By on March 21, 2011

With its effort to organize transplant manufacturers stalled, the UAW is turning all of its attention to what may be one of its toughest contract negotiations ever. The union’s rank-and-file is pushing hard to take back concessions given during the bailout, but at the same time, the union has to avoid burdening the recovering US automakers with competitive disadvantages. And because the three Detroit automakers have performed so differently over the last year (Ford made a $6.6b profit last year, GM made $4.7b and Chrysler lost $652m), the tradition of pattern bargaining will only make negotiations even tougher. But it’s huge bonuses for executives at Ford that is getting the war of words started early, as Bill Johnson, plant chairman for UAW Local 900, threatens

If they don’t restore everything (we) gave up, the membership is going to knock it down. The bonuses that were just announced are just ridiculous.

And that’s a good place for the UAW to begin negotiations, but they’re realistically not going to get everything back. So how is this going to play out?

The UAW’s head negotiator with Ford Jimmy Settles tells the Detroit Free Press that new products and job security will dominate the union’s priorities when it comes to FoMoCo, saying

Obviously, people want their concessions back, but people have a lot of anxiety because they don’t know what is going to happen to them. There are a lot of plants still in jeopardy.

But reasonable quotes from negotiators don’t change the facts: Ford was hugely profitable last year, gave large bonuses to its executives and it is the only Detroit automaker that the UAW does not have a no-strike contract with. In short, Ford could continue to suffer as the exception to pattern bargaining, and could become the test case for one of the UAW’s more ambitious plans:

I think what the UAW will try to do is try to get a pay increase for the second-tier workers,” said Arthur Schwartz, former GM labor negotiator and president of Labor and Economics Associates.

Repealing two-tier wages or giving second-tier workers a raise would be extremely helpful for the UAW, which has suffered bitter internal divisions over the unequal treatment inherent in the two-tier system. The automakers will likely fight anything but a modest pay increase for tier-two workers as the system is crucial for reducing fixed costs over time. But even if the union secured some kind of victory on the two tier front, it would be largely symbolic as

Only 1,300 of GM’s 49,000 hourly workers are full-time entry-level workers. Ford hasn’t hired any permanent workers at the lower tier but does employ 2,100 temporary workers hired at the lower wage.

Another big union ask: the return of Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA). But with inflation at low levels and the future still uncertain, the automakers aren’t going to commit to steady increases. Instead, Bloombergc reports that the Detroit automakers

may seek to start providing as much as 15 percent of union workers’ compensation in performance bonuses and lump-sum payments, emulating how their Japanese counterparts and salaried employees are paid.

And the automakers have already made a strong case for this bonus-drive model by distributing some of their biggest profit-sharing checks in history to workers.

With these profit-sharing checks, it’s the hope of all three automakers that they are making a down payment on a more incentive-based pay system,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California-Berkeley. “There’s nothing like that check to show that it can be done.

It’s still not clear if the automakers will get the union to go along with its big bonus idea, or if the union will make any progress on its two-tier issues. But perhaps the most important issue to watch for is the further degradation of pattern bargaining. If Ford is asked to make significantly more concessions than GM or Chrysler, it could end for good the era in which the Detroit firms could at least count on labor parity with their cross-town rivals. Once that happens, the competitive picture could start getting very interesting…

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43 Comments on “UAW, Detroit Gear Up For Contract Battle...”


  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    I wonder, just how big the GM dividend check to the UAW was, and how it was divided among the membership…

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    This should be interesting to watch to see how it develops.  The UAW members want to get their bennies and pay back while at the same time their employers are running for the border.  Based on all the write-ups and evaluations the consensus is unanimous that Mexican-made Detroit cars and trucks are outstanding and allow the manufacturers to make a greater profit on each unit than the UAW-made vehicles. And since history shows us that the UAW collectively bargained their employers into carmageddon prior to 2008, it remains to be seen if the UAW can strike an equitable balance and preserve their jobs in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      “the UAW collectively bargained thier employers into carmageddon prior to 2008” So terrible management decisions, like depending on full size trucks to carry the company ,that was the UAW’s fault? The gas price goes through the roof,and GM didn’t make a decent small car, how was that the UAW ‘s blame?

      The competition hands the domestics thier lunch, while layers, and layers of incompetent management reap huge  bonuses? The union is at fault there I suppose.

      Dealers that f—ed everbody that walked through the door. If that wasn’t enough, they f—ed them again when they came back for service. Somehow that was the UAW fault?

