What the AP Left Out about the UAW

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.

61 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    But President George W. Bush and many Republicans have come out against the idea, arguing that the financial rescue package was not intended for such uses, and that a bailout would reward poor management and lead other industries to demand government handouts.

    Well at least the AP included the above whereby the evidence of Repug perfidy philosphy is clear:

    “Support Capitalists (Wall Street), Not Socialists (Main Street)!”

    Glad they made that clear.

  2. wavpeac says:

    why do poor people allow themselves to be manipulated against their own well being? I just don’t understand what it is that makes people collude with the corporatocracy in regard to wages and standard of living issues.

    Who in the hell can factually argue that the head of a corporation should make 1 mill a year while the guy holding the orange sign in 100 degree heat standing on the asphalt should make 12$?

    It’s only worth what the public is willing to pay and for some reason we have been willing to pay the white collar guy behind the desk and not pay the guy holding the sign.

  3. CTMET says:

    Who in the hell can factually argue that the head of a corporation should make 1 mill a year while the guy holding the orange sign in 100 degree heat standing on the asphalt should make 12$?

    Only $1M? Doesn’t sound like a good negotiator. GM’s problems are also built upon poor business decisions. The poor economy is like the receeding waters that make the icebergs more dangerous.

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    It is difficult to see how generic car manufacture can succeed in the wage environment in the US. Even reading some historical essays from the time a few decades ago when I met a few folks who worked at a nearby[1] manufacturing site[2], provides a similar picture of that other time, when international competition was a friction point and right to work states were attracting the foreign investment dollars to build new considerably more automated facilities. In a separate industry, I worked in a strong union shop which had organized to force the owners to dismantle robots and restore those ops to members of labor. For me, there was in the latter opportunity to cultivate research interests I long had harbored, but the evident solution to the standoffs between union and management pointed only out the door, for me, to apply the new learning in a more upwardly mobile environment. I think a lot of people take this kind of quantum pathway thru the strata of capitalist business, though it helps to know the history well enough to recognize job mobility occurs principally when the Democratic Party is in office and unemployment is low, making new employment comparatively easier to find, and even new businesses easier to launch if one is at that threshold, too.
    [1] Runyon migrates from Ford 1980 to Smyrna Nissan, 1986 feature-length Fortune Mag article..
    [2] NUMMI union leader dispells illusions about Toyota-GM new management paradigms in 1-page article archived from 1987, Labor Notes.

  5. PJEvans says:

    I don’t have a problem with bailing out the big 2.5 to keep the jobs going, but do we have to keep their management too?

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    FWIW, and realizing that I am only one person, here’s my personal experience related to car purchases.

    In Aug/Sept of 2004, I figured that I’d best trade in the nifty little Toyota that I’ve drive for a couple years. So I was in contact with a salesman for a model of European made car that I really liked. By about October 2004, I was ready to sign, but I told the guy: “This may sound strange to you, but I’m not sure that Kerry’s going to win this election and if GW Bush wins, I think the economy will end up going way, way south. So I’ll wait to buy the car until AFTER the Nov. 2004 election.”

    GW Bush ‘won’ (stole) the 2004 election.
    I did not purchase the new vehicle.

    I’ve never second-guessed that decision.
    The Toyota now has 4 more years on it, but it beats hell out of buying a new car in a trashed economy. Given recent slumps in auto sales, it appears that I’m not the only person thinking that way.

    Labor is smart to point out that there are larger, systemic issues involved in people’s auto purchasing decisions. Those bigger issues needed to be addressed, and labor needs to be part of those decisions IMHO.

  7. spoonful says:

    I was unaware of the UAW’s wage concessions – it would be interesting to see an auto industry with the same cost structure as its foreign competitors; perhaps a cash infusion by the government to this industry would work if done in furtherance of the development of transportation sources which run solely on renewable energies. Any such government support would necessarily include establishment of the infrastructure, i.e., fuel stations to support such new energy sources.

    • emptywheel says:

      One of the thing that’s going to have to happen as we move to electric is a radical change in dealer structure. But that’s going to have to change throughout the industry.

  8. Gerald says:

    I would like to address some of what was said above and before in other comments, but before I do, I will explain myself a bit to give more weight to my words.

