GM’s Lordstown, OH plant was something of a poster boy for all that went wrong with the UAW over the past several decades, reports the New York Times. Poor quality, worker sabotage and crippling strikes led to the coining of the term “Lordstown Syndrome” as a symbol of UAW recalcitrance. Lordstown’s workers were so feisty that they even picketed their own union hall in the 1980s. Now, with the legacy of the Vega hanging over their heads, and the possibility of plant closure only narrowly avoided by securing the Chevy Cruze manufacturing assignment, the members of UAW Local 1112 are singing a different tune. “We were the bad dog on the street at one time,” 1112’s shop Chairman Ben Strickland tells the Times’ Nick Bunkley. “We’ve got 3,000 lives to worry about. The cockiness and the arrogance that we once portrayed — we definitely got a lot more humble.” That, it turns out, is in large part due to General Motors’ spectacular fall from grace.
Ford has wrapped up some much-needed financial wrangling today, as it struggles with with its monstrous pile of debt. According to Automotive News [sub], Ford transferred $13.2b in debt and about $4b in cash to the UAW-run health care trust fund, completing a long-awaited liability consolidation. $1.4b of the transfer was a scheduled payment on a $6.7b note, while $500m more was a prepayment on that note. Ford paid $610m (cash) on another $6.5 billion note, transferred $620m from a temporary account and $3.5b from an internal VEBA fund and handed over warrants to purchase 362 million shares of Ford common stock at $9.20 per share. All together, the move reportedly adds $7b in debt to Ford’s balance sheet.
First, they sold the most amount of cars in the world, then, they started cost cutting and now, Toyota are taking another big step towards becoming GM. The Charleston Daily Mail reports that the managers of Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Buffalo, West Virginia have allowed workers to distribute union literature during breaks at the plant. There’d been grumblings about unionisation for some time. Last month, some Toyota employees, (with the backing of the UAW, naturally), filed a grievance with the National Labour Relations Board’s regional office in Cincinnati. They wanted to distribute union material but were stopped by Toyota managers. Jeff Moore, a Toyota vice president at the West Virginia plant, reversed that policy.
Whitacre is a completely different type of manager than what you saw at GM in the past. It’s refreshing to talk to someone that gained his experience outside of the company. He truly wants our cooperation, he doesn’t want any confrontation at all. Just the opposite, he says that only together can we make GM, Opel and Vauxhall successful.
Opel union boss Klaus Franz expresses sudden enthusiasm for working with GM’s new leadership. And that’s a hell of a turnaround from his previous opinions on GM management, including (but not limited to) his assesment that “GM does not enjoy any credibility or faith in the eyes of the public or the (German) government.”
It’s been a while since we’ve heard the word “buyout” echoing out of Detroit, as 2008 marked the year in which auto industry employees finally started to be fired like everyone else: without a hefty severance kiss-off. Ford, on the other hand, did not get a shot at free house-cleaning in bankruptcy court, so it’s bringing back buyouts. According to Market Watch, the Blue Oval is offering blue-collar employees a $50,000 lump sum payment and a $25,000 voucher for a new vehicle or another $20,000 lump sum, as well as six months of health insurance coverage. There’s even an extra $40k for workers of “a certain age.” But this being Detroit, employee benefits are either feast or famine. While Ford’s workers are being offered cash for their jobs, the former Ford parts division Visteon announced today that it is seeking to dump pensions for 21,000 retirees in bankruptcy, following Delphi into yet another stealthy yet popular form of indirect automaker bailout.
UAW Boss Ron Gettelfinger plans to retire next year, and the search is on to replace the man who led the union through the political minefield that was the auto bailout. But the union’s support for Bob King, who led negotiations with Ford, could open up divisions within the union, reports Automotive News [sub]. King followed the Gettelfinger line, offering Ford many of the same concessions it granted GM and Chrysler during the government bailout that transferred large stakes in those companies to the union’s VEBA fund. Those concessions to Ford, which would have preserved the UAW’s decades-long policy of treating the Detroit automakers equally, were rejected by the same union rank-and-file that must now ratify King’s nomination.
