The UAW in a Time of Crisis

Posted on September 7, 2011


Word just came out that Ford is building a $1bn manufacturing facility in India to accommodate and meet global demands for its brand:

And although the move is, as stated, to meet global demand, it is obvious that this won’t be welcomed news for people within this side of the fences. The current backdrop is rather bleak, with no new jobs added as of August, 2011and a 9.1% unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is rather modest compared to other nations, but that’s another story (nor it would be a source of comfort for the poor souls that are currently unemployed):

With that said, the unions aren’t giving Ford much of a choice :

There is a point to be made from the workers’ POV (given that the cost of living keeps increasing). However, I just don’t see how Ford Union workers can be demanding raises in this economy, specially when there are workers overseas that can do the same type of unskilled manual work for much less.

No. Let me rephrase that. I don’t see how Ford Union workers can be demanding raises in this economy when 14 million of their fellow country men are unemployed, and many millions more don’t have any benefits at all.

Note to UAW: yes, it is manual, unskilled job, no matter how you cut it. Other people with the same skills (or lack thereof) can do that job for less, either inside the US or in India or China. Get over it and over yourself once and for all.

As of 2008, the average UAW made $70/hr, including health and pension costs, whereas a US-based Toyota worker made between $10 to $20. Not to be derisive but I don’t know that many engineers with college degrees making that much.

Auto workers claim, and rightly so, that it is a hard job, but since when physical hardness is the sole factor for asking that much? They are not risking their lives in an oil rig or fishing in the Bering Sea. And they are not the only ones doing a hard job. Just ask anyone doing roofing in South Florida or in the South West in the middle of summer. Hell, I toiled behind a grill at a McDonalds, and I’ve done hard physical work. This was one of the toughest, but I don’t see its hardness being a qualifier for getting paid many times the minimum salary.

Let’s go further in this analysis: A HS teacher or college professor does not make that much, and I’ll argue they are more vital to this nation than them. A cop or a firefighter does not make that much either, and there is no argument about their job not being hard enough or dangerous enough.

Work at automobile manufacturing plan is neither a specialized work that requires hard-to-get skills, nor it is one of the hardest physical ones either. So forgive me for my language as I shamelessly borrow one of Chris Rock’s famous punch lines: what the fuck you want, a cookie?

As a case in point of the audacity of UAW’s demands (from the Fox New’s link I just shared), college assistance for workers’ kids (a gov’ funded benefit) is a nice-to-have privately-funded benefit. It is not by any reasonable measure a must-have benefit. Hell, I don’t have college assistance for my kid, and most Americans – independently of income bracket – do not have that either.

This mentality of expecting benefits that are no longer sustainable is going to extirpate the living force out of the American automobile industry that is poorly equipped (in great part by bad management mind you) to confront the competitive gauntlet being thrown at us by raising economies.

It is in times like this that one should be thankful to have a job at all that allows to cover the bare necessities, to put food on the table, and if lucky, to have medical coverage for the entire family. It is not the time to demand and push for nice-to-haves. It is time for austerity and sacrifice.

This is an slap in the face of the millions of people who do not have a job and of the many million others who do not have the most basics of benefits. These are unreasonable demands. Fair or not, this is one of the many ways to push unskilled, manual jobs overseas, and people should be cognizant of it…

… unless we are willing to pay more for American-branded cars or expect the government to provide heavy subsidies (which means more taxes, more protectionism, more federal gov. involvement, and, inevitably less competitiveness against foreign car manufacturers from both a) established developed economies like Germany and Japan and b) rising economies like China and India.)

Obama might have said that unions created the middle class. A true statement… of unions in their past form, in past, no longer existing social and legal contexts.

It is also true that, now, in their current form, unions are killing the middle class. They stopped being the defenders of workers right a long time ago, devolving themselves into anti-meritocratic, self-sustaining, nepotist cliches.

They are not the sole culprit since there is a lot of blame to share. But they certainly have a hand on it. And that’s how history will remember them.