By on January 19, 2007

uaw-gettlefinger-and-daimlerchrysler-dieter.jpgI may be the only American automotive journalist who thinks the United Auto Workers (UAW) won't make any significant concessions in their new contracts with The Big Two Point Five. Window dressing? Absolutely. I fully expect to read breathless accounts of breakthough announcements– and discover familiar pay postponements, paper shuffling and prevarication. Genuine, honest-to-God, we’ll reduce the amount of money we’re draining from your coffers concessions? Never. And then I read Sharon Terlep’s piece in the Detroit News– “UAW: Expect Sacrifice”– and changed my mind. For five minutes.

I’m not saying Terlep’s article was pure propaganda, but if it’d been a bag of cocaine, the dealer would have cut it several times to prevent cardiac arrest. The writer assembled the usual suspects to predict the familiar bacon saving concessions: Big Ron Gettelfinger, UAW Vice Presidents Cal Rapson and Bob King, and GM spokesman Dan Flores.

"Sacrifice," "put aside the adversarial approach," "our fates are linked;" yada, yada, yada. I mean, they would say that wouldn’t they? The UAW and The Big Two Point Five’s management have been in bed for so long they have to turn every thirty minutes to avoid sores.

Meanwhile, testimony from the sharp end gave Terlep’s game changed analysis some major oomph: “’If we don't make a profit, we don't have a plant,’ said James Kaster, president of UAW Local 1714, which represents workers at GM's factory in Lordstown, Ohio. The plant has a program under way to educate workers on why GM's financial success should matter to them.”

Now THAT’S convincing stuff. Well kind of. I mean, can you imagine the “education” involved? “So, explain to me again why my salary and benefits get whacked because the guys upstairs green light crap cars.”

As is the way of such things, Kaster’s quotelette only implies a willingness to make financial concessions. As Terlep’s piece progresses, the front line rhetoric begins to soften and stink, like goat cheese left in a hot sun.

“’If the U.S. auto industry is going to survive, it's going to have to change, and we're going to have to change with it’ said Skip Dziedzic, president of UAW Local 1866 representing a Delphi Corp. plant in Oak Creek, Wis.”

In this case, the reader is left wondering if the "change" in question has any monetary value whatsoever, or if it simply means that more UAW workers will get more payoffs to sit on the sidelines and watch Delphi amp-up its foreign factories. 

And then… “’It's very delicate this year,’ said Jim Stoufer, president of UAW Local 249, at Ford's plant outside St. Louis. ‘Common sense tells you this is going to be rough. We are going to have to play ball with Ford and keep them competitive. But there is going to come a line that we won't cross.’

That line is, of course, a picket line. Think it won’t happen? Neither do I. Again, GM’s “health care concessions” are the new template.

You know; announce that you’ve hammered-out a historic agreement to trim $3b from the compensation package, and then shove $3b into a union bank account and call it good. Or say that workers are forgoing a pay raise, and then earmark the money for health care benefits. That sort of thing. 

The actual line which the UAW won't cross is easy enough to identify: their retired and active members’ current salary and benefits. The union and its paymasters can wrangle all they like about working rules, new workers’ pay and bennies, retirement buyouts, etc. They can monkey around with who gets the money how and when. But there is no way that a single one of the UAW’s current or retired workforce is going to take a major hit on their wallet.

By the same token, The Detroit News can tout the UAW’s “pragmatic stance” and the “unprecedented pressures” facing The Big Two Point Five. But no one’s cutting nothin’.

It all boils down to a simple, inescapable, unavoidable, unanswerable, inarguable question: why should a union member take a cut when the bosses are sitting pretty? UAW workers know that GM CEO Rick Wagoner and his minions are wearing golden parachutes, banking millions. In fact, Rabid Rick’s retirement plan is bankruptcy-proof. Try explaining THAT to the rank and file.

The Big Two Point Five can’t afford their current agreements and they know it. They can’t get out of them and they know it. Their real plan? Weasel, cut and run. Ask the PR flacks how their employers can bear the burden of union-based legacy costs, and they talk about a “new spirit of cooperation,” the value of automation, and the great gains in production efficiency. Meanwhile, they’re all busy moving vehicle production out of the U.S.– even as non-union transplants move production in.

I once heard detente described as a confrontation between a blind mongoose and a paralyzed cobra. Need I say any more?

[Read the original Detroit New article here.]

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61 Comments on “UAW ’07 Contract Negotiations: No Surrender!...”


  • avatar
    acx

    how much production are they moving out of N.A.?

    As if the economic footprint of the imports is a shadow of what the domestics is even now.

    what was the data? Domestice shed 48k jobs to fall just under 400,000 and the imports added 3000 jobs to get to 106,000.. lol..

    There will be concessions. I can only hope the union is smart enough to realize that the host will die if the relationship continues as is.

  • avatar

    Hope springs eternal.  Meanwhile, unions do not back up or back down. It is simply not in their nature. PS Remember that we're not just talking about final assembly; more and more of The Big Two Point Five's parts biz is speaking Chinese these days.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    “unions do not back up or back down”: then how shall we describe what the airline unions have done: “fall down”?

