Skip to main content

One can't help notice that "certain elements" in the political discourse are blaming the travails of the domestic auto industry on the fact that it is largely unionized. I consider this a political position rather than one that is justified by the facts.

Certainly there may be terms locked in from previous contract negotiations (when things were more rosy) that are no longer appropriate. Perhaps "job banking" - the practice of keeping laid off workers on salary until their jobs can be re-filled - doesn't work any longer. But the "shock, shock" that an auto worker can make $100,000 a year (working plenty of overtime) strikes me as rather hypocritical coming from people who don't blink an eye at the CEO making $14 million a year (14 million = 140 $100K line workers) or however many VPs or department heads making $250,000 per year and up. Can one look at the condition of the industry and truly claim that these management-types are twice or three times or 140 times more valuable that the worker on the line? And anyway, the unions in recent years have been quite ready to renogotiate, even give back, when they believe the overall health of the industry is at stake.

It wasn't the unions who decided not to produce fuel efficient cars. While they may have been part of the lobbying effort to postpone fuel efficiency regulations, I'm sure they bought into the management rhetoric that this was the way to maximum profits, meaning maximum jobs. These companies are not cooperatives, and the unions didn't make the decisions that led the industry to the dire straits it finds itself in today.

As to the argument that it is pension and health care costs that are bankrupting the industry, of that I have no doubt. But the reason that's a problem is that the industry's international competitors, particularly in Japan, have these costs absorbed by the society as a whole, meaning the government, which means the auto companies themselves don't have to include these costs in the price of a car. The answer to the lack of competitiveness stemming from this is to absorb the pension and medical costs into society, not (as the Fox-ists would have it) to rip these protections away from the few workers in this country that have them.

And that's why it's a political issue rather than an economic one. Unions support Democrats, so Republicans are not about to do anything to save union jobs, no matter what the impact on society as a whole. Then there is the issue of the Employee Free Choice Act, which is supposed to be on Congress' docket in the next term - a lot of this, I am convinced, is propaganda against that legislation. And I'm sorry to say it, but if this legislation passes, or if Obama spends any significant political capital in support of it, I'll eat my kippah.

It's amazing to me how anti-union the mood is in the country is right now. Problems in the schools, blame the teachers' unions. Problems in the industrial sector, blame the industrial unions. People are so worried about their own jobs that they treat it as offensive to them that there are people in the country whose jobs are better protected. But as progressive economists such as Jared Bernstein point out, unions are the main way that we have to redress the ridiculous, immoral and counterproductive income inequality in this country. We should be a little more circumspect before we demand that they be put out of business.

Originally posted to rebmoti on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 09:25 AM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Anti-unionism really rose under reagan (13+ / 0-)

    who can forget the air traffic controllers.  I would just say that disrespect of labor is what got us into this mess in the first place.

    •  I Am NOT Bashing the Unions Just Because... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayBat, Utahrd, beth2008

      I don't want to bailout failed management teams.

      No Federal money should go to bailout corporations who don't fire their management teams and board.

      In the specific case of the Big Three and the UAW... the UAW should just buy up the stock and put in a management team of their choosing.

      Management Goes... Money Flows!


      The Bushiter's Iraq 2004 - 1268 Dead, about 25K Medivacs and 9000 Maimed... It's the Bushiter Way, wasting other people's money and lives. And it's worse now.

      by RedMeatDem on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 10:15:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You know the words, but not the music..It's as (4+ / 0-)

    always about the "Group"..There is the power and there can be no wavering, no more giving in..Does anyone in their right mind think that the fukin "Man" would of ever given anything to his workers just because he liked them..Fuk no, them Coal Miners would still be owing their and thier families souls to the fukin "Company Stores"..
    The Unions accrue the wages and benefit increases via strikes and or necessary violence and all workers are lifted up..Medical, dental, etc...just a gift from the "Man"..Think about it before downgrading Union Men and Women who do the job right the first time..and it lasts..

    "Better a little late, than a little never"..Julian Winston

    by Johnny Rapture on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 09:40:16 AM PST

  •  I like to point out (17+ / 0-)

    that the unions were doing their job - negotiating the best deal they could get for their members.

    If these were too much for he car companies to bear, that means the folks with the million$ salaries weren't doing their jobs. (Do I smell a shareholder lawsuit?)

    It's ridiculous to expect the UAW to be responsible for both sides of the same bargaining table.

  •  Obama was a co-sponsor of EFCA (8+ / 0-)

    And he made quite a few statements during the campaign that he supports it and wants it passed.  So, we will see what happens.

    I agree with your idea that it is a political issue, but I would add it is also economic.  For the Republicans, if one of the Big 3 fail (which would have a Domino Effect and kill off all of the Big 3 and unionized suppliers)--they all fail (sorry for the redundancy).  That is a knock out of the unionized American auto industry.