      BTW highdesertcat, “consensus is unanimous”……. can you supply a source that shows that the Mexicans are doing a superior job?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      the UAW collectively bargained their employers into carmageddon
       
      Of course! The Pontiac Aztek, for example, was entirely the UAW’s fault: as soon as any union worker saw that hideous piece of garbage roll off of the production line, they should have immediately organized a strike, and their failure to do so was directly responsible for any losses GM took on that trainwreck.
      Likewise, GM’s decision to purchase Toyota Matrices and rebadge them to sell at a loss in an attempt to somehow undercut Toyota at selling their own car was also somehow the UAW’s fault. See, there are plenty of examples.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Was buying the floundering Saab a UAW demand?  Or did the UAW force them to sell it at a huge loss? 

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Vibe/Matrix is a great example, since it was built by the UAW at NUMMI, a joint venture plant between GM and Toyota. GM didn’t buy the cars from Toyota, but they did pull out of the joint venture first. The UAW managed to drive Toyota out too, which probably wasn’t your point.
       
      http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/nummi – provides some realities for people who support the UAW.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      But there are examples of the UAW demands being terrible, like the jobs bank, poor assembly quality, being so expensive to work with, that small cars by the domestics are just now being built in the US again.  The health packages were pretty extravagant too.  Now, it wasn’t only the UAW that did wrong.  There is a LONG list of both sides that made mistakes, but this negotiation can’t put the domestics behind the 8 ball again when they are starting to do well again.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Steven02……Poor assembly quality. was a direct result of poor materials. The “old silk purse and a sow’s ear thing”

      Demands were indeed high, and sometimes terrible. Management had an option….they could of said no.

      Look up the Flint strike in the summer of 98. Management led by Donald Hackworth had the UAW in the cross hairs. Solidarity was starting to crack. Then what happened? Rick W blinked.

      Once again, greedy incompetent management caved. Why? ….A one point drop in market share might have impacted thier obscene bonus……Thats why.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      But there are examples of the UAW demands being terrible, like the jobs bank, poor assembly quality, being so expensive to work with, that small cars by the domestics are just now being built in the US again.

      The jobs bank was stupid, but on the other hand it wasn’t a problem until the bottom absolutely fell out of the truck market.  Other countries a) have unions and b) have something like a jobs bank, and yet c) aren’t behind the eight-ball.

      Poor assembly quality hasn’t been an issue in thirty-plus years.  Fact is, the average lineworker has next to no input on assembly quality, and if they can affect it in any way you’ve got a serious design issue.

      Finally, we come to small cars. If VW can make small cars in Europe (which is not a low-cost zone) and Toyota et al can make small cars in Japan (ditto), why can’t the Americans do it? The answer is that they tried, but years of making utter garbage resulted in their being unable to sell low-margin product at a sustainable price. Again, this isn’t a union thing: when Corollas are selling for nearly double the price of Cavaliers and yet the cost structure isn’t much different, you have a management problem, not a labour one.

      The health packages were pretty extravagant too.

      I won’t touch this, because it will set off a firestorm, but again I’ll note that this really is only a problem in North America, and the US in particular, because socialized medicine elsewhere makes this a non-issue.  You would think that lower American taxes would be an equalizer, but you’d also think that not having full socialized medicine would be cheaper, too.  You’d be wrong.

      Damn.  Seems like I couldn’t resist…

      Now, it wasn’t only the UAW that did wrong.  There is a LONG list of both sides that made mistakes, but this negotiation can’t put the domestics behind the 8 ball again when they are starting to do well again.

      The point is, if Toyota, Nissan and Honda aren’t being bankrupted by a tsunami, and VW wasn’t bankrupted by PIIGS, why is it that four-dollar-a-gallon gas (everyone had to deal with the recession) could drive two American marques into the ground and very nearly claimed a third?  The answer has everything to do with having desirable product and very, very little to do with the UAW.

      I agree that the UAW has the tactical genius of a lemming, but when every other western nation has unions** and every other western nation’s automakers didn’t spend three decades making crap that had to be sold at a fire-sale, perhaps we can lay off the union-bashing a little?

      ** and those unions actually sit on the company’s board!  My god, that’s SOCIALISM!!!  Next thing you know there’ll be statues of Lenin Hailing a Taxicab in Aichi and Wolfsburg!!

