United Auto Workers: Stuck on Stupid

We have a winner! Party

Their major employers on the edge of bankruptcy, the UAW refuses to make any concessions to help keep these businesses afloat as part of a bailout deal. Instead, they demand the government bail them out, too:

The nation’s automakers are preparing to ask for wage and benefits concessions from their workers in early January to meet the conditions of a $17.4 billion federal aid package, but labor officials say they will seek to renegotiate the terms of the bailout rather than make those sacrifices.

The remarks by union leaders have set up yet another contentious battle in the auto industry.

In agreeing to provide federal assistance to General Motors and Chrysler, the White House demanded the firms cut worker compensation to the levels paid at the U.S. divisions of Toyota, Nissan and Honda. But Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers, said earlier this week that he would seek to remove the wage-reduction provision of the loan, calling it "an undue tax on the workers" who have already made "major" sacrifices for the benefit of the auto industry.

Gettelfinger said that what is being asked of the autoworkers — who agreed to concessions in 2003, 2005 and 2007 — is "unrealistic." He has said he wants to work with President-elect Barack Obama to remove the wage provision.

So, let me get this straight: the Big Three are unable to compete, in large part because their various labor costs –salaries, benefits, pensions– are too high. The logical move is to reduce those costs. This can be done either through across the board cuts that nevertheless preserve jobs, or by eliminating jobs through layoffs. The administration in its bailout plan prefers the former. The union, in a state of complete denial, appears willing to risk the latter in the belief that there is a third way: another handout from Uncle Sam, under which the taxpayer would underwrite the cost of labor.

Heck, the way things are going, maybe they’re right and the government will blink. The administration hasn’t shown the spine yet to let the markets actually work.

In the long run, however, they’re dead wrong. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler are failing businesses and no amount of bailouts will help, so long as they fail to address the structural problems. I’m not absolving the automakers of their share in this mess, far from it. But the UAW bosses have to recognize their responsibilities, too. In the end, their obduracy will cost many, many more jobs as the car companies file bankruptcies and initiate layoffs. It should cost them the trust of their rank-and-file, too.

For playing the role of the oak in Aesop’s fable about the oak and the reeds, President Ron Gettelfinger and the leadership of the United Auto Workers union win the coveted Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore Commemorative Stuck On Stupid Award for December, 2008.

Well done, gentlemen. Well done. Applause

LINKS: As usual, Michelle Malkin is pithier than I.

UPDATE: I linked this at Little Green Football’s link-viewer, and a commenter there made a good point about the UAW’s compensation package. Still, I think UAW is being obstinate and refusing to face reality; the only question is whether to face the pain now or later, when it’s sure to be worse.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: