Tier 2 wages are have taken root in manufacturing despite company’s record profits. In this case GM is the firm listed but it could be any one of thousands of firms that use a Tier 2 wage structure. In white collar or other employment settings Tier 2 may not be so obvious but may masquerade as a “Don’t talk salary with your co-workers” policy. It could also be as ingrained as women receiving 78 cents on the dollar for doing the same job as their male co-workers.
The GM/Tier 2 Cop-Out, How They Sleep At Night
By Darin Gilley
Have you experienced this situation?
Tier 2 or Traditional worker: This plant would be more productive if there was Equal Pay for Equal Work.
GM Management or even a fellow hourly worker: You knew what the pay was when you took the job, no promises were made, if you don’t like it – there’s the door.
This was an everyday conversation during our fight to form a union at my old plant. Management would call a “captive audience” meeting that everyone had to attend and try to ridicule the pro-union workers with a statement very much like the one above – You took the job, you knew the pay, if you don’t like it there’s the door.
It has a kind of self-apparent logic to it since every worker there did indeed take the job at the current rate of pay.
But this logic applies only to a short-term condition because it ignores the very essence of human nature – that people instinctively try to make their lives better. All of us are here today because we struggled. The struggle may have been to get through school, hit a fast ball, learn a back handspring, land your first job, or any other activity that makes us better people. Thinking they were making their lives better is probably the reason they took the job in the first place!
So yes, I took this job knowing a two-tier wage was in place. I also took this job prepared to struggle. Life itself, from birth forward teaches us that our abilities, education, hobbies, and work are all made better through effort and struggle.
Why would anyone expect these life lessons to be forgotten when we walk through the doors of GM? Could it be because it allows them to ignore the injustice occurring around them? Does it help them sleep at night?
The struggle to eliminate the two-tier wage structure is just one aspect of the fight for a fair contract with GM.
COLA or Cost of Living Allowance for all workers is vital to maintain purchasing power. If Traditional wages had increased at the same rate as the cost-of-living since 2004, they would be over $33.00 p/hour. Traditional workers have lost over five dollars an hour in purchasing power since the last raise. Of course, pensions must also be protected. Promises made should be promises kept.
Sign me up as willing to hit the streets in a show of support in a struggle to attain these benefits so crucial to the living standards of autoworkers.
That said, solidarity is a two-way street. I support you, you support me and we work together to improve our lives.
An agreement that eliminates the two-tier wage structure in a timely manner such as the 3 year, starting at 70% language that was in place during previous times of high profits is no threat to profits today. A wage of $28.00 w/Tier 2 benefits, an enhanced PSP, and reinstatement of COLA will result in an hourly labor cost of less than five percent.
GM wins by ensuring sustainable labor costs while avoiding the “legacy costs” of defined benefit pensions and retiree health care that got so much blame during bankruptcy. Hourly workers win with a starting wage they can live on and a compensation package that reflects the value of those building the products that are the foundation of a company earning billions in profits.
So, if a member of management says “You knew what the pay was when you took the job, no promises were made, if you don’t like it – there’s the door.” Just smile and encourage them to get a good night’s sleep.
If a fellow union member says it, remind them that struggle, both theirs and those that came before paved the way for what they earn today. Struggle is what will lead to better living standards tomorrow.