Thursday, April 9, 2015

State of the Union April 9, 2015

April 9, 2015 online at

From Chairman Mike Bullock:
The weekly job postings were submitted after 1st shift went home on 4/2. The intent of posting job transfers over a two week period Thursday through Tuesday is so employees who are on vacation will have the opportunity to bid. Because the job postings were submitted late and 1st shift had gone home for the week, this week’s postings will run through 4/13th. The posting includes 69 assembler openings in Body. The openings have been created because of the re-rate of the van body shop. These openings are available to all seniority employees and those employees who were converted to permanent and don’t have their 90 days in. Currently all 69 openings have been not been bid on. This is the 2nd time management has attempted to re-rate van body. The last time was 3/12 and 21 jobs were added.
A requisition for 62 permanent openings has been submitted to the National Parties. These openings will be filled by GM employees who have signed up to come to Wentzville. If all the openings are not filled by National Hire, temporaries will be converted to permanent from the 2/11 and the 2/16 group.
Notices have been posted at the front door for the hiring of up to 1000 employees for the Flex shift. Employees will be hired for both Production and Skilled Trades. These employees will be dues paying members of UAW Local 2250. Employees can have friends and family go to this website to apply:
All the details of a flex schedule are still being fine-tuned but the “broad brush” picture of what a “flex” schedule would look like is this: All 3 shifts will continue to operate Monday to Friday 8 hours, up to 9. Each shift will work every 3rd Saturday 8 to 10 hours on their respective shift. Another Saturday shift will operate on Saturdays. This shift will be staffed by “flex” employees (to be hired).
Those employees whose shift worked on Saturday will be able to volunteer for one Sunday shift. A signup for Sundays will be conducted. “Flex” employees will backfill any open jobs that are not signed up for. Traditional employees may work on flex shifts to cover absences. This is a general outline of a “flex” schedule.
Many, many details will still need to be negotiated. Fidelity Investments will be in the plant April 29 through June 2 for 8 sessions. Topics will include Budgeting/Debt management, Building a Portfolio, Preparing your Savings for Retirement. Keep in mind that General Motors is putting money into a 401K for your retirement. One of these sessions will assist you in investing your money correctly. Sessions will be both one on one or group workshops.
I encourage everyone to sign up for one of the sessions. Class sizes are limited, sign up early (form is on back – you can drop them in the Suggestion boxes at the entrances). Resolutions for the Local Contract will be accepted April 15th through May 15th. Forms are available from your committeeman, or at the Union Hall and can be returned to the same. Local Demand 190: Relief, Emergency – Management will continue to provide relief to employees for emergency restroom needs without undue delay to employees who have requested such emergency relief. The respective parties involved will discuss any abuse of this procedure. If you have any questions about the above Local Demand in our Local Agreement, ask your committeeman.

Tom Brune
UAW Communications Coordinator
Wentzville Assembly

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Employee Schedule Notice - April 2, 2015

Full production will not be scheduled over the upcoming holiday weekend. Employees scheduled to work will be notified by their respective departments.
Full production is scheduled Saturday, April 11, 2015 and Sunday, April 12, 2015.

Effective April 13, 2015 the regular 8 hour schedule for Division 1 employees will be modified and normally scheduled as follows:
1st shift
Start time 6:30 am
1st break 8:54 am – 9:10 am (16 minutes paid relief)
2nd break 11:36 am – 12:00 pm (24 minutes paid relief)
Lunch 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm (may be taken out of the plant)
Employee work span ends at 3:00 pm
Employees may clock out and leave at 2:30 pm – paid 8 hours

2nd shift
Start time 2:30 pm
1st break 4:54 pm – 5:10 pm (16 minutes paid relief)
2nd break 7:36 pm – 8:00 pm (24 minutes paid relief)
Lunch 10:30 pm – 11:00 pm (may be taken out of the plant)
Employee work span ends at 11:00 pm
Employees may clock out and leave at 10:30 pm – paid 8 hours

3rd shift
Start time 10:30 pm (9:30 pm start on Sunday nights for a 9 hour shift)
1st break 12:54 am – 1:10 am (16 minutes paid relief)
2nd break 3:36 am – 4:00 am (24 minutes paid relief)
Lunch 6:30 am – 7:00 am (may be taken out of the plant)
Employee work span ends at 7:00 am
Employees may clock out and leave at 6:30 am – paid 8 hours

Skilled Trades (Division 2) employees shift start and end times will remain as they are today. Also, effective April 13, 2015 we will no longer be considered to be under Critical Plant Status and will revert to the provisions of Plan A under the National Agreement Memorandum of Understanding on Overtime.