    Republicans view this is the death knell to the labor movement overall--which may be true do to all the chaos that would be created by such unemployment and the ensuing depression which probably would occur.

    I believe Republicans have calculated this risk, hoping the Big 3 will fail under Obama's tenure.  They also are currently throwing so much money to the rich, it would be difficult to have any kind of viable social programs to support the incredible number of unemployed and homeless people.

    In the meantime, real wages will plummet even more.  The Republicans want the USA to be like China or Saipan (the Republicans favorite "free market" experiment).

    •  Hopefully kippah and a schmear then (0+ / 0-)

      Card check is really the motor voter of union organizing. It's a total no brainer and if we're able to spend a little capital on it, I think reasonably easy to pass.  Most of the argumnets against won;t hold up to the light.

      "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

      by SteveP on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 11:58:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Saipan is our very own American third (0+ / 0-)

      world sweatshop!

      Who needs India, China or Vietnam when you have your very own group of islands outside of mainland labor protections.

  •  thanks for this diary (7+ / 0-)

    Our society saddens me. Too many are ready to go down to the lowest common demoninator instead of thinking about how to bring everyone up. "I don't have health care or a pension or sick days or whatever the benefit might you shouldn't have it either."


    •  agreed (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PBen, A Man Called Gloom, chrome327

      What's even sadder is when I hear this argument from people who don't hesitate to whine about their own working conditions or how awful their employer treats them.  And directed at people who work longer hours and harder physical jobs than they do.

      My sympathy has a limit.

    •  But this situation is a little different (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't begrudge anyone good pay, healthcare and retirement.

      This has come up in the context of a governmental buyout.

      And when we are talking about taking "our" (collectively) money and giving it to private industry I do think it is relevant the position of those who are to receive the money versus the average of Americans.

      What if the automakers didn't have unions.  Would the union members at dailykos feel differently about giving companies whose employees had pay higher than the average, health care, and retirement (pension!) governmental money when the average american makes less, appears to be struggling to get/pay for healthcare and has seen a plummet in the retirement?  My guess is hell yes!

  •  Great Diary (4+ / 0-)

    This union bashing distracts us from real progress on the issues that hurt us all.  I heard similar questions on the stump in the past year.  I'd stop people and say, "Listen, anybody who fights for decent wages and decent benefits--I'm with.  When CEOs start making $10/hr, I will ask unions for concessions."

    join me at

    by Tony Barr PA09 on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 09:56:52 AM PST

  •  They always blame the unions first (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PBen, Bob B, esquimaux, chrome327

    they are the biggest target. Don't dare blame the piss poor management that had to agree to these contracts, too. Blame the unions for doing their job and getting the best possible deal for their members.

    This diary hits the nail on the head, it IS health care costs that are causing the biggest problem for the Big 3, but it is NOT the fault of the UAW that health care costs increases 13% last year alone.

    Why don't they ever mention the one of the larger non union costs to our country? The members of the House and Senate, and all of THEIR retirees and their medical costs? Just the current members salaries alone come to over $80 an hour, but that is based on a 2080 hour work year. I seriously doubt any of them can honestly say they put in a full year of, you know, actual work, for that.

    "Remember back when W and the Republicans f'ed up the entire world?"

    by A Man Called Gloom on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 10:00:22 AM PST

  •  Thank you! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux, unionsally

    To those who bash unions......FUCK YOU....DO SOME RESEARCH!!!

  •  Well Put, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PBen, esquimaux, kw7777777, chrome327

      And completely agreed.  We really need to assure that EFCA is a priority in the next session.  Obama has stated that he recognizes the only reason we have had a middle class in this country is because of unions and that the waning of the middle class matches that of the union.  If EFCA isn't passed in the coming years, we will know that Democrats have no interest in true democracy and we should all move out of the country.

    I'll cross my fingers and write to my congresswoman.  Melissa Bean supports it though.

  •  It's Okay (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ChurchofBruce, esquimaux, unionsally

    The auto unions have announced they will make major concessions to try and keep the Big Three out of bankruptcy....

    They have agreed that workers will give up their private jets, their bonuses, and their golden parachutes.

    Habeas Corpus: The most stringent curb that ever legislation imposed on tyranny. (T.B. Macaulay, 1848)

    by PBen on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 10:17:08 AM PST

  •  Isn't it obvious (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that the economy was chugging along nicely in the 50's and 60's when the unions really made things better for workers and, by extension, for the corporations? stands to figure that as long as the middle class has money, the economy does better.  

    Of course, when the corps. got greedy and thought they could bust the unions and increase their own share for the stockholders and moved jobs offshore, well, here we are.

  •  My mom is in a teachers union and I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    know the good things unions have done in this country.

