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A Discussion with a GM Retiree

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Mike in Atlanta, you're next on the EIB Network. Hello, sir. Nice to have you with us.

CALLER: How you doing?

RUSH: Just fine, sir.

CALLER: Now, listen. I'm a General Motors retiree, union worker, and first of all let me say that I don't agree with UAW's politics. I've voted Republican ever since Reagan, so I don't agree with their politics, but I am a UAW retiree. So I'd like to give you just a little bit a perspective of this, what's called, I guess, the union bailout.

RUSH: Can I...? Let me ask you a couple questions. How old are you now, if you don't mind my asking? You don't have to answer if you don't want to.

CALLER: I'll be 57 my next birthday.

RUSH: You're going to be 57 your next birthday, and how long have you been retired?

CALLER: About two and a half years.

RUSH: Okay, so you can retire at 55.

CALLER: Yeah. I retired at 55, right.

RUSH: All right, so 55. You basically retired two years ago and go ahead now. Enlighten us with your perspective.

CALLER: Okay. (laughs) In 2006 the union took a lot of concessions, I don't know if people are aware of them. I never hear anybody talking about it. As of 2006, General Motors stopped the pension plan. So anybody coming in after 2006 won't get a pension. They severely cut the starting pay I think down to about $15 an hour, something like that. So when you hire in with General Motors you don't hire in at this big salary that everybody seems to think that you do. I've heard people talk about it. "You make 40 bucks an hour for turning a wrench on assembly line and stuff like that," but that's just not the case. That's just not the way it is. When I retired back in 2005, I think it was about $25 an hour I retired at. So, you know, right now I hear them talking about cutting the pensions.

RUSH: Okay, I've gotta take a break here. Mike, I'm glad that you're offering this perspective. I want to ask you -- I'll give you some time to think about it here during the break -- why do you think that is? Why do you think that starting out now pays much less than it used to with General Motors?

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We go back to Mike in Atlanta, retired United Auto Workers member. He's been retired for two years. He's 57. You just said that... By the way, a little disclosure. As you know General Motors is a sponsor of the EIB Network. We drive a number of their vehicles around, and we happen to think they're pretty cool. We happen to like 'em.

CALLER: Well, I'm glad to hear that. I wish more Americans still felt that way. (chuckles)

RUSH: Well, I think they're good. When we started, by the way, I was surprised. I was among the group of people that thought they'd been passed by in style and design and so forth. These cars that we get, some of them have features in them that are useful, things that are genuinely helpful features that cars that cost twice as much do not have.

CALLER: I've been General Motor man before I went to work for them. I've always bought General Motors products. Every car I've ever bought...

RUSH: Of course, you get the employee discount.

CALLER: (laughs) Yeah, I did. It's not that much, though. But every General Motors car I've ever bought I got at least 200,000 miles out of it.

RUSH: Great!

CALLER: I've got an S-10 now I got almost 300,000 miles out of.

RUSH: Right.

CALLER: So they do make good products.

RUSH: No question. We're going to be discussing General Motors and you're going to be critical of them, and I just wanted people to know, remind them out of the full disclosure that they are a sponsor here.

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: But I want you to tell me why you think entry hourly wages are much less than they used to be today at General Motors, after all these union contracts. How the hell did this happen?

CALLER: Well, the reason they're not paying as much is because they're not making the money like I said. People have just for some reason stopped, lost confidence in General Motors for some reason and just stopped buying our cars. But if they're not making the money they just can't pay the wage. That's just the way I see that, so...

RUSH: Well, now, wait. Maybe I misunderstand, but I thought you were being critical when you made the statement that General Motors no longer pays what it did, but you're saying they can't pay the wage for whatever reason?

CALLER: Well, I'm saying in 2006, because things were getting tough when the UAW and General Motors negotiated the contract, UAW agreed to take concessions. One of the things they agreed to do was hire people in at a lot less. There are no more pensions. If you come to General Motors after 2006, you don't get a pension. They've totally done away with.

RUSH: Let me tell you something, though, about that. I've never had a job where I had a pension.

CALLER: Yeah.

RUSH: I've never had a job with one. Now, I'm a member of AFTRA, but I don't even use the health care that comes along with it. I don't want to mess with it. I'm sure there's some sort of a pension there, but other than a union job, I've never had a job where somebody promised me a pension. Like I worked for the Kansas City Royals for five years --

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: -- and the most I made was $17,000 a year I didn't get a pension. There was no talk of pension. That was all strange to me.