Shelley Hart
Personnel Director
Wentzville Assembly

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

State of the Union March 31, 2015

March 31, 2015 online at

• There will be a Civil Rights Committee meeting on Monday, April 6 between shifts in the cafeteria. As always, anyone interested in attending or becoming a member is welcome.

• From the Women’s Committee: The deadline for buying raffle tickets for the Colorado jacket, created and donated by Pat Wyse, is Friday, April 10. Tickets are $5 apiece or 3 for $10 and available from committee members. Proceeds are for this year’s Habitat for Humanity project.

• When we first read about the upcoming Mercedes midsize pickup, we had our doubts that, despite proclamations from Mercedes to the contrary, this pickup would not be sold in the U.S. We are not alone in those doubts. From the self-styled AutoExtremist Peter DeLorenzo: “As far as whether or not a Mercedes-Benz pickup will show up here in the U.S. market? Count on it. In fact you can bet that some sort of "Texan" edition aimed at the hottest state for pickup sales here in the U.S. is right around the corner.”

• From Automotive News: Honda is ready to get back into the pickup segment, with a redesigned Ridgeline that Honda expects to outperform its first effort. "We sold 40,000 Ridgelines at one point, and we think we can certainly go up from there with a new one," says Jeff Conrad, Honda Division general manager. "Truck buyers are not just people at construction sites," he said. "Some people simply want a truck body for lifestyle or for recreation, and we think there's a lot of white space out there for us." Like the original Ridgeline, the new version will use a car-chassis construction. "Admittedly, the Ridgeline was our first truck, and we learned a lot," Conrad said. "We learned that people do like a more traditional look to their truck, and the next Ridgeline will have more traditional trucklike proportions from a styling perspective. But we're not going to forget to bring more of those innovations that we brought to the segment before, like in-bed storage and ride comfort." The new truck will appear in 2016. ( Below are a couple of images of the Ridgeline. The illustration on the left was shown by Honda and the image on the right is based on that illustration and other information gleened from sources. What you see is a pretty generic pickup design, although the Honda sourced illustration appears to have a split in the center of the tailgate that could indicate a “french door” setup where the tailgate would come down in one piece or open to the sides.)

• From According to sources close to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a new Ram midsize pickup truck is likely headed our way; however, whether it will be a badged a Ram, a Dodge or something new (a Fiat?) remains to be seen. FCA has been working with several cobbled-together mules in Europe and the U.S., but this is our best look to date of what may be ahead. We were able to see under the rear of the vehicle, so we know there is a fairly light-duty independent suspension. Some reports suggest the platform for the prototype is actually a modified version of the Dodge Journey, which uses a similar rearend. The popularity of the midsize pickup segment has grown recently with the spotlight shining brightly on GM's Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Interestingly, all the players in this segment use a live rear axle setup to produce competent towing and payload ratings. Whether anything similar could be done with an independent rear suspension is doubtful but not impossible. This strategy suggests Ram is deciding to offer a crossover-type pickup truck similar to the Honda Ridgeline, likely giving Jeep the opportunity to produce a capability-biased midsize pickup. It also has been suggested that this test truck is likely a disguise intentionally made to look like a more traditional crossover or minivan and camouflaged to look like there's a pickup hiding underneath. We should know more in the next six months.