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @ psar……Thanks

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Mikey, I kind of agree with you, there are no good guys in this story. There is plenty of blame to go around.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      psarhjinian: The jobs bank was stupid, but on the other hand it wasn’t a problem until the bottom absolutely fell out of the truck market.  Other countries a) have unions and b) have something like a jobs bank, and yet c) aren’t behind the eight-ball.

      GM was losing money long before the recent crash. The Jobs Bank was a problem LONG before 2008. The SUV boom and GM’s sheer size enabled management and the union to ignore the problems until it was too late.

      Other countries that have something like the Jobs Bank also have relatively closed markets, where low-cost transplants aren’t setting up factories and competing with a lower cost structure, and using the cost savings to produce a superior product.

      Also note that both the Europeans and the Japanese have been moving production OUT of their home markets for many years – the Japanese to the U.S., and the Europeans to Eastern Europe, Mexico and the U.S.

      For that matter, when I was in Germany in 2004, the big news was that Daimler-Benz was demanding concessions from the German unions, and VW was threatening to move production to low-cost Portugal if it didn’t receive concessions. So all is not as rosy at it appears in Europe.
      psarhjinian: Finally, we come to small cars. If VW can make small cars in Europe (which is not a low-cost zone) and Toyota et al can make small cars in Japan (ditto), why can’t the Americans do it?

      Many VWs have been imported from Mexico and Brazil for years, where labor costs are lower. German labor costs are more expensive, so VW tried to make up the difference by selling German engineering and casting VW as an upmarket alternative to the Japanese cars. This worked for awhile, but it didn’t result in huge volume. Note that the new Passat will be built here, in Tennessee…with non-union labor.

      psarhjinian: Toyota and Honda have been building most of their compacts and family sedans here for several years now. The answer is that they tried, but years of making utter garbage resulted in their being unable to sell low-margin product at a sustainable price. Again, this isn’t a union thing: when Corollas are selling for nearly double the price of Cavaliers and yet the cost structure isn’t much different, you have a management problem, not a labour one.

      Yes, because for several DECADES the domestics were at a cost disadvantage when it came to labor costs. This is a fact; it is not disputed.

      This had to be factored in to the design of the vehicle. That cost disadvantage has largely disappeared only in the last 5-6 years. That has allowed, at best, one generation of vehicles to be designed and introduced without this handicap. One generation of competitive, world-class vehicles isn’t going to erase 30+ years of inferior ones, although the domestics have to start somewhere.

      psarhijinian: I won’t touch this, because it will set off a firestorm, but again I’ll note that this really is only a problem in North America, and the US in particular, because socialized medicine elsewhere makes this a non-issue.  You would think that lower American taxes would be an equalizer, but you’d also think that not having full socialized medicine would be cheaper, too.  You’d be wrong.

      There is no proof that socialized medicine gives the European and Japanese auto makers a cost disadvantage. The taxes needed to support it are roughly the same as the costs of providing medical insurance coverage here.

      If the American system is at such a disadvantage, then why did BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hynundai, Nissan and Toyota all build plants here? Why is VW planning to open a new plant in Tennessee to build the next-generation Passat? Why do the transplants flourish, even though the company has to provide health insurance coverage to the workers?

      Perhaps it’s about offering plans that are sustainable and don’t break the bank? Maybe that’s the ticket?

      Incidentally, we have a nationalized health insurance plan for the elderly – Medicare. Why, if nationalized medical coverage is and cost-effective so great, won’t the UAW allow all of its retired members to be covered solely by this government plan? Could it be that nationalized plans aren’t as generous as the benefits UAW members currently enjoy?