  • avatar

    Precisely.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    How about this for a hard-ball question?

    Aren’t unions really an unecessary relic any more? It’s not like the ‘gummint’ doesn’t essentially ram tons of social requirements at every employer, is it? Because, it is true.

    In 1936 when the unions finally ‘won’ representation in the US automotive factories, it was true that the companies would and could just hire and fire at will, etc. Certainly now, if it is not the state or federal government regulating it, public opinion certainly plays a small part in keeping companies in line.

    Therefore, glacially locked unions such as UAW are worse than a waste of space, they’re probably one of the several factors which will actually destroy the US auto industry, or at least employement of non-engineer/designer/management Americans in what once was the US auto industry.

    I finally woke up and smelled the coffee when my last (ever) US “branded” (1999 Dodge Neon) crapped out for the 2nd time in about 50,000 miles (head gasket). The car was built in Toluca, Mexico. So, I decided I may as well buy an honestly foreign car, and have been much more satisfied than I was with the prior quarter century of car ownership.
    I’ll never go back. Lucky for me, more and more so-called transplant companies are setting up shop in the US and hiring. Just not in Michigan, sadly.

    GM? They’ll be moving production offshore to Malaysia (they’re busy trying to buy Proton right now), South Korea (several Canadian and most non-US market Chevrolets are GMDaewoo, as is the US market Aveo), probably red China (Buicks? Yeah, bet on it). Currently, the Buick Rendezvous is built in Mexico (of plastic – at least the outer body) and the engine is from red China.

    Ford? Mexico. Plus Ford are trying to buy the RoDae factory in Romania, where workers assemble cars for under $2 an hour (and Ford don’t need the extra capacity in Europe, so I’m presuming they’ll move US production). Chrysler? Mexico.

  • avatar
    thalter

    The other simple, inescapable, unavoidable, unanswerable, inarguable truth: Unions have to justify their value (and their considerable union dues) to their members. They don’t do that by taking pay cuts (which Johnny Lunchbucket could do all by himself).

    No matter how you look at it, the UAW is doomed. If they give major concessions, they have lost all the confidence of their members, and if they don’t, the auto companies die, taking the UAW with them. Why do you think the UAW is so busy trying to expand their membership to non-automotive industries?

  • avatar
    mikey

    Active and retired employee benifits and pay? Your talking sacred ground.Your right RF every thing else is on the table.
    but the UAW and CAW aint moving on that one.
    We are gonna give and give big We all know it.Lets keep in mind we didn’t make the stupid decisions.GM is in deep poo,poo cause of enept,incompetant,greedy management.
    The fist line of the contract reads Management will run the company AS IT SEES FIT.
    Management could of dealt with unions years ago.Management could of kicked the ass of the dealers. for p—ing off millons of buyers,How many people won’t buy GM ever, cause of some a–hole of a dealer?
    Has GM management ever addresed the problem of thier bloated,top heavy army of incompetant higher management?
    The answer is no to all of the above.
    And now they want the active and retired employees to give up thier hard fought gains?
    GM has proven in the past,they can’t or won’t make tough decisions.
    I don’t see things changing much in 2007 negotiations.
    RFs analysis is fairly acurate.The new hires will take a beating
    lots more buy outs.But not much of a change for the active and retired work force

  • avatar
    Buck Rodgers

    For the longest time, I felt as much empathy for the UAW as you would for a gluttonous bully at lunch time. But dang, could it be that the UAW is actually helping the 2.5 die a dignified death? Better that they go under due in no small part to the machinations of entities like the UAW than to their own incompetence.

    The stalemate will get interesting. I feel vindictive saying this, but a bloodbath is the only thing that will bring about changes worth even mentioning. Some TTAC scribe mentioned something about Detroit dying and rising up from the ashes to reach heights it never could have imagined reaching before – or something to that effect. If that’s what it takes…

    Maybe the UAW’s mercilessness with the American auto industry throughout the years will turn out to be everybody’s unexpected blessing in disguise. And how could I forget? The blurb about fat cats like Ricky W. and his bankruptcy proof retirement package make me shake my head in even more incredulity. Does the General have something to learn from Ford? Do unionized workers have something to learn from Ford? Billy F. froze his pay until his co. could be brought back to profitability. All parties involved have something to learn, really. Hopefully what they learn will let them accept the truth: the role America has played in the auto industry for the better part of 100 years was our sowing season. We didn’t plant all the right seeds and the harvest is more than lackluster. We’re now in the 21st century, folks. It will not be business as usual.

    This spreads beyond the auto industry, though. We Americans have been desensitized to the ills of a little something called “overcompensation.” But let’s leave that for another time. It’s been mentioned here before…

  • avatar
    blautens

    Even if the UAW made every concession that gave the 2.5 a semi level playing field as far as labor costs, I don’t see the 2.5 doing their fair share (IE, not building crap, cutting idiot legacy management schema, etc). A LOT of things have to happen for them to recover.

    It’s a sinking ship, and who blinks first, or who figures out the lifeboats won’t hold everybody will just be a footnote on the headline “Auto Manufacurer Files Chapter 11” (insert your choice).

  • avatar
    nocaster

    Right, wrong, good, bad, or indifferent…Unions don’t give back money. The two are mutually exclusive.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    In general, living in a low inflation economy is a good thing. But one advantage of high inflation is that is allows for decreases in real labor rates. If inflation is at 10% annually, then a 7% annual raise actually translates to a 3% decrease in earnings. But most employees at least get the satisfaction of thinking "well, times are tough, but I'm doing pretty good making an extra 7%" But in the US and Canada today, inflation is in the 2-3% range, which leaves little scope for reducing wages. If the UAW goes back to its members with the message of a 2% wage hike (yippee!) abut also reductions in positions (and the 'job bank') then rank-and-file will not pass the new labor agreement. Which leaves the UAW vulnerable to being disempowered, and leaves carmakers vulnerable, to wildcat strikes. Other issues, like reducing work rules are of little value to domestic carmakers. What is the use of reengineering a lmanufacturing line to save labor, if you can't then reduce payroll? Robert makes a good point that the UAW and 2.5 are in this pickle together. They will have a tough time convincing laborers to accept reductions, resistance to which dooms them both. Sorry for getting all economical.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    ADVANTAGE of high inflation??! I don’t think that’s worth what little employers can gain. The way I see it, inflation loots my savings. When minimum wage “rises to meet the real cost of living” thanks to inflation, will I get a 50% raise as well to cover the increased cost of all goods and services those minimum wage earners provide? Who is going to go from $51,500 to $75,000 a year?
    Inflation and the minimum wage hikes are just another way the Man is trying to erase the middle class so that all men are created equally poor.

    Maybe when the dollar collapses and inflation pushes bread to $10000 a loaf, we can run across the border and get jobs in one of those Ford plants in Mexico.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m fairly confident if all we had to swallow was job reductions and a 2% wage increase.Believe me the union would jump at it.
    The membership is painfully aware of the dire strates that mangement has created.
    Everybody knows whats at stake here.
    Were not all red neck beer guzzling toothless yahoos.
    Well ok maybe the beer drinking part is true.

  • avatar
    shabster

    Mr. Farago,

    As usual, you document a convincing case. Based upon history, your logic is extremely well-founded. In fact, even I suspect that you might end up being correct.

    The unions may have some really strong arguments as to why they shouldn’t make concessions, but as correct as they may be, it probably doesn’t matter.

    Even if:
    – Management makes terrible errors.
    – Managemnent green lights bad designs.
    – Managment is over paid.
    The reality still is that something big has to change. The Big 2.5 can’t continue to sustain these losses.

    I just don’t see the American market place continuing forever to pay the significant up-charge for an auto built with such expensive labour (I’m Canadian, so we use a “u” in labour) costs. Clearly, the Big 2.5 can’t pass on the extra costs to the consumer, so somethings gotta give.

    I guess the two realistic choices are:
    1) The domestics go bust.
    2) The unions make significant concessions.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out…

    Regards,
    Hal.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    There will be no concession. The UAW will not budge.

    The trend will continue to close plants, offer buy-outs, lay off, trim by attrition or other means, in the US. New plants will only be built if the ratio of robots to people is 20:1.

    The production will move to other countries at an accelerated pace, Mexico, Canada, China, etc… Face it, a lot of subcontracted part are already coming from China.

    The UAW will just accelerate their race to obsolescence. They will become more and more irrelevant as more and more cars and parts are made abroad.

    I know the future, this is what will happen.

  • avatar
    Luther

    “’If the U.S. auto industry is going to survive, it’s going to have to change, and we’re going to have to change with it’ said Skip Dziedzic, president of UAW Local 1866 representing a Delphi Corp. plant in Oak Creek, Wis.”

    As evident by the UAW adjournment tactic in the Delphi bankruptcy hearings…… Huh.

    2.5 decline will continue until the 1935 Wagner act is repealed. Voting for Repulsicans and Dumobrats will do nothing to accomplish this. Count on higher inflation and economic decline now that the Dumobrats control Congress. Inflation is just a hidden tax.

    Maybe when the dollar collapses and inflation pushes bread to $10000 a loaf, we can run across the border and get jobs in one of those Ford plants in Mexico.

    NICKNICK: Do you think we will live to see the day when the Mexicans refer to us as “wetbacks” ?

  • avatar
    shabster

    tms1999:

    Wow! What a depressing scenario.

    Realistic, but depressing.

    A lot of the pain could be avoided, but you could be right that the decline is going to accelerate.

  • avatar
    ktm

    RF, while upper management’s decisions to green light crap products has certainly contributed to the Big 2.5’s situation, their exhorbitant overhead costs exacerbate the problem. Could you imagine what a GM/Ford car would cost if it had an interior/engineering of an Audi//VW/Honda, driving experience of a BMW/Honda/Nissan and reliability of a Honda?

