Friday, December 12, 2008

22 Pounds of UAW Work Rules and Regulations

LABORPAINS.ORG -- Ever wondered what a UAW contract looks like? Pictured above is all 22 pounds of Ford’s 2,215 page 2007 master contract. Those 2,215 pages probably don’t include much regarding efficiency and competitiveness. What you’ll find are hundreds of rules, regulations, and letters of understanding that have hamstrung the auto companies for years.

If you’d like to read the contracts for yourself, here they are:

Ford’s 2007 Contract (2,215 pages):

  • Volume 1: Agreements (377 pages)
  • Volume 2: Retirement Plan and Insurance Program (464 pages)
  • Volume 3: Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Agreement and Plan, Profit Sharing Agreement and Plan, Tax-Efficient Savings Agreement and Plan, and UAW-Ford Legal Services Plan (209 pages)
  • Volume 4: Letters of Understanding (934 pages)
  • Volume 5: Skilled Trades Book (231 pages)

  • GM’s 2003 and 2007 contracts:
  • GM’s 2003 contract (Warning: 71 MB, almost 1,000 pages)
  • Changes to GM’s 2007 contract (full contract not available)

    Chrysler’s 2003 and 2007 contracts:
    Chrysler’s 2003 contract (770 pages)
    Changes to Chrysler’s 2007 contract (full contract not available)

  • HT: Ben Cunningham


    At 12/13/2008 1:09 AM, Blogger bix1951 said...

    Hey, attorneys also have bills to pay!
    They need the fees for writing those long contracts.

    At 12/13/2008 2:28 AM, Blogger bobble said...

    business loves detailed contracts.

    before the liar loans, there used to be about 22 pounds of documents in a normal home purchase closing.

    At 12/13/2008 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    I don't think a normal set of loan docs was EVER 2200 pages.

    Unless you're talking about some 10,000 years ago when the one stone tablet might have weighed 22 lbs :D

    At 12/13/2008 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I worked in a union shop for about a year as an "expediter".
    When a panicked contractor called the factory about missing parts or screws originally ordered and supposed to be shipped with the product, I got the hot call and it was my job to remedy it.
    Though a bin containing 100,000 of the correct type of screws might be 8 feet from my office door, union work rules forbade me from simply grabbing them and Fedexing them in 10 minutes start to finish.
    Instead, I had to find the section shop steward (in a 50 acre plant) wait to present my request, wait more till he selected an appropriate union member and explained what was needed to that member ( I was not allowed to address that member directly) etc. etc.
    The work rules turned a 10 minute task into a 1 to 3 hour ordeal! Imagine that waste of time duplicated hundreds of times per day.... I often wondered if we were all working for the same company.
    I learned that the market share of the company was a fraction of what it had once been because of product cost....

    At 12/13/2008 10:44 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

    My favorite rule is the one that forbids an employer from videotaping areas of interest (such as supply rooms and inventory) in an attempt to identify theft or severe amounts of loafing/presenteeism.

    Apparently employers are not allowed to see who is funneling expensive items into their extremely large "lunchbox" on a frequent basis. And you cannot monitor who is extracting tools that happen to vanish after their use. Also, it is not allowed for the employer to identify someone who hasn't done a lick of work in the last 2 weeks. Homer Simpson is funny on TV, but a real life Homer Simpson is kind of depressing.

    Instead, employers need to ask permission of all parties involved in the video tape. Their consent ensures that no worker rights are violated.

    At 12/13/2008 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Johnny. There was/is a Johnny Cash song (can't remember the title) about an auto worker who stole a car "one piece at a time" via his lunch box. Funny song. Not so funny, maybe its true.

    At 12/13/2008 11:37 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

    The U.S. congress and the IRS give the union contract some competition.

    This web site quotes Warren Buffet as saying "Berkshire Hathaway’s 2002 tax return was 8,905 pages long and that Berkshire is amongst the top-ten taxpaying entities in the United States."
    Talk about rules and regulations!
    That is almost two boxes of paper.

    I would wager that no person in any company with a tax return that complicated knows the details of the entire return. (Americans have a hard time with the two page 1040.)

    I recall hearing years ago that the GM tax return stood many feet tall as well. Anyone have knowledge of this?

    At 12/13/2008 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    OK. I'll be the bad-guy target for this post :) How many people have ever used a contract to bargain? If you haven’t, you don’t have the experience to know how contracts work. Most of us who have know it's not the rules that cause the problems. It's either one side or another does not follow the rules OR the rules are not plainly written out. That’s one reason college instructors give a syllabus to their students.

    There are a lot of rules or laws in society. Do you agree you must stop for a red light at an intersection? If not, let's get rid of that rule and operate on the honor system at intersections. Same goes for speed limits. Let's drive a Corvette at 140 miles-per-hour through town. Sure, there are some ridiculous laws, but you don't throw them all out. They need to be looked at and weeded out while keeping common-sense rules that allow us to survive.