• From the Detroit News: Cori Lortz’s father, an American union worker, opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s. Now, more than 20 years later, she finds herself fighting against another trade policy: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “I saw how NAFTA destroyed my dad’s livelihood and I don’t want it to happen to me,” she said Monday at UAW Local 12 in Toledo. Lortz said her father, Larry Middlebrooks, lost his job at a packaging company after operations moved to Mexico as a result of NAFTA. Lortz, who works at the Toledo Assembly Complex producing the Jeep Cherokee, was one of hundreds of union members and others to attend an anti-TPP forum featuring U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and local UAW leaders.
The event aimed to rally those in attendance to write and call public officials to encourage them to stop a so-called “fast track” on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP — a free trade policy that has been under negotiation since the mid-2000s. Under “fast-track,” Congress can set the terms under which the U.S. negotiates but it does not allow the legislative branch to amend the trade agreement. It also allows Congress an up-or-down vote on trade deals without amendments. Supporters of TPP have said it will open new markets for U.S. products, helping bolster U.S. manufacturing and job growth. Opponents have argued that there should be no fast track process and that the government should openly debate the matter, fearing that the partnership could encourage job outsourcing and unfair working conditions.
“The individuals who advise presidents have forgotten to look inside the borders of the United States as aggressively as they look outside of the borders of the United States on trade,” Kaptur said after the event. “They have failed to recognize the impact that unfair trade agreements have on the American worker.” The economies of the 12 countries involved in the TPP — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam — comprise 40 percent of the global economy. At the UAW’s 2015 Special Bargaining Convention in Detroit last week President Dennis Williams said foreign governments that manipulate currency and put up barriers to imports in their own countries present new challenges to the economy. “No one can afford to get this one wrong,” he said. “Our government cannot negotiate another bad trade agreement.”

Tom Brune
UAW Communications Coordinator
Wentzville Assembly

Saturday, March 28, 2015

State of the Union March 28, 2015

From the Wall Street Journal: With a tug, Volker Mornhinweg pulled a covering off a life-size clay model of the pickup truck that Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz intends to enter the global market for midsize haulers. Before him stands a sporty double-cab vehicle with the tapered lines typical of Mercedes-Benz sedans and sport-utility vehicles. But this vehicle has a loading space big enough for any craftsmen’s tools or gear for an outdoorsy family’s weekend outing. “Years ago, SUVs used to be, well, rough,” Mr. Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said in an interview. “Then they became prettier. Now, we see the same trend in pickup trucks. We see opportunities to enter this market as the first premium brand.”

Daimler plans to build the truck in cooperation with Nissan Motor Co. using the basic framework of Nissan’s Navara and using Nissan factories to produce the vehicle, two people familiar with the situation said. The talks, which are at an advanced stage, involve using the basic architecture of Nissan’s Navara pickup truck for the new vehicle and producing it in Nissan factories, the people said. Nissan was not immediately available for comment. The Navara is called the Frontier in some markets. “The details are still being worked out,” one of the people said.

Mercedes-Benz would use the Navara framework, but would provide “everything with which the customer comes in contact,” the person added. That would include the powertrain, the interior, the design and other elements. Mercedes-Benz declined to disclose any details of production plans, a specific launch date or pricing, but said it is making preparations to produce the vehicle “in large numbers” in various regions of the world within the next five years. The truck will carry a payload of about one metric ton (2,200 pounds) and come with four- or six-cylinder engines. Mercedes-Benz is targeting Latin America, South Africa, Australia, and Europe for its debut. It says there are no current plans for a U.S. launch.

Global sales of such midsize trucks were 2.34 million vehicles last year, according to IHS Automotive, a research group. The market is growing, but it isn’t booming. Sales are expected to rise to 2.83 million by 2020, says IHS. Mr. Mornhinweg dismissed speculation that Mercedes-Benz also is planning to launch a full-size truck in the U.S. market against such popular trucks as Ford Motor Co.’s F-150 and General Motors Co.’s Silverado and Chrysler’s Ram. “The full-size segment is too specific for the U.S. It’s not a global market,” he said. “And it’s dominated by the Big Three. It makes no sense to go there.”

