A couple of years ago, I expected the United Auto Workers (UAW) to sink The Big Three (as they were known at the time). Scanning the situation at bankrupt parts supplier Delphi, I thought the union would strike rather than accept pay cuts and kill Detroit. Either that or Detroit would pay them off, burn all their cash and die. I didn't envision the creation of a $37b UAW slush fund (a.k.a. a health care VEBA) that would "convince" the bosses to surrender their members' future without a fight. But I did note that Delphi's bankruptcy was a bad omen. If GM's own former division couldn't make money building parts for Detroit, what hope for other suppliers? And if the suppliers went under… As today's Chrysler factory shutdown proves, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. For decades, The Big 2.8 (as they are now) have beaten-down their suppliers. Their constant abuse has turned "partners" into adversaries. It's this relentless pursuit of profit — at the expense of human decency– that's poisoned Detroit's relationship with its paying customers. And now, as Chrysler faces the consequences of their sour supplier relations, the situation proves an adage that informs all my analysis of Detroit's inexorable slide into bankruptcy: as you sow, so shall you reap. Or, if you prefer, payback's a bitch.
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