Archive for the ‘Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan’ Category

There’s Nothing Worse…

April 27th, 2009
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Buzz Hargrove the Socialist

July 15th, 2008

When asked last Tuesday at the coronation of Ken Lewenza as CAW head if he is running for office after he leaves the CAW, Buzz Hargrove replied:

I am a socialist without a home. I would doubt that I’ll be a candidate, but I don’t rule anything out at this point.

It’s not really a significant comment, but I post it here so I will have it on speed dial should he decide to run in the fall as a Liberal.

Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Buzz of Irony

May 26th, 2008

I have been at two events with union speakers the last month. At the first, an in plant celebration of the launch of the new Challenger, Jerry Dias, assistant to Buzz Hargrove and, I’m told, the next CAW President, spent his time at the mike taking pot shots at Jim Flaherty. This was a celebratory function. Everyone else talked about the great car, the great company, the great workers. Jerry Dias whined about someone who wasn’t there. I was standing beside a guy who was the head of one of our locals chapters (i.e. chairperson for one of the companies), and he says to me with a roll of the eyes, “classy guy.”

Ten days later I went to the “hurry up, get the vote in during a long weekend, we only have six months to get this done” ratification vote for a new contract. Local bargaining committee is not even in place yet, but we have one day to decide on the contract. So naturally you would assume it would be an informative meeting: you would assume wrong.

Instead CAW economist (and Globe and Mail columnist) Jim Stanford spends over an hour explaining why we had to sign the contract now: note the difference; not why we should like the contract, but justifying the contract they got. The reason they negotiated early, and got us the contract they did: Evil money traders, Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty. An hour of cheap political shots, very little real information.

I mention these stories to explain to the wife why there’s cornflakes all over the kitchen. It’s Buzz Hargrove’s fault, honey. You see, after these two events, I thought cheap political points where OK, that’s what we do. Then I open todays Toronto Sun and voila:

Cheap shots at Premier McGuinty are unfair


Oh, grow up Buzz!

So when Bob Runciman and Howard Hampton stand in the legislature and question giving money to a company who is laying off a few thousand Ontarians, it’s a cheap shot, and unfair to boot (unfair, by the way, is the official whine of the CAW).

On the other hand, attending a corporate celebration, or an unrelated contract ratification meeting, political thoughts are fair game. But doing so in the legislature, not so fair. Or rather, poking Conservatives in the eye, with other peoples money, is fine. Poking Liberals is cause for another bottle to go with the glazed chicken in truffle sauce.

One thing is becoming clear, I was right three months ago, Buzz is running in the next election, and auto-workers got sold down the river to accommodate that ambition.


Update: Progressive blogger Mack the Hackistan (i.e. Kevin Wilson) has written a piece for Now Magazine Blowing off Buzz.

Auto Industry, CAW, I Love My Job, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Resign Now! This Union Member Tells Buzz

March 26th, 2008

If there is any truth to the rumour Buzz Hargrove is running for the next federal Parliament, he should resign as head of the CAW immediately!

The CAW is currently beginning the process of negotiating a new contract for it’s members at the Big 3 auto plants. It is going to be a fractious negotiations, with the Big 3 demanding wage concessions, including possibly two tier wages as announced last year in the UAW agreement. I can tell you from the shop floor, workers are expecting an ugly fall. So as this process begins members have every right to expect the person leading the union will be fully committed to the process. It appears, however, that Hargrove is fully committed to something else:

Ottawa is abuzz with rumours that the CAW’s Buzz Hargrove will run for the Liberals in the next federal election.. and he plans to take on a big fish….

Rumour has it that Buzz Hargrove will run in Toronto, against NDP Leader, Jack Layton…

If that’s Hargrove’s plan, fine. But CAW members need him on the job at this critical moment, not eyeing the next job. He can re-pay the members for all the free advertising the CAW has given the Liberal party in the past couple of years, then resign immediately.

As Hargrove himself admits that a strike is possible this fall (and many would say likely), and many observers believe likewise that an election is possible this fall, it beehooves Hargrove to come clean before negotiations begin. I for one don’t want to be on strike and having the union’s leader resign for his next job in the middle of the strike. Nor do I want to be on strike to prove how tough the next Liberal candidate for Toronto-Danforth is. Finally, as a member in good standing in the CAW, I don’t want to be paying for advertising, positive or negative, for Hargrove’s political campaign.

So Buzz, to put it in language you union guys understand: I demand you agree, in writing, to finish your current term as President of the CAW, or resign immediately.

CAW, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Further Inflexible Unionism

February 8th, 2008
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A few weeks ago I wrote about the closing of Ledco in Kitchener and the CAWs refusal to negotiate concessions, even though their members wanted the negotiation to occur. The refusal to negotiate directly resulted in Ledco closing it’s doors and declaring bankruptcy. The CAW then occupied the plant, blamed Stephen Harper/globilization/the big three. Pithily, I commented:

…you have to wonder if the CAW has no shame: this closing is directly attributable to their refusal to negotiate, and now they are occupying the plant demanding the company do just that.


… does the CAW, today, still refuse to negotiate wage and benefit cuts? And if so, what car will GM put in Oshawa when they are done putting 16 cars in US plants?

