The UAW IS NOT Responsible for GM or Ford or Chrysler  

Blaming the union and its membership (um, I mean WORKERS here) is absolutely ridiculous.

Emptywheel has an excellent post up right now on this that deserves a closer look:

What the AP Left Out about the UAWBy: emptywheel Saturday November 15, 2008 1:42 pm

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The AP has an article reporting that Ron Gettelfinger, head of the UAW, says the union will not make any more concessions to keep the Big Three in business. I guess the editor cut a big chunk--because the article obviously falls short of explaining why the UAW is taking this stand. Here's what the AP left in:

''The focus has to be on the economy as a whole as opposed to a UAW contract,'' Gettelfinger told reporters on a conference call, noting the labor costs now make up 8 percent to 10 percent of the cost of a vehicle.

''We have made dramatic, dramatic changes and the UAW was applauded for that,'' he said.

Instead, Gettelfinger blamed the problems the auto industry is suffering from on things beyond its control -- the housing slump, the credit crunch that has made financing a vehicle tough and the 1.2 million jobs that have been lost in the past year.
''We're here not because of what the auto industry has done,'' he said. ''We're here because of what has happened to the economy.''

And here's what the AP didn't report (I'm sure it was just an oversight, really).

In its contract last year, the UAW made painful concessions, adopting a two-tier wage structure, such that new employees make just $12 to $15 an hour. The move is projected to bring the American manufacturers in line with their Japanese rivals' non-union labor costs in the near future.

In addition, the union has taken responsibility for providing retiree healthcare, thereby eliminating one of the last remaining competitive disadvantages for the American manufacturers' unionized workforce as compared to their Japanese rivals.

With these agreements, the UAW has managed to save jobs, while still providing the superior labor force that leads most segments (big PDF, see page 10-11) in terms of the most efficient plants measured in hours per vehicle.

The UAW's workers have made deep concessions to ensure American-owned auto industry remains competitive with its foreign competitors. Now that the American-owned manufacturers have eliminated some of the structural disadvantages that gave foreign competitors a market advantage, it would be a terrible waste for its country not to do what's necessary to sustain American manufacturing though this tough financial period.

There. Now it tells a more complete story.

I actually discussed the Media's anti-union bias yesterday after watching Andrea Mitchell and Tom Brokaw shilling for the right wing on Meet the Press. Here's what I had to say yesterday:

I don't normally watch the Sunday talk shows, they just end up being so damn insulting to my intelligence. But for some odd reason I started watching it this morning and no, I wasn't disappointed, it completely insulted my intelligence and that of everyone else who happened to have the misfortune of listening.

Andrea Mitchell decided on a whim to bring up the Employee Free Choice Act, but of course, she used the Right Wing Talking Points, only to be re-enforced in those wingnut talk points.

Mitchell: ...The labor unions will be asked to make some kind of concessions, and what the uaw leaders said in an unusual press conference only yesterday was we’ve made enough concessions. So, as you point out there is the clash, the ability to organize, card check is the short term for it.

Brokaw: Without a secret ballot

Mitchell: without a secret ballot, is a BIG concession to labor. and that is gonna be one of the the early fights in this congress. And Barack Obama is going to have to make a choice on all these things as to whether he can find ways around it. And can answer the economists question as to why Toyota is successful, which is producing American jobs it’s just that their not union jobs.

Okay, I can answer that for you Andrea and let me put it into a way that your little mind can understand:

Toyota competes with GM and Ford for labor, assembly line work and precision assembly workers. Because they compete in the same market as GM and Ford and Chrysler, they have to pay the same wages. However, their benefits are not as good as those of GM, Ford and Chrysler. In fact, Toyota doesn’t provide a pension, health care to retirees and a number of other incentives that the unions which you hate have secured for their membership over YEARS and YEARS of work. But if you want to toss that out the window and ask why doesn't GM just declare Bankruptcy and gut all of their retirees pensions, health care and agreements with their employees, then Andrea, you also need to ask yourself what happens to all of those people? What happens to the pensioner who has no income or health care?

