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Clericals Say UAW Should Practice What It Preaches.

By Jane Slaughter. November 30, 2011.  Labor Notes.

Clerical workers at the United Auto Workers say they are being asked to take more concessions than higher-paid staffers—and layoffs as well. Union president Kris Bucci was among those picketing union headquarters in Detroit. Photo by Audrey McKenna.  Clerical workers at United Auto Workers headquarters in Detroit are protesting layoffs that will take effect Friday. They picketed this month carrying signs that read “What about shared sacrifice?” and “Justice for ALL workers.”

The 35 layoffs will hit all clerical or maintenance workers with less than 14 years’ seniority.

In a statement, UAW President Bob King counters that “we have a fiduciary responsibility to our dues-paying members and cannot carry more clerical staff than justified by the size of our membership.”

The UAW has shrunk from 1.5 million members in 1979 to less than 400,000 last year. Its numbers are now rising somewhat, thanks to the automakers’ current good fortunes, and could increase by 15,000 through 2015, according to a management-oriented think tank.

Audrey McKenna, vice president of Office and Professional Employees Local 494, says OPEIU understands the need for fiscal responsibility but not why all the sacrifices are asked of clerical workers—the lowest-paid employees. Higher-paid international representatives and administrators are not being laid off, she noted.

McKenna points to office and cafeteria remodeling at the headquarters and the hiring of many non-union “consultants”—including relatives of top administrators—for the union’s planned organizing drives in Southern auto plants. “They say our local doesn’t have the proper skill set but these young kids do,” McKenna said.

Local 494 says King, the son of a labor-relations manager at Ford, has turned a deaf ear to its offer to avoid layoffs by having its members work on organizing drives and by in-sourcing work such as grounds maintenance and scanning.

McKenna said OPEIU filed unfair labor practice charges because the UAW has not responded to its requests for information on new staff, including consultants, hired in the last year.

The clerical workers took concessions amounting to $4.5 million in 2010 and then gave up sick days and agreed to work 2.5 hours longer each week at the same pay. Representatives who service locals also took concessions, which were later restored. Administrators have not made givebacks.  “We are only a small part of the UAW’s financial picture, yet are bearing an unequal burden of sacrifice,” read a union statement.

The UAW arranged for laid-off clerical workers to be tested for factory jobs at the Detroit 3 automakers, where the starting wage is now $15.78. It offered generous early retirement packages and buyouts, with up to two years at reduced pay. But not enough workers took the offers—preferring to keep their jobs that pay upwards of $60,000 per year.  “They are good-wage jobs,” McKenna said. “That’s why we want to keep them.”

One laid-off worker who asked not to be named said the UAW’s handling of its employees has long been “dysfunctional from a management perspective and from a worker’s perspective. They have carried the OPEIU unit in a dysfunctional way, so now they’re trying to fix it in a worse dysfunctional way.

“Bob King is always talking about labor-management cooperation. If they wanted to establish that model of cooperation they could be working with us.”


How Will I Financially Survive Unemployment?

In our little corner of the outplacement world we are seeing many of the people we work with having financial issues similar to those during the Tech Bubble burst in the early 2000’s, and 2008 recession.  The loss of a job can drain you both emotionally and financially. One of the components of our process that we’ve continued to incorporate is Transitional Financial Planning and it seems to help folks. Below you’ll find some of the resources (minus the consultant and materials)  to help you manage debt, avoid foreclosure, cut expenses, avoid scams, and more.

Credit and Debt Help.

Paying off or keeping up with large amounts of debt can be difficult when you are unemployed. Learn more about your rights and what to do if you are over your head in debt.

Find A Local Credit CounselorThere are credit counselors near you. Search for a local credit counselor.How to Deal With Creditors

Dealing with creditors can be difficult and stressful, especially after the loss of a job.

Choosing a Credit Counselor

Reputable credit counselors can advise you on managing debt and help you budget.

Debt ConsolidationAdvantages and disadvantages of debt consolidation.What To Do If You’re Knee Deep in Debt

If you are overwhelmed by debt, learn about some of the options available to you.

Repairing Bad Credit

Credit cannot be repaired overnight. Learn how to help yourself and how to spot scams.

Avoiding Fraud and Scams.

Fraudsters specifically target the unemployed. Avoid becoming a victim of a scam or fraud by learning about the latest scams.

Financial Fraud Alerts Local financial fraud alerts from the Department of Financial Institutions.Consumer Alerts

Local consumer alerts from the Washington Office of the Attorney General.

Alerts from BBBAlerts from the local Better Business Bureau.

Avoiding Foreclosure.

Foreclosure is a stressful situation for those who must go through it. If you are having trouble making your monthly mortgage payment, seek help right away.

Foreclosure & Homeownership CounselingCounseling is available if you are having trouble making payments.Information about Foreclosure

Information about foreclosure and possible alternatives.

Beware of Foreclosure Rescue ScamsInformation about foreclosure rescue scams and what to look for.Loan Modification Services – Caution

Be cautious of someone offering to help modify the terms of your home loan.

Cutting Expenses.

One of the first things you need to do when you lose a job is cut spending. Find creative ways to cut costs on utilities, groceries, entertainment, etc.

66 Ways to Save Money66 ways you can start saving money today!Saving Money on Groceries

Tips on how to save money when grocery shopping.

Save on Energy Costs

Tips on how to save on your energy bill.

Save Money on Your Utilities

Tips on how to save on your utility bills.

Save Money at The Gas PumpHow to save on gas.Save Money on Entertainment

Ideas on how to save money on entertainment.

Save Money on Phone, Internet, TV

Tips on how to save money.