    Mostly here on this blog I have commented on technical matters. The reason is because as a young man, I got an engineering degree on a NROTC scholarship. (Navy) I have worked on surface ships mostly, all over the world. The latter part of my 31-year career I worked on problems, at sea, on the docks, in the repair depots, and in the design rooms. Though retired, I still go to sea a lot, mainly because I love it. I have 3 ex-wives that would say I loved it more than them. Nowdays I am still doing it when I feel like it, for commercial companies mainly but sometimes the work is on Navy ships. Sometimes in fact it is on other Nations’ (friendly of course) ships.

    Here on this blog, I have spoken on deep-sea cables, on submarines, on the Taliban and cell phone towers amongst other things.

    Now I have never worked in an auto plant, but I know a great deal about them, and other kinds of manufacturing. (There is a lot of time at sea to read, or these days to browse the internet.)

    Given that, let me address some fallacies or at least some misunderstandings, and lack of understanding.

    On pay. It is a given that the man or men who own or run a company will pay what it takes to get the guy they want for a post. A guy carrying a sign or standing at a stamping machine will be paid less than the guy who designs the product, or who plans and runs the operations of the plant because you can get a good stamping machine operator for a lot less money than some of the higher ups. If the owner thinks that someone is a real star that can make him money, just like a quarterback or a big center on a Sports team, he will pay what it takes to get him. Is that fair or necessary? Well the owner thinks it is, it is his money, and he does the hiring.

    People say that the American companies have legacy costs that the newer companies don’t have. Well that is true, and it is an advantage of a start up, but there are disadvantages to a start up like getting market share and training a whole new factory full of workers. The American companies haven’t solved their legacy (pensioners for example, and industrial waste) problems but the foreign start ups have solved their marketing and training problems.

    The UAW has made concessions, just like the Airlines, but from what I see they have not made enough. The companies they want to work for just aren’t successful anymore. True the economy is hurting them, but it is hurting everyone. I think Toyota went down 23 % or more last month, but they aren’t going bankrupt.

    I have worked in shipyards with unions, and I have worked in shipyards without them, and it was always a lot easier, quicker, and cheaper to get the same job done without the union. That generally has nothing to do with the skill of the workers. Many times the union worker is more skilled, but it is just more difficult and thereby more expensive to get a job done. That is all about the ”work rules” where for example to get a simple job done in a non union shop you might just call 1 guy who can take care of it, but in the union shop you have to call 3 or even more. I knew an engineer (from school) in a civilian unionized manufacturing plant who came in one night and identified the problem, and he knew the one maintenance guy he wanted to come in and fix the problem, but he had to go down a list and call 9 guys that were ahead of the low seniority, but very talented, man he wanted and so those guys were paid as well as the man who fixed the problem. And by the way, if he couldn’t get on the phone a man on the list that was ahead of the one he wanted he still had to pay him too, because it was written into the work rules because the union said that they wouldn’t know if that guy had been called or not, no matter what the caller said.

    The American auto companies have a deal called a ”Jobs Bank” where if a worker is laid off he will get about 95% of his pay for about a year. What happens after that I don’t know. It is amazing that the American companies have lasted as long as they have.

    Anyway, that can’t continue. The American companies were failing before the economy went bust, and now things are worse.

    Now I think the 25 Billion that has been already allotted for new efficient car development is ok and wouldn’t blink at more, but I don’t believe that we should pay for them just to continue day to day operations.

    The logical thing (at this point) is to let them go on by themselves and if they bankrupt, restructure the whole company, managers, workers, car lines, etc. We should retrain, and even relocate the workers if need be. We will still be making cars in America and maybe even have some names like GM and Ford. In the future, they should be able to compete with the Hondas, and Toyotas. I hope so.

    As far as health care is concerned, because some comenters might bring it up, I think we should have a one payer system where co-payments are required depending on income. We don’t now have this, but Toyota and Honda in America don’t have it either.

    • emptywheel says:

      One thing I didn’t include in this is that the UAW has made it a lot easier to negotiate job changes on a plant by plant basis–eliminating another of the reasons you say they are problems.

      You’ve also simplified the new product introduction tremendously, to account for the effect of free trade on this history.

      Finally, we aren’t planning on “paying them to continue day to day operations.” We’re talking about a loan, just like Chrysler got, to take care of short term credit issues.

    • Rayne says:

      How much of those concessions you’ve acknowledged that the UAW cannot be made to the legacy costs? There’s not much more that can be conceded in terms of wages if the lowest level is $12 to $15 an hour; cripes, the median salary for a bartender is roughly $10-12 an hour, for food prep and service about $12 an hour, and for cannery workers $12 an hour. The kinds of training and technical skills that are necessary for consistent quality in production surely must be more valuable than the skills required to flip your burger.

      I think the myth of the $60K-plus line worker is part of the barrier to getting assistance to the auto industry; those days are gone, have been.

  9. cbl2 says:

    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.

    wow! I didn’t know that. that’s huge and there is lots of equally significant news in that Reuters link

    Mornin’ Empty and All !

  10. californiarealitycheck says:

    uaw concessions were made to support/continue the previous model. it no longer exists and it was too little too late, imo. don’t know what the answer is.

  11. DrDick says:

    Let’s get real here. The statement above that the auto industry’s problems are solely the result of external factors is blatantly false. Those externalities certainly exacerbated the auto industries problems, but the problems themselves are largely self inflicted. The one major problem area caused by externalities, healthcare costs, has been addressed. The fundamental problems faced by Detroit is incredibly stupid management decisions over the past 35 years. Rather than retool and adapt to a changing world with declining oil supplies and potentially higher gasoline prices, they insisted on building the exact same cars they always had. The consequence was that they has steadily lost market share over that period and are now facing possible extinction as the reality of high gasoline prices hits home. They shot themselves in the foot and are now slowly bleeding to death. The problem is not “the economy” (though that contributes), nor unions (they already made the necessary concessions), but brain dead management. There can be no bailout without complete replacement of upper management and the boards of directors.

    • californiarealitycheck says:

      don’t think it can be done without a fire sale. give them $$$and they are on their way just like the banks. not even a second thought. ALL of it must go away,imo.

    • Rayne says:

      Who bought the bloody Hummers and 9-passenger SUV’s?

      Let’s get serious here; it’s not just the automakers who need to retool — the American public demanded its usual excess, got it, and now expects the provider to accommodate its turnabout in tastes, although that provider has to deal with 30-50 years of baggage while turning on a dime.

      • DrDick says:

        No argument there, really. The fact that the US automakers pretty steadily lost market share here over this period, however, suggest that a lot of the American people are already on board.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        I seem to recall that the Repubes gave TAX credits to people who bought those big ass gas guzzling Hummers. I also recall when Lee Iaccocca took only $1 a year salary from Chrysler when it got a loan from the governmnet. And the government made money on that loan .

    • Hugh says:

      I agree with what you are saying. I have been saying that the auto industry has behaved stupidly and irresponsibly for decades. And I have no problem with there being hard, although not punitive, conditions placed on a bailout. But this is only a small part of keeping the larger economy going. You don’t get yourself out of a recession/depression by cutting back on spending. The automakers need to be bailed out not because they deserve but because so many jobs and a large chunk of the economy is involved. But again this is only one part. If you give them money but let the banks continue to freeze lending it won’t work. Detroit will make cars and there will be no one who can buy them. So this needs to be part of a much larger effort. It is why someone like a Nouriel Roubini talks about a stimulus package in the $400-500 billion range. The economy, the whole economy has to move forward or it all sinks.

      • DrDick says:

        I actually kind of like T-Bear’s idea of capital investment which gives US controlling say in any companies bailed out. I also have no problems with punitive conditions directed at the idiot managers who caused this problem. Those who created the mess should in no way benefit from it.

        • T-Bear says:

          Public or social ownership of the means of production will allow the profits from the operation of those companies to accrue to social retirement (supplementing), social medical care, restoring educational institutions, creating responsible public housing and transportation, myriad other projects that employ and support people. If the system now failing can produce the profits that have allowed this crisis to happen, those profits can be made to apply for the benefit and enrichment of the community just as well and to amplified effect.

