By on September 3, 2010

Editor’s note: GM CEO Dan Akerson sent the following email to GM’s employees, his first such communication as GM’s CEO, in recognition of Labor Day Weekend Eve.

GM Employees,

As Labor Day approaches in the U.S. and Canada, I would like to wish everyone at General Motors a safe, happy holiday weekend. I also ask that we pause for moment to reflect on what this day means as we celebrate labor’s many contributions here and around the world.

Of course, labor’s role in building up this nation and others is well recognized and rightly so. And, coming from a union family, I know on a very personal level the good things that unions can do.

I met recently with UAW President Bob King and Vice President-GM Department Joe Ashton at Solidarity House, and we agreed that, while we will not always see eye to eye on everything, GM will succeed to the extent that management and labor work together. I believe very deeply in that.

At GM, the devotion by employees to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles shines through every day. Around the world, we rely on the hard work of our designers, engineers, union represented employees, marketers and corporate staff in the most challenging circumstances. Many in the U.S. worked though our traditional summer downtime to keep our momentum going.

Please accept my sincere thanks for your commitment to General Motors. To employees around the world please know that your work is appreciated. To those in the U.S. and Canada, enjoy this three-day holiday. There will always be more hard work ahead of us, but because of your dedication, I have great optimism for GM’s future.

Dan Akerson

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19 Comments on “Happy Labor Day, From GM CEO Dan Akerson...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    “Hapy”?
    Why couldn’t Akerson have simply saluted America’s workers, or said nothing at all, rather than make a half-hearted defense of the UAW?

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      As far as motivational messages from management to employees go, I think this is pretty good (and I’ve seen enough such messages in my career).  Whether you like UAW or not, good labour relations are critical if GM is to succeed.
       
      And I don’t see where Akerson is actually defending UAW, only that he is committed to working with the union.

  • avatar

    the UAW is a corrupt organization that has shown no interest or ability in protecting the rights of workers or retirees or preserving jobs here in the USA. separately though, the workers themselves deserve recognition for the back breaking work they do and the dedication they have exhibited in spite of management’s failures and the public’s misconceptions.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    At GM, the devotion by employees to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles shines through every day. Around the world, we rely on the hard work of our designers, engineers, union represented employees, marketers and corporate staff in the most challenging circumstances.
     
    I actually do think that most at GM really do mean that.  However, until the beancounters keep their paws off the design and manufacturing, compromises will kill the product.  Some know how to cost cut without it being too obvious (say, NIssan) but GM seems to cut everywhere….and it shows…

  • avatar
    AaronH

    Dan Akerson is a proven failure…Is there no end to government stupidity?
    Voters are too stupid to be free.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      When I read your post, my head fell off.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      My head (being held firmly by a left-hand thread) did not fall off.
       
      My feeling is that unions should be allowed to do business wherever they want (and should be protected by law), but should not be supported by government.
      The unions should be recognized for the increase in living standards of the working class early in the previous century, and for the upward pressure that they put on wages in general as industries will pay higher wages and benefits to keep unions out of their companies.

  • avatar
    kitzler

    Too bad there is still a UAW, I mean we now have OSHA and 401k’s and hospitalization from all major employers, so what is the role of the union, but to demand higher wages or benefits.  If you are good, raises come automatically, your employer does not want to lose you, certainly not for a few dollars an hour.
    The UAW is the only reason, I don’t consider domestic products, sorry, I vote with my wallet

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      If you are good, raises come automatically, your employer does not want to lose you, certainly not for a few dollars an hour.
       
      You’re funny!

    • 0 avatar
      pgcooldad

      Hah yes, if your employer likes you it’s all rosy. What happens when a supervisor or manager doesn’t like you because you don’t kiss up and actually tell him what he doesn’t want to hear, not for his good but for the good of the company? They fire you! And you have no recourse.

      What happens when the big CEO’s spends 2 billion dollars in a joint venture, than throws another 2 billion at it to go away (GM-Fiat)? They take benefits away from you to pay for their mistake. They don’t give you your raises for the past 5 years for being “so good” to pay for their mistakes, take away more of your benefits and stop matching your 401K!
      What happens when the “merger of equals” is a big fat lie and the company who was the most profitable on earth is mismanaged to the point of bankruptcy? You watch some of the best engineers you’ve ever worked with making multi million dollar decisions getting paid less than his wife who is an elementary school teacher!