  • avatar
    ktm

    tms1999, the UAW has already seen the writing on the wall, which is why they are rapidly expanding into other service (and unfortunately professional) sectors.

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    What offends me is the fact that many UAW members are being paid about the same amount as the college-educated design engineers at the Big 2.5. There is no reason whatsoever for some factory worker without a college degree to be making upwards of $50k (and up. I’ve heard $80-90k in some situations), with better benefits and job security to boot.

    The UAW is like those wacky fish that live at the bottom of the sea: archaic, outmoded, and intended for a different time. The UAW members desperately need to acknowledge this, but they will refuse to do so due to greed and a blatant lack of common sense. While I love the Big 2.5 and don’t want to see them go (nor do I want to see the sort of damage their demise would inflict on the American economy), I would be very pleased to see that pack of arrogant, ignorant, incompetant, selfish, and uneducated UAW members dumped out on their butts.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    the 2.5 are the powerful ones here. With out the car companies there is no reason for the union to even exist.
    GM/ford/dcx needs to walk into the room and say “here is what we can do” if the union says no then thats it. Let them strike, and hire anyone who wants a job (with salary and benefits inline with the rest of the industry). end of story. The only ones who lose are the union leaders(and stubborn factory workers who need free Viagra)

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Mikey,

    If memory serves me correctly, did’nt the CAW give GM of C the concessions that were requested in order to secure work for Oshawa?

  • avatar
    trosselle

    RF I agree with you that the unions will not give in. At best I think unions and the big 2.5 will go status quo (keeping things just as they are now) and hope for better times.

    When United Airlines went into chapter 11 they sucessfully turned over their pension obligations to the Federal Government (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation). Lots of people got their pensions cut dramatically but at least they still have pensions. There was all sorts of talk of strikes but they never materilized. Perhaps the airline unions realizied that they had to make the consessions the company wanted or there would not be a company anymore.

    Will the UAW come to this conclusion this September? Will the management of the big 2.5 have the will to push for the consessions needed. Or will we see a strike and the typical name calling we have seen in the past.

    Time will tell.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    these meetings should not be negations. they should be damage control.

    The 2.5 will collapse with the current setup. nothing short of the union folding is going to save them. everyone see its. the goal of these meetings should be to find the best way they can shut the union down with out totally screwing everyone

  • avatar
    CliffG

    An intriguing comparison for the UAW/2.5 is the massive failure of the UAW at Caterpillar in the ’90s, and the fact that one can argue that the UAW leadership hung its’ members out to dry. I don’t think that will happen this time because the 2.5 contracts continue to BE the UAW as much as it tries to diversify into government workers as fast as possible. But how about this contract language from the Cat contract of ’95:
    * A 30 percent pay cut for new hires.
    * A sharply lower wage rate at the company’s parts facilities.
    * New hires at these plants will start at $7 an hour.
    * A restructuring of overtime pay. Workers will no longer be paid time-and-a-half after working eight hours in a given day or for working on weekends. They will receive the overtime rate only after putting in more than 40 hours for the entire week.
    * No wage increase for six years and a reduction in the cost-of-living allowance.
    * The elimination of minimum staffing requirements, a change that will result in the destruction of thousands of jobs.
    * A work force up to 15 percent part-timers.
    * The elimination of work rules and grievance rights.
    * Medical care to be provided only by company-approved physicians and hospitals.
    * The elimination of sick days and bereavement pay for some workers.
    * The right of management to lay off workers for up to 10 weeks per year.

    CAT just said: “Settle or we hire scabs right now”, and the UAW looked at the 17,000 applicants CAT had at that point, and swallowed hard. Trim 30% off the average blue collar wage at the 2.5 right now, and open it to new hires. Think they’d get a few applicants?

    I think we need a point spread, management at +2.5? In football words, less spread than the normal home field advantage.

  • avatar
    ktm

    mikey, unfortunately the fact is that you are over-compensated for your skill set. I am not faulting you, as you would be, as you once said, silly to refuse the pay that the unions fought to provide your family. Your industry is not alone though.

    Here in California three local supermarket chains endured a strike by their unionized employees. The employees consisted of stockers, bag boys, and cashiers. Bag boys made over $14 an hour filling grocery bags. The companies were offering full health care, etc. for jobs that, in the past, used to be occupied by high school students, the retired, etc. Now people have made it a career.

    Don’t get me started on California’s public employee’s unions.

    Every seems to think that they all deserve a house, two new cars in the garage, and a yearly exotic vacation without having to actually earn it.

  • avatar
    Joe Chiaramonte

    What I see is positioning. Over the past couple of years, there’s been a preparatory tone to direction, message and posture on both sides.

    The 2.5 are crying empty pockets, nasty unfair competition from foreign marauders (an old saw for them – while they partner with as many of them as they can), lost market share and profits.

    The UAW is accepting buyouts and retraining, preparing for the worst, while protecting interests they know to ultimately be their death knell – retiree benefits and job banks.

    They have painted themselves deeper into opposite corners they will find no way out of.