CALLER: General Motors, that is part of the contract they agreed to 30 years ago when I went to work for General Motors and they had like 50% of the job market and all things were going along real fine that was one of the things that you really counted on. When you worked for a company, you put 30 years in with them they guaranteed you a pension. But let me tell you, you know, the pensions aren't that much. People seem to think... If you think that we're making these huge pensions, it's not.

RUSH: No, they're not, but Social Security is not that much on a monthly basis per individual, but by the time you add up how much each individual gets times the tens of millions that are receiving Social Security, it costs a lot of people a lot of money to pay it. And it's the same thing with any entity as large as General Motors that has that many people. Let me ask you this before we go. I'm going to put you in management now. You're no longer on the line. You're in management, and you're making General Motors cars, and one of the business realities that you face is that you have to add in $2,600 per car on average that you make to the sale price to cover the pensions and the health care and the sick days and the holiday pay and the line relief and all that. And your competitor, Toyota, or anybody else only has to pay $200 per car for health care. What would you do?

CALLER: I understand what you're trying to say. I understand that point but, you know, General Motors --

RUSH: No, no, no, no. I'm not trying to say anything. I'm genuinely asking you. I'm putting there if you can do it, if you can put your management cap on. I'm not asking you to be sympathetic. I'm not asking you to be sympathetic with them. I'm not doing anything. I really want to know what you would do, and it may not be fair. I don't know how much management experience that you have, and I don't know what your overall impression of management in any business is. I know that most employees suspect management of not being honest and forthcoming about costs and this sort of thing. So I don't know what biases you have, but if you can do it, if you were running... Let's take out the car business, and let's say you're in the pizza business, and your pizzas cost, let's say, $7 more than the guy down the street from you because your pizza has to cover his pension, welfare, all these things, and the competitors' doesn't. What would you do?

CALLER: You know, I really can't say what I'd do there. All I know is like I'm trying to say, just trying to get a perspective from a person that basically lives on a pension now. I did have to go back to work, had to supplement my pension because it's not that much, and, you know, when I hear things like, "Well, it's just cut out General Motors pension and stuff like that." There's a lot of people like myself probably now that are hearing this are saying, "Yeah, what am I supposed to do if they just cut out my pension? You know, I worked for General Motors for 30 years and all of a sudden they're going to just do away with my pension. What am I supposed to do, go back to work when I'm 60, 70 years old?" So it just really puts us in a bad spot.

RUSH: No. No. But since you asked... I don't... You're a nice guy, and I'm sure you're a salt-of-the-earth guy, but since you asked, "What am I supposed to do, go back to work at 67?" No. You're not supposed to retire when you're 55. You sound to me like you are totally capable of still working. Unless you work for a place that forces you out, and says, "At 55 you can no longer do the job," you've got no business retiring at 55, if you can't afford to retire... (interruption) What's wrong, Snerdley? My boss is having a conniption in there. What's wrong? What, is that an impolitic thing to say? I have not...! (interruption) The American...? I have not redefined the American dream. The American dream is to retire at 65. People are retiring now at 50 and 55 and so forth when they're still capable of working. Okay, so you retire at 50 or 55 and you've got, according to the tables, at 55 you've got 22 years left. Now, who's gonna...?

There is a thing called the cost of living, and if your pension does not pay you what you're going to need to live in the style in which you become accustomed for 27 more years or 22 more years, then you're going to have to supplement it somehow. I have not redefined the American dream. I have not redefined it. Well, does anybody...? I don't even want to go there. Social Security is what it is. It's what it's not and it's more not than it is. But most people cannot live with nothing else, other than Social Security in the style in which they were accustomed when they retire. Now, I look and there are caveats here, of course you might work in a job where the boss forces you out at 55. They made Cronkite retired at 65, and he theoretically could have anchored that for 20 more years, and we would have been spared Dan Rather. The only reason Rather got the gig was CBS had this antiquated retirement age policy of 65. They don't have anymore because Rather is in his seventies now and they did away with it. But the answer is: keep working. You know, there's no crime in that, especially if you need the money. If you need the money, you keep working. If you need a job, don't quit. I don't understand what I said that's wrong.

END TRANSCRIPT

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