A Contract Is a Contract, Unless You Work for Your Money — Letter from UAW member on AIG Bailout Rip Off

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This past week Ford workers conceded, yet again, to the demands of the company, Washington and the UAW (mis)leadership. The breach of contract includes a decrease in pay, shorter breaks, no paid leave and forfeiting the Christmas bonus, just to name a few. We were told that we had to make these concessions in order to save our jobs and to qualify for emergency loans. Government policy was to open up our contract to attack our living standards.

Now, at the same time, taxpayer-bailed-out AIG is giving away $165 million in “contractually obligated” bonuses. Tony Rohdin of the Express-Times described this hypocrisy: “Hey, a contract is a contract. Oh, that’s right, we ordered the auto companies to renegotiate their deals. We just forgot to apply the same standard to Wall Street. Oops!”

While Ford autoworkers (whom in an entire year make a fraction of what the AIG bonuses are) were put under massive pressure to make concessions, the AIG bonus boys are simply “encouraged” to give back part of their bonus. The bonuses range from $1,000 to in the millions. The New York Times reports that “Seven executives at the financial products unit were entitled to receive more than $3 million in bonuses.” If the 165 million were divided evenly between each of the 400 receiving employees, it would offer $412,500 EACH.

“In return for nearly bankrupting the republic, when their paper transactions make fortunes, they keep their fortunes. When their paper transactions lose money, they keep their fortunes, and expect the heartland to pay the cost. [AIG is] demeaning the value of those who make real things through hard work in the heartland of America, while proclaiming the value of those who barter paper money of decreasing value in manipulated markets [they] then expect the rest of us to pay the price of their failure” (Brent Budowsky, journalist for The Hill).

We are deemed “over compensated” for our labor and consequently, our rightfully earned wages and benefits are repealed. Now, as tax dollars go toward bailing out the greedy financial crooks who are responsible for the failing economy, the administration stands with their hand tied behind their backs. “It’s a contract,” they say. “Nothing can be done.” Where exactly does the government stand in regard to the rights of working class America, the true producers of wealth?

Kate Hammer
Member, United Auto Workers Local 879