    The union will not allow salaries and benefits to decline, not in any meaningful way – their constituents wouldn’t accept it. The car companies cannot be seen by shareholders as missing one more opportunity to make substantial real cuts to legacy costs.

    Each will continue to appeal to their opposite political poles – the Democratic congress will make much ado about jobs in the heartland, President Bush will rail against foreign interests and rattle tariff sabers.

    And, in the end, non-competitive, management-choked product will continue to drivel out of factories where UAW members will do only up to what they’re asked to do – by their contract – which will continue to strain, hinder and suffocate progress. Until eventual implosion.

    For political timing, I figure 2009 is the Year of Meltdown.

  • avatar
    cykickspy

    While automakers earn a considerable amount of money for what they do, you must remember what they do is very monotonous and breaks down the body over time. There are many ergonomic studies out there to support the facts that continually making the same movements over and over creates stress in the body that lowers standards of life over time because of stress injuries.

    Wages of the workers are not the problem why the 2.5 are in so much trouble…look at Mikey’s post for the real reasons.

    So kowsnofskia, next time you make a comment about auto worker’s wages, maybe you should look at the facts… they were negotiated with the auto companies over the last 70 or so years… I think that the UAW is going to have to give up something but the auto worker’s paycheck won’t be getting any smaller.

  • avatar
    cykickspy

    Stress injuries:

    think of it like this way:
    going to the gym and working out your left tricep and your right side of your back
    8 hours a day
    6 days a week

    how would you feel?

  • avatar
    Joe Chiaramonte

    The UAW is like those wacky fish that live at the bottom of the sea: archaic, outmoded, and intended for a different time.

    Unfortunately, this also aptly describes the 2.5’s management, dealer issues and muddled product lines.

    It ain’t 1963 no more, folks.

  • avatar
    1984

    The UAW has already been sniffing out new “opportunities” in the way of dealership staff.

    This may be a sign of the realization that some concession to domestic automotive manufacturing is unavoidable.

    http://www.uaw.org/news/newsarticle.cfm?ArtId=401

  • avatar
    aa2

    Its scary how much the standard of living in North America is falling off for the average person. In the 70’s my parents could have a home and two new cars on one income. When my father was 20 he got a low end job for 5 dollars an hour. Rent in a nice city was 120 a month. Now the same job peple make 7 dollars an hour, and the same apartment he lived in is 1200. More then an 80% decline in the standard of living.

    Both parents working long hours, have a hard time living the same lifestyle their parents lived with just the father working.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    As for stress injuries–yeah, you’re going to get hurt doing the same thing 8 hours a day for 10 years…but that’s what you get when the union limits the number and type of jobs that can be automated.

    As for the UAW negotiating the wages of workers with the automakers over the last 70 years–yes, that’s true, but the union has the government in their back pocket. Negotiating is fine, but the union knows that by law, the automakers aren’t allowed to hire replacement workers should an agreement be unreachable. This is, of course, baloney. People have the right to band together and work or strike as a unit as they see fit, but if they choose not to work, the company should be allowed to hire people that *are* willing to work. Limiting this by law is nothing short of extortion. Getting the police involved and resisting long enough *will* get you shot. In essence, the UAW says to GM and Ford: here are the rules; here is how many people you’ll pay not to work; and here is what you owe us. do it or die.

    rules and right-to-strike are great. not being allowed to hire replacements is stupifying.

  • avatar
    JoeEgo

    aa2: Both parents working long hours, have a hard time living the same lifestyle their parents lived with just the father working.

    I agree to a point. You are, however, leaving out a lot of the little extras in modern life:

    *essentials such as insurance on your house, cars, life, medical, teeth, etc.
    *”nice-to-haves” like television, phone, magazine, internet, and even radio subscriptions.

    Then figure that everything you pay for is made more expensive, to some degree, by the essential items above being folded into the costs by every manufacturer, shipper, and supplier along the way. And, finally, even with just one person working it’s not like there was a ton of leisure time for that family in the 70s.

    Don’t forget your parents were probably paying a 30-yr mortage on a $20,000 house and likely watching every dollar for the first 5-10 years just like everybody else then and now.

  • avatar
    Brian_Stevens

    Jim Stoufer President of UAW 249 is from Kansas City, not St. Louis, other than that I agree with most of what you said.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    They will not touch pay. Benefits will cost more. GEN pool(paying workers not to work), conversion holidays,and some joint programs, things like this will go away. The only way they will be able to alter pay is a tiered system based on seniority. New workers would get less starting pay and then gradual increases over time. They will also have to do something with job classifications, in order to get in order to do more flexible manufacturing. Whatever happens the new contract will much differnt than the current one.

  • avatar
    cykickspy

    As for stress injuries–yeah, you’re going to get hurt doing the same thing 8 hours a day for 10 years…but that’s what you get when the union limits the number and type of jobs that can be automated.

    That is why auto workers get paid well!

  • avatar
    Petra

    Regardless of what actually transpires (or, indeed, fails to transpire), this is all terrifically exciting to watch from afar. Pardon me a few moments while I grab a bag of Doritos…

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Fifty years from now the UAW will certainly be a historical footnote of no consequence to current US society just as the International Ladies Garment Workers union (a real powerhouse in 1969) is today. I don’t think it is going to take 50 years to get to that, but the point is that this is a union which is clearly on it’s way out. The current leadership and membership really don’t care, they are only concerned with the hear and now of their individual circumstances just as the overpaid bosses are.

    The end point of the game is clear. All that is up for grabs is what the thing is going to look like along the way.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    cykickspy–
    yeah, i guess you’re still right. i guess i didn’t really make an argument–i just sort of got in a circle.

    still, the way I look at it is: I’ll shoot you if you replace me with that robot–but I’m going to get hurt, so you’re going to have to pay me a pile of cash to turn this screwdriver.

    pay me $50 so i can punch myself in the mouth!

  • avatar
    jolo

    Watching the Delphi situation for the last 16 months from inside a plant, I can tell you that the average salaried engineer has no love loss for the hourly people who have left over the past few months. We have been verbally abused by them for years and now that most of the old timers are gone, it is actually a pleasant place to work. Cooperation and respect for one another is refreshing and it’s almost like working in a non union shop. Most of the hourly are making less money than those they replaced and are doing a better job. The quality of their workmanship is superior to their predecesors.

    When the Chapter 11 proceedings started and there was talk about drastic pay cuts for the hourly, I understood their concern and would hate to see a cut of the proposed magnitude myself. But my tune changed when I was hearing them say that they would do everything they could to destroy Delphi and it’s reputation because they could just transfer to a GM plant once the company went under. When I asked a few of them what about the salaried engineers losing their jobs, they said they could care less about anyone who was not in the union. Remembering how they treated us in the early 1990’s when we had to start paying for part of our healthcare costs, I can now say that I could care less if the union goes under. I’ve got contacts who have offered me other jobs, but I have personal reasons why I need to be here for a few more years. They don’t have that same option.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    But there is no way that a single one of the UAW’s current or retired workforce is going to take a major hit on their wallet.

    Way.

    Those UAW members should to talk to the employees of United Airlines and Weirton Steel about what happens when the Company goes bankrupt. They will want to understand the phrase: “holding the bag”.

  • avatar

    Robert Schwartz:

    Exactly.

  • avatar
    Luther

    but if they choose not to work, the company should be allowed to hire people that *are* willing to work. Limiting this by law is nothing short of extortion.

    What is Government but an extortion racket. They are basically saying “Pay for our protection services (taxes) or we will bury you alive in one of our rape-cages. If you resist us then we will kill you. Pay for our protection services or die.” With the passage of the 1935 Wagner Act, the labor unions became the Governments mini-me. (The sugar-coated political word for this Mafiaism is Socialism or Fascism)

    Thanks jolo. Always good to hear from an insider. I worked as an Engineer at a UAW shop my first job out of college. I can relate. I saw the threats/violence first hand and some was aimed at me since I dont handle rules very well (Rules are for lazy fools). You could cut the Management/UAW tension with a knife everyday. Glad to hear work conditions are getting better for you.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Face it, the company holds all the face cards. If the UAW doesn’t give in, there will be a heck of a lot more outsourcing. With the present state of the economy, I think taking a cut will certainly be better than losing a GM job and working at Wal-mart. A lot more towns will begin to look like Flint Michigan in the film “Roger and Me”. Besides, The big execs will still make their money if all the parts are made in China.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Well some good and well thought out comments.
    oboylepr yes we opened our contract up and allowed outside workers in the plant.In return we got the Camaro and a bunch of buy outs.
    nick nick we as union members have no control over what is or is not automated.Maybe in the US they do? I don’t know.
    jolo I found your post disturbing but never the less acurate.
    I have seen many of the situations that you describe,and frankly it disgusts me and makes me ashamed to be an hourly worker.
    In most walks of life about 10% of the people you encounter
    are to some degree a–holes.In a unionized, industrial,uneducated enviroment.double that.
    jolo your right a lot of those guys have gone out the door,and like yourself I didn’t shed too many tears.
    I have nothing but contempt for the senior management as a group that got us in this mess.But if they were ever to talk to me [wich they don’t] I would treat them with the same respect as I would expect from them.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal

    I generally agree with the comment that the UAW is not going to give up anything real in the way of pay and benefits.

    At least, not until the S* really hits the fan.

    They may not want to budge but if they have a real sense that the company isn’t going to make it they might change their mind. But they are not there yet.

    There is a precedent for this. Remember back in ’82, when Chrysler employees made real concessions to get the company righted? Or course, they had someone like Iacocca to make the case. You really don’t see anyone like that today, someone with that much standing that could persuade the unions. Plus, the Big 3 have a lot of cash on their balance sheets. Still.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Back in the mid-Seventies of the last century, both Mazda and Volkswagen both hit dire straits, for differing reasons. Mazda of course had tied everything to the Wankel engine and that blew up in their face – pun intended – and Volkswagen's product had just gotten too long in the tooth. And when each company froze wages, they promised at some future point to unfreeze them – and did. Volkswagen actually put someone from the autoworkers' union in what was then West Germany (not yet unified again), on the Board of Directors. This latter could, methinks, go a long way towards gaining the co-operation of the UAW. Admittedly, the man or woman who became the bearer of bad news might be accused of becoming a stooge for the company; but once the workers got that out of their system, I think it might make the needed medicine go down easier, so to speak. It's one thing to do a "grip and grin" (as we used to call such photos in the Navy, when I was a Photomate) of Doctor Z and Ron G, but quite another to bring Ron G into the board room. My hunch is the only thing preventing that from happening is the corporate culture of Detroit, or more accurately, Bloomfield Hills. It's the same corporate culture that led his fellow auto executives to accuse the late George Romney – yes, Mitt's dad – of being a "socialist" when he instituted profit sharing at the now defunct American Motors Corporation, way back in 1960.

  • avatar

    According to this morning’s Detroit News, the UAW has a big old strike fund (as in friggin’ huge): $847m

    “We are proud of the fiscal health of the fund and believe employers appreciate the significance of our strike fund reserves,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn said in a joint posting during the chat.

    The announcement is a prelude to a kiss.

  • avatar
    cykickspy

    RF:
    According to this morning’s Detroit News, the UAW has a big old strike fund (as in friggin’ huge): $847m

    I don’t know how the UAW works when they go on strike but I know that when the CAW went on strike we got strike pay which amounted to about 20% of our pay. If the workers in the UAW get the same than a long strike would we very hard to swallow, also how many days inventory do the big 3 have (I heard around 70 – 80 days), and if they forsee a strike dont you think they would work more to get that number higher? Can workers survive a long strike (2-3 months) while the companies deplete their inventories? I mean these people have mortgages and car payments to make that were based on 100% income not 20%. I cant see a strike at GM or Chrysler but maybe at Ford as they are in the worst position of the 3.

    what do you think RF?

  • avatar
    windswords

    Terry Parkhurst:
    January 20th, 2007 at 5:21 am

    … Volkswagen actually put someone from the autoworkers’ union in what was then West Germany (not yet unified again), on the Board of Directors. …

    Chrysler did the same thing in the 80’s when they were in trouble. If memory serves me right it was Douglas Fraser. In Lee’s autobiography he says he was instrumental in getting the union to see the neccesity of taking a pay cut. But once the company was doing well again, he was eventually removed from the board.

  • avatar
    geeber

    The German auto workers union may have a representative on the VW board, but I don’t know if that necessarily makes it more predisposed to cooperate with the company.

    When I was in Germany in 2004, the big story in the news was that VW management bluntly told the union that it either accepts concessions, or VW will build its new SUV (to compete with the CR-V, Escape and RAV-4) in lower cost Portugal.

    And the union pitched a fit when Bernd Pischetsrieder and Wolfgang Bernhard attempted to make the cuts necessary to restore VW to health. (Its production costs are as bloated as those of GM.) As a result, Mr. Pischetsrieder is gone from VW.

    From what I can see, the German union is delaying the inevitable, much as the UAW is trying to do.

  • avatar
    macarose

    A couple thoughts on all this…

    First, I am extremely surprised by the anti-UAW sentiments. In terms of wages, they have done little more than what the executives have done for their sole benefit for several decades. They just did it on behalf of the many instead of the few.

    The UAW also has been responsible for many of the best assembled products that have been built in the entire industry. You may be surprised that it’s not the Japanese plants that usually receive the quality and productivity awards in the U.S., but the American UAW plants. Oh, and a small side note for one of the posters, Chrysler created an ultimately defective head gasket design for the 1st generation Neon. A design that they didn’t ultimately correct until 2000. Most folks don’t realize that the UAW assembles the actual parts, they don’t create the specifications for them.

    The UAW WILL make concessions. They did so several times during the early 1980’s and early 1990’s when the big 3 were in trouble. However the REAL leverage that they need to do, and won’t do, is demand a change in leadership. I’m very surprised that the UAW did not have the willpower to break away from the ‘relationship’ and make friends with Kirk and the numerous malcontents within the mututal fund / pension firms that have strong interests in GM’s success. The current executives at the top of GM’s helm are supremely incapable of managing it, and we’ll need a major organizational restructuring (possibly even a split-up into two companies) in order to make the current entity successful.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    The UAW will not make meaningful concessions. The rank and file simply do not understand incentives, finance and economics. I had a conversation ONCE with a Delphi guy on his bi-annual full-pay layoff, and made a point that for every 25K retirees, it costs GM at least $1Billion annually ($40K per). Such costs were unsustainable. He had a meltdown and said my math was wrong and/or GM and the government could easily afford it all.

    You’d have more luck teaching calculus to cats.

    Yes, auto execs are at fault. Yes, auto execs make a lot of money. But we live in a market system. Top execs are already wealthy by the age of 50 – getting him/her to take a job in ANY business (much less a risky, bureaucratic, unionized one) will take a great salary. Else, they’ll work elsewhere or just sit on a beach or in a mountain cabin.

