Monthly Archives: August 2008

UPDATED: The GM/UAW VEBA: 80 years or 80 days?

UPDATE: GM CEO AND CFO SUGGEST VEBA MAY BE KILLED OFF.

GM and the UAW secured a controversial contract victory earlier this yearb based in large part on a promise to rank and file auto workers and retirees that their health care benefits would be secure for 80 years under a new entity called a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or a VEBA.
In a VEBA the employer agrees to put in sufficient assets, in cash and securities, to finance health care benefits for retirees. The liabilities associated with health care obligations are no longer on the books of the employer but stand in a separate trust managed by independent trustees who owe retirees a fiduciary duty. In the case of the GM/UAW VEBA, the trust is to be established by the UAW itself which will appoint its board of trustees.
But GM’s financial woes, including the announcement recently of a loss of more than $15 billion in the second quarter, will no doubt cause many UAW members and retirees to wonder if the VEBA will last 80 days much less 80 years.
Now Bloomberg is reporting that both the GM CFO and CEO have told Wall Street that the financial condition of GM is so dire that the VEBA itself may have to be reconsidered. So much for the assurances of the UAW leadership during the recent contract talks.
Technically the VEBA comes into existence after a federal court certifies that the new entity is in the interests of retired UAW members who are not able to influence or vote on actual contract terms as are working UAW members.  That court process is in its final stages. The court process has in and of itself been controversial because it is believed by many that the retiree plaintiffs are hand picked by the UAW itself and thus may not argue for retiree rights aggressively.
The GM and the UAW agreed that the company could stage its payments owed to the VEBA over several years. And now to bolster GM’s financial picture, the UAW agreed to a delay in the payment of $1.7 billion owed the VEBA, in essence loaning that amount back to GM. The UAW will, in theory, accrue interest payments on that loan.
But GM owes another $4.0 billion payment in 2010 and a third payment of $4.4 billion in 2012. No assurance has been given that those payments will in fact be made on time or at all. No doubt, the thousands of GM workers who were lured into early retirement after hearing the 80 year promise by UAW President Gettelfinger will be nervous that Gettelfinger was singing them a song.

GM Swings to $15.5 Billion Loss Amid Write-Downs, Sales Slump – WSJ.com

UPDATED – China Fakes Ethnic Children! China’s abuse of Olympics Rules shows true colors

See link below to update on fake ethnic children.


While most of the abuse and manipulation of children in China occurs in the sweatshops that some in the west celebrate for their impact on poverty reduction, the Chinese communist regime’s abuse of Chinese gymnasts is shining an important light on the lack of respect for basic international rules by the Chinese government.

It turns out that China’s own press had reported that one of the gold medal winning gymnasts was under age. But the website has now been changed to eliminate any trace of that reporting. It is, of course, worth noting that this report comes to us via Yahoo! which itself has been complicit in providing confidential information about dissidents to the Chinese regime.

Put that together with the growing list of other abuses by the regime and a true picture of the ghastly disrespect of this state for the rule of law becomes clear: manhandling of a British television journalist covering a Students for Free Tibet protest, the suppression of several such pro-Tibetan autonomy protests, the use of a lip synching replacement for the singer of the key song at the opening ceremonies, fake ethnic children (!), the digital manipulation of fireworks at the opening ceremonies, the refusal to allow ordinary Chinese workers to attend the games for free when thousands of seats at many events remain empty…the list goes on and on.

No wonder some are calling these the Olympic Shame Games.

State-media story fuels questions on gymnast’s age – Olympics – Yahoo! Sports

DVD’s worth the time: Strictly Background

Looks like a much deserved exploration of the challenges of working background in the film biz:

DVD Review: Strictly Background

Nobel Voice of the Gulag Solzhenitsyn dies aged 89

Certainly one of the most moving portraits of the plight of workers in the former Soviet Union is found in Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  
I do not think it miminizes that work to suggest that one reason it is so moving is that it has its echoes in the plight of millions of workers in today’s labor camps and sweatshops around the world, whether in the Los Angeles garment industry or the textile mills of China
As in once-stalinist Russia, these workers toil without enforceable legal rights or trade unions to protect them. The world economy benefits from the cheap labor, but at what cost?

Nobel prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies aged 89|
guardian.co.uk