          • DrDick says:

            I doubt that actual permanent nationalization is possible politically (and I am a socialist). I do think a temporary nationalization (like Sweden did with its banks) could work and would pay dividends to the American taxpayers (unlike the current clusterfuck on Wall Street). It also provides an opportunity to radically restructure the auto companies to improve mileage standards and other green objectives. Ford and GM actually make those cars overseas and there is no reason they cannot make them here.

  12. katymine says:

    And on the talking heads on Meet the Press several said that the UAW would HAVE to take concessions…… who needs facts..

  13. Hugh says:

    Thom Friedman said on MTP today that we should let the automakers fail. So it’s official now: letting the auto industry go bankrupt is a really stupid idea. There’s no way of knowing that if give them $25 billion, they won’t come back in a few months for $25 billion more.

    Two things: Listening to Friedman, I find myself inserting financial industry everytime he says auto industry. Doing so turns the argument completely upside down. Because he sure hasn’t been saying we need to let Goldman or JP Morgan or AIG go belly up because you know we’ve been shoveling billions to them and they’ll probably be back for more.

    Second, Friedman like McCain is one of these guys whose economic plan was to marry into millions. So him talking about putting millions of families into poverty to make an economic point stinks to high heaven.

    Kitty Kay says well bail them out but make it punitive. Again I substitute the words financial industry for auto industry. Where were these guys saying OK bailout the financial sector but make it punitive?

    It’s like they don’t have a filter. Only and unsurprisingly Tavis Smiley points out that Detroit is a poor city and that lots of poor people are going to get hurt.

    Finally, Sheila Bair has proposed a program at the FDIC just under $25 billion that would help about 1/3 of those who are or will be in default on their mortgages through 2009 or about 1.5 million. The problem is that the money would come from Paulson’s kitty and he doesn’t want to give any of it up. The Detroit bailout the Congress would fund separately. But how crazy is it that around $50 billion to help the real American economy is derided and scorned while trillions to prop up the house of cards of the paper economy is given without question or quibble? This is the Age of Stupid in action. Our leaders and pundits will only contemplate something if it is really stupid and expensive and won’t work. And we wonder how we got where we are.

    • californiarealitycheck says:

      there is that old saying that we deserve the leadership that we have bc we have not demanded better. maybe just know folks can begin to see the peter principal in action in gov’t.

    • Rayne says:

      Yes, only Tavis pointed out that Detroit is poor.

      There are places only blocks from GM’s corporate offices where telephone and cable companies will not install lines because they will be ripped out and sold as scrap, where all abandoned buildings have been stripped of copper piping. It’s worse in some places than a third-world country.

      Yet the talking heads go on blithely about Detroit needing to cut back, conflating the metro area with the Big Three (although there is a point at which their fortunes are inextricably tied).

      There is little left to cut. Frankly, there’s not much left of the Big Three, and most observers outside the industry don’t realize it.

      I interviewed for a job with a contract service provider back in 2002, arriving in Flint MI at what was a regional research site for GM. Imagine my shock after walking through approx. 1500 cubicles of different contract service providers to find that there was not one GM employee there. I never saw one the entire time I was there; all of the services required to run the business, from telephone to info tech and much more, all of it farmed out to the lowest bidder, and each of them watching over their shoulder at each other as competitors for the next bid.

      It was then I realized how little was left of the corporation: only a limited amount of research, bean counters and bill payers, sales management, executives, and an ever-fewer number of people on the line. Everything had been hollowed out, and that was before the kinds of cuts we’ve seen over the last handful of years.

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      But how crazy is it that around $50 billion to help the real American economy is derided and scorned while trillions to prop up the house of cards of the paper economy is given without question or quibble?

      They sure are consistent in their worship of trickle down economics, eh? Of course the top tier of the economic pyramid has to be propped up so it can charitably shower money on the rest of us./s

  14. T-Bear says:

    An opinion: any bailout = buyout

    Publicly Owned Companies, Immunized against privatization. Invest retirement savings into financing. Current owners incompetent to administer, build up management skills from 1) internal preexisting management or 2) from managerially trained civil service. Remove the source of economic production from the current ownership.

    • californiarealitycheck says:

      i like the retool idea previously suggested re the mic. turn it into green tech production plus a works project.