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      The UAW and negotiating genious is rather disingenious, at the time and not the direct quote from Iaccoca “We were making so much damn money that we just gave them what they wanted just to keep the lines running”  And at that time the D3 had no real competition (atleast that they were willing to look at) and with GM having 55% of the market, whatever they signed Ford and ChryCo were left with no option but to give the same (as a long strike for one of them could/would have seen thier share consumed by GM).  30 years and out, COLA in disregard to inflation/recessions/etc. took away thier power to price thier way out of the contracts, b/c it increased inflation which just furthur increased what they had to pay.  *A quick side note, health insurance used to be dirt cheap (in comparison today), I’ve gone through my current employer’s financials back to early 70’s and what we spend on healthcare today is what we used to spend on retirement and vice versa and the HC line is going straight up, while we’ve gone from pensions, to annuities, to 401k’s (with matches that would make alot of companies jealous), so when that promise was made, it wasn’t as significant as it became, but as part of Reagon’s voodoo economics policies, a huge health care industry was created that did not create wealth, just consumed and costs increased exponentially, this is what really killed GM, in ’89 when the law was changed they had to take a $39 billion charge for unfunded future healthcare liabities and it was at that point that they should have filed for BK, things would have changed greatly, but I imagine there would be a few 100k jobs more in the US if not for that reason*  As I explained in an earlier article, if the UAW decides to really F$#@ with Ford, they are going to find themselves in a court (dealing with juries which on the most part will be very hostile to them) and then federal appeal judges (most of whom were appointed by republicans) and all of this will be done outside of mid-western states.  Ouside of the F series trucks and the D3/4 series cars, there isn’t any other vehicle in ford’s current/near future line up that can’t be built in another country, Ford has what $23 billion in cash, how much would it cost for them to bring two factories on line in Mexico or southeast and fire everyone (once the contract expires and mikey please correct me if I’m wrong all of the protections are gone until the next contract is signed and at that point you’ll see a second union form and sign something better than tier two, but way below tier one and there’s alot of people who would love what those tier two’s are making.  On a technically legal basis (and our corporate counsel also has an interest in cars) the UAW should have no business representing Ford employees our even being in the factories as they own significant amounts of Ford’s direct competitors.  If Mr. King is as smart as I imagine he is, he will play the politics with his rank and file and then do a deal with Ford that won’t destroy the UAW.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      We’ll never settle the “us vs them” argument here or with this topic but history is what it is. History tells us that GM and Chrysler died with a whimper, WE – THE PEOPLE bailed them out. It isn’t enough that we bailed them out and kept the UAW working, now the UAW wants even more. Another inconvenient truth is that the US auto manufacturers do better when they assemble in Mexico, away from the UAW. The transplants do extremely well, without the help of the UAW. By process of elimination then, the UAW is what has caused the demise of the US auto manufacturers. The death of GM and Chrysler is just not enough evidence for some UAW supporters. Like I said, it will be interesting to see how this develops and if the UAW employers will move more assembly and jobs to Mexico. It made Ford profitable. And isn’t that what we all want? For our industries to be profitable? And in the case of the US auto manufacturers, paying back the US government for so generously raining down tax payer money on them?

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    When you always to what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.  W Edwards Deming, former Ford consultant.

    So, the UAW wants all the givebacks returned.  That means more bankruptcies, including Ford, in a couple of years.

    We will we witnessing the final, cataclysmic destruction of the American auto industry.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Deming also said; “Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.”

    • 0 avatar
      werewolf34

      I don’t agree with you. Politically, the demise of US auto manufacture is a no-go. The unions know this and would be stupid to concede an inch when they know that the US taxpayer will be on hookup for it all at the end of the day. You can blame the Democrats but the Republicans won’t let the car companies die either.
      Welcome to bailout nation where your / my children pay for our stupidity / lack of action in face of rampant greed.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I hope the UAW really goes for it this time. Can you say Hecho en Mexico?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I had a student who wore a hoodie inscribed with that phrase.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Yes, because more middle-class jobs fleeing the United States is exactly what the country needs.
       
      Why are we so bitter about fellow middle-class members making a fair wage?  Shouldn’t we be asking why we paid billions to institutions (and thusly to people) that ran the Titanic into the iceberg?
       
      Forgive me if I don’t idolize the race to the bottom.  After all, it’s good and right and moral that my kids (and the kids of just about everyone I know) work sixteen hours a day in a factory so that someone else can live the high life.  There was a time when people aspired to a just and equitable society, rather than cheered on the return to serfdom.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Psar, one of the reasons middle class jobs have fled the country is unions. I would say in some industries unions are the biggest reason. But that’s not really important. The important thing is that you still look at everything through the outmoded, discredited lense of Marxism. The etenal struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, all that crap. The idea that every business owner/manager is salivating for a return to the days of sweatshops is ludicrous. Your inability to grant your ideological opponents credit for human decency renders your arguements just silly. Marxism lost because it doesn’t work, it can’t work, humans aren’t perfectible.