    Just like laws, some rules are necessary. Any place of business has rules. That includes the Japanese transplants. Do they have a rule you can't steal or you will be fired? You bet they do;
    I can guarantee you it is written out in some thick employment manual in their human resource department. The Japanese are sticklers for details in all of their processes, so I would not be surprised if their manuals are not even heavier than the domestic automakers. Professor Perry: Can you get a copy of them for us? Maybe even weigh it while you are at it. I’ll settle for one from any of the four transplants (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, or Volkswagen). The Japanese operate with much less transparency than the domestic automakers. The domestics have their problems, but they are not sneaky about how they operate (maybe they should be!).

    A more apt comparison would be to take the UAW/GM 2003 agreement and compare it with the UAW/GM 2007 agreement. Simply weighing the documents is ridiculous and sensationalistic; would you accept a research paper simply because it had three pounds of resources? A more scholarly and professional approach would be to actually read the documents and see what is in them. Take any section and see if the agreement has not be altered and improved for more efficient operations. For example, an employee can be fired after five sick days in one year (yes, this is happening now, and big time). Also, employees can be hired for around $14 per hour with few benefits now, which is less than the national average as reported by the BLS. The only area that seems restrictive and rather onerous is the guarantee of work for plants, but even there, you will notice there is a disclaimer for adverse market conditions (like now). Take it from someone who has been looking at UAW contracts for a lot of years, this is a ground-breaking agreement. Even people who do not care for unions predict relative parity with the transplants by 2011.

    I realize unions are despised in many circles. That hatred, though, often causes distortions in analyses that would not be accepted by any professional organization. Don’t forget that there is currently a world-wide recession and ask yourself this question: Are unionized operations the only ones having problems today?

    At 12/13/2008 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Another point. The title of this post is misleading. I would guesstimate half of the poundage (what a way to analyze!) spells out things UAW members cannot do. A thorough reading of the document (there’s a novel idea) would show major portions of the document spells our management’s right to manage the company. Let’s rename this post GM Tells the UAW: “You Can’t Do This”

    At 12/13/2008 12:21 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

    What do you think of the example cited by anon 6:40am?

    At 12/13/2008 12:32 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

    Mark, how do union contracts compare to the rules that govern tenured professors? Is there a "rule book"?

    At 12/13/2008 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I would understand the length of these UAW contracts, if there would be at least a few skilled trade guys in the UAW who would have the skills of an average skilled trade person who underwent the German system of apprenticeship.
    However there is likely none, therefore there is no justification for the exorbitantly high wages & benefits these guys get (they get them, they don't deserve them!). How else can one explain that German unionized workers make the same amount of money as the UAW guys but with the difference that the cars made in Germany still sell and are of superior quality! The wage has to reflect the quality of work, that’s how simple it is.

    Four month ago I had the chance to just take a brief look at some of the letters of understanding b/w the UAW and Delphi as part of a contract I had to write as an exercise in my MBA program. I was shocked how much empty meaningless "blabla" was in these letters. Most of them are not worth the paper they are written on.

    I think the time has come for an open confrontation b/w the US auto industry and the UAW. There is little to loose anymore for the big three – they are at the verge of chapter 11, chapter 7, or takeover. The only guys who would really loose are all these overpaid UAW workers. If the UAW has any interest in making the companies they work for survive and make better products they will give in to any new agreement, and all the previous 2000+ page contracts can be dumped and replaced with reasonably sized contracts that say something about performance and ensure quality.

    At 12/13/2008 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hi bob wright,

    That should not happen. In that case, a supervisor, or whomever is in charge, should either do the job or give someone a direct order to do the job. Union representatives always instruct employees to obey direct orders (unless they are in imminent danger). Disobeying an order triggers a more difficult grievance that is harder to win: Sort of like hitting a policeman for wrongly pulling you over.

    A grievance could, or could not be written, for the actual amount of time (2 minutes) and someone might get paid for the 2 minutes someone else was doing the job. Grievances are bunched together and settled for a percentage of the total lost amount of wages (usually 50%). Grievances, by law, cannot be written for more than the actual loss (that’s called extortion). So, someone would get paid for 1/60 of any hour's pay. Unless a union rep was trying to address an ongoing problem, I would guess nothing would have happened in the “Fd EX bolt case.”

    Unions can’t take the blame for management’s inability to manage. The stock answer in these types of common cases from good management is, “I did what I had to do, so you do what you have to do.” That’s how it works in the real world. Pretty much anything less is piss–poor management.

    We always hear horror stories about any type of situation. How about the Wal-Mart managers that worked their employees off the clock and triggered a billion dollar settlement that was reduced to the hundreds-of-million-dollar range last week? Was that good non-unionized management?

    At 12/13/2008 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Our negotiated agreements are only about a portion of that size before legal departments (UAW AND GM) get a hold of them :) I really hate to take the blame for lawyers: We have enough problems.

