The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

December 3, 2008

UAW: Jobs bank has community history

ANDERSON — On Wednesday, the United Auto Workers agreed to work with the Big 3 automakers to trim costs while the General Motors, Ford and Chrysler plead their case to Congress for a $34 million loan.

On the chopping block, according to an Associated Press article, is the jobs bank, which pays laid-off workers 95 percent of their salary while idle.

James Burgess, who works at the GM truck plant in Fort Wayne, said the jobs bank was never meant to have workers just sitting around until they were called back to work. He blames the UAW members for taking advantage of the bank, which was set up so workers would do community service while they were laid off.

Burgess recalled that, years back, a group of Delco workers spent time putting a new roof on the Wilson Boys & Girls Club while they were laid off.

“I volunteered at the court house,” he said. “I was blessed to have a job.”

But, he said, the UAW didn’t stick to that purpose.

“The jobs bank was to give back to the community.”

Don Swegman, Alexandria, a retired GM workers from the Fort Wayne plant, said the jobs bank was introduced in the 1970s as a penalty to GM to not get rid of jobs.

“It was an inducement to keep us working,” he said. Today, he said, there are only a few hundred workers in the jobs bank.

As a retiree, Swegman said, he’s concerned that GM will file bankruptcy.

“I could lose 50 percent of my retirement.”

He wants to see the automakers get the $34 billion they are requesting from Congress, which he calls a bridge loan and not a bailout like the financial institutions received.

“This will be repaid,” he said. “Taxpayers will make money.”

On the eve of the automakers’ second face-off with Congress today, Burgess said he sent a letter to majority leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid detailing labor costs and comparing them to factory workers in Honda and Toyota plants.

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