Jan. 1, 2013)
• Private pensions will NOT be taxed if under the current exemption threshold of $45,120 for single filers and $90,240 for joint filers. Public pensions will not be taxed.
• 401(k)s and IRAs will be treated the same as under current law.
• Social Security will NOT be taxed
• Personal exemption of $3,700 per person
Born between Jan. 1, 1946 and Dec. 31, 1952
• Income taxed at 4.35 percent (4.25 percent starting Jan. 1, 2013)
• Retirement income up to $20,000 for single filers and $40,000 for joint filers will NOT be taxed. “Retirement income” includes public pensions, private pensions, 401(k)s and IRAs. Retirement income above these exemption levels will be taxed at 4.35 percent (4.25 starting Jan. 1, 2013)
• Social Security will NOT be taxed
• Personal exemption of $3,700 per person
• When people born between Jan. 1, 1946 and Dec. 31, 1952 turn 67, they qualify for a senior income exemption of $20,000 for a single filer and $40,000 for joint filers, regardless of income source.
Born after 1952
• Income taxed at 4.35 percent (4.25 percent starting Jan. 1, 2013)
• Retirement income will be taxed at 4.35 percent (4.25 starting Jan. 1, 2013). “Retirement income” includes public pensions, private pensions, 401(k)s and IRAs.
• Social Security will NOT be taxed
• Personal exemption of $3,700 per person
• When people born after 1952 turn 67, they qualify for a senior income exemption of $20,000 for single filers and $40,000 for joint filers, regardless of income source.
For joint returns, the age of the oldest spouse determines the age category that will apply to the pension and retirement benefits of both spouses regardless of the age of the younger spouse.
Before we forget, this is only one of the “gifts” bestowed upon us by Governor Snyder and his allies. Many of our familiar exemptions, deductions, and credits have been reduced or wiped out in their “tax simplification” legislation. And this is just the first year. Many other pieces of harmful legislation are being proposed daily including the infamously named “right-to-work” agenda that will be the death knell of labor organizations.
So what do we do? We win back the state of Michigan. Walter Reuther, in his 1970 address to the UAW Convention, said “There’s a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.”
We need to win at the ballot box this year. We need to become active and support politicians who support us. When you enter the voting booth this year (which I hope every one of you does), remember what the state’s Republican administration stands for: business over people, rich over poor, Wall Street over Main street. Let’s fix it. Think about it.

December 2011: Attack on workers' rights, part 2

I just wanted to share a few thoughts about Michigan’s House Bill 5002, the Republicans’ idea of Worker Compensation reform. As of this writing, the bill is in the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee and is being considered. This bill, if passed, could reduce the amount of workers compensation available to you if you are injured on the job.

It would do this by reducing your compensation by the amount of wages you could theoretically earn while restricted, whether or not you could find a job or earn those wages. It would cut benefits for older workers by subtracting what your pension might be, even if you are not financially able to retire.

The worker’s compensation laws in Michigan have been good enough for almost a century and I have a hard time believing that a massive overhaul is truly needed. It seems that House Bill 5002 is just another example of the Republican Party agenda of disembowelment of all worker protections. I found the following items online. I thought they might interest you.

Top 5 misconceptions about workers compensation in Michigan

Number 1. Michigan’s workers compensation law is social welfare.Workers compensation is not welfare. It is insurance that most employers in Michigan are required BY LAW to purchase. It protects both employer and employee in the event of a work-related accident.

Number 2. Workers compensation benefits are grossly oversized.Nobody gets rich from workers compensation. Employees give up the right to sue in civil court in exchange for what are essentially no-fault benefits. Workers compensation pays lost wages, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation. Pain and suffering compensation is not available. The amount of money that a person will receive is approximately 60% of gross pay and there are no increases for inflation.

Number 3. Workers compensation will put you on easy street.Not true! Workers compensation benefits will be stopped if you decline reasonable employment. You can’t refuse to work if a job is offered within your restrictions. You must also show that your wage loss is related to your injury. If you are not working for any reason other than injury, benefits can and will be terminated.

Number 4. Most Workers Comp cases are fake.In reality workers compensation fraud is extremely low. Insurance companies say it occurs in less than 4% of claims. Many times employees will be examined by insurance or company doctors and could be followed by surveillance. Fraud is not a major problem.

Number 5. Most workers comp cases are settled in court.No, the vast majority of work accident claims never go to court. Workers compensation benefits are provided and people get back to work. The idea that someone would stay home and avoid work when they are able is an urban legend. There are some bad apples but these people are few and are quickly weeded out.

Please call, e-mail, or write a letter to your Senator and tell them not to support this bill. Ask your friends and family to do the same. Special interest groups and Big Business are spending a lot of money to make sure this passes. We can stop this if enough people contact their elected representatives but time is running short. Demand that workers’ rights be protected!

Upcoming Holiday Events

• A special Skilled Trades Christmas union hall on Thursday, December 15 from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. All active and retired Skilled Trades are invited to attend. Food and beverage provided with a $3.00 donation at the door. Come on over and kick off the Holidays with all your friends! Hope to see you there!

• The Local 652 Women’s Committee is hosting a “Kid’s Christmas” on Saturday, December 17 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Lots of fun and games for the kids and adults. Rumor has it that the big guy from way up north is going to show up, so tell all the kids to get their lists together! A special thanks from all the officers to the volunteers that make this gathering a truly great event!

I’ll end by wishing you a safe and happy holiday. I feel blessed to be part of this great Union and I hope you feel the same. I am blessed with a great family, wonderful friends, and a good job. My Christmas wish is that everyone has the same or greater blessings. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

September 2011: A busy autumn in store

Hello all! Happy Labor Day!

With the coming of September all of us need to be reminded to watch for our school children waiting for the bus or walking to and from school. We have had a whole summer to forget that children sometimes go where they aren’t supposed to go or do what they aren’t supposed to do. Many of us are on the road at the same time as the school children, so please be careful.
Recall Rick?
Local 652 has recall petitions available for those who would like to sign. Come by any time during business hours and we will help you to rid the state of one rough nerd. Have voter registration info handy to ensure accuracy.
Backpack Giveaway
Congrats to the Region 1-C Women’s Council for their successful backpack giveaway held at Local 652 union hall on August 15. Over 400 children received back-to-school supplies along with brand new backpacks. Programs like this are a real credit to the UAW. Thanks to all who participated!
Coffee Club
On October 5, retired Millwrights and Welders will hold their traditional semiannual get-together, a “Coffee Club,” where they share a coffee and a couple donuts, reminisce about old times and catch up on what is going on in their lives. The meeting will happen at UAW Local 652 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and is open to all old friends, regardless of trade. Please contact Alex McPherson at 517-242-1011 for more info. It’s a good time to see old friends and make new ones. I hope to see all of you there!
Upcoming Events
• Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons Football – The Local 652 Recreation Committee has a trip scheduled for October 23. The price is $78 and includes a bus ride. Tickets are on sale now through September 22. Call the Union Hall at 517-372-7581 for more information. Please watch the bulletin boards for more activities.
• Lansing Regional Stamping will host the fifth annual Twisted Metal Open on Sunday, September 11 at the Willow Wood Golf Club in Portland, Michigan. The scramble will start with a shotgun start at 9:00 a.m. Cost is $240 per team with the requirement that at least one team member be an LRS active or retired employee. To enter contact Dave Lawless at 517-721-2033 or Chris Harris at 517-721-2019.
• American Muscle & Antique Auto Show – September 10 in the Local 652 parking lot. Registration at 8:00 a.m. Showtime 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Lots of food, prizes and fun! Bring the whole family! Proceeds to benefit the Lansing Labor News.
• V-CAP Tickets – $5 each on sale at the Union Hall or from your Union Rep or CAP committee member. Grand prize is a Chevy Silverado.
April 2011: Attack on the middle class

A litany of states has taken up the hobby lately of targeting the middle class with tax increases, school budget cuts, elimination of tax credits (especially for the working poor), and the stripping of collective bargaining rights. Budget problems are invariably claimed to be the root of these evils.
“We need a fair and balanced budget!” is the cry heard from every Republican Governor’s mansion across the land. But on closer inspection, is that really what is going on?

In Wisconsin the new Governor needed to include stripping most unions in the public sector of their collective bargaining rights because he said that was needed to battle the BUDGET CRISIS. The unions agreed to all of his proposed cuts, hoping to keep their rights. He used a surprise stripped version of his bill that included ONLY THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING PROVISIONS THAT HE WANTED GONE to sneak his plan through. But … he wants us to believe it’s only about the budget.

Here in Michigan Governor Snyder has presented legislation that places emergency powers in the hands of a person or corporation of his choosing. Those powers can be used to break contracts, strip collective bargaining rights, dissolve locally elected government or school bodies, or just about anything they feel they need to do if the Governor cites a BUDGET CRISIS in that area.

