WASHINGTON -- UAW President Ron Gettelfinger says he is determined that Delphi Corp. retirees will not lose benefits when the supplier reorganizes in bankruptcy court.
"It's our intent that the promises will be kept," he said.
Gettelfinger made the remarks to reporters after his keynote speech Sunday evening that opened the union's political action conference here.
Formerly an annual event, the conference now is held only in federal election years, at least in part to save money.
Gettelfinger rallied the gathering of more than 1,500 UAW members with a traditionally militant solidarity-forever speech.
He urged members to lobby lawmakers on these issues:
"Every other country takes care of their industrial base," he said.
Gettelfinger called UAW concessions on health care for retirees at General Motors and Ford Motor Co. "excruciating." He said the union has done its share.
The UAW president also urged action on broader labor goals, including a higher minimum wage and universal health care coverage.
But in his brief session with reporters, he said the fate of union contracts at bankrupt suppliers is the UAW's most pressing concern.
Gettelfinger called the situation at Tower Automotive Inc. "very critical." He issued a thinly veiled warning against voiding union contracts.
But Gettelfinger said he's encouraged that unions have an ex officio seat on Delphi's creditors' committee, that Delphi executives have backed off demands for wage cuts of more than 60 percent and that General Motors, from which Delphi was spun off, is involved in talks.
"I think we've come a long way," he said. "We're proud of where we're at today."
Gettelfinger said in his speech that the union needs to reach people who may not agree with organized labor. He declined to elaborate afterward.
It appears that reaching out to President Bush is not part of the strategy. The UAW session opened with a hard-hitting anti-Bush video titled "Liar."
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]