By on December 12, 2008

I’ve been watching the polemics coming from the media within Fortress Detroit with increasing fascination. As the bailout bill has stumbled, faltered and face planted; the hometown cheerleaders’ tone has evolved from arrogant and bombastic, to arrogant and vindictive, to plain old vindictive. Detroit News carmudgeon Daniel Howes has always been one of the less aggressive of this cohort. His commentary has consisted of equal parts commiseration, head shaking and exhortation. Now that the Detroit bailout bill is DOA, Howes is struggling to put what Jalopnik calls the “carpocolpyse” into palatable perspective. Last night’s column, written as the bill went up in flames, frames the defeat as a North – South deal. “[The unions’ Political Action Committees] ignored the Republicans, even auto state Republicans, who represent the so-called ‘New American Manufacturers’ in places such as Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama… Stripped bare and put in the regional context of union vs. nonunion and domestic vs. foreign, the toughened conditions pushed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., are legislative cruise missiles aimed directly at Detroit’s business model, the UAW’s Solidarity House and 70 years of Big Three bargaining tradition.” While Howes considers Southern senators’ attempt to force the UAW to modernize is “understandable,” given “given Detroit’s glacial pace of change,” he predicts bad, bad things. In that “don’t tug on the tiger’s tail” kinda way…

“The president-elect and the congressional Democrats all have signaled a willingness to pass labor’s top legislative priority — the so-called ‘card check’ legislation, which would essentially abolish secret ballots and make organizing easier. Everywhere. If it passes, I’m betting the first stops on the UAW’s southern swing will be auto plants in Shelby’s Alabama and Corker’s Tennessee, soon to be home to Volkswagen AG’s first U.S. plant in a generation.”

In other words, as humiliated Union Boss Karl Rojek said in “My Favorite Year,” the fightin’s in rounds. Only if I were a betting man, I’d know which side I’d bet on.

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15 Comments on “Bailout Watch 282: DetN’s Howes Promises Payback...”

  • avatar

    Card Check was going to happen anyway whether or not the southern Republicans supported the bailout bill.

    Then again, Card Check may not be a done deal. The Democrats failed to achieve a fillibuster proof 60 seat majority in the Senate, and there are Democrats who oppose Card Check.

  • avatar

    it’s rather odd that the blame is placed on the UAW when it’s the fault of management for the decline at GM. then again, stupidity isn’t sequential therefore the theory of a planned event gains relevance. the filing will happen according to script.

    thanks Rick.

  • avatar

    If congress passes card check we’ll watch the transplants shutter assembly lines in dixie and start filling up the docks at Long Beach. I can’t believe for a minute that Toyota, Nissan, et. al. will stand for UAW style organization at their plants. Hopefully some dem’s in congress are smart enough to realize that unions are something that should’ve died when they legislated themselves out of usefulness (40 hr work week, etc.). Today they are bastions of corruption, apathy and sloth – and I am a former Teamsters member that has been inside the belly of the beast. Management had a plenty big role in the slow slide of GM, Chrysler and Ford. That said, the UAW is not without fault, and per last nights news, they are 100% at fault for the failure of this particular bailout bill. Best of luck to UAW workers on getting a job at that new VW plant.

  • avatar

    the UAW could invest their $1 Billion strike fund into GM taking stock and a Board seat or two. this funding would tide the company over until Obama takes office and institutes a reasonable rescue package.

  • avatar

    Sounds logical, Buickman; which is why it won’t happen. Same thing re: the 2010 pay rollbacks; sounds logical to actually give up some paycheck to actually ensure you KEEP a paycheck (i.e. the company your parasitic union has sucked blood from is about to die if you don’t stop sucking so hard). But of course, unions don’t do that. A small car parts plant up here in northwestern Michigan just closed its doors a few months ago. It was profitable – barely – but the company wanted to ensure the future of the factory and asked for help from the union due to dramatically increased costs of health care. The union would not budge an inch, in fact, not even a millimeter.

    So the company closed the factory and exported the work.

    As for whether the B.O. administration demands card checks in the southern transplant auto factories; well, given what the unions have “done for” the big 3, and given the abject stupidity of virtually all of our political “leadership” I can see where – given the upcoming economic depression and the facts that we have signed NAFTA and other trade pacts – these companies will simply shutter US factories and import cars from South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Canada and the EU. There is plenty of excess worldwide automotive production capacity to handle the few car sales which will be happening in the US over the next decade or so.

  • avatar

    Funny, the more I hear Corker speak about this issue, the more I hear the words “workers,” “UAW,” “union,” “wages,” and “uncompetitive” used together in his sentences. Perhaps not coincidentally, I’m also hearing less and less of the words “management,” “golden parachutes,” “bureaucracy,” “lack of leadership,” and “short-sightedness” used together in his sentences.

    I mean, pardon me for being someone who didn’t vote for Corker. I thought his campaign tactics were the sleaziest Tennessee had seen in my lifetime. But just as I was starting to think he might actually turn out to be an okay guy (the “if Cerberus won’t invest in Chrysler, why should taxpayers?” line was classic), he takes his argument back to the old Republican union-busting techniques we’re all familiar with. He is getting more transparent with every minute he spends on the floor of the Senate.

    It’s not that I disparage him for towing the party line on unions. I realize that he must take an anti-union stance when, for instance, the Card Check legislation comes before him, if only because that’s the way of his party and that’s what they expect of him. However, the more I hear of his speech from the Senate floor, the more I start thinking he’s using this monster of a problem, coupled with the droopy economy, as an opportune moment to simply blame it all on unions. Common political practice from the Bush II era: Find a “boogeyman” and milk it for all it’s worth.

    In this case, neither the UAW, nor the management, nor the economy are the sole “boogeyman.” Corker needs to save his anti-union vitriol for union/non-union debates such as Card Check. Assuredly, this is certainly not just a union issue– this is an America issue. My sincerest wish is that he would go back to trying to find some consensus with his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. Something that doesn’t put the Big Three on taxpayer-funded permanent life support. Maybe allowing them a reorganization outside of bankruptcy, as backed by the authority of Congress.

    What Corker doesn’t need to do is the same old politics we’ve seen all these years: finding a wedge issue and seeking to polarize the parties and the American people against one another.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Does anybody the real wage differential between comparable UAW workers, and non-union workers in the transplant factories in the South? And how does this compare to cost of living differences between the locations of the Southern plants and those in say, Michigan and Ohio?

    I also find it interesting that McConnell is so invested in having the bailout fail. One of the Jewels of the GM line is the Corvette factory in Bowling Green, is it not?

    Banger: What you may be seeing (as has been speculated elsewhere on political blogs) is that Corker et al. are working on a longer term strategy to have everything go down the tubes, then blame the slowness of any recovery on Obama. Given the short term memory of the American populace, and a likelihood that it may take more than two full terms of any Administration to fix the mess we’re in, they may be right.

  • avatar

    bill h.:

    I’d say that sounds pretty likely. Just like they tried to blame all of the economic problems we faced in 2001 and 2003 on Clinton…even though they were the ones who had control of Congress, where the real work is done, from 1994 until 2006.

    I’m tired of trying to find a boogeyman to blame. I want people who work towards a solution instead of investing so much time and effort into making someone else the bad guy. Imagine if they spent all that time and effort actually working out their differences and reaching compromises! What a concept!

  • avatar

    bill h. :
    December 12th, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Does anybody the real wage differential between comparable UAW workers, and non-union workers in the transplant factories in the South?

    It’s minimal, bordering on non-existant. I believe that last year Toyota workers got a bonus that actually made them make more than UAW workers (in terms of actual paychecks; UAW bennies were still more).

    The difference is because Detroit used to have double the market share being built in plants that required more people (because they were less efficient than plants that exist now). So they have a crapload of retirees.

  • avatar

    Corker likes to promote himself and his “solutions” without criticizing Wagoner and recognizing the realities of his failed chairmanship. he is a phony well disguised.

  • avatar

    Card Check is going to be dead after this fiasco, moderate Democrats will abandon it.

    Obama is very pragmatic, and he will see the danger in supporting Card Check after the UAW put a gun to the nation’s head to pay it or else.

    The UAW has tarnished the image of unions for a long time.

    The transplants’ factories are a valuable way for them to build cars closer to where they are being consumed, avoiding logistical costs, and for the Germans, a way to avoid even tougher work rules, but the transplants will shut down their plants before getting taken over by the UAW.

  • avatar

    @ no-slushbox:

    You may be right.

    BHO is off to a weak start with Hot Rod Blago as the cover story and the economy in deep doo doo.

    Watching Ronny G live on tv this morning, I see a lot of fear in his eyes.

  • avatar

    Actually, it seems to me that Corker put a gun to the UAW’s head. The Republicans are clearly not doing this out of deference to Toyota. Toyota doesn’t want D3 to fail because they share suppliers. Toyota’s actually concerned that the Confederates contempt for organized labour is clouding their judgment.

    Card Check will go forward. If anything the Democrats will realize that the only way to bring the transplants closer to Detroit is to make unionizing the transplants easier.

  • avatar


    “Toyota’s actually concerned that the Confederates contempt for organized labour is clouding their judgment.”

    I haven’t seen where they said this, but if indeed Toyota has that sentiment, they’re probably right. And I applaud them for saying so. Not because it takes what I see as a favorite “side” in the debate–and let’s be honest, it really doesn’t–but because it looks past the grandstanding and arguing over nuances and smaller issues that should be saved for another, less urgent time.

  • avatar

    For decades the UAW’s negotiating muscle stemmed from being able to tell one of the automakers, “Give us what we want, or we’ll kill you.” The pay and benefits package they wrung from the company least able to survive a strike was then extended to the stronger firms. This practice didn’t trouble the D3 a lot, because productivity gains and oligopolistic pricing power made higher labor costs affordable. But in time, everything changed.

    Card check, along with enforced arbitration, will be the unions’ top priority in the next Congress. pressed by unions. Only the very bravest workers will publicly stand up to union organizers. Once the big transplants are brought under the UAW’s thumb, it will be able to compel the transplants to do the main thing needed to “level the playing field” — make Toyota, Honda, et al help pay for the health and pensions of D3 retirees.

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