Responding to calls by Volvo’s unions for an investigation of Geely, Volvo management is calling the unions’ statements “almost xenophobic.” CEO Stephen Odell, and Personell Manager Björn Sällström of Volvo Cars have sent out letter to their empolyees, urging to modify their attitude towards their potential new employer, Geely. The letter is a response, not only to the unions’ public demand for a Geely investigation, but also the fact that these statements have sparked quite an anti-Chinese-business-methods campaign in readers’ letters to Swedish medias.
There’s no love lost between carmudgeon Peter Delorenzo and GM’s failed Car Czar, the exec whose singular inability to create compelling branding or class-leading products helped transform the world’s largest automaker into a nationalized welfare queen. No wait. Sorry. The self-styled Autoextremist hates the United Auto Workers (UAW). And now that the UAW has rejected a contract with Ford that would have given it parity with post-C11 GM and Chrysler, Sweet Pete has unleashed the dogs of demagoguery. “Wait a minute, wasn’t it the rampant wage and benefit increases over the last three decades that contributed immeasurably to the domestic auto industry’s demise? And yes, it took two parties to make those deals, but really? After everything that has transpired in the last year the union is still clinging to the notion that they actually have a dog in this hunt when it comes to getting this industry off of the ground again? That somehow, some way, when things get all back to normal again they can go right back to the “M.O.” that helped bring this industry to its knees in the first place? I’ve got one word for the UAW and its behavior: Reprehensible.” DeLorenzo’s ire is not entirely misplaced, but it’s close . . .
By last Friday, it was clear that the United Auto Workers rank and file found their new, no-strike contract rank, and filed their objections during voting. In other words, the union’s members rejected the deal. Which left Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s rep seriously dinged. After all, Big Al’s been talking-up Ford’s return to profitability ever since he banked that first $25 million paycheck. The union vote against the strike was a vote for Big Al’s plan. If he’d kept his mouth shut or, better yet, constantly warned against looming collapse, the UAW might have made the ultimate concession. But then investors wouldn’t have dumped more money into Ford and the Ford family members signing Mulally’s big ass paychecks would have been seriously spooked. Big Al can’t win from losing, as the Brits would say.
Who in their right minds thought that the United Auto Workers (UAW) rank and file would ratify a contract that included a no-strike clause? That would be like cutting off your balls to spite your penis. And so they haven’t (ratified the contract that is). Sure, Chrysler has one of them no-strike deals, but they’re dead in the water. Ford’s on its way back to profit! Ford’s CEO said so himself. Many times. As Alan Mulally and UAW Prez Ron Gettelfinger have learned, if you talk out of both sides of your mouth, you’re heading for a big old bitch slapping. On Friday, Big Ron told the Detroit Free Press that the UAW won’t return to the bargaining table if the measure was defeated. So Ford’s unionized work force will carry on as before, until the existing accord (so to speak) expires in 2011. The rejection will not play well with Ford’s investors, who were looking for the Blue Oval Boys to reduce their labor costs to match those of the transplants and cross-town welfare queens.
When the Detroit uses the word “misunderstanding” in the lede graph of a story about The United Auto Workers (UAW), you just know there is some serious negotiation, posturing, ass-covering and ass-kicking going on behind the scenes. In this case, it seems that the union’s members are not happy about a no-strike clause in their proposed contract with Ford. “The Detroit News has learned that the [no-strike] language, which was included in recent contract changes the UAW negotiated with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, was mandated by the Obama administration as a condition of its bailout of the two companies. It was designed to ensure the competitive gains that were forced through by the White House could not be reversed in 2011 contract negotiations between GM and Chrysler and the UAW, according to people familiar with the situation.” What’s this got to do with Ford? Can you say “pattern bargaining?” It seems that the UAW, who practically invented the term, can’t quite bring themselves to use it now. Or keep their members in the loop.