Dennis Williams: UAW ready to fight to restore the middle class
In the dark days of the Great Recession, UAW members from all sectors accepted concessions as many companies were threatened with bankruptcy and profits evaporated.
Six years later, the outlook has improved, UAW President Dennis Williams told delegates on the final day of the 2015 UAW Special Bargaining Convention in Detroit.
Now, “It’s Our Time” to share in the prosperity that our sacrifices have brought.
“I truly believe that the companies we deal with know that we can be creative and thoughtful,” Williams said. “But they also know that sharing in bad times must be equally shared in good times.”

Despite the prosperity, rewards are not getting to the people who need them the most. A free market society cannot thrive unless working men and women have disposable incomes. It was true in 1958 when Walter Reuther said it, and it remains true today.

“A society built on low-wage jobs does not deliver purchasing power,” therefore slowing economic growth and shrinking the middle class. That puts more working people in jeopardy and more in poverty, Williams said.

The United States now has the highest percentage of low-wage jobs among developed nations. The purchasing power to buy consumer goods, such as the vehicles they build, a house, or to send a child to college doesn’t exist, even with a recovering economy.
“I say there is something wrong with this country,” Williams said.

To fix it, America needs a strong union movement. But we’re under attack on so many fronts that are designed to diminish workers’ rights and collective bargaining. Both are based on fundamental democratic principles our nation was founded on.

In one such despicable attack, anti-union extremist Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker compared union members to terrorists. President Williams asked all veterans, men and women who have honorably served our country in peacetime and in war, to stand and be recognized.

“Shame on Walker! Shame on the Republican Party and shame on anybody who has that kind of attitude about the working men and women of America,” Williams said to thunderous applause.

Despite the attacks, our bargaining committees know that the work they do will help lift people out of poverty.

“As an American citizen, we cannot be comfortable living in our country while children are going hungry,” Williams said. “We cannot accept that everyday people in the United States of America work 40 or 50 hours and more are living in poverty.”

Williams noted that this year there is a great deal at stake, not only in our bargaining, but in Washington where the fast track legislation is being negotiated. “No one can afford to get this wrong,” he said. “Our government cannot negotiate another bad trade agreement.”

Tom Brune
UAW Communications Coordinator
Wentzville Assembly

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

State of the Union March 25, 2015

March 25, 2015 online at

• From the Women’s Committee: Thanks to everyone who helped to make this year’s Easter Egg Hunt another big success. A great time was had by everyone who attended. Also, the Women’s Committee is raffling off a Colorado jacket (donated by Pat Wyse) to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Tickets are $5 apiece or 3 for $10 and available from any committee member.

• There will be a Civil Rights Committee meeting on Monday, April 6 between shifts in the cafeteria. As always, anyone interested in attending and becoming a member of the committee is welcome.

• This week is the UAW Bargaining Convention, which is being held in Detroit. Here is a message from the UAW about the Power of Collective Bargaining:

The theme of the UAW’s 2015 Special Convention on Collective Bargaining is “The Power of Collective Bargaining Lifts Us All.” This reminds us that the historic gains members make at the bargaining table are victories that lift families into the middle class and benefit entire communities. It also reminds us that no gain we have achieved has been freely given but has come only from the power of collective bargaining, and the solidarity it creates when we come together at the negotiating table. Your activism as a member and the solidarity you create within the UAW secure working people’s gains in every contract we ratify. When we face challenges, we know we still stand together to fight another day. That bond of solidarity that creates victories for working people is never broken. We will forge ahead to create contracts that generate prosperity for our national economy, high standards in our workplaces, and a rewarding retirement for all.

More than ever, the power of collective bargaining is needed to lift working women and men and sustain this great nation’s working families who are the bedrock of our economy.

With each step forward, we carry with us the knowledge that the power of collective bargaining lifts us all.

Today at the Bargaining Convention, UAW President Dennis Williams gave a speech to the delegates. This article from the Detroit Free Press captures some of President Williams comments:
UAW President Dennis Williams, wearing a dark suit and red shirt, raised his fist and led union members through several fiery chants Wednesday as he laid out his vision for the union and its negotiating priorities with the Detroit Three and other employers.
"When I raise my fist, I am talking about unity, I am talking about solidarity," Williams told delegates gathered in Detroit for the union's bargaining convention today.
Williams said the UAW understands the pressures of globalization that employers face, but railed about an economic recovery from the worst recession in decades that has failed to deliver pay increases for many in the middle class. Williams said it has led to an America where people work more than 40 hours per week and still live in near poverty.
"I believe in a $15 an hour minimum wage," Williams said. "It makes sense for the United States of America."