    • Hugh says:

      An opinion: any bailout = buyout

      That is an interesting idea. I heard recently GM could be bought for $ 2 billion. If we are being asked to invest in the car companies then we should get something back and have an ownership stake in them. The question is what do we want? I would say at a minimum a commitment to more fuel efficient greener cars but more than this I think we need to see how Detroit can help us with a return to mass transit. Over and beyond the current mess we have both global warming and peak oil staring at us, and it would be a lot smarter to start addressing these things now then get out of the present crisis and have to retool and redirect this industry yet again to face these challenges.

      • californiarealitycheck says:

        i’d like to see solar mass produced so it could be affordable for average folks. mass transit also would be perfect. don’t think 47% on the other side would agree.

      • Rayne says:

        It would be interesting to steer GM into correcting the historic errors of its ways, make it pay back its karmic debt.

        They make bio-diesel vehicles, and I know they have spent billions on fuel cell technology; the argument that keeps these technologies from being fully realized comes down to the market. If a company only has a limited amount of money to spend on R&D and it must make a profit this year, where do you spend the money? This is where the public can make up for its own historic errors; they can insist on development and commercialization of smaller, lighter bio-diesel for mass transit including light rail, and fuel cell vehicles, instead of demanding more comfortable all-leather seats or quieter interiors or less road feel (the things that have been paying the bills to date).

      • T-Bear says:

        If GM is failing and requires a bailout, It becomes a Government owned company, immunized against returning to a privatized entity. The government will direct the means of production for the benefit of the citizens at ecologically responsive goals. Socialize all sources of economic production that cannot be maintained privately. Social savings (Social Security and retirement savings) are adequate to finance the operation of the companies. Management can be developed from internal management or from civil service trained management to operate the company for public good. Socialize the banking and financial system as it fails to provide service, removing the present ownership from management and control. If the ownership is social (government) the ends of government will be served. The important point is returning the sources of economic production to social ends, not private.

        • ferrarimanf355 says:

          … but what about the Camaros and Corvettes? Surely, there’s a place for cars that are fun to drive, right? And the Corvette can get 26 MPG on the highway, and can get 30 in light driving- and there are the reports from drivers to back that up.

          Anyways, the problem at hand is that the new deal doesn’t take place until 2010, and help is needed now. And what about that figure that the health care costs per vehicle is $2000 per car? Something has to give

  15. bigbrother says:

    Sick industry destroying the planet atmosphere and the unions. Where is the “P” in patriotism. American consumers throw Detroit under the bus …who’s fault is that the managements for creating a failed business model. Americans need to start suporting Ameican product made with union labor. The investor are getting a bigger piece of the pie, while consumers have less disposable income to make the purchases that drive the economy.
    When investor demand more they end up with less killing the goode that laid the golden egg…then they whine and pull capital out and put it in treasuries which is shifted to conclomerate ‘to big to fail’ banks that then use that capital to buy regional banks. The oligarchy becomes total monopoly and workers become slave that carry the huge burdens of healthcare and insane housing costs. If labor is not paid a living wage their is no car buyers…Henry Ford figured it out in 1910. The current crop of corporate managers couldn’t find their their car keys without a secretary.

      • bigbrother says:

        Germany built a Volkswagon during hard times…an affordable car with good gas milelage and lpw maintenance. The Volt is one model but there are other models for all electric and battery technology is improving.
        Carbon is the problem…a carbon tax is the mover to clean energy. Solar panels on buildings allow recharge almost anywhere and at home. Auto design has to be lighter and smaller for commuters especially.How did we ever get along without SUVs?
        Earth: The Sequel describes the venture capitalist for renewable energy…carbon tax will protect their investment in this new energy phase. Capital from investors not the US Treasury. That is where 5 million new jobs will be created in place of bubble economy which ahs been a paper fantasy allowed by deregulation of the markets and banks. Bushco has given the workers the fast shuffle of their money to the casinos of Wall street.

        The big questiion for me is why have the union families voted Republican in the skilled trades? Now 50% of retirement funds have also dissapeared as the ‘invisible hand” of Milton Friedman forments Disaster Capitalism in the USA economy as well as the global economy.