Toyota and Honda do not play on equal footing with GM and Chrysler and Andrea and Brokaw should know that. See, I think they do, they just don't really care. It's not like the economy is hurting them or that NBC is just going to turn off their spigot.

And Tom, let me also explain something else to you, something that you obviously don’t understand.

The Employee Free Choice Act makes it possible for EMPLOYEES to CHOOSE an election or CHOOSE to sign their card and leave it to that. Right now, it’s up to the BOSS and NOT the EMPLOYEE. And there is no SECRECY in today’s standards because the Boss gets to know who the employees are that have signed their cards and want a union.

But what you and Andrea also ignored as a concept is that organizing a union isn’t nearly as important as having a way to get employers to the table to negotiate. The Employee Free Choice Act provides for stiff penalties for employers who ignore the bargaining rights of their employees. I think this is what really is the heart in this fight. It's not that employees can organize, it's that the employers who screw with the results face actual penalties. There are penalties now, but it takes forever and the results of the penalties take YEARS to be realized if ever.

Despite what the rightwing says or lies about in terms of workers and unions, it is still the policy of the United States of America to ENCOURAGE UNIONIZATION:

National Labor Relations Act

The denial by some employers of the right of employees to organize and the refusal by some employers to accept the procedure of collective bargaining lead to strikes and other forms of industrial strife or unrest, which have the intent or the necessary effect of burdening or obstructing commerce by (a) impairing the efficiency, safety, or operation of the instrumentalities of commerce; (b) occurring in the current of commerce; (c) materially affecting, restraining, or controlling the flow of raw materials or manufactured or processed goods from or into the channels of commerce, or the prices of such materials or goods in commerce; or (d) causing diminution of employment and wages in such volume as substantially to impair or disrupt the market for goods flowing from or into the channels of commerce.

The inequality of bargaining power between employees who do not possess full freedom of association or actual liberty of contract and employers who are organized in the corporate or other forms of ownership association substantially burdens and affects the flow of commerce, and tends to aggravate recurrent business depressions, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners in industry and by preventing the stabilization of competitive wage rates and working conditions within and between industries.

Experience has proved that protection by law of the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively safeguards commerce from injury, impairment, or interruption, and promotes the flow of commerce by removing certain recognized sources of industrial strife and unrest, by encouraging practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes arising out of differences as to wages, hours, or other working conditions, and by restoring equality of bargaining power between employers and employees.

Experience has further demonstrated that certain practices by some labor organizations, their officers, and members have the intent or the necessary effect of burdening or obstructing commerce by preventing the free flow of goods in such commerce through strikes and other forms of industrial unrest or through concerted activities which impair the interest of the public in the free flow of such commerce. The elimination of such practices is a necessary condition to the assurance of the rights herein guaranteed.

It is declared to be the policy of the United States to eliminate the causes of certain substantial obstructions to the free flow of commerce and to mitigate and eliminate these obstructions when they have occurred by encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.

So, Andrea and Tom, please understand that not only are you two shills for the anti-union anti-worker establishment fronted by the likes of Hannity, Limbaugh and McCain, but you two also don't seem to know your asses from a hole in the ground.

Employee Free Choice is Good For The Economy BECAUSE it is good for workers, unless of course you don't think workers are part of the economy or deserve to be represented by a union, a union of their own choosing.

Why does the Media hate workers so much? And worse, why are union production crews and writers continuing to spill out this garabage when in the end, they know it's garbage? If you're producing CBS, NBC, ABC or any other cable or network news and YOU are a union member, can you just think a minute before you write for a teleprompter anything that's anti-union and anti-worker garbage? Your brothers and sisters of the UAW would appreciate it.

Hell, I'd appreciate it.

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  • xysea  
    8:55 AM

    Thank goodness someone is trying to dispel this myth. The very FIRST thing anyone says about why GM is going bankrupt is the burden they bear thanks to the pensions and healthcare 'required' by the UAW. I find such assertions shameful and bizarre!

    Why shouldn't these people have a decent retirement and health package?