Governor Snyder is also trying to raise 1.7 billion dollars in new revenue by taxing retirees’ pensions, eliminating deductions for donations to public schools, and eliminating the Earned Income Credit (which benefits the low wage earners). Governor Snyder calls this a “shared sacrifice.”

He has stated publicly that everyone needs to pay their fair share. Apparently he doesn’t think that people on a fixed income (retirees) or our working poor (Earned Income Credit) have been giving enough! Well, bless him! He’s taking care of that BUDGET CRISIS for us now, isn’t he! (Heavy sarcasm included for those who can’t read between the lines!) 

Well, not really. A little further along in his plan to combat the dreaded BUDGET CRISIS we see that he has included 1.8 BILLION DOLLARS IN TAX CONCESSIONS to business. So his “shared sacrifice” didn’t work out so well. I think it’s more like a “shaped sacrifice” and I think you know where we are all feeling it! 

All across America the same kind of thing is happening. Idaho, Indiana, Ohio, Florida. The list grows every day. The question is what are we going to do about it? We need to fight back! We need to call our representatives and tell them we won’t take it!

We need to tell them that we see through them. Their excuse of a BUDGET CRISIS is just that! An excuse! And they are using it to strip us of our rights, both at the bargaining table and in our everyday life.

Don’t let it happen. Become active. Join a gathering at the Capitol. Call you Local hall and ask what you can do to help! This is a mess and if we don’t step in and clean it up now, it may be too late. See you at the Capitol!