      As far as the car companies, the unions and management stumbled into a sucicide pact and the result was what we are left with. Paid managers did not have the right to enter into agreements with unions that would leave their companies bankrupt and their owners losing their entire investments. Someone with some courage at one of the companies should have went to a US Attorney and tried to start a RICO prosecution of the UAW for extortion. That’s what they did all those years that they negotiated those ridiculous contracts. Oh well, this isn’t a perfect world. It was criminal and management did not do their fiduciary duty to stop it.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      one of the reasons middle class jobs have fled the country is unions. I would say in some industries unions are the biggest reason.

      Yes and no.  Middle-class jobs have fled because of cost pressure and perceived value.  I’ve watched American colleagues of mine suffer through a version of this that results from the H1-B program.  As a friend puts it, H1-B allows employers to write job descriptions in just such a way as to make it impossible to hire North American labour.  Those jobs certainly aren’t unionized, and yet they’re disappearing in IT, F&A, and so on.

      It’s worse in automotive because it’s not just that they’re asking for fifteen years of VB+C#+Java+ASP experience or somesuch nonsense for $35k/year, it’s that Americans are being asked to do what is a backbreaking job (and it is, really—I wouldn’t trade any white-collar job for line-work) for the wages we wouldn’t pay a dishwasher.

      Unions or not, you can’t compete with order-of-magnitude wage gaps.

      But that’s not really important. The important thing is that you still look at everything through the outmoded, discredited lense of Marxism.

      No, I don’t.  I really don’t.  There’s as much difference from my philosophy as there is between yours and that of Benito Mussolini.

      The idea that every business owner/manager is salivating for a return to the days of sweatshops is ludicrous. Your inability to grant your ideological opponents credit for human decency renders your arguements just silly. Marxism lost because it doesn’t work, it can’t work, humans aren’t perfectible

      The same is true of laissez-faire capitalism.  It can’t work because people aren’t perfect.  It, like communism, certainly doesn’t work when you have entities that operate on the scale of a modern nation-state or corporation: entities that deal with people in the abstract and are thusly absolved from the cost of their actions.

      The guy running the local bodyshop?  Sure, he’s not going to grease CV joints with the blood of the underclasses.  G. Richard Wagoner Jr. and such? I don’t think he knows or cares what happens to individual lineworkers, and if the squeeze is put on and it saved GM a few million at the cost of some people’s well being I don’t think he’d notice

      Put it this way: we celebrate the wealthy’s ability to embetter themselves, become more wealthy, and exploit both the selling and labour markets.  We celebrate, in a sense, power. So exactly what is wrong with the middle class, who doesn’t have the advantage of capital, influence and mobility, using the only tool they do have to empower themselves: collective bargaining.

      I don’t particularly have a problem with that, as long as it’s in relative balance.  I’ll certainly agree that union management doesn’t have the best interest of society at heart, but I hardly think, given what we’ve seen, that the corporatist side does, either.  It’s also plainly obvious that that the market, while it’s good at metering short-term demand/supply, is very bad at sustainability and social cohesion.

      Paid managers did not have the right to enter into agreements with unions that would leave their companies bankrupt and their owners losing their entire investments

      Actually, yes they do.  Paid managers can do anything they want.  They can also be sued or terminated for non-performance.  That such a thing never happened at General Motors, and very rarely happens at any large company, tells you a lot about the problems that the directorship interlock that results from the homogenously corporatist nature of these boards.

      Paid management entered suboptimal union contracts.  They also greenlighted terrible products, brokered detrimental supply contracts and engaged in dubious planning, marketing and customer support.

      It was criminal and management did not do their fiduciary duty to stop it.

      I don’t think you understand how the law works.  Being stupid enough to bait your labour force only to crumble at the last minute and “sign away the farm” is not criminal.  It’s strategically unwise, possibly open to civil liability in some jurisdictions (again, note that this did not happen) and really dumb, but it’s not criminal.  Much as I occasionally wish stupidity was prosecutable, it isn’t.

      The union might have been liable if they violated their employment contract, but most strikes aren’t wildcat and there’s no law (outside “essential services”) that says uncontracted labour is obliged to work and I don’t think even you would like to work somewhere that indentured servitude was legal.  If they had engaged in a wildcat strike they would have been liable in a civil court. RICO and such don’t apply.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Psar, it’s late and I don’t want to take much time but here goes. Point one, I actually kind of agree with you about jobs. The H1-B program is abused, but I was speaking mainly of industrial jobs, but I do kind of agree.

      Second, I’ll give you your point about Wagoner, in fact I’ll enthusiastically agree with it, if you agree with me that Gettelfinger and King feel the same about the line workers. They are tools to both. I never said I wanted unbridled capitalism, people aren’t perfectible. There are too many people who would rather cheat and steal than to make more money honestly. I spent the first part of my career as a bond trader so I knew a lot of those.

