Happy Labor Day, From GM CEO Dan Akerson

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
happy labor day from gm ceo dan akerson

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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6 of 19 comments
  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Sep 04, 2010

    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.

  • Rday Rday on Sep 04, 2010

    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.

  • Mikey Mikey on Sep 04, 2010

    @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.

  • Edgett Edgett on Sep 04, 2010

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Edgett Edgett on Sep 05, 2010

      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.