January, 2011: Big Three sales increase

   The numbers are in for 2010 and the U.S. Big Three—GM, Ford, and Chrysler—were able to increase sales over 2009. The final numbers show about 11.6 million vehicles were sold in the US in 2010. That follows a dismal 2009 where only about 10 million were sold. That’s around an 11% increase and the good news is a good portion of those sales went to the old Big Three. If the predictions for 2011 of sales in the range of 12.5 to 13 million ring true, this bodes remarkably well for the domestic auto industry. GM has been able to show a profit the last several quarters at these sales levels. A few years ago the company was struggling to make a profit when 17.4 million vehicles were sold. Talk about a turnaround! 
   This is why I believe we have a brighter future ahead. The bankruptcy has given GM the chance to show a profit at much lower sales levels than in the past. If and when sales return to previous levels, GM is set to make money hand over fist. Let’s hope that the corporation remembers who helped them to get there—all our UAW brothers and sisters, both active and retired!
   GM needs to remember and reward all of us for our sacrifices (and trust me, they will be loudly reminded!) They should also remember that it was the American public who chose to have them survive. For this GM should return to its roots of being a good civic neighbor. GM needs to give back to the people that saved it by supporting neighborhoods and cities that are homes to their factories. It wasn’t that long ago that GM was looked upon with admiration for their civil conscience. That sort of industrial responsibility needs to return. 
Retiree Picnics
   Members of Local 652 will have a couple of chances to catch up with old friends in February this year. If you winter near Mesa, Arizona you should highlight February 17th on your calendar. The GM Hourly and Salaried Arizona Picnic will be held at the Red Mountain Park at noon. If you spend your time closer to Florida, February 22nd is your date. The Oldsmobile Florida Picnic will be held at noon at the American Legion Kirby Stewart Post in Bradenton. Both hourly and salary employees are welcome at both events. For details please see the notices on pages 4-5. 
Winterfest
   For all UAW members in the Lansing area, the Oldsmobile Outdoor Club is having its premier event, “Winterfest” at Houghton Lake February 11-13. The club has been hosting this event for many years and it is a great time of family fun and camaraderie. The major focus of the club is to promote outdoor recreation, family style.
   Some of the things you get for the low-cost annual membership fee are children and adult hunting and fishing contests, children’s bike drawings, a family camping schedule, and entry and registration for Summerfest and Winterfest activities (which includes some terrific door prizes!). It’s a whole lot of value for only $10. For more info or to join the club, you can go to their website at: www.oldsmobileoutdoorclub.com.
   Don’t forget to buy your V-CAP tickets for this year’s drawing. First prize is a beautiful 2010 Camaro SS! See your Local Union leadership to sign up for V-CAP checkoff or purchase tickets for only $5.00 each. Drawing is on White Shirt Day, February 11, 2011. You may call the hall at 517-372-7581 with any questions.
December 2010, "What a ride this fall has been"
  Wow! What a ride this fall has been! We’ve had a mid-term election that didn’t turn out quite like we wished, a major investment announcement at our Lansing Grand River plant, and now GM is once again a presence in the stock market! All of these are tremendously important to anyone who makes their living in the auto industry.
   First, the national and state mid-term elections. The Republicans rode a tidal wave of anxiety and apprehension to a nationwide “Redwash.” Everywhere you looked on November 2, Republicans seemed to be making gains. At the state level Michigan has undergone a huge change. The GOP now holds a majority in all areas, administrative, legislative, and judicial. What this will mean to those of us in the UAW remains to be seen, but I expect a hard road ahead.
   New Governor-elect Rick Snyder made mention in his campaign that the wages and benefits of state workers needed to be looked at. I believe his statement was to the effect of finding a long-term solution to the “problem” of wages and benefits. He has stated he doesn’t want to keep coming back to these employees with nickel-and-dime solutions. His statements lead me to believe that his “solution” could mean massive pay and benefit cuts to our brothers and sisters in public service. This on top of the cuts that they have already experienced!
   And we can be assured that with their gains the GOP agenda of making Michigan a “right to work” state will be attempted! Do yourself a favor and investigate this play on words! The “right to work” name on this bill means anything but a right to work. It means a right to work for LESS to all middle- and lower-income wage earners. Contact your representatives regardless of their party affiliation and tell them NO on “right to work!”
   Next, some good news. Lansing Grand River Assembly was recently awarded the new Alpha project, the next generation of Cadillac. This is great news for the Lansing area and will mean more jobs in the future. We at the hall have already received many calls on how the needed workers will be chosen. Unfortunately. we have very little news to give out on this issue. Rest assured that as soon as we know anything, you will know. The national and local contracts will be followed and it remains to be seen whether this investment will generate new hire opportunities for our friends and families. Keep an eye on our website, www.uawlocal652.org, for updates.
   Finally, who would have thought that so soon after bankruptcy, a loan and aid from the U.S. and Canadian governments, and assistance in the form of contract negotiations with the UAW, that GM would once again make an appearance on Wall Street! The sale of stock and the infusion of capital that goes along with it can only help the company and in so doing help the pension fund and the VEBA fund (the source of funding for the Retiree Medical Benefit Trust, our retirees health care program).
   Many members and retirees I’ve spoken to seem reluctant to support the stock sale. Many of them lost money on the “old” GM when it entered bankruptcy. All I can say is remember who you depend on for your income. Good, bad, or indifferent we all have to accept the fact that GM needs to be successful for us to be successful.