      You’re right, no one was ever fired at GM for giving away the store to the UAW but it surely should have happened. It was a career enhancer to bend over for the UAW until it all collasped.

      Lastly, a creative prosecutor could have found a way to RICO the UAW. Look at the attempts to criminalize policy disputes over the last 10 or so years. Namely the Plame affair. And the officers of GM did not do their fiduciary duty and was surely a civil offense but nothing was ever done to test this.

  • avatar

    been McElroy’s guest twice. he’s a true professional. the show is never rehearsed. it’s sit down and go. he likes it fresh. I had lined up my good friend Jerry York to do the show but then he up and died on us. :(

  • avatar
    tced2

    In some cases, the UAW will be sitting on both sides of the bargaining table.  As workers.  As owners and members of the board of directors.  UAW retirement funds ride on the success of these companies.  Sweet.  The UAW now will know who feeds the golden goose.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @tced2….Yeah, the VEBA situation adds a whole new element to these talks.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This is exactly the situation you see elsewhere in the democratic world, where unions are represented on a company’s supervisory board.
       
      It actually works very well: you end up with both management and labour on the same side.  It’s also very, very much unlike the (broken) American adversarial labour model.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    Perhaps the UAW can be persuaded to purchase a quantity of Ford stock that will allow them a seat on Ford’s board of directors. The UAW gets to continue its pioneering efforts to evolve the adversarial labor model in the US and acquire what could be the best VEBA investment yet.

  • avatar
    mikey

     As I see it, this set of negotiations, is for sure, unchartered waters. The Ford situation is unique. The Ford rank and file have heard from every source, just how sucessfull Ford has been. Quality is up,sales are up,as are profits.  

    Ford didn’t need tax payer dollars. Ford has payed off the VEBA…I think?…Its going to be tough to convince the rank, and file that they don’t need to restore all that was lost.

    GM is a complete different story. As mentioned the UAW/VEBA plan has a fairly large chunk of shares. The US government own 27%..?. The Canadian and Ontario government own shares. The CAW contract has untill Sept 2012 so they are not in the picture.

    IMHO there is no way,even if they wanted to, could GM give back the concessions that were won from the UAW. From both a fiscal, and political stand point, it aint gon’na happen.

    Chrysler is a whole different ball game….Who knows where that one is going?

    So….all that being said, the former UAW “holy grail” of pattern bargaining and wage parity is history.

    Now….this is strictly my opinion, 36 plus years as a UAW and  CAW member, tells me this. Judging from what Bob King has said so far, and he sure seems to have lots to say, He is no Ron Gettlefinger. Standing around waving a placard,and making nice little sound bites,is one thing. Sitting at a table going toe, to toe, with the top executives, at GM Ford and Chrysler is another.

    I could be dead wrong here, but I don’t King has the jam to get through this without putiing it in the ditch. 

    I guess we will see eh?

     

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      Mikey –

      You are correct about Ford, GM and the UAW and if they try to stick it to Ford, it will end up in court and (short term atleast) and injunction will bar the UAW from representing ford’s workers and nullify any contract signed.  In business there’s something called the “sniff test” as a quicky, does “sticking it to Ford and trying to take back everything given, while letting GM off easier b/c you own a significant portion of thier stock pass?”  the answer is no and as someone mentioned earlier at that point, not only would there be civel suits from every large instit. investor, but at that point RICO could become involved, then you have about 4-5 federal agencies digging through 50-60 years of records and who knows what could come out of that.  The UAW is an institution, which much like living creatures wants to stay alive, but like some dumb humans they take it to the edge over and over (reference L.Lohan) again and one day will fall.  And I think you can tell from my post I’m no UAW basher, but I can promise you they had access to the best consultancy/actuarial firms available and knew exactly what was coming and thier decision (except for the one UAW pres. in the 80’s who was pushed out) was to take everything they possibly could, screw the kids, towns, communiities, small businesses, and thier own company (there homes)…and say I’m getting mine. 

      And they blame it on the companies, but was it the shipbuilders fault, the steel companies fault, the textile companies fault, the rubber industries fault? (yes Goodyear, despite how much cost they cut and how much production has been shifted out of the US, has already reached a tipping point from previous contracts that will push them into BK in near future) 

  • avatar
    50merc

    The shortsighted, insatiable UAW and the shortsighted, avaricious and feckless Management: two scorpions in a bottle that will kill one another.
     