More Resources and Tips

Resources and tips on how to save money.

Budgeting and Managing Money.

Managing money while unemployed can be difficult. Learn more about managing money during tough times and how to set up a tight budget.

Tips for Managing Your Money (PDF)Tips on how to manage money during tough economic times.Household Budget Worksheet

Interactive budgeting worksheet.

Budget BuildingTips on how to build a tight budget from Today Show contributor, Jean Chatzky.Saving On A Tight Budget

You can save money – even on tight budgets.

Retirement Accounts and Health Care Coverage.

Many unemployed workers worry about their retirement and insurance coverage. Learn more about what happens to your retirement and insurance coverage after a job loss.

WA Department of Retirement SystemsRetirement information for Washington State public employees.Job Dislocation – Making Smart Financial Choices (PDF)

Information about making smart financial choices after a job loss.

Retirement and Health Care Coverage

Q&A’s about retirement and health care coverage for dislocated workers.

Health Coverage and Retirement BenefitsHelpful information about health care coverage and retirement benefits.Your Employer’s Bankruptcy – How Will It Affect Your Employee Benefits?

Fact sheet  on how an employer’s bankruptcy will affect your benefits.

Pension  Benefits After Job Loss

Tips on protecting your pension and health care benefits after a job loss.


The loss of a job can create new tax issues. Learn more about filing taxes while unemployed.

Financially Distressed TaxpayersThe IRS recently announced new steps to help financially distressed taxpayers.Tax Impact Of Job Loss (PDF)

The loss of a job may create new tax issues for you. Learn more from the IRS.

Unemployment Compensation

Information from the IRS about unemployment compensation.

VITA Program: Free Tax HelpHelp for low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own tax returns.Earned Income Tax Credit

The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate incomes.

Taxpayer Rights

Your rights as a taxpayer

Jilted? Shut-Up And Sign Your Severance Package.

We do outplacement, and rarely do I write about it; however, we’re seeing a real spike in employees being what I believe to be overly aggressive in negotiating their severance packages.  I understand why; I really do.  Having said that; stop it.  Here’s why:

In today’s economy it’s important to understand that you may be out of work longer than you think. If you are offered the opportunity to secure some continuity and extended benefits to make the employment transition easier, take them.  Don’t get caught up in ego, or jealousy.  No one is indispensable, except for me, and jealousy in this case is simply the huge package you imagine everyone but you received.   I’m not suggesting that you cave to every dotted “I” and crossed “T”, but you do need to recognize that in most cases, employers are not required to provide severance packages, are governed by years of precedent, and have run your termination through adverse impact and legal liability analysis before having pulled the trigger.

Only 3% of wrongful termination suits actually make to court, and the average time for those cases to make it that far is two years.  The majority settle out of court.  So let’s say you decide to litigate because you feel you were wrongfully terminated from your 100K a year job, and that you were offered a three-month severance.  You’ll seek to be made “whole.”  Let’s say “whole” is a year or two.  You’ll be hard-pressed to land another job while in litigation with your former employer as this will be a matter of public record, and it will make most prospective employers skeptical.  Further, you’ll have legal fees, court costs, insurance payments, and general living expenses during this time.  Do you really think that you’ll get “whole?”  No way, no how, and you and your family will also absorb a lot of stress.

“Your services are no longer required.”  Now, I’m used to hearing this from my wife, and have been laid off.  Rejection is what you allow it to be.  It can define you as a victim, survivor, or even a winner.  A wise man (me) once said, “Don’t be with those that do not want to be with you.”  If you are faced with termination, it can be scary and confusing, but there are a few things you can do now as you speak with your employer that may make the transition to re-employment easier for you and your family.

Here are a few tips to use in negotiating your separation:

  • Seek counsel to understand your separation agreement – Your employer will offer you the time to talk to a lawyer, and or accountant before signing the release agreement. Take that time. It’s important you have a lawyer or someone you trust look over the documents to make sure you understand everything. Do not sign until you have made all requests to reduce the cycle time of the negotiating process.
  • Ask for employment and salary continuation versus a lump sum severance payment. Severance usually represents the equivalent salary for a period of time.  Companies often wish to pay this as a lump sum payment because there are accounting benefits for them to do so.  However, staying on the payroll allows you continued employment verification, benefits continuation, etc. If you can’t convince your employer to provide salary and benefit continuation versus a lump sum payment, get your financial advisor or accountant to help you manage these funds.  You did not just win the lottery, and I’ve seen many who squandered the lump sum payment.
  • Request your benefits to continue through the time of the separation package. Regardless of whether you are successful in keeping yourself on the payroll, you should ask that your health and life insurance benefits be extended through the end date of your separation period equivalent to the length of time formulated in accordance to your lump sum payment.  This will help  reduce out-of-pocket costs and will delay COBRA from being initiated which will provide more cushion for benefits later in the process should you have not yet landed.
  • Try to secure “active” employment status in the system until severance pay ends. If you are technically still on payroll, this will help with employment verification.  You should also request that your rehire status be tagged “yes” when you do come off the payroll.  You never know which employer, mortgager, lender might ask, and who might answer the phone.  So be sure it’s noted in your former employer’s system that the company would rehire you at a later date.
  • Ask for continued access to on-site services and benefits. Benefits such as company day-care, gym memberships, etc. can go far in reducing family stress, health, and well-being.  Be positive when you the company, and you are more likely to get this extended for you.  You won’t get what you don’t ask for.
  • Ask for project and consulting work in exchange for extending separation period.  Make yourself available and show that you want to stay engaged with the people within the company.  This is healthy, minimizes the feelings of separation, isolation, keeps you busy, and puts money in your bank account.


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