   Each and every one of us needs to do everything we can to make GM the best in the business. Whether it’s performing our job, buying stock, or acting as ambassadors for the company—selling our family, friends and neighbors on the product—we have to make GM successful! Like it or not, GM’s future is our future. Let’s hope it’s good for both of us!
   Until next time … Merry Christmas
Bob Smith's October, 2010 article, "Millwrights' reunion"
   On September 29th a group of Millwrights held their annual get-together at UAW Local 652 union hall. Over a hundred old friends spent a couple of hours having coffee and donuts, and generally just catching up with each other. 
   I’d like to thank the guys that donated their time organizing, making phone calls, and getting all the refreshments together: Ken Asbridge, Joe Kelso, Alex McPherson, Jim Pierson, and Jim Willits. If you wish to attend next year, please get your phone number to one of these people.
   Thanks to everybody who came. It was great to see you all again. See you same time next year! For photos of the event, click on this link.
   In a small aside … I would like to invite other groups to have these kinds of reunions. They are just the thing for keeping up with friends. Many times after retirement people have a habit of drifting into other places and a little gathering like this can help to keep up with your “shop family.” It would be our pleasure here at Local 652 to have more groups meet and utilize our union hall for this purpose. If anyone is interested, please call me at 517-372-7581. We would be happy to help in any way that you need.
Bob Smith's September 2010 article "Winning Big"
   The recent golf outing to raise funds for breast cancer research was a winner for everyone – but even more so for Dan Dowdy. Not only was he on the winning team with Jeff Makely, Tom Adams, and Marcos Leal, but his hole-in-one and the right hole won him a trip to Hawaii! So you see, it is possible to win big on those hole-in-one.
   Our thanks to all the volunteers who helped make this outing possible and to the 652 Women’s and Recreation Committees that organized it. And special thanks to Sundance Chevrolet for sponsoring the hole-in-one prize!
Bob Smith's May article "Retiree COBRA
   Here’s important info from Joseph Sagy, our Retiree Benefits Rep for Region 1C: Retirees who retired between August 1 and December 31, 2009 are now eligible for Dental and Vision COBRA coverage for 18 months from the date of retirement. Surviving spouse of a retiree who retired during the same time can elect this coverage for 36 months from the date of retirement.
   To elect this self-paid coverage, call the GM Benefit Center at 1-800-489-4646 between 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You must elect this coverage by June 21, 2010 or you will lose your right to elect self-paid continuation coverage. Your payment options are through pension deductions or monthly invoices and the monthly premiums will begin March 1, 2010; the coverage is effective the date of retirement. Letters went to eligible retirees and surviving spouses a few weeks ago and a copy of the letter will be on the Lansing Labor News web site. Retirees who retired after December 31, 2010 have the same opportunity and will receive COBRA letters after your retirement date. If you have questions, Joe Sagy can be reached at 517-372-7201 or toll free at 1-866-782-6513.
Bob Smith's April 2010 column, "Changing seasons, changing gears"
    Wow! Doesn't it seem nice to walk outside and see the sunshine! Spring is a great time of year! I hope everyone takes advantage of the nice weather because this IS Michigan and it could snow again at any time. 
    Speaking of snow, I would like to congratulate all of the people that made this year's Olds Outdoor Club "Winterfest" at Houghton Lake a huge success. The turnout was great, the weather good, and if what I saw at the kid's fishing contest was any indication, even the fish were cooperating. I and the other Local 652 volunteers, including my lovely wife Bev, President Mike Green, Recording Secretary Fred Charles, Kay Becker, Ken Ralston, Mark Moubray, Charlie Kyser, and Candice Morrison and her husband Kevin thoroughly enjoyed preparing the breakfast on Sunday. It is always a treat to say "Hi" and catch up with old friends!
    Thanks again to the Olds Outdoor Club for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful tradition. For those of you that missed it, put it on next year's calendar. It is an event that the whole family can enjoy and it won't break the bank. Don't miss it again!
    The following was taken from the International UAW website. For more information and an online application please visit www.uaw.com/features.
Sign up for the 2010 UAW Family Scholarship Program at Black Lake 
    Combine the natural beauty of northern Michigan in the summer and your own desire to be inspired as a union member and what do you get? 
    How about a free trip to the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center in Onaway, Michigan? 
    But it's more than a vacation from the daily grind. It's a chance to renew yourself, rediscover your family and recommit yourself to labor activism. The 2010 UAW Family Scholarship Program accomplishes this and more. 
    Since the center opened in 1970, thousands of UAW families have taken part in the program. During the day, parents participate in workshops on issues that affect working families, such as health care, labor rights, trade, and more. 
    Children ages 3-7 and 8-11 go to age-appropriate day camps where they have a blast with creative arts, music, games, athletics and swimming. Youngsters ages 12-15 get a small taste of what it's like to be an active, involved citizen with specially designed workshops, plus activities such as golf, swimming and gym games. And teens ages 16-18 participate in a program to prepare them for the working world. 
    There's plenty for the parents to do, too. In addition to swimming at the beach or at the indoor pool, there's team sports, nature walks, camping, fishing, and, of course, golf. The award-winning Black Lake Golf Club is right next door. 
    Your union pays for all lodging, food, and program costs. Participants may choose to pay for other things such as group photographs, gift shop items, golf, or activities in nearby communities. 
    To be eligible for a family scholarship, you must be a UAW member in good standing for at least a year and never have attended the scholarship program. 
   This summer's three sessions are July 11-16, July 18-23 (which also offers a session in Spanish), and July 25-30. 
   This is a terrific opportunity for members to interact with other UAW families from around the country. Eligibility rules and other instructions are available on the UAW website or at your Local Union.
Before I go, one last thing...