When it comes to upcoming contract talks with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, Williams made it clear he would like to eliminate an entry level wage that was approved by UAW members in 2007 when the automakers were losing money and market share. The UAW's four-year contract with the Detroit Three expires in September.
"I truly believe that our companies know that we can be both creative and thoughtful," Williams said. "But make no doubt about it, they also know, that as we share in the bad times, we must equally share in the good times."
One of the prevailing themes at the UAW's two-day bargaining convention has been the idea of "bridging the gap" -- a reference to seeking a raise for the lower paid autoworkers who earn a maximum of $19.28 per hour to bring them closer to the $28 per hour, on average, that workers hired before 2008 make.
"The UAW will never abandon the principles on which we were founded," Williams said. "We believe in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, and we believe in equal pay for equal work."
For Williams, the challenge will be not only to negotiate a contract that appeases autoworkers, but also to negotiate new contracts with workers at John Deere, the State of Michigan and a number of other employers.
"This year, we have a great responsibility, full of challenges," Williams said. "Throughout the country, we have a lot of contracts (to negotiate), and you know there is a great deal at stake. Our challenge is real."

Tom Brune
UAW Communications Coordinator
Wentzville Assembly

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

State of the Union March 17, 2015

March 17, 2015 online at

• Union Meeting is tomorrow at 7:15 am for 3rd shift, 3:15 pm for 1st shift and 11:15 pm for 2nd shift.

• Volunteers are needed to help stuff Easter eggs at the Union Hall between shifts starting on Wednesday. Our annual Easter Egg Hunt will be this Saturday, March 21 from 12 – 3 pm.

• From Community Services: There will be a canned food drive to help stock area food pantries. It will run through Friday, March 20. You can drop off your canned goods in the barrels located at each entrance.

• The Women’s Committee is raffling off a Colorado jacket (donated by Pat Wyse) to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Tickets are $5 apiece or 3 for $10 and available from any committee member.

• Time to take a look back at February sales for both the van and the pickup.

  2015 2014 Change Share
Ford Transit 6750 --- --- 32.4%
GM 5221 6970 -25.1% 25.0%
Ford Econoline 4396 8489 -48.2% 21.1%
Mercedes Sprinter 1675 1421 +17.9% 8.0%
Ram ProMaster 1627 597 +172% 7.8%
Nissan NV 1188 995 +19.4% 5.7%
Toyota Tacoma 12.372 10,942 +13.1% 44.9%
Chev. Colorado 6563 --- --- 23.8%
Nissan Frontier 6106 5791 +5.4% 22.2%
GMC Canyon 2513 --- --- 9.1%

Field supplies for the van were largely unchanged and stood at 50 days for February. That said, passenger van supplies continue to fall and are now roughly half of what they were at this time last year, with Chevy at 16 days supply. Cargo van supplies dipped while cutaways rose. For pickups, the Colorado stood at 12 days supply, the lowest of any GM product. Canyon supplies stood at 28 days as we continue to fill the pipeline on both products. It is also apparent that the midsize pickup category as a whole is growing because of the addition of our products, just as many analysts had predicted.