    (I was going to write a similar rant on

    The problem with GM is that it makes a crap product. Bottom line. It makes a bad product, using cheap parts and poor design, and doesn't own up to its obligations. That is not the pension's fault, or the healthcare plan's. Heck, if they were making cars well and selling the heck out of them, pension, salaries and healthcare would easily be cared for.

    But that's not what happens in the US. Instead, they make a cheap, disposable product with a bad design and bad parts and sell it, keeping the profits for the top tier execs. Notice that the top tier execs aren't cutting their pay or health, or retirement...hmmm. Funny thing, that.

    Personal anecdote: I just got rid of a GM car. A Pontiac Grand Am that was given to me as a gift. If it hadn't have been, I'd have been in litigation. As it is, I still might be. Because that car was a piece of excrement.

    Always something wrong with it, from the steering column, to the brake rotators warping, to the intake manifold failing twice due to the crappy Dex-Cool coolant they used that eats through the plastic/silicone crap they call an intake manifold. None of these repairs were cheap. I used to hate to take it in for service because there was always a $2000 estimate attached to the repairs - it was a running joke in my family. But it wasn't funny how the car was bleeding me dry financially.

    I called GM about the problems and they shined me on. Would say only it was an owner's problem, not a design flaw. But while doing research on the Intertubes, I found out about a class action lawsuit against GM and put my name and invoices into. I'm not holding my breath, but it's telling that GM won't admit to problems and must be compelled through expensive litigation to repair known problems to their vehicles. Perhaps that might be why they're having trouble selling cars?

    Of course, I saw an interesting thing on one of the news networks re: cheap car loans and how too many people now have late model cars (we're flooded with them) so as people are cutting back, a new vehicle isn't in the plans. There's no need of one and they're not affordable right now. The credit markets have tightened up so a lot of people who did buy cars with low credit ratings can't do it now. The solution is (allegedly) loosening up credit again, but isn't that just what got us into this mess?

    What GM needs to do is make a decent, good value, well-designed car for a reasonable amount that can be marketed across the board. If they had even one such car in their cache, we would not be discussing bankruptcy or bailout today. But the fact that they do not, have not and that now it may be too late is very telling indeed.

  • The Union Girl  
    9:11 AM

    I've owned a number of GM products over the years, Ford and Chrysler, too.

    I've never had difficulty with any of the US automakers. I've also driven a Subaru (my brother owned it and damn if it wasn't a gas guzzler) and a Fiat (also brother owned) which was possibly the car that was the most fun to drive.

    A few years ago I gave my car to my parents, a new Saturn SUV. Other than issues with the dealership (it had fallen off a truck during shipping and they failed to tell me that the entire back end door and assembly had been replaced), I and my parents have had no problems with the vehicle. They've had it now for 3 or 4 years and it gets better gas mileage than their other SUV (it's rural Ohio and the snow belt, an SUV is nearly a necessity, including Sunday when in the matter of about 90 minutes, there was 2 inches of snow on the porch).

    Sorry you had issues with your car. In fact, I feel for those who've had issues with their cars in general, but I've found that over the years it was the damn dealership that I had the worst problems with as opposed to the actual vehicle. This includes the condescending service managers to the sales guys who refused to negotiate on price because after all, I'm a girl and everyone knows men make these decisions to the dealership that didn't tell me (and yeah, I asked) about the damage because in Ohio, glass isn't included in the $2000 limit on repairs (anything more and they'd had to tell me, of coruse, the repair was more than $2k, but when they could exclude the glass and then the labor cost, it was only 1.9k, nice, huh?).

    Do people have these same issues with the dealerships that sell Toyota and Honda?

  • xysea  
    9:42 AM

    I'd be interesed in knowing, too, Union Gal. Because the Pontiac was only the 2nd American car that I had ever owned. The first was an Oldsmobile that was a fantastic car. That thing ran like a top til the very end, but that was back in the 80s.

    Maybe I just had a lemon? But when I Googled the problem I had on the Internet, it seemed others were too. I'm sure GM isn't the only one, that there are people who complain about Toyotas, Hondas, etc. I just wasn't impressed by GM's response.

    But you're right, too, about the dealerships. They stink 95% of the time. :(

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