Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

The Sanctity of AIG Contracts

Posted in Economy, politics by allisonkilkenny on March 16, 2009

blog_aig_cartoon

Glenn Greenwald has written an excellent piece about the AIG bonuses, and the contracts guaranteeing those bonuses that are apparently too sacred and holy to break. Of course, our government stood idly by and let the Big Three shatter all kinds of contracts with the UAW, and nary a word was uttered about the holiness of those contracts. In America, the only contracts that matter are the ones belonging to billionaire CEOs.

An excerpt from Greenwald’s article:

Apparently, the supreme sanctity of employment contracts applies only to some types of employees but not others. Either way, the Obama administration’s claim that nothing could be done about the AIG bonuses because AIG has solid, sacred contractual commitments to pay them is, for so many reasons, absurd on its face.

As any lawyer knows, there are few things more common – or easier — than finding legal arguments that call into question the meaning and validity of contracts. Every day, commercial courts are filled with litigations between parties to seemingly clear-cut agreements.  Particularly in circumstances as extreme as these, there are a litany of arguments and legal strategies that any lawyer would immediately recognize to bestow AIG with leverage either to be able to avoid these sleazy payments or force substantial concessions.

Read the rest here.

The Gray Lady Bitchslaps Auto Workers

Posted in Economy by allisonkilkenny on December 4, 2008

UAW president, Ron Gettelfinger

UAW president, Ron Gettelfinger

The New York Times lead story is U.A.W. Makes Concessions to Help Automakers. The article is pretty aptly titled because the NYT chose to focus entirely on the evil UAW parasites that are sucking the poor, helpless automakers dry through ludicrous demands such as job security and pension/health care payments.

The Big Three claim their industry is tanking not because of refusing to change their big, heavy, gas-guzzling car designs, but because evil workers are demanding their contractually promised benefits. The Big Three are failing not because the rest of the world is building fuel-efficient cars, but because the UAW demands that CEOs pay their salaries between the time their jobs get shipped to Mexico, and they find new sources of employment.

You see, all the blame can (and should) be pinned on the workers. At least, that’s what the Big Three claim, and the NYT seems to agree, which explains why so many horrifying facts are splayed across the Gray Lady’s pages without examination, analysis, or comment from workers themselves.

Ford’s chief executive, Alan R. Mulally, said in an interview Wednesday that Detroit needed the union’s help to speed its transformation, particularly in replacing current workers with entry-level employees who will be making $14 an hour in wages under the terms of the 2007 labor agreement.

That’s a pay cut of almost half for the Big Three. In addition, union members aren’t guaranteed their old job security or health benefits. Now that they’ve made concession after concession, there are still no strings attached to the automakers to stop them from closing their plants and shipping jobs to Mexico after everything has been said and done.

The UAW’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, has slowly cut the strings from the UAW’s parachute, and now hundreds of thousands of workers will plummet toward the Earth because a handful of corporate executives figured out it’s easier to suspend worker pension plans than trim their own fat salaries.

However, the sin of abusing poor autoworkers can be shared with the media that refuses to focus on them.

The NYT did not interview one UAW worker. The NYT did not interview one person who will lose their health care coverage through this new deal, which is tantamount to the automakers putting a giant boot up the ass of the UAW.

Other media made the effort to balance the story and interview actual workers affected by these gross policy decisions. Mlive.com, an on-line Michigan news website, interviewed Michigan workers who stand to lose their health coverage under changing auto industry policies.

With General Motors Corp.’s stock tanking and the automaker possibly running out of cash before the end of the year, 73-year-old Kenneth Rathje and other retirees posed questions about pensions and health benefits.
UAW Local 668 president Matthew Ebenhoeh has spent part of last week in Detroit, learning where General Motors is headed.

Industry analysts speculate that GM could file for bankruptcy to seek protection from its creditors. Several hundred retirees wanted Ebenhoeh to tell them the consequences.

“My job is to make sure my membership is safe,” Ebenhoeh said. “I don’t want to see anybody lose anything.”

Rathje retired from Grey Iron in 1995 after a 40-plus-year career that included a stint as a labor liaison, aiding workers on layoff with new jobs or training.

Losing his pension would cost him about $12,000 per year; his insurance much more. An independent federal agency designed to protect the protect the retirement funds and benefits for people such as Rathje.

 

Seems fairly painless, right? It’s fine to explain the corporate side of a story, but any reputable source of media should then step back and offer the counter-argument, where the workers and poor people live.

It’s obvious why these types of stories tend to be so one-sided. Poor autoworkers can’t buy New York Times advertising space and subscriptions.