Socialist ViewPoint and analysis for working people

January/February • Vol 6, No. 1 •

Fire the Boss

By Gregg Shotwell

Some folks think Steve Miller, Delphi’s new CEO, is a straight shooting, no nonsense gunslinger. For the most part these wishful thinkers are hacks writing copy for the corporate media, brokers passing themselves off as “analysts,” and assorted brown nosers who have had their heads stuck up the drainpipe so long their brains have turned into overloaded sump pumps.

The average union member thinks “The Hatchet” doesn’t know his ass from the hole in his head. Hence the confusion between intelligent expression and intestinal effusion.

Miller can’t even get his facts straight. He insists the average UAW member at Delphi makes $130,000 per year. If he wants to pay me 130k, I’ll take care of my own pension and health care. I’ll even donate to the CEO Relief Fund.

The Hatchet is supposed to be a “turn-around specialist.” One look at his resume is enough to deduce that’s corpo-speak for Pin-the-Tail-on-Employees.

Miller is a corporate carpetbagger with only one tool in his box—bankruptcy. That’s not the mark of expertise, it’s the tale of a flop. He wants us to believe that stiffing workers and unsecured creditors is the mark of success, but the wreckage left in his wake is off the charts. Anyone can look successful if they don’t tally debt and damage.

Miller’s favorite fantasy is how Delphi has been victimized by “legacy costs,” i.e., the compensation for retirees and active employees. But he doesn’t admit the total legacy package. Delphi inherited tax free: products, patents, machinery, technology, property, and contracts with the largest automotive manufacturer in the world. Delphi was born like a rich man’s son—debt free and stocked high with entitlements. And like a prodigal son Miller expects someone else to clean up the mess and pay the price for a squandered legacy.

Do I sound angry? Put yourself in my shoes. A man with no investment of time, energy, or money in Delphi; a man with no ties to the workplace community; a man who won’t even be around when the dust settles is threatening to steal my life savings.

I’m not alone. Salary workers are angry too. Delphi represents our collective life’s work. Miller is preparing to trash our legacy.

The Hatchet thinks Delphi has a legitimate right to renege on its contract with the UAW and its commitment to salary workers. Why? Because in a capitalist worldview workers are commodities—products to be bought and sold—not human beings. Allow me a short digression.

Hurricane Katrina ripped the “compassionate conservative” slogan to shreds. Not only is the United States unprepared to protect the working class in New Orleans, the corporate state that passes itself off as a republic is unprepared to protect 45 million uninsured citizens and countless unemployed or underpaid workers struggling to keep their heads above the waterline. Only the investing class can expect protection.

The devastation in New Orleans is reminiscent of Flint. One town was drowned by neglect and the other was economically strangled. There are similar pockets of desolation all over this nation, this stronghold of “compassionate conservatism.” End of digression.

The Hatchet wants to contribute to the body count. And he wants to get it done by October 17, so he can go back to playing with his train set. If Delphi files before the new bankruptcy law takes effect, executives will be able to walk away with fat bonuses. It’s the old Robin Hood reverse—rob the poor to feed the rich.

Delphi wants to close plants in the U.S. and cry off of its contractual obligation to thousands of workers without any accountability. The company wasn’t hoodwinked in negotiations. Delphi understood perfectly well that workers would have to be compensated if and when the company jerked their work out from under them. Delphi is not a victim of an unforeseen disaster, or free market catastrophe. GM has been steadily and methodically divesting from Delphi for more than a decade. And likewise Delphi has been divesting from the U.S. It doesn’t take a hedge fund analyst to see the GM/Delphi goal is to destroy the UAW by undermining our foundation.

Miller’s not a “turn-around specialist,” he’s a one trick pony with all the finesse of a Saturday Night Special. A white collar and a tie doesn’t make a thug any less despicable. Miller is loaded with contempt for the working class and drunk on greed.

A company should go into bankruptcy as a last resort, not when they simply want to nullify a contract with workers and dump the pension. Miller may call it Chapter 11, but if it acts like extortion and smells like extortion, it is extortion.

If Delphi can restrict the repercussions of bankruptcy to holdings in the U.S., what will deter GM from following suit? And every other multinational corporation thereafter?

GM has lost money in European, South American, and Asian markets for years. North American operations subsidized those lackluster investments. Likewise Delphi since its inception has taken profits out of the US and invested them overseas. The pirates of industry have stolen our legacy. Now The Hatchet wants to drown the survivors by claiming bankruptcy in the U.S. If this bankruptcy scheme is pulled off, it will tear the veil from our legal system just as violently as Hurricane Katrina tore the thin veneer of civility off the face of capitalism. We’re lost in the reign of a predatory corporate state where, as the old bard once sang, “The cops don’t need you and man they expect the same.”

The choice is clear: Arm yourself to the teeth and wade into battle or hang from the rafters and wait for a rescue.

Delphi can’t reasonably expect workers to sacrifice everything they ever worked for without retaliation. Delphi can’t reasonably expect a union to sacrifice its members for a limited truce with an unscrupulous adversary.

Likewise, the UAW can’t expect to survive if they divide the solidarity of active, retired, and newly hired members into descending tiers of importance. The UAW wants to negotiate opportunities for UAW members to flow back from Delphi to GM, but the deck chairs are blowing overboard faster than they can arrange seating.

If we make concessions today, thugs in suits and ties will be back for more tomorrow.

But the company needs to cut expenses, you say?

Fire the boss!

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