   Anybody else secretly enjoying the latest Congressional hearings concerning the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and a certain car company? I would never wish harm on anyone but, is it just me or did GM and the other US manufacturers get treated worse than what I have seen in the latest rounds? It seems like we are still not on a level playing field. A little food for thought during the upcoming election cycle.
   Until next time ... Solidarity Forever.
Bob Smith's January column "Happy New Year"
    I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. After the trials and tribulations of the last year I am definitely looking forward to 2010. It's bound to be better than 2009! 
    Now I want to comment on a small problem that I see in our culture. During a gathering recently, a UAW leader was speaking and when finished he asked if anyone had any questions. After a couple of run-of-the-mill questions a gentleman spoke up and demanded, "What are you going to do about the State of Michigan taxing our pensions?"
    A perfectly valid question considering the state of the economy and the fact that our retirees are already financially stressed by health care increases. But as I thought more about the question, something kept nagging at me. It took a while before I figured it out.
    It wasn't the question itself that bothered me but the way it was framed. "What are YOU going to do about, etc." Folks, let's set the record straight. This isn't a "me and you" thing. This is a "WE" thing.
    I expect that the questioner was serious about this but the way it was phrased is hard to accept. This is not someone else's problem. It is everyone's problem! It is everyone's responsibility if they see an issue that they don't agree with.
    The man who asked the question should have said: The state of Michigan has broached the subject of taxing our pensions and I want to know who will join me in a letter-writing campaign or a trip to the Capitol or a visit to our Representative or any other of the dozens of activist options that there are.
    Please do not wait for others to fight a fight that should be fought by all of us. As a Union we have fought for and won a great many of the positive social changes that have happened in the last half a century. But the Union is nothing without the individual parts. That's you and me, folks.
We are the engine that makes it work. Not an organization operating on the state or federal level but the rank and file having a say in what they believe in at the local level. That's power. That's why we are able to make a difference. That's what makes this nation the place to be. 
    I'm pretty sure I know what the union leader previously mentioned thinks about this situation and I am absolutely sure of what I am going to do about this, but my question is - what is the person that asked the question going to do about it? 
    Don't forget the upcoming Oldsmobile Outdoor Club "Winterfest" at Houghton Lake February 12, 13 and 14. Registration starts Friday at the Knights of Columbus hall one mile east of Prudenville. Make your reservations early. Room discounts are only good until February 1.
Bob Smith's December 2009 column 
   The Oldsmobile Outdoor Club will be holding their annual "Winterfest" at Houghton Lake February 12, 13, and 14. This year the event will be held at the Knights of Columbus hall just east of Prudenville on M-55.
    Local 652 is once again sponsoring a FREE hot breakfast on Sunday morning at the K of C hall for all Winterfest participants. Come on in from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., say "Hi" and get all the flapjacks you can eat served up by the officers and other volunteers of the Local.
    A terrific three-day schedule of events is planned for Winterfest so be sure to book your rooms early. More info can be found at the club's website at www.oldsmobileoutdoorclub.com. Hope to see you there!
    The 2009 Skilled Trades Christmas Meeting will be held at the Local 652 Union Hall on December 10 from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Food and beverages will be provided. There is a $3.00 donation at the door. Come say hello to all your friends, both new and old. For more info please call me at the union hall, 517-372-7581.
    Don't forget, the Lansing Labor News is now online! Be sure to place www.lansinglabornews.org in your favorites list. Get all the articles and information right at your computer. Please check it out!
If you haven't noticed, the holidays are right around the corner and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May your years be merry and your future bright. 
Remember...
"Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself ..."
- Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976
    See you next year!
Bob Smith's September 2009 article "With friends like these ..."
   Who needs enemies? The “Cash for Clunkers” program has by all indications been a rousing success. Thousands of cars have been sold. A huge number of gas-guzzlers have been taken off the roads. By all indications a success …
   So why do I feel a little empty? A little defeated? It may have to do with the fact that of the top ten vehicles on the list of car purchases, only two were from what remains of the “Big Three.” The top-ten list reads like an import horror story. Number one on the list, our old nemesis, the Toyota Corolla, is followed by the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Prius, Nissan Versa, Ford Escape, Honda Fit, and the Honda CRV.
   My congratulations to Ford for placing two of their cars in the top ten. Apparently Ford was actually following a strategy the last couple of years. They were able to stay out of bankruptcy and provide their loyal customers with models that fit today’s world. What a concept!
   The real question is this: Is General Motors conspicuously absent from the list because they don’t have the models that people want, or because they are so damaged by the bankruptcy mess that few customers are willing to buy from them?
   I believe it’s probably the latter, but either way, GM needs to commit to itself, its employees, and its customers that it will do whatever it takes to succeed.
   We as employees past and present need to become better ambassadors to our company and we need to become better salesmen! This is our livelihood and we cannot afford to have it fail.
   Take the time to talk about your company. Tell people about the successes. We have a lot to brag about. Our vehicles are competitive on every level.
   We make some of the best vehicles on the planet and it’s time everyone else hears about it! Talk loud, be proud, push GM!

 
 
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