In a moment of melancholy I recently found myself parked outside the former Packard Electric / Delphi administration building on Dana Street in Warren - the place where I was hired in 1974, as a member of salaried management.
The once proud and respected heart of the Warren operations was a shell of what it once was. Windows were shattered and doors boarded. News reports revealed that the structure had been gutted, the insides stripped of copper wire and tubing, aluminum, steel and whatever else could be picked from a dead carcass.
The sight of it brought tears to my eyes; all I wanted to do was to get away from there quickly. I traveled the short distance to Larchmont Avenue in order to view the last plant I worked in when I retired. Of the seven visible plants that had been there for years, only two appeared to have signs of life. Dead-on-arrival was the Engineering & Research building that had been leveled and replaced with of, all things, a parking lot for tractor trailers. What a terrible day for a road trip down memory lane.
The experience mirrors the conditions of perhaps thousands of my fellow Delphi salaried retirees. Many in our group have seen their pensions decimated by 30 percent to 70 percent. Those pensions, along with reasonable health care premiums and life insurance, had been snatched away from us and offered up on the altar of political sacrifice and expedience without so much as a kiss. It was a cunning and underhanded move that picked winners, GM and Delphi, and losers, the Delphi salaried retirees. All of those promised, earned and vested benefits had been gutted from our lives. We hold the Obama administration, including Treasury and its secretary, Timothy Geithner, the PBGC (Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp) among others, responsible for not treating all parties equally under the law.
The razing of the Engineering & Research building tore out the very soul of the Warren operations. It was the people in that building that kept Packard / Delphi the world-recognized leader in automotive electrical innovations and systems. The engineers would lead; we would follow with quality production and on-time delivery. How many souls of my Delphi salaried retiree peers have been left weary, from loss of income, loss of insurances, break-ups of families, physical and mental illnesses and, loss of quality of life in general? The impact of our economic loss ripples throughout the Valley, negatively affecting thousands of folks in businesses we supported when we had a decent pension.
President Obama could restore those pensions and actually make a reality of the "equality of shared sacrifices" that he has talked about. The Michigan courts, where we have filed suit, could rule in our favor. Currently the judge is compelling the PBGC and Treasury to show the "transparency" in office that President Obama mentioned in campaign speeches in 2008. Of interest to the judge is securing the evidence: Who, how and why was it decided that Delphi salaried retirees should be singled out to be placed in such difficult situations, when no other group sacrificed, no, make that suffered "equally" or even nearly to such a degree?
They took much away from us, but our hope and faith and determination are stronger than ever. Our energy and drive and goal to right this wrong has doubled and redoubled.
-- Dennis Beck, Liberty Township