The tentative deal between Ford and UAW leadership has predictably run into trouble as it moves towards a vote by local leadership. Even though the deal would still fall short of the agreement reached with GM and Chrysler and Ford has sweetened the deal with $1,000 bonuses and 2,000 extra jobs, the union’s workers are spinning the deal into a union-breaking giveaway. “We just won’t have a union anymore if we do this,” a Dearborn Truck plant bargaining committee member tells the Freep. But the rank-and-file resistance is creating divisions between Ford, union leadership and workers. Even UAW President Ron Gettelfinger admits that “isn’t a concessionary agreement,” putting workers at odds with everyone else involved in negotiations. And their motivations for turning down the deal have to be bigger than mere frustration over $500m in labor savings already granted to Ford.
Bloomberg is reporting that a deal between Ford and the UAW has been reached. The deal is said to include a ban on most strikes, and wage freezes for new employees. In short, most of what it offered the automakers it holds equity stakes in. Of course, the deal still has to be approved by plant-level UAW leadership which tends to have a harder time understanding that not giving Ford these concessions makes the UAW look like its strangling a competitor to the OEMs it owns. “There’s a lot of sentiment against concessions inside the plant,” explains one Dearborn-based union. This despite the fact that Ford still won’t achieve parity with GM and Chrysler.
The Los Angeles Times reports Toyota has requested $2m in state training funds for workers at its NUMMI plant. The only problem? Toyota has already announced plans to close the Fremont, California, factory. The State of California’s Employment Training Panel had previously agreed to pay back the $2m Toyota spent for training at NUMMI, but since then Toyota and GM made the decision to end their joint venture at NUMMI and end production there. Toyota’s argument was summarized in a statement by NUMMI saying, “These skills have made our team members greater contributors to NUMMI and will make them more attractive to prospective employers when they conclude their employment here in April 2010.” But don’t count on that argument gaining much traction.
The UAW’s Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association funds were originally negotiated with each of the Detroit automakers, creating three separate funds to handle obligations for each of the OEM’s unionized workforces. But the turmoil of the bailout has left the VEBA funds gasping for cash. With the manufacturers unable to meet their VEBA obligations in cash, the union was forced to take significant stakes in GM and Chrysler instead. Now, the WSJ reports that the three VEBA funds will be unified into a single administrative body. Each automaker will have a separate account within the overall VEBA structure, but the unification should help keep down administrative costs. Still, the fact that significant amounts of Chrysler and GM equity will be held by the same body raises some important concerns.
The Freep reports that Ford officials are meeting with the United Auto Workers Union today, to renegotiate elements of their labor contract. Reducing pay for entry-level workers and reducing skilled-trades job classifications are said to be at the top of Ford’s to-do list. And why not? GM got the UAW to agree to streamlined skilled-trade positions, an entry-level wage freeze, a performance bonus freeze and a no-strike agreement. Why wouldn’t the UAW do the same for Ford, just because the Blue Oval didn’t give up major ownership stakes to the union and its allies in government?
The Detroit Free Press reports there’s “a $10-billion provision tucked deep inside thousands of pages of health care overhaul bills that could help the UAW’s retiree health-care plan and other union-backed plans. It would see the government — at least temporarily — pay 80 cents on the dollar to corporate and union insurance plans for claims between $15,000 and $90,000 for retirees age 55 to 64.” So the union giveth: accepting stock in GM and Chrysler in place of future, theoretical contributions to their health care VEBA (in addition to $3 billion cash payments). And the union taketh: scarfing $10 billion in federal health care payments. Did the UAW know this was coming down the pike? As the hunter in Jurassic Park said just before the raptors tore him to pieces, “clever girl.” The autoblogosphere is alight with accusations of “union payoff.” And for good reason . . .
The Detroit News reports that New GM’s latest buyout offer to its [old] employees has been, as the Brits say, a bit of a damp squib. In fact, New GM wants to cut 21,000 hourly jobs (code: union) this year. So far, just 13,000 have headed for the door. Once again, still, the DetN puts a brave face on the bad news. “The total, announced Monday morning, helps GM cut hourly costs, close the gap in pay with foreign automakers that build vehicles domestically and could clear the way for GM to eventually hire lower-paid workers. Since 2006, about 66,000 U.S. hourly workers have accepted buyouts and early retirements.” Yes, well . . .
The Congressional Oversight Panel, tasked with monitoring TARP expenditures, is holding hearings on the auto bailout. Even as you read, Wayne State University is home to serious CYA action. In the blue corner: the post-Rattner head of the twenty-four (now) member Presidential Task Force on Automobiles (PTFOA) Ron Bloom. Big Ron II is expected to hew even more closely to its previous proclivity for a passive/aggressive approach to GM’s non-management management. “Given the emergence of the new GM and the new Chrysler, the involvement of the Auto Task Force with the companies will now change,” Bloom told the panel [via Market Watch]. Once again, Ron proclaims that only “core governance issues including the selection of a company’s board of directors and major corporate events or transactions” will be subject to PTFOA meddling going forward. (After all, they’ve got Advertising Czar Bob Lutz to handle the little things like “crapping on advertising.”) But even though the White House is on hand to show how easy putting your best platitude forward can be, the UAW won’t be joining the testimonial fun.
File this one under the “stealth bailout” file. GM dumped a number of its own pension obligations onto Delphi when the parts supplier was spun off in 1999. Now, the Detroit News reports that Delphi is abandoning $6.25 billion worth of obligations to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, the second largest such takeover by amount. But the 70,000 affected Delphi workers and retirees will still miss out on an estimated $800 million in payments. And what does GM have to say about all this? The General’s statement (via webnewswire) betrays a guilty conscience:
There have been questions about General Motors Company’s responsibility toward Delphi’s pension plans, given that many of those covered were GM employees prior to GM spinning off Delphi in 1999. General Motors Corporation made appropriate provisions for the plans at the time of the spin-off, and Delphi became responsible for the plans from that point forward.
See how that works? Who cares that GM spun Delphi off as a means of jettisoning pensions. Once the deal was done it was Delphi’s problem. Move along now, nothing to see here . . .
Bloomberg reports on Toyota’s pickle vis-à-vis Fremont, California-based NUMMI. New GM is leaving its NUMMI ownership share in the hands of Old GM. Thus, Old GM and Toyota together own NUMMI in a 50/50 joint venture. Old GM will be selling off its moribund assets over a period of a year or more as the long slow process of liquidating the discards and paying creditors pennies on the dollar plays out. (Old GM is looking like an economic stimulus program for a small band of lawyers, accountants and realtors.)
We haven’t said much about the United Auto Workers (UAW) lately. That’s because the union has kept a low profile. And why wouldn’t they? At the expense of nothing very much, their members continue to either draw the same paycheck (on the government’s dime) or cash-out (on the government’s dime). They also get billions in (federal) cash money into their VEBA health care superfund. And stock in both New Chrysler and New GM. Not that they really wanted a stake in their zombie masters, but, hey, it’s better than getting slapped in the face with a wet fish. Still, ’tis the nature of the beast to bitch. On the union’s far left, the The Party for Socialism and Liberation (“a newly formed working class party of leaders and activists from many different struggles, founded to promote the movement for revolutionary change”) has a thing or two to say about the UAW’s New Deal with New Chrysler. Only it doesn’t sound like the stuff of barricade manning.
One-time Car Czar candidate Steve Girsky has been elected to GM’s board as the sole representative of the UAW’s VEBA trust fund, reports Automotive News [sub]. Girsky had previously worked on the spin-off of Saturn, which was eventually purchased by Roger Penske. He has also worked at Morgan Stanley, and advised the UAW during the ill-fated GM-Chrysler merger talks. Too bad the Harvard B-School boy didn’t end up at Ford; back in the day, Girsky loved him some Blue Oval . . .
This is a fun one. The UAW has made no-strike guarantees to Chrysler and GM as part of their restructuring deals. This makes a certain amount of sense, considering that the UAW’s VEBA trust holds significant portions of GM and Chrysler’s new equity. After all, it’s hard to both represent labor and look after your equity position at the same time. Ford, however, has not been generous enough to let the UAW have a chunk of its stock, and yet it feels as though it might be fair if the UAW were to make similar no-strike guarantees.
You may recall that General Motors recently circulated a document amongst their paymasters on Capitol Hill “revealing” that they planned to import 17,335 Chinese-made cars by 2011. At the time, we speculated that the leaked “bailout bucks for Chinese trucks” memo was nothing more than a negotiating gambit by GM, designed to bring the United Auto Workers to heel. Play ball and we build here. After all, what else does GM have to offer, other than threats to up stakes and leave? That said, floating a GM in China trial balloon makes the company no friends, uh, anywhere. Especially with their most important stakeholders: customers. Anyway, Bloomberg indicates that the cudgel may have done it duty. GM CEO Fritz Henderson told them (yesterday) that “using U.S. production instead of imports would pivot on whether the UAW can build the vehicles at a cost GM can afford . . . This is a discussion we’re having with the UAW.” And so, today’s Wall Street Journal tells us that “GM Nears Crucial Deal With UAW.” Which could all fall apart.
General Motors is is “open to considering moving its headquarters from Detroit, selling off U.S. plants and even renegotiating parts of its restructuring plan with its major union,” CEO Fritz Henderson told Reuters today in a conference call. The possible relocation and renegotiations are part of a last-ditch effort to restructure GM outside of bankruptcy, a move that Henderson admits is likely to fail. “It’s more probable that we would need to accomplish our goals in a bankruptcy,” says Henderson. “There’s still a chance for it to be done outside a court proceeding.”
The Detroit News has obtained a confidential memo from GM to federal legislators. The smoking gun reveals that the soon-to-be-taxpayer-owned (officially) automaker plans to boost US sales of vehicles built in China, Mexico, South Korea and Japan by 98 percent (to 365k units). In the face of union criticism of the plans, GM claims that the percentage of its imports will remain at 33 percent. By 2014. When its sales recover to 3.1 million vehicles per year. Providing it maintains its current market share. All things being equal. With the wind in the right direction.
At the same time, The General aims to shrink production in Canada, Australia and European countries by about 130k. For a sneak peak at the less tortuous justification for this outsourcing on Uncle Sam’s dime, we turn to veteran Detroit apologist and Washington Post car critic, Warren Brown . . .
Oh noes! The UAW did the math on GM and Chrysler’s newest restructuring plans and it’s not pleased at all. Well, with GM’s plan, anyway. Commence angry letter ( PDF) to Senator: [blank]!
“Incredibly, between 2010-2014 GM’s restructuring plan also calls for a 98% increase in the number of vehicles it will be importing into the United States from Mexico, Korea, Japan and China, with the number of imports from these countries increasing from 371,547 to 736,743. As a result, the share of GM’s sales in the U.S. market that will be imported from these countries will increase from 15.5% to 23.5%. The overall number of vehicles GM will be importing in 2014 represents the production of four assembly plants, the same number that GM plans to close in the United States.”
With up to 1,200 dealers and 16 factories set to be uninvited from “the reinvented GM,” union locals and dealerships with their livelihoods on the line are preparing to fight the future. With the UAW leadership on board for an equity position in the new GM, locals are scrambling to show their willingness to give up once-cherished perks to keep their plants open. Bloomberg reports that workers at GM’s Spring Hill plant have ratified a local agreement that “allows GM to schedule its hourly workers for weekend shifts without paying special premiums, ends the policy of paying overtime based on a daily shift instead of a 40-hour workweek and loosens the work rules so that workers may be used for a broader variety of tasks.” Sadly, since Spring Hill’s Chevy Traverse production is likely to be moved to Lansing Delta to take over Saturn Outlook production capacity, this sudden rash of reality probably won’t save the plant.
Bloomberg reports that if Chrysler fails to secure a deal with Fiat and rapidly exit Chapter 11, some 38,500 jobs could be lost in a liquidation. According to one of Chrysler’s lawyers, anyway. But an Automotive News [sub] story says that, in addition to Chrysler’s plant idling during bankruptcy, no fewer than eight of its factories will be permanently closed by December 2010. The best part? According to Chrysler sources, the proposed Fiat deal would allow ChryCo “to retain substantially all our employees.” Huh? “Any employee displaced by the bankruptcy will be given an opportunity at other Chrysler facilities,” explains spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez. Not only did Chrysler deny that shutting eight plants would cause the negative impacts (job loss) that government billions were supposed to prevent, it went as far to suggest that the Fiat alliance would add about 5,000 employees to the payroll. In fact, if you believe the Pentastar line, there are only two victims in in the Chrysler plan: Sebring and Avenger.
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.
According to Automotive News [sub], the United Auto Workers (UAW) agreement with Chrysler/Fiat would deliver unto the union a 55 percent share of the reborn Italian – American automaker. As in the proposed (but doomed) GM bondholder offer, ChryCo union workers will forego a multi-billion dollar payment into their Voluntary Employment Beneficiary Association (VEBA) health care fund in exchange for the equity stake. In Chrysler’s case, $6 billion buys them controlling interest in Chrysler. That’s all kind of nuts on all kinds of levels. And as we’re in tail wagging the dog territory . . .
“The UAW said it reached a deal with Fiat and the U.S. government.” Oops! I forgot the word “also”. I wonder how that happened. Because everyone knows Chrysler’s management is large and in charge, despite the fact that its existence depends entirely on the largesse of the American taxpayer and the success of a cockamamie scheme hatched by a struggling Italian automaker and an unelected quango known as The Presidential Task Force on Automobiles. The Detroit News provides the details of the agreement, which show that the UAW—wait . . . No they don’t. Motown’s hometown paper doesn’t provide any details of the union – Chrysler – Fiat – PTFOA agreement. All we get is this: “The settlement agreement, subject to ratification by UAW members at Chrysler, includes a revision of the 2007 health care deal, and members must approve the deal by Wednesday.” At best, we can assume some sort of health care obligation for equity swap involved. At worst, Uncle Sam will guarantee the union’s health care provisions, regardless of Chrysler’s ultimate fate (i.e., liquidation.) As the DetN recognizes, whatever the fine print, the union deal paves the way for American Leyland.
Last night, Chrysler announced it had broken its deadlock with the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). The press release couldn’t have been more vague if it had simply show a picture of a chocolate pavlova. Here’s the “we won’t show you the money” shot from Tom LaSorda, Vice Chairman and Co-President:
“We are extremely grateful to the CAW leadership and to its hard-working members for their openness in this challenging environment to create a new strategy that will lead this company on a path to success. We also want to recognize the Canadian Federal and Ontario governments for their energy and efforts in helping to move this great Company forward.”
The following email just came over the TTAC transom. Negotiations between Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers have broken down three days ahead of Canada’s bailout deadline and Uncle Sam’s defunct deadline for union concessions. Chrysler has already threatened to pull out of Canada. Given this stalemate, and the Presidential Task Force on Automobile’s determination to keep the zombie automaker in business, they just might.
Chrysler LLC Statement Regarding CAW Talks Attributed to Al Iacobelli, Chief Bargainer:
“We all recognize that we are in unprecedented times as it relates to the global economy and current financial crisis, which has a direct impact on the automotive industry. After several days of bargaining in good faith, Chrysler and the CAW have not reached an agreement that closes the competitive gap with other automobile manufacturers in Canada, to ensure Chrysler’s immediate viability.
Dagens Industri has published a letter from Saab’s union bosses which accuses GM of playing silly buggers with the brand’s accounts. As Saabs United says, “The report tends to support the idea that GM are handy at shuffling results around to suit their reporting needs.” [Thanks for the TTAC translation to commentator Naser Rouholamin]
Recently, the future of SAAB has been the subject of many allegations and much debate. Specifically we are thinking about such claims as “using tax money for playing monopoly”, or “SAAB has always made a loss, hence there is no point in saving it now”.
In order to rebuke the latter claim one must realise that not even GM would have kept Saab afloat the last 20 years from pure goodwill.