    There’s a model here. The big airlines were (and are), by law, effectively immune to foreign competition on domestic routes. When the internet and innovative, non-unionized, point-to-point competition (like Southwest) came on the scene, ignorant union (and some management) heads looked away faster than an ostrich on a sand bender.

    And along came the federal bankruptcy courts…

  • avatar
    geeber

    The UAW plants that receive productivity and quality rewards, from what I’ve seen, tend to produce vehicles that have been in production for years, and tend not to be flexible.

    And the absentee rate at Big 2.5 plants is terrible – something on the order of 10 percent daily, compared to 2 percent for the transplants.

  • avatar

    I am not an auto worker nor am I a member of the UAW. I am a union member in a right to work state in another industry and I was formerly a minor union official for several years. I had an opportunity to observe the inner workings of my local and I also had many opportunities to observe the rancor and or discussions with higher up unions types with local union leaders

    This is simply my opinion. Generally you cannot read too much into public union pronoucements particularly prior to contract negotiations.

    However, a statement telling the members to expect sacrifice is significant.

    On one hand unions are generally run in a very centralized top down manner by each unions executive board (the closest analogy is thecommunist party Politburo) however they still have elections and they still need to have any negotiated contract ratified by their members.

    Most public pronoucements are generally of the we won’t give an inch we will fight tooth and nail for every hard won benefit etc are standard boiler plate.

    Generally an anoucement of expect sacrifice is totally out of the norm. I would expect this is needed to soften the blow and to gradually get the membership to accept the givebacks when they happen. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the statement “we have to educate the membership about such and such” whenever they met any opposition to whatever the union line was to be.

    Unions have a mindset that once the top leaders (executive board – politburo) makes a decision that everyone is to go along and convince everyone to be on the same page. They refer to it as solidarity. So in my opinion if the leadership is willing to make concessions then they will drag the membership along.

  • avatar
    webebob

    The unions are (were) like a great medical cure for human disease, eg, the cure for sub-poverty wage slavery.

    However, poverty will not be denied her denizens; for every union victory, two thousand more Wal-Marts are built.

    The fact that cities like Flint Michigan (insert your favorite wasteland here) were allowed to degrade from living the American Dream to having 26.4% of their citizens exist below the poverty level today, and not one media conduit addresses this crisis in America and demands change from federal, state and local officials; indicates Americans don’t care what happens to their own, much less their union struggles, or that great sucking sound of jobs heading overseas. Congress still can’t even pass an increase in the federal minimum wage, and look how irrelevant that has become!

    In the overall scheme of things, the fight between unions and their corporate masters is not even worth a page 23 filler in the current issue of “Whats Hot?”. The Flint Michigans of the US are both a 1984 reality and a future predictor for the entire manufacturing industry of the US. And not one American seems to give a damn.

  • avatar
    thalter

    This should be article 1 in the UAW Death Watch series!

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Buck Rodgers:

    “Some TTAC scribe mentioned something about Detroit dying and rising up from the ashes to reach heights it never could have imagined reaching before – or something to that effect. If that’s what it takes…”

    How will they “rise up” from anything with so many customers such as myself who have SWORN OFF their products?

    Okay, I haven’t sworn off Ford (yet), but I’ll be honest, as long as Toyota, Honda, and BMW are still making cars, “rising up” on a sale to me, well that ain’t likely to be happening anytime soon…

  • avatar
    nino

    mikey:
    January 19th, 2007 at 2:23 pm
    Active and retired employee benifits and pay? Your talking sacred ground.Your right RF every thing else is on the table.
    but the UAW and CAW aint moving on that one.
    We are gonna give and give big We all know it.Lets keep in mind we didn’t make the stupid decisions.GM is in deep poo,poo cause of enept,incompetant,greedy management.
    The fist line of the contract reads Management will run the company AS IT SEES FIT.
    Management could of dealt with unions years ago.Management could of kicked the ass of the dealers. for p—ing off millons of buyers,How many people won’t buy GM ever, cause of some a–hole of a dealer?
    Has GM management ever addresed the problem of thier bloated,top heavy army of incompetant higher management?
    The answer is no to all of the above.
    And now they want the active and retired employees to give up thier hard fought gains?
    GM has proven in the past,they can’t or won’t make tough decisions.
    I don’t see things changing much in 2007 negotiations.
    RFs analysis is fairly acurate.The new hires will take a beating
    lots more buy outs.But not much of a change for the active and retired work force

    I don’t think that anyone held a gun to GM’s head when they agreed to UAW demands and I feel that they should live up to them. The Big 2.5 should do EVERYTHING that they can to shore up their business BEFORE they ask for concessions from the UAW.

    Mikey is right on this.

  • avatar
    jolo

    thalter:
    January 22nd, 2007 at 11:09 pm
    This should be article 1 in the UAW Death Watch series!

    It already exists: http://www.uawdeathwatch.com/

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