Yesterday, Peter Shawn Taylor, a “Waterloo based Freelance writer,” with quite a resume, has written a piece on Ledco, CAW Kills Jobs, Then Demands Severance, and the unions involvement. Taylor makes a few interesting comments:

The union then picketed the empty building for a while. CAW head Buzz Hargrove dropped by once to blame the factory owners and Ottawa. The CAW’s most recent gambit is to demand that Ford, Chrysler and GM ante up for Ledco’s missing severance. This is based on the heretofore unknown financial insight that companies have an “obligation” to cover the payrolls of firms they do business with. Of course none of this makes any practical sense.

The real point of the CAW riding off madly in all directions — casting blame, flexing flaccid muscles and taking nonsensical actions –is to distract everyone from the fact that the demise of the Ledco workers’ jobs was a strategic decision on the part of the CAW itself. In short, they were expendable.

He’s right too. In order to prove to the big three that the CAW is serious about no concessions, they had to let Ledco die. Taylor then points out the CAW position on concessions

It’s worth consider the wording of the CAW’s no-concession statement: “We will not cut our wages, pensions, and benefits. That will never save our industry; at absolute most, it slightly defers the inevitable.”

While Taylor considers this a fatalistic view, I had a different thought. If the above is true, would it not also be true for government bail outs? Especially when you consider a one time bail out of half a billion dollars would be about one years (give or take a hundred or so million) payroll at a big three assembly plant. In other words, Paul Martin’s $200M to GM Oshawa would have equally been saved by now had the union gave a 30% wage concession.

The material point, however, is that an apocalyptic showdown is coming this fall, the big three vs. the CAW. The big three have US concessions from last year in their pocket that may make Canada the most expensive place in the world to build cars. The CAW has it’s stubborn refusal to save Ledco as proof, that concessions are off the table. If you think the Ontario’s manufacturing has been in trouble up to now, a storm is coming to the Canadian auto industry this fall that will determine the future of the industry in Canada.

Auto Industry, CAW, I Love My Job, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Inflexible Unionism: Update

January 25th, 2008

Things are now getting ugly at Ledco as the company filed for bankruptcy last night causing workers blocade the plant, both last night and this morning. The CAW is announcing they have now occupied the plant:

CAW members at Ledco Limited tool and die facility in Kitchener have taken over their plant this morning after the company filed bankruptcy last night.
The CAW has been told the workers will not get their much deserved severance pay for their service. The union will continue to occupy the plant until the company agrees to pay the severance.

It’s hard to blame the poor guys who just lost their job, but you have to wonder if the CAW has no shame: this closing is directly attributable to their refusal to negotiate, and now they are occupying the plant demanding the company do just that.

CAW, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Show Me The Money!

May 15th, 2007
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Daimler Chrysler has thrown off the Chrysler moniker, selling off it’s American arm to Cerberus Capital Management. (What will they call the new company, Cerberus-Dodge?)

What’s been fun the past few months, is listening to analysts, and unionists, saying that whoever buys Chrysler will need the blessing of the unions. Talk about letting Buzz control the buzz. But it was always a ridiculous argument, that somehow the union controlled the destiny of the company. And thus it has been proven, as Magna selling out it’s own workers wasn’t enough to get it the company:

The offer by Cerberus Capital Management for the Chrysler Group is far superior to other bids including one from Canadian corporate titans Magna International Inc. and Onex Corp., industry sources say.

Chrysler’s German parent, DaimlerChrysler Group, announced yesterday that Cerberus, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, is taking an 81 per cent stake of the auto maker’s North American operations and its related financial services business for $7.4 billion (U.S.).

“It was substantially higher than the others,” said one official familiar with the bids.

Under its offer, Cerberus will also assume Chrysler’s long-term liabilities for pension and health-care benefits.

One analyst indicated recently that Magna-Onex was a leading contender and would value Chrysler at about $5 billion, excluding Chrysler Financial.

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. publicly bid $4.5 billion in cash but industry watchers said DaimlerChrysler was seeking an offer in the $8 billion to $9 billion range. Other equity funds including Blackstone Group in the U.S. also showed interest in Chrysler.

So it was about the money, not who could get along with the unions? Really? After Daimler spent all those years playing nice with it’s workers, now the CAW is surprised it wasn’t consulted on a $7B deal?

On the eve of what could be an important day in Chrysler’s history, the Canadian Auto Workers’ union was disappointed Sunday it had yet to hear from Cerberus Capital Management LP, which recently emerged as the likely winning bidder to buy Chrysler Group from DaimlerChrysler AG.

The New York-based private-equity firm has not approached the CAW, said Local 444 President Ken Lewenza, expressing his disappointment over reports that Chrysler’s fate could be sealed today.

“(Cerberus) has never, ever talked to the CAW,” Lewenza said. “All I know is what I’ve seen and heard in the media, but I would be very disappointed if an equity firm came in and took over.”

The United Auto Workers union in the U.S. and CAW have objected to Chrysler’s sale to a private-equity firm, saying they fear such a buyer would try to return the company to profit by wringing savings from labour.