      How about the fool who bought Jaguar and Land Rover, poured billion of dollars into them and didn’t improve his own companies vehicles? My brother paid for that by being let go after 16 years of being on third shift, because they knew he was the only supervisor that always got the job done so production could start in the morning. It didn’t matter how good he was, they needed to make cuts. What happened to the other 9 UAW toolmakers hired on the same date? They are all still working.
       

    • 0 avatar

      Hah yes, if your employer likes you it’s all rosy. What happens when a supervisor or manager doesn’t like you because you don’t kiss up and actually tell him what he doesn’t want to hear, not for his good but for the good of the company? They fire you! And you have no recourse.

      In my experience, you leave and find something else before it comes to that. No one should work for a company or entity they have such deep disagreements with. Other jobs are out there, even today.

      It’s called self-reliance… as opposed to suckling off the union teat.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      I was all ready to buy in to any pro-union reply, but when I think about it, it just doesn’t make sense. Every point you made has to do with the right of an individual to shirk their own personal responsibility.

      Hah yes, if your employer likes you it’s all rosy. What happens when a supervisor or manager doesn’t like you because you don’t kiss up and actually tell him what he doesn’t want to hear, not for his good but for the good of the company? They fire you! And you have no recourse.

      If you want to be a wave maker in an organization that is the risk you take. It is not the only way to get things done. That is the challenge in any organization of people. If a person takes that risk of bucking the system rather than trying to work within it, then they should accept responsibility for getting fired.

      What happens when the big CEO’s spends 2 billion dollars in a joint venture, than throws another 2 billion at it to go away (GM-Fiat)? They take benefits away from you to pay for their mistake. They don’t give you your raises for the past 5 years for being “so good” to pay for their mistakes, take away more of your benefits and stop matching your 401K!

      If your company is not competitive in the market for compensation, you let them know they are not, and start looking elsewhere. Unless they were paying you too much all along. Either way it is your own responsibility, why stay where you are not treated well?

      What happens when the “merger of equals” is a big fat lie and the company who was the most profitable on earth is mismanaged to the point of bankruptcy? You watch some of the best engineers you’ve ever worked with making multi million dollar decisions getting paid less than his wife who is an elementary school teacher!

      I really doubt this, all the engineers I know do just fine. “Multi-million dollar decisions” is a red herring. We all make decisions that make (or break) our companies for more money than we ever hope to be paid. That is the tradeoff many make for a steady salary. If you want to have the risk and reward of multi-million dollar decisions, you need to stat your own company.

      How about the fool who bought Jaguar and Land Rover, poured billion of dollars into them and didn’t improve his own companies vehicles? My brother paid for that by being let go after 16 years of being on third shift, because they knew he was the only supervisor that always got the job done so production could start in the morning. It didn’t matter how good he was, they needed to make cuts. What happened to the other 9 UAW toolmakers hired on the same date? They are all still working.

      Doesn’t make sense that your Brother got laid off for getting the job done, sounds like there is more to the story. Is this the guy from above that “tells it like it is” to management? Anyways sounds like they were in need of toolmakers not supervisors. Companies are always firing/laying-off out one door and hiring in the other.

      If you don’t think management is doing a good job at your company, you get outta there, don’t stick around. I understand some careers aren’t so mobile and having 16 years in means you start over somewhere else. But I don’t believe for a second that anyone is hopeless…well not unless they choose to be.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Oh, this is rich, a corporate honcho from one of the most adversarial labour/management industries in the country endorsing “true spirit” of labour day.
     
    The message itself is actually pretty good, but the historical hypocrisy behind it is difficult to get past.  The establishment in the US went to great lengths to demonize and outright crush anarcho-syndicalism and seeing it pushed by those same forces is galling.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I guess these UAW morons [protesters] think that citizens of  Kentucky and Ohio are not Americans. Pretty typical of the mentality of UAW members. I know a few and they are pretty much intolerant and pompous idiots.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @pgcooldad… Well said. So nice to hear from somebody,that has first hand experience. Unlike like the garbage that spews forth,from some here.

     What so many here don’t comprehend,is that management and the union are not at constant war. We do indeed have a lot of common ground. Mr Akerson, being the new guy, is using that common ground in his letter.