• As right-to-work claims more states, and we in Missouri try to keep it at bay, there is an interesting op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that sheds some light on just how right-to-work came to pass. The following is edited from that piece: Last week Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state. Under the bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, workers cannot be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of keeping their jobs.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Great Society, the wave of liberal legislation enacted by the 89th Congress under the legendary browbeating of President Lyndon B. Johnson. There is no small irony here, because organized labor, the most powerful interest group in the mid-20th century Democratic Party—was the wallflower at the Great Society party. Unions hoped to make it impossible for states to adopt right-to-work laws yet failed. Unions were simply left behind amid other liberal priorities, and their failure helped put unions on the defensive—where they still are, at least in the private economy.
The cornerstone of American labor law is the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, called the “Wagner Act” after its Senate sponsor, progressive Democrat Robert F. Wagner of New York. The legislation was deliberately one sided, subjecting employers to a series of obligations, including the duty to bargain with whatever organization the majority of employees chose. The legislation outlawed certain employer labor practices and established the National Labor Relations Board to interpret the law, particularly to define and police “unfair labor practices.”
Unions of the old American Federation of Labor and the newer Congress of Industrial Organizations took advantage of the law and organized millions of workers, especially those in the mass-production industries of autos, steel and meatpacking. By 1945 the two had taken in one-third of the private workforce, helped along by government-contracting provisions passed during World War II. The AFL and CIO were determined to lock down the gains they made during the war. They engaged in a “strike wave” in 1945-46 that threatened to cripple the already difficult postwar reconversion to a peacetime economy. Even liberal President Harry Truman went to court for an injunction to break the coal strike, and he was about to ask Congress for extraordinary power to break the railroad strike when the railroad brotherhoods gave in.
The public sense that unions had become too powerful led to the election of Republican majorities in 1946, the first GOP Congress since 1928. “Had Enough?” was their campaign slogan. They enacted the Labor-Management Relations Act in 1947, known as the Taft-Hartley Act. It outlawed the closed shop, for example, where an employer could only hire union members; strikes between rival unions; and certain kinds of secondary boycotts such as sympathy strikes.
After Taft-Hartley, workers could not be required to maintain membership in a union (after being hired), although if they quit the union they could still be required to pay an agency fee—that portion of the union dues used only for collective bargaining. But Taft-Hartley included a provision called section 14(b) that allowed states to abolish any requirement that workers join a union or pay any dues. This “right-to-work” provision was adopted by many states, mostly in the South and West. Unions complained that 14(b) allowed nonunion workers a free ride, enjoying the benefits of unionization without paying for them.
The AFL-CIO—the two federations merged in 1955—constantly called for the repeal of Taft-Hartley, especially 14(b), though a coalition of Midwestern Republicans and Southern Democrats prevented it. Unions finally had an opening to get rid of 14(b) when the Democratic Party won an overwhelming majority in Congress in 1964. But in October 1965 Senate conservatives filibustered the (house passed) repeal. And that is how what in 1965 would have been considered unimaginable—that Michigan and Wisconsin could be open-shop states—came about.

Tom Brune
UAW Communications Coordinator
Wentzville Assembly

Friday, March 13, 2015

State of the Union March 11, 2015

March 11, 2015 online at
• From the Benefits Department: Everyone should have received a letter from Blue Cross about the security breach at Anthem. This does not mean that your personal information was compromised and no action is required on your part. You are automatically enrolled in a credit monitoring service free of charge for 2 years. You can go to for more information or call 877-263-7995 from 9 am to 9 pm Eastern time Monday through Saturday. • Anyone interested in playing men’s softball on Sunday nights at Ozzies in O’Fallon should contact Kevin Dandois at 636-578-3683. Tryouts will be the first warm weekend at Ozzies. • Reminder: Tomorrow, March 12, is Irish Heritage day in the cafeteria. There will be displays, information and popcorn. Come on up to learn more.

• From Community Services: There will be a canned food drive to help stock area food pantrys. It will begin this Saturday, March 14 and run through Friday, March 20. You can drop off your canned goods in the barrels located at each entrance.

• There will be a bake sale Monday, March 16 at the Suggestions office to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Sale will begin at approximately 6 am so you third shifters can grab some baked goods before heading home.

• Activist investor and hedge fund lackey Harry Wilson managed to get GM to agree to a $5 billion stock buyback by the end of next year in exchange for him dropping his demand for an $8 billion buyback and a seat on the board of directors. “Mary’s highly thoughtful approach is a sea change from the old GM, and it’s why we were able to come to a win-win conclusion so quickly”, Wilson said, referring to GM CEO Mary Barra. It certainly is a win for Mr. Wilson, who will be compensated by the 4 hedge funds he represents by some 2-4% of their profits from any increase in GM share prices. With 34 million shares, this translates to between $680,000 and $1.36 million for every $1 increase in GM's price. We’re not sure what the other win represents, or who benefits. Wilson had said his rationale for a board seat was "to help General Motors build for the long-term strengths that it needs to become a world-class company and to thrive for many years to come." Apparently that requires jettisoning 20% of your cash cushion. Memo to Harry: If your idea of creating long term growth is reducing a company’s ability to ward off the next inevitible ecomomic downturn by enriching hedge funds, Apple is sitting on $178 billion in cash. Why don’t you round up your hedge fund masters and mount a charge up that cash mountain?

• From the Detroit News: Mercedes-Benz said Friday it plans to spend $500 million to build a new plant in Charleston, S.C., so it can assemble its next-generation Sprinter commercial van there, providing more evidence that the commercial van segment in the U.S. is continuing to get more competitive. The investment will create 1,300 new jobs. "This plant is key to our future growth in the very dynamic North American van market," Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz vans, said in a statement. Mercedes-Benz said construction of the 8.6-million-square-foot plant is expected to begin in 2016. The plant will include a new body shop, a paint shop and an assembly line. Daimler was the first automaker to sell a European-styled commercial van in the U.S. in 2001. But over the past three years, the commercial van segment has become vastly more competitive as Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Nissan have all introduced new or completely redesigned commercial vans in the U.S. In recent years, Nissan has launched its NV commercial and cargo vans, Ram has launched its the ProMaster and ProMaster City and Ford has launched the Transit Connect and replaced its Econoline with the Transit commercial van. Last year, Daimler AG sold 26,000 Sprinter vans to U.S. customers under the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner brand names. The new plant will continue to produce Sprinter vans for both brands. Until now, the automaker has been shipping the van in kit-form from Germany and reassembling in Charleston, S.C. This has allowed Daimler to avoid the 20% “chicken tax” levied on foreign trucks.

• One persistent rumor regarding the midsize pickup category is the Jeep will be building a pickup in the not too distant future. Going back to 2005 and the Jeep Gladiator concept – essentially a Wrangler with a bed – rumors have swirled about the possibility of such a vehicle. As recently as 2012 Jeep ran a “J-12” pickup in the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari off-roading event. "I remain a big fan of a Jeep pickup," Jeep CEO and President Mike Manley said earlier this year. "I think we have history that says it belongs in our portfolio." But just because a Jeep pickup seems like a great idea on paper, Manley stresses it doesn't mean it will come to fruition anytime soon. "At this moment and time, I have higher priorities. That doesn't mean to say that we don't work on it, we're not looking at it," said Manley, adding he had "nothing further to add than that." Analysts remain udeterred in their belief that one will be built. "How many SUVs can you make? They're running out of space within their own lineup to generate sales with new product," said IHS Automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley. "The only one that makes sense is a small/compact pickup truck."

• The UAW, and everyone else who opposes the free trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, got an important ally. According to MarketWatch, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman came out against the Pacific Rim trade deal, calling it “fundamentally trivial“ for the U.S. trade sector. “Pushing this [trade deal] has nothing to do with the interest of a vast majority of Americans,” Krugman, the Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist, said Tuesday in a speech to a conference sponsored by the National Association for Business Economics. The U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations are now trying to agree to the final terms of the trade partnership. Krugman said special interests, especially “Hollywood and pharmaceuticals” are pushing hard for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Specifically, they favor intellectual property protections included in the measure, he added. These copyright and patent protections simply create monopolies, are “anti-growth,” and hurt vulnerable poor people looking for medicine, he said. Krugman said the Pacific deal would only boost GDP by a fraction of one percent per year. “The claims that this is going to be an enormous engine of growth just doesn’t hold water,” Krugman said. “There can no longer be ground-breaking, world-transforming deals on international trade because we’ve already done those,” Krugman added.

Tom Brune
UAW Communications Coordinator
Wentzville Assembly