The Star reports that Magna International is closing its New York state New Process Gear plant after 52 percent of the plant’s union workers rejected a 20 percent wage reduction. The haircut would have pegged hourly salary at $16, and stipulated that the factory had to break even by July 1 (good luck with that). “The plant, which employs about 1,400 people, makes transfer cases to switch power from two- to four-wheel drive vehicles.” Make that made. Magna’s statement after the jump [thanks to cnyguy and Geo. Levecque for the links].
Senator Corker must be so proud of himself. He held Ford’s feet to the fire . . . oh, no, wait, Ford didn’t bother with that meeting. Anyway, today Ford is crowing [via AP] that its revised UAW contract gets close enough to wage parity with the transplants to call it a done deal. Which is kind of strange, because Ford’s accounting puts the all-in costs under the newest deal at $55/hour compared to the $48-$49 number people toss around for the transplants. Hmmm, maybe I’ll try that kind of “close enough” math when I pay my bills. Ford’s spin-meisters could have pointed out that nobody outside the transplants really knows what they are paying, but they didn’t. Absent a published union contract, all we can do is guess.
The Freep reports that the newest UAW deal is similar to the recently-approved Ford deal in terms of economics, but is “drastically different” in other areas. How drastically? There are”no mandatory physical examinations in the UAW GM agreement,” according to the Freep’s union source. Also, “with regard to employee placement, other parts of the agreement are different to better fit the UAW GM culture.” Which doesn’t exactly sound encouraging. The Freep wanted to know more (don’t we all), but when asked, “A GM spokeswoman declined to comment. A UAW spokesman didn’t respond to questions.” Great. But it’s probably not worth losing sleep trying to discover the details (not that we wouldn’t love to have someone send us a copy). Locals won’t have the opportunity to approve the contract modifications until GM completes its debt restructuring anyway. Which has been dragging on for months now with no end in sight. If the locals even approve the deal which, based on Ford’s 58 percent approval showing, is hardly a foregone conclusion.
Manny Lopez is Motown’s head cheerleader. So when the Managing Ed of The Detroit News‘ auto section sits down to pen an opinion piece on the Employee Free Choice Act—the Orwellian federal legislation eliminating secret ballots for unionization—you know you’re in for a good time. As Stevie Ray Vaughan was wont to croon, who do you love? “Michigan’s business environment can’t afford the Employee Free Choice Act.” So that’s it, then. I’m not quite sure how Manny can square his opposition to the legislation with his support for the United Auto Workers. But I’m all ears.
For sure, the UAW helped make workplaces safer and increased wages and benefits. But we have to carefully examine the economic impact this special interest legislation would have on Michigan.
“This could have tremendous consequences for the auto industry,” Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told me Tuesday. “And the costs could be very substantial.”
Costs. Got it. But what are they?
Best. Headline. Ever. But then Canada’s Globe and Mail threw out their word mincing machine sometime around the turn of the last century. The paper shows its stones by revealing that the new deal between Generous Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers isn’t what you’d call onerous. Not by a long chalk.
The extra holidays remain intact in the new, cheaper version of GM Canada’s deal with the CAW, negotiated over the weekend. So does the child care subsidy (up to $2,400 per kid per year) and the car purchase discount (up to $2,600), which GM Canada – despite being on the brink of crisis – generously extended last spring to some 30,000 retired workers. Of course, current GM workers who think their jobs might vanish will want to hold off on buying that new GMC Sierra, to take advantage of the $35,000 vehicle voucher they would receive as part of their $100,000 restructuring allowance.
The Detroit News reports that the UAW vote on Ford’s proposed modifications ( full summary in PDF) to the union contract is “tight,” as locals wrap up balloting by Monday. Eight union locals have approved the modifications while four have rejected them, but margins of victory were in the “low 60-percent level to the mid-50-percent range.” Modifications must be approved by a simple majority of Ford’s UAW workers, meaning “no” votes in locals that passed the measure still count and vice versa. And though the Freep has uncovered a letter from Ford to the UAW detailing the carnage that has already been wrought upon Ford’s hapless contract employees (possibly the great unsung victims in this mess), and suggesting that perhaps contract modifications aren’t the end of the world, the video above proves that the old UAW zero-sum perspective is alive and well.