        We need some strong legislation…Krugman recommennds a strong stimulus package for the people. The republicans say the opposite they want to go back to fiscal conservatism now they are getting our money. It seems like class warfare the struggle between the haves and have nots.

  16. dakine01 says:

    One thing that never ceases to amaze me as how the union “work rules” seems to be always the big bug-a-boo amongst some folks and justification for why unions shouldn’t be allowed.

    Aren’t those “work rules” negotiated with management? If they are so very onerous and unwieldy, shouldn’t the management negotiators make that a hard bargaining position? Or are they just a convenient excuse for blaming the unions for the stupidity of management?

    I think I’m leaning toward the latter position as the reality.

    • T-Bear says:

      Most work rules IIRC are based on safety and safe working conditions, e.g. rest breaks, reducing stress problems, safety rules and equipment. For some reason, these are unacceptable to negotiating management. Usual result are mine cave-ins, black-lung, myriad injuries from meatpacking, list is endless. They shoot horses in the name of humanity but management will not care for those who carry the weight of their profits. Class war – by all means.

  17. Loo Hoo. says:

    1. I like the idea of taxpayers owning the companies if they go bankrupt. I would surely be more interested in buying from a company I am part owner of.

    2. The big three have really improved the design (looks) of their cars in the last couple of years. For decades they were about UGLY!

    3. I wonder how much less expensive maintenance of roads and bridges would be if everyone drove light cars.

  18. Gitcheegumee says:

    This truly is a time of tectonic paradigm shift. Ben Stein was on Cavuto Fiday afternoon, and MUCH to Cavuto’s apparent shock and awe, Stein DEFENDED bailoing out the Big 3. Man, that was some MUST SEE TV! Hey,FDL how’s about some video of THAT ?

  19. Adie says:

    Thank you for this excellent, critically important post, EW.

    I’m glad comments are still open. I missed it yesterday.

    A very dear friend of ours is a GM retiree. After countless hours working on the assembly line most of his adult life, he finally was able to retire just a few years ago.

    He and his family agonize over fears of what the future will hold, every time contract negotiations roll around again. They are helpless captives of the system at this point, since retirees seem to be given no voice. They have had their health benefits changed so many times, they’ve probably lost count – except to notice that each change means less quality and quantity of care allowed. During negotiations, active workers understandably worry first about their own, younger families, leaving fewer and fewer crumbs for the retirees.

    I rarely hear them complain. Their reactions more often are summed up by a downward glance and a shake of the head, maybe a simple, “I don’t know.”

    These are hard working, deeply caring, warm-hearted folks, wizards at making do, and knowing how to do their own home repairs, grow their own food, can and freeze, sew and mend, wallpaper and paint et al. like pros.

    Wonderful parents whose kids are now grown and have their own families. Members of the “sandwich generation” lovingly still caring for their parents also – having grown up coal-miner’s kids. Black lung: yes. Coal mining hardships of the past: yes. They’re all too familiar, having already lost three of their parents’ generation, and even enduring health problems themselves secondary to the coal connection.

    Both of these remarkable people only were able to afford high school formal education. Yet they carry wisdom far beyond that of many we know with PhDs and MBAs and salaries to match. Their generosity knows no bounds. I find myself trying to lecture the wife to try not to work so hard, but she just nods and we both know she cannot ignore her own ailing mother’s health and emotional needs. So she keeps going, sacrificing herself because that is how she was raised. The family always comes first, she ever willing to help anyone who needs something she knows she can provide.

    They vote. The dear lady is the one I mentioned after the election, who e-mailed me, elated, because she had convinced her ailing mother to vote for Obama, in spite of the hate/fear nonsense spewed across the nation this fall by McCain Inc.Ick. We all cheered at the idea of frail little grandma spontaneously broadening the concept by insisting on voting Democratic throughout her entire ballot, anger finally tearing a huge gaping hole in McCain/Palin’s curtain of fear. Gramma had probably never before considered voting for anyone of color, out of fear.

    I applaud this family’s spirit, heart-felt generosity, and sense of personal responsibility, and we treasure our mutual close friendship.

    I detest the attitude shown them by the people in our society who would take advantage and abuse their trust.

