Chrysler, UAW Dream A Dream: No Strikes (and They're Out)
It’s getting to be sports metaphor time for the ChryCo deal: the fourth quarter, the ninth inning, the obese lady’s vocal warm-ups. Automotive News [sub] quotes a White House spokesperson as saying “hurdles still remain, but we remain optimistic and hopeful that something in the next many hours will get done that will provide a pathway for Chrysler’s viability without continued government assistance.” Maybe the White House should read more news. And not just assurances from the UAW’s Ron Gettelfinger who sounds downright thrilled at the possibility of seeing his union gain a controlling stake in ChryCo. No, The Detroit News points out that a grassroots UAW effort to scuttle the deal (which must still be ratified by a full union vote) is underway. “It’s time to stop the concessions. Send them back to the table. We need a week to see the agreement before the vote. Jeep workers should be allowed to vote. Vote no,” runs a letter being circulated amongst UAW workers. Why so confrontational? The (proposed) lack of confrontation.
But stripping away the UAW’s most powerful tactic in exchange for union ownership raises real question of whether the UAW even is a union at all anymore. Just don’t bring that semanticist whining to UAW President Ron “I Rule You” Gettelfinger. “We fought to maintain our wages, our health care and our jobs,” wrote Gettelfinger with his union boilerplate thesaurus firmly in hand. “In the face of adversity, we secured new product guarantees, and we negotiated new opportunities for UAW involvement in future business decisions.” Translated into English, this means that the UAW effectively no longer exists, having become a management partner. The question of whom will negotiate with whom and in whose interests is unsurprisingly scaring a number of UAW members.
Throw bondholder holdouts into the equation, and you may just begin to hear the fat lady’s warbling become slightly louder.
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This isn't exactly unprecedented. In fact, it pretty much par for the course when a company has large downstream obligations to their employees. This is pretty much the same sort of "employee take-over" as happened to a bunch of airlines over the last 15-20 years. Some of them survive, more than a couple didn't live past the next problem issue. This kind of thing happens when the debt-holders and the obligation holders don't agree whether the company's viable. The UAW boys aren't going to get anywhere near what they are owed in a breakup, and neither are the bond-holders. The bond-holders want to take the most they can get for sure (whatever is left after chapter 7) it's much more certain. The UAW guys have to at least float taking equity, whether it's a good idea or not, it's the only way they can possibly (and only possibly) get something close to what the contract says/said. The bond-holders are just looking to get away from the table with as small a loss as possible (they can find another game), for the UAW, this is the only game in town they have to offer to keep playing, even if the odds stink.
The lady whose photo you have used is the brilliant, but no longer fat, Debra Voigt. She is one of the world's greatest voices. After she gotten as large as the photo above, she lost over 150 pounds and returned to the stage to take the roles that directors said she was too fat before to take. You see, you can be a car guy, and a classy car guy at the same time! Debra Voigt