    The system is set up for interpretation and flexibilty by the legal people. Instead of allowing something like "management will" it is changed to "under normal conditions, management will" or "among the highest senority" instead of "highest senority." We then have to argue the definition of "normal" or "among."

    Maybe we should weigh them before and after the "wiggle" words!

    At 12/13/2008 1:48 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

    but shouldn't anon 6:40am be able to reach into the bin and retrieve the part himself?

    At 12/13/2008 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Yes, Bob Wright: That's a no-brainer. But, things are not always as simple as they seem. We had a manager fulfill a request like that himself and sent a cylinder to our sister plant instead of a die maker doing it as standard operating procedure (SOP) calls for. The manager did not know the internal ring was out because he pulled the cylinder from the wrong bin and did not know how to safely test it like the die maker would have. Fifteen thousand pounds of nitrogen launched the cylinder through the roof of our sister plant. It’s a good thing nobody had their head over it when it blew!

    Factories have complex equipment more like the space shuttles than a handyman's garage. Some work rules have a reason that seems ridiculous on the surface, but were made for a very good reason. Do you realize some metric bolts are only a few thousandths in diameter different than English bolts? They hold just fine until they are put under a few thousand pounds of load and then they catastrophically fail. If you want to Fed EX bolts, make damn sure they are the exact correct bolts or you might hurt or kill someone else. If you are positive that you have that knowledge, go for it.

    At 12/13/2008 6:16 PM, Blogger Plamen said...

    Walt G., you said "Unions can’t take the blame for management’s inability to manage."

    Can they take the blame for ANYTHING? Some Google searches:

    "UAW admits" - 87 hits
    "UAW proposes" - 305 hits

    Compare with:

    "UAW sues" - 336 hits
    "UAW blames" - 578 hits
    "UAW threatens" - 1440 hits
    "UAW rejects" - 2540 hits
    "UAW warns" - 3160 hits
    "UAW strikes" - 9100 hits

    Last but not least: "UAW takes the blame" - 1 hit (and it's from a blog, in the context of "UAW gets blamed")

    At 12/13/2008 6:25 PM, Blogger Plamen said...

    A few I thought of belatedly:

    "UAW cooperates" - 72 hits
    "UAW works with" - 131 hits

    "UAW cries foul" - 985 hits
    "UAW lashes out" - 1470 hits

    At 12/13/2008 8:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    My own view is the modern union shop operation, for the most part but not in every situation, defends mediocrity and often incompetency. The management of some companies, mostly public, all too often overly compromise the language, precedents, wages and benefits in order to continue operating. Much of this is do to the fact their own career is more important to them than the success of the company. So, by incrementally decreasing the competitiveness of the co. but at the same time keeping it operating they appear to be successful.

    Smaller, more nimble cos. come along, have a more motivated and intelligent work force and ultimately replace the bureauacracy.

    The fact is no one would give a dam about this if the competitors were American car cos.

    Although I have bought Gm, Ford, and Chrysler products all my life (and love the GM car I have as well as the Jeep) I would let these 3 cos. go because I have confidence, other Americans would fill the void with more competitive wages and benefits, less stringent rules and a more nimble and intelligent work force. Of course management and the UAW could make this all go away by a new contract that a)provides competitive wages and benefits and b) gives hiring and firing to the management of the co., period.

    Implicitly, it should also include a business plan that does not include the taxpayer.

    At 12/13/2008 11:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

    The men and women members of the UAW are the foundation of an entity that have proven themselves to bring excellence to the auto manufacturing industry.

    The rules and regulations of the UAW have allowed its members to achieve high quality and reliability marks across all 3 Detroit based auto/truck companies.

    At 12/14/2008 11:04 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...

    Well, this is what you get when you have "labor relations" agencies who do their own "dirty pool" with the legal system.

    I'd wonder how much less it'd be if they had less pressure from unionbusting.

    At 12/19/2008 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Anonymous said...
    You state that the cars made in Germany are of better quality. That statement is absolutely WRONG! You need to read some quality stastistics before making statements.
    We do not have the German style of apprenticeship, however I would take some, even most, of our skilled people over european trades any day.
    By the way, having worked for VW of America I have come into contact with many German skilled trades, as well as spending time in their plants in Wolfsburg. Please tell me what is your expertise in this matter.

    At 12/20/2008 11:12 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

    Living and working with the Big 3 and having family and friends in the plants I hear first hand how sorry the plants are with UAW in them.

    I have experienced first hand the Hi Low Driver that makes $120,000 a year. AND THAT"S ALL HE DOES! DRIVES a HI-LO! Why? He's in the UAW!

    It's sick how the Big 3 tolerated this kind of behavior and give give give to the UAW. Job Banks, Stike Pay and more and more....

    This is the Big 3 fault for giving in to the demands.


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