     As an example.  Here in Canada,we to have had some issues with pension funding. In the spring of 2009, things were looking really grim. We,the GM retirees joined forces,with the salary retirees. Together we got a lot done. The common ground,being ,we all have to eat.

  • avatar

    The irony of a modern manager paying homage to labor really is wonderful. As one who was anti-union when I was younger, it has gradually occurred to me that the reason unions exist is that there are greedy people in the world who will keep squeezing labor costs as a means to put more money in their own pockets.
    There is no question that leaders are needed in a manner no different from an army. Yet there is no army in the world where the Generals are compensated at a rate 100-500 times that of the trained soldier, and no army can exist without talented and dedicated people who are willing to make great sacrifices for their cause. A great leader brings this out in his troops.
    There are some today who call this kind of organization “communist”, yet our own armed forces seem to operate quite effectively in a system where no one reaches the top without first doing many of the same grunt jobs that those they lead are asked to do.
    According to Wikipedia, Akerson’s career began in 1983 and served as the CFO for several years, then left to take over as Chief Executive of General Instrument, a post recently vacated by Don Rumsfield. In addition to his GM job, he’s listed as a managing director at the Carlyle Group and is co-head of their buy-out group. I doubt he’s ever done much auto assembly or engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      frizzlefry

      The fact of whether or not he has ever done auto assembly or engineering is completely irrelevant. Such experience would not help him do his job in any way. The company I work for has a group of accountants as the executives. They have never driven a transport truck, laid down oil field mats or done electrical control work (the main services/products we provide). But we have prospered, even during recession, because they have a keen mind when it comes to growth, expansion and company direction. You bring up the armed forces. Despite the fact that whether they function “well” is up for debate to begin with, they are not meant to be a profit center. They are, in fact, quite a large cost center (4.3% of USA GDP). The profits of the military are very much in the red, as making money is not what they are asked to do. Two completely different functions in comparing a CEO to a military leader.
      It has been my experience that, if I don’t like the company I work for, I quit and work for someone else. If I need new skills to get a better job, I learn them. My impression is that Detroit put all their eggs in one basket, counting on the unions to guarantee them jobs. Hard reality is that the companies they work for sucked and lost a lot of money. That means cuts. Union or not. If I worked for a company that was bleeding, I would get the hell outta dodge (no pun intended) rather than stay and hope my union somehow gets blood from a stone.

    • 0 avatar

      In the car business, we’ve witnessed the results of management whose sole objective is making money. At a time when American cars were arguably the best in the world and there was no competition, GM, Ford and Chrysler were all making money. Accountants, out of a native ability to make the bottom line look better, found the means to continually “improve” the company’s profits by removing money from the product. Since they knew little about the product, or the manufacturing of the product, the quality of the product suffered.

      This approach worked for decades, yet by the mid 1970′s GM in particular had become so effective at making money by lending money, they were no longer making money on the product. The company continued to prosper as the competition still was not well organized, yet this was no indication that the companies were being well managed. They were carried for another 40 years by momentum.

      During that 40 years, innumerable people, most of whom were not accountants and who were knowledgeable in the industry, were increasingly concerned about their strategic positioning. Accountants like Roger Smith and Rick Wagoner kept telling stockholders that everything was ok, as they had a “new plan” to return the company to its former prominence. Robert Farago started this site in part out of his disdain for this style of management.

      To say that making money is the objective of capitalism is like saying that buying food is the objective of raising children. It is only part of the job.

      I’m not suggesting that it was management alone which brought American auto manufacturers to their knees; they had help from generations of union decisions which were also premised on the sole objective of making money. Leaders in both spheres forgot that the reason for the company’s existence was not only to create wealth, but to create a vital high quality product. Nor did I mean to single out Mr. Akerson. When the quality of industry is measured solely on the bottom line, it is no different than measuring the quality of an individual on the amount of money he makes.

      A great craftsman makes money as a result of great craft. When he forgets that the money arises from his craft, the quality of his product suffers.

      The example of the miilitary was not to suggest that they are a profit-making organization. Their objective is different, but great leaders are required if one is to have a great military. Yet the members of the military, from the generals to the privates, do so out of a sense of duty and honor to a higher cause. Great companies prosper from the same sense of duty.


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