“Whoever buys Chrysler is going to have to respect our collective bargaining agreement,” CAW president Buzz Hargrove said.

UAW spokesman Roger Kerson couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lewenza said he was not surprised by Cerberus’ sudden move into the spotlight.

“By hiring (former Chrysler Chief Operating Officer) Wolfgang Bernhard, they put themselves on the map and got people’s attention,” he said. “The focus on Magna was mostly because (CEO) Frank Stronach made his bid public.”

Hargrove said Bernhard has a strong personal relationship with DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche.

“From DaimlerChrysler’s standpoint, it’s purely about who could put the most cash in their pockets the fastest,” said Dan Luria, an analyst for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Institute in Plymouth, Mich. “Cerberus clearly has deep pockets.”

Note this bad habit Buzz has: he bad mouths the guy with power. He spent an election saying anyone but Harper. When Harper wins, of course, he’s shocked and surprised to find himself on the outside. They did the same thing with Mike Harris. Now, the ink isn’t dry on the sale, and Buzz is bad mouthing a) the new company and b) the new guy in charge. So here’s a prediction. Sometime in the next year, Buzz will be publicly complaining about how the new owners are not respecting/not listening to/not concerned about the CAW and the workers.

And then he’ll wonder why.

CAW, I Love My Job, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

CAW and Currency Rates

May 11th, 2007

Today, the CAW is calling on all members to “bring public awareness of manufacturing job losses.” They are marching in Kitchener, Ingersall and Oakville. The latter group will bus themselves to a Scarborough Town Centre and march to the Collins and Aikmen plant scheduled to close in July.

One of the CAWs bugaboos is the high Canadian dollar, which they claim is driving out exporters. I would argue their problem is the opposite, the low dollar of the Cretien era. While exporters and the unions loved the low dollar, and claimed it was driving growth through the 90’s, it was really driving the present manufacturing contraction.

Money’s value is determined, like any commodity, through supply and demand. If demand goes up for money, the price of it rises. Demand goes down, supply increases and price goes down. If you go to Florida, before leaving you go to the bank and convert some Canadian money to American money. You have added to the supply of Canadian funds and to the demand for American funds, thus lowering the value of the Canadian dollar vs. the American dollar. Now your $2,000 is insignificant, (remember the Bank of Canada trying to stave of dramatic decreases – and failing – by selling $50M US?), but what if you are a manufacturer?

Manufacturing plants spend hundreds of millions investing in their plants. They do a cost benefit analysis for a project and, if they see a future in a given location, they upgrade/improve/invest in their plant. In the 90’s everybody was building like mad, but not investing. Canada’s manufacturing facilities have fallen behind the rest of the world. Changes to manufacturing have been drastic the last 20 years, and manufacturers have not been investing in Canada. The result: loss of jobs now.

So to Buzz and the CAW. Before you blame the strong currency on your woes, understand that the low currency you so love is the long term root cause for the present problem.

CAW, Economic Fundamentalism, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Unions for Magna Workers: Consessions For Chrysler Workers.

May 9th, 2007
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Quick question. If traditionally union-bashing Magna is buying Chrysler, and negotiating with the CAW to unionize Magna’s 30,000 workers, what is the CAW giving up in return?

Frank Stronach’s recent overtures to let North America’s auto unions organize Magna International Inc. may lead to a high-stakes swap whereby the unions agree to co-operate in Magna’s potential takeover of Chrysler Group in exchange for a much-needed boost to their membership.

Mr. Stronach, Magna’s founder and controlling shareholder, began discussions several months ago with leaders from the Canadian Auto Workers and the United Auto Workers unions on a new work arrangement for Magna’s North American employees that would involve unionizing Magna’s plants. He has said the current labourmanagement model in the auto industry is broken.

Magna’s recent efforts toward reconciliation with the labour unions may be the first step in what could be a lasting partnership, should Magna take a stake in Chrysler,” Fadi Chamoun, an analyst at UBS Investment Research, said in a new research report. While Magna is looking for flexibility from the unions on work terms, the unions see the potential for adding 30,000 Magna workers to their ranks. “It is this potential that is influencing the unions to favour Magna as an acquirer of Chrysler,” Mr. Chamoun wrote. “Inevitable concessions may be exchanged with a possibility to organize Magna’s non-unionized plants.

Isn’t this collusion? Is Buzz selling out Chrysler workers to gain unionization of Magna? Sure sounds like it. At least, this would be what in the real world of governance laws and conflict of interest guidelines, very questionable. But in the world of Canadian labour law, just another day. Question, what if those Magna workers don’t want to be unionized?

Oh, and where is the NCC on this? Workers rights were once one of their signature issues.

Update: I e-mailed Gerry Nicholls about this post, and in the process made a few more points. Here’s part of what I wrote:

I can’t think of another area in life where it would be OK for a middle party like the CAW to be negotiating two different, and so conflicting deals. Magna workers look like their about to get screwed – unionization whether they want it or not – and us Chrysler workers are going to be asked to take concessions from the same guy who’s handing his workforce over to the CAW. Martha Stewart went to jail for less.

CAW, freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy, I Love My Job, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan