American automakers are modestly adding new jobs that some say signal a strengthening American manufacturing sector.
Autoworkers are not celebrating yet.
Second-generation GM autoworker Leonard Smith says the last time he checked, there were still some 6,000 workers laid off.
“The plant I’m working at now at Marion, Indiana, has 70 original hires out of 1,400 employees,” Smith said.
He said those who were not laid off have been transferred to other plants. He and many others have been transferred several times. They’re called “GM gypsies.” Smith said no one feels secure because there are still “flex employees” which are temporary workers being hired and/or rehired with thousands of union workers running out of unemployment benefits.
He says, too, that with the government bailout of GM, the union now owns 17 percent of the corporation.
“That seems like a conflict of interest to me,” he said.
Bob King, the new president of United Auto Workers, said it’s not the union that owns the shares of GM but rather the Volunteer Employee Benefit Association, a group that pays health care benefits to retired GM, Ford and Chrysler employees.
“The VEBA owns only about 10 or 13 percent now,” said King. “We sold shares during the IPO, but we still hold a significant portion.”
He also said it’s not a conflict of interest.
“We’re all in this together,” King said. “The more profitable and successful the companies are, the more secure our membership is."
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