  20. JohnfromBoston says:

    Detroit has been in trouble for years, due to poor management decisions on product developement, forecasting future needs and requirements, R&D and most importantly, but rarely pursued, vehicle quality. The Big 3 has poured money down a rats hole by filing law suits against enviromental laws, challenging CAFE standards and safety improvements. Today’s Toyota and/or Honda will last over 200,000 miles if properly maintained, an accomplishment beyond GM, FORD and Chrysler. Without strict oversight and conditions, the bailout will fail.

    • brandane says:

      I hope Toyota and Honda will pay your mortgage for you when GM and Ford and Chrysler goes bust. As usual toyota lovers don’t have a clue of what they are talking about. I can’t wait until the “transplants” in Tennesee, Alabama, Texas, et al are in this country for 25 years and have to pay for retirees. It will be interesting to see how fast they pull out and head for cheaper pastures.

      I usually don’t agree with the financial wizards on CNBC but Jim Cramer at least tells the truth once in a while, to quote him recently ” if GM goes bankrupt you can all kiss you IRA’s goodbye”. So you Honda and Toyota lovers out there, just keep buying those cars, I am sure the Japanese Government will thank you.

  21. Gerald says:

    There were a lot of good comments. Also there are a lot of sincere beliefs that I can’t really change.

    I will touch on a few points.

    1. Why are there such stupid work rules and other excesses like totally 100% free medical?
    2. Didn’t the company agree to these?

    Yes to 1 and 2. The UAW represents all the auto workers, but it would choose to strike one company at a time. (Whip-sawing is the name.)
    Say it struck Ford, well then Ford would stop working, and the managers would watch as the company approached failure but the other two American companies were still working picking up the slack. The UAW was doing much better because many of its workers were still going strong, and the strike fund was being filled. Most workers were still working in fact, overtime.

    The company had to give in to things that would continue to bite them forever, but otherwise the managers would themselves be out of a job, the stockholders would hold worthless paper, etc., etc. This is where all this legacy built up over the years.

    If the Union had had to strike the whole industry, then better decisions would have been made.

    I have heard some say here that the UAW took over medical. What wasn’t said was that the money came from or still comes from the car companies. There is quite a lot of spin there.

    Rayne, you bring up low starting wages of 12 to 15 dollars. Do you really believe that those wages are permanent? I forget what the schedule is, but those wages change in time. The next question is what jobs actually gets those wages.

    You see, there are the myths or maybe just misunderstandings just like in a political campaign.
    1. Low wages 12 to 15 dollars.
    2. UAW pays for medical.
    3. The company agreed to the rules so why should they complain, and certainly they shouldn’t dare go bankrupt.

    I remember in a magazine once someone went back to the old steel mill towns, like Flint, and maybe Cleveland or somewhere near there.
    They saw the old rusty empty mills, and the rundown neighborhoods.
    They went in the bars during the day and there were the old steel workers most of whom had been had of work since the mills closed, and now on SS, Supplemental SS, medicare, medicaid, foodstamps, and the like.
    They interviewed a lot of them.
    This is typically how it went.

    Do you regret striking and driving the mill out of business?
    Hell no. We showed them they couldn’t push us around.

    Heck even the airline pilots, some of which I knew on the carriers and the bars, are backing off. A transoceanic pilot that still has a job might make only 150K today rather than the 300K of a few years ago. A domestic might make 100K instead of the 200K a few years ago. Some pilots don’t have jobs. Yeah, I have heard ”Delta or United has ruined our lives” many, many times.

    Granted the UAW workers aren’t up in that kind of stratosphere literally or figuratively, but they are actually showing far less resilience.

    As for a loan. I can see that with the USA holding the first note, and a quick salary/wage adjustment all the way across the spectrum. The more you made the more drastic the cut. But a loan only with a cut in all wages and benefits or it is just a waste.

    However I believe the UAW will act like those old steel workers. I am fairly certain of that. I hope I am proven wrong.

  22. brandane says:

    I sure would like to smoke some of that stuff you are doing, it would make all this bovine scatology easier to swallow. I ask you this. When was the last time the UAW had a major strike against the big three? Then you bring up the old media talking points about the airline pilots making 300,000 a year and that is why the airlines are goin bust, but you never mention that there are young pilots starting out at 17,000 a year(I know because my wife worked with them as a flight attendant), they couldn’t even afford to live by themselves, they still lived with mom and dad. Do some of your own homework and get away from the media talking points.

  23. Gerald says:


    you are a bit confused. My point was that the UAW didn’t strike all the companies at once.

    As for the 300K a year, a friend of mine though a bit older flew off carriers during Nam. He was the Captain on a Delta Transoceanic plane, the largest Delta flew. He made that.

    Young pilots making 17K a year aren’t flying those same planes, but as their experience grows they will make a lot more than 17.

    But you are basically right, which I was pointing out. The wages were far higher than the current market can bear, and so everyone is being scaled down.

    My main point in the above was that those pilots had been scaled back about 50% on their wages, and the number of jobs were decreasing. I would expect further decreases in wages.

    The UAW hasn’t had its top earners scaled by 50% as far as I know, but maybe someone else does know.

    • brandane says:

      Gerald, I worked for the auto industry for forty years and had to deal with the UAW most of that time, there have been no major strikes since the sixties and seventies. I also refer to young pilots flying CRJ’s and seventy passenger airplanes, all jets, so it is not some broken wing enterprises. I often wondered how a young man could make more money driving a bus than he could flying an airplane with seventy people on it, but, I guess people like you understand it better than I.

  24. ferrarimanf355 says:

    … and seriously, the concessions from the UAW are good and all, but why weren’t they done several years ago?

  25. Gerald says:


    I am really not trying to bust your chops or anything. With your experience I would expect you to know about the auto strikes more than I, but I notice you said ”major” strikes so there seems to be some distinctions that you are making that I probably don’t really understand.

    But let’s talk airplanes first and then we will wind this up.
    I am a sociable guy. That is good and bad, for married life, but it does give you a chance to know a lot of people. I am one of those guys that goes to reunions, bars, parties, fishing trips, hunting, skiing, etc., that keeps up with old friends, that actually blogs about many subjects on many sites.

    There are some pilots that come to mind that I knew fairly well, meaning, I met their girl friends and their wives, and occasionally their children.

    One flew C130s in the military. His dream was to be an airline pilot like my friend (actually friends) that were Delta Captains. Last I heard, 10 years ago, he was flying cargo out of FL.
    Another flew helicopters in the military. He too had the dream, even hunger. He went to the school where they train you in big planes on his own dime. He ended up working as a Charter pilot down in Charleston, last I heard.
    Another never was in the military. He wanted to fly. He took lessons, got a private license right out of college, got a bunch of hours, and contacted the airlines. He was about maybe 26, younger than I at the time. The airlines said that in most all things he was ideal. He had a mechanical engineering degree with very good grades, a good resume right back to grammar school. They said that they would have put into a track system they had flying small planes and move him up except for 1 tiny detail. He had congenital high blood pressure. Was a tremendous physical specimen except for that. That meant he couldn’t get a commercial license. He couldn’t go ahead.
    Another I know was in the CAP as a kid, was a tremendous specimen both mentally and physically. Went through school on a full AFROTC scholarship. Graduated and was on his way to flight school, until he got to Lackland AFB in Texas. The dust stopped him from flying. He was allergic to it and it caused congestion, etc. Still he changed his career path, and made it to a FULL Bird in the Air Force, the same rank I had in the Navy.

    THere are a lot of men, kids and older who dream of flying and unless they make it to the big times, they don’t make the bucks.

    If you have been around like you say, then you have heard the saying ”Many are called, few are chosen.”

    Now back to the UAW. They along with some compliant managers, and a complicit congress have killed GM, and maybe Ford, and Chrysler.

    I would liken them to the people who ate the Golden Goose, and then, oh hey surprise, the golden eggs stopped.

    George Bush was like that. He supposedly had everything going his way but now he has ruined the GOP, the term conservative, and this whole country.

    Bill Clinton ate that Goose too, self destructed, and helped give us Bush.

    Now we have President Elect Obama. Let us pray that he doesn’t also develop an appetite for power and misuse and abuse it like those before him.

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