    One inadmissible fact is that factory workers do not acquire middle-class values simply by receiving middle-class incomes. Accordingly, it is difficult for UAW brass to persuade many of their members that deferral of gratification is the wisest course. (Though not nearly as difficult as persuading executives who have run companies into the ground that they do not deserve million-dollar salaries and bonuses.)
     
    I disagree with Psar in that I think the US needs less socialism, not more. In industry, finance, housing, education, agriculture and, not least, health care.
     
    The marketplace problems for GM and Chrysler are not due to product, much of which is quite competitive, but the heritage of the past. Once a good reputation is ruined, it is very hard to regain it.
     
    In a free market, the lower-cost producer has the advantage. To overcome that, higher-cost producers must provide other kinds of appeal, such as style, innovation or quality.  That’s how Germany remains a export economy.
     
    I always appreciate Mikey’s informed and intelligent comments. Unlike most of us armchair pundits, he’s actually been there.
     

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Thanks 50merc…….All I’m trying to do, is to just ilustrate that we are not all a bunch of red necked illiterates. Though you would never know by my spelling and grammar eh?

      For sure, theres a few a$$holes and usually thats  the  ones picked for a TV interview.

      For the most part, we are just working guys thinking about our families, and our future.

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      Bingo. assuming that forcing an artificially high wage on low class people makes them middle class is a fallacy.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    At least up to to the point of bankruptcy, the one part of GM that worked quite well was final assembly. Just about everything else was in terrible shape. It was and is hard to fault fit and finish on most GM cars today whatever about the 70’s, 80’s 90’s etc. However, some of the parts that UAW/CAW were tasked to assemble were absolute crap and directly responsible for GM’s less than steller (to put it mildly) rep for quality and reliability. So were the UAW/CAW workers (and some non-union/other union workers) building crap? They were but not because they didn’t care or didn’t know their jobs but because of the way GM squeezed their employers for every last drop of cost reduction often causing suppliers to go out of business. That policy towards the supply base was 100% GM management. In my view this attitude to procurement that GM had (and maybe still has) is the main culprit in GM’s quality and reliability problems. I always find it hard to understand why the UAW/CAW are demonised because of high labour costs and this issue goes unaddressed. Why have many GM vehicles got water pumps that can’t get past 80K? Is it because they can’t design one? No, it’s because GM does not want to pay for one that can.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      I’ve been critical of the UAW a lot but I’ve also been just as critical of management. I’ll say now that oboylepr is right about the final assembly. American cars are just as good or better than any other in the world. Management of the companies and the UAW has failed the stockholders and employees over the years. Management was more interested in protecting themselves and their salaries and bonuses. The UAW bosses have hijacked the union to carry out their political agenda and for money and power. They both deserve the worst for what they have done.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @oboylepr    Great observation. Its always easy to identify those that have first hand experience in vehicle assembly. There’s a few of the b&b that I would love to see on the wheel job, with a multi gun in thier hands. That, or under the dash doing IP install at 65 JPH. Trying to make something fit that just won’t work,no matter what you do.

    I’m sure they would be singing “Solidarity Forever” before the last whistle.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Years ago I was a UAW member. One thing that stuck in my mind was the older members telling me not to work too hard, too fast, make the job last. Today I know of a UAW electrican that still thinks in those terms. Mikey- a while back you stated 10-15 % of the work force were a$$ holes, I dont understand why the union insist on protecting these people. Its quite obvious why employers dont want unions. The UAW has spoiled it for the good unions out there.

  • avatar
    mikey

    mfgreen40……..Why does the union defend the bad a$$es? Any commiteeman[shop steward] will tell you 98% of his work comes from 10% of his people. That 10% is considered job security eh.

    If everybody was law abiding we would have much use for defence lawyers,or for that matter prosecuters. The bad dudes keep a lot of management people in a job also.

    When I was just a rookie, I got asked to work overtime in reject. I was assigned to bring cars in from out in the yard to the reject floor.

    Here I am barely 18 years old,and getting paid overtime to drive brand new Bonnevilles and Caprices. Rockin along listening to FM stereo radios. I thought I died and gone to heaven. Boy this beat the crap out of bolting on gas tanks I’ll tell ya.

    In my 18 year old wisdom, I figured if I hustled my butt, the foreman would give me the job full time. So I would bring a car in and run back and get another one. After awhile there was no where inside to park the car. So I left it where it was ,blocking the lane. I ran out to get another one. This large meaty hand came out of nowwhere and stopped me in my tracks.

    “What da f–k da ya think yer doin kid”? came the voice that owned the hand. “There’s three f—n guys doin that job, and your jammin the floor up all by yourself”. “If ya put another 25 years in you might just get this job”…..”but not if you f–k it up the way your doin it now.

    The foreman was perhaps 30 feet away,and saw it all go down. He looked at me and nodded his head. It obvious he agreed with Mr Meaty hands. I learned a valuable lesson that day.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Why is it that people who have that kind of attitude always have meaty hands?  You never hear “he laid his delicate, perfectly manicured hand on my shoulder and said ‘“What da f–k da ya think yer doin kid’?”

    • 0 avatar
      Motorhead10

      people with that attitude and delicate, perfectly manicured hands are on the buy-side (running hedge funds)

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      “I learned a valuable lesson that day.”

      And therein lies the rub. I agree with mikey about management being responsible for design of product, design of assembly procedures and so on. Having had union people work for me in the past, I have to say that when I first asked for suggestions about how a job should best be handled, I often got no response. The old “us” versus “them” routine. So after a procedure had been put in place, the muttering about how dumb engineers are would proceed apace. There was no allowance for group think about how to best tackle a job. “You’re the engineer, you’re so smart, you should know how to design the job”. Frustrating as hell. The Japanese got round this mindset decades ago.

      The shop stewards would, without fail, blame everything on management no matter what, and pad all the jobs to lower productivity to the level of the dopiest worker, just as mikey relates. Eventually I discovered that most people did want to do a good day’s work, and that my best hope was to make sure (in our case) that their test equipment was repaired if it ever failed. Became good enough at that, my guys would literally watch out for roaming shop stewards, as I broke all the contract rules by fixing stuff myself — fast. Things improved in our shop — we just kept quiet about it. Never had a grievance, but came close.

      Then, we started to change things over to the Canadian equivalent of an ISO 9000 program, which is an audited quality program. Since everyone’s job was defined and auditable, all the BS went away, because no longer could the foreman issue mindless orders just because he felt like it and roil up the workers, which it turned out, was the basis of most of the trouble in our area anyway.

      However, what’s happened in UAW/CAW auto plants seems like a halfway house in the quality game, and I bet there’s still a bunch of people whose thinking is at least 35 years out-of-date. And it’s just one of the reasons that the industry has decamped, rolled up the carpets and taken their assembly jobs to other countries. That and greed. I don’t suppose labor relations are necessarily any better, but the pay is low enough to compensate for labor turmoil.

      Meanwhile, the way to a gravy train career here in Canada is to get a public job in government at any level. Employees tend to make a lot more than the average private worker, get full benefits, days off to celebrate days off, and the pay never goes down — courtesy of the taxpayer. It’s become a case of the serfs paying for the lifestyles of those lording it over them. And government has compensated by including some indices of productivity from the government worker sector into the GDP, like how many forms were filled out last month. Since government only spends money, and doesn’t create wealth, public sector activity is inherently wasteful. We need some, we don’t need as much as we have.

      I see in the US that with state governments facing bankruptcy, the many gravy train jobs may soon be gone. Hope the same thing happens here.

  • avatar
    daro31

    I didn’t realize I was so far ahead of my time, I was a foremen at Ford, trying to tape Pintos together, they were raggin on us about quality and while trying to reduce the line count of assemblers by 10%. We were suppossed to motivate the CAW guys to buld a quality product, so we could be competitive with VW, Toyota and Honda. As a rooky in the management side of the business I told the production manager, I don’t care how much time you give us to build these things, or how careful we are, at the end of the day it is still a Pinto, and it is never gonna be a Honda. Those suits have no sense of humor! 

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    There actually was a time for unions, to protect the workers.  But that was a long time ago.  These days, governments (Federal, State and Local) pretty much dictate what an employer, any employer, can and cannot do.  And while the UAW has richly shared in their employers’ profits over the decades through wages and benefits, the UAW has not shared in their employers’  losses.  In fact, the US tax payers (companies and individuals alike) have kept the UAW working and taken over paying for their current pay, health benefits and retirement guarantees.  That’s a good deal, if you can get it.  How can I get in on this sweet deal?

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