    That said the auto unions need to adapt to the 21st century. The jobs bank has got to go and the work rules need to be a lot more flexible. One of my friends got yelled at in a UAW plant because he picked up a piece of trash on the ground and through it away!

    The only way the domestic automakers are going to be able to survive and thrive is if management (new management) and the unions can work together and be a lot more accommodating and flexible.

    •  accomodating and flexible is only one model (0+ / 0-)

      and one possibility for the renewal of unions and their contribution to society. lots of people, however, see this as the wrong direction to move in.

      it is built on a discourse of globalization which many people think of as how things REALLY are, that every place and every industry has to bow down to the needs of flexibility and competitiveness.

      this is a discourse that contributes to the need for more and more flexibility and competitiveness, something we already see especially in new kinds of entrepreneurial governance at all levels of government.

      there isn't really room in this diary for a long discussion about this, but I might try to start one in the future, one that tries to build on this diary.

      critiques of neoliberalism and globalization, i think, need to become our tools under an obama administration. it is one area where progressives both in and outside the democratic party need to be very watchful.

      regardless of how much better we think obama is than bush, we need to fight tooth and nail to make sure his economic policy (and i'm talking international too) doesn't resemble bush's too much.

      the state still has lots of power, especially the US state. we should be critical of any argument that seems to be built on a THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE ARGUMENT, like the bailout or our response to so-called economic globalization. especially because the state has been so active in the construction and maintenance of this context.

      It can't be limited to blaming CEO or corporate  lobbying, both of which are also significant targets.

      puh, i didn't want this to sound so black and white, it isn't at all, but it came out that way anyways. :)

      •  I'm completely against free trade and (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        globalization. I think free trade is killing this country and I think globalization destroys local cultures and ways of life while hardly making life better for them in the industrialized cities (Since NAFTA the average Mexician is still just as poor as before NAFTA). The middle class in Brazil was utterly destroyed by globalization.

        If people in poor counties want to globalize they should have a vote, it should not be imposed on them by their government or a super national organization.

        My post was not about foreign competitors or about globalization or free trade. It was about competition from the Southern United States! If what I said above isn't implemented the Northern unionized manufacturing industry won't be able to compete with the Japanese and European industry in the Right to Work states down south! I'm not even talking about the rest of the world.

  •  very important diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    louavul, kw7777777

    it is one of my biggest hopes, that in eight years the 'common sense' about unions has changed considerably.

    obama and other very visible members of the democratic party can help by opening up very public dialogues with labor leaders, i think. but that is just one thing.

    on the other hand, we should still be talking about unions critically, but in other ways. for instance, although unions have in many cases fought hard for certain rights, they often have helped to exclude certain groups and have quite a few problems fighting against eachother to grow their shrunken numbers. there is lots of room for unions to become more democratic and build stronger bridges with other activist networks, even those that don't appear to benefit them or their members directly.

    STILL there are lots of great examples though of very positive things which, given the current mood, could really contribute lots to building the kind of US that we all seem to hope for. I'm thinking of the Living Wage initiatives, Justice for Janitors Campaigns and several other efforts to link economic development with decent paying jobs.

  •  A realization in what you are saying . . . . . (0+ / 0-)

    about rethugs and unions makes it pretty clear that every action that the FED and Treasury is taking is based upon neocon ideology, or at best the Rubinesque neo-liberal economics that put us here.  The intent is precisely to destroy unions, American self-determination, and the ability of liberals or progressives to fund projects that enhance the social good and our quality of life.

    As for Obama, I will withold judgment.  I eagerly voted for him and I am hoping for the best.  His selections of clintonistas who were instrumental in selling labor out is dismaying and so is his continued support of a financial system that requires determined regulation and control and refuses to mark to market.  Is he going to now say that our nation cannot afford to fund the change that he has already proposed?

    What I do not understand is how freeing up credit can, in a trickle down approach, allow people in a low wage information and service economy afford things their salaries just can't justify?  Perhaps the intent is to create a class of debt slaves inflated by easy credit.  It convinces me that our government is profoundly out of touch with society.

  •  Why do they need a pension? (0+ / 0-)

    We need to ask why the Big 3 even have pension programs at all.  Pensions are a dinasour of the past.  Any bailout we give them needs strings attached and a firm committment that the get rid of bad business practices like pensions and lifetime health benefits.  The union can fund them all they want, but they shouldn't expect anything from the Big 3 for those things.  Of course other concessions need to be made as well from the Unions and upper management needs to take huge pay and benefits cuts themselves, but the pensions are way out of date.

    •  pensions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to people already retired are part of a contract signed long ago. Reneging on contracts is for sure a "bad business practice".

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 10:48:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course funding these pensions (0+ / 0-)

        won't be an issue long since they will be bankrubt anyways.  At that point, this whole arguement will be mute as those holding the pensions will have nothing anyways.

        What is your solution to a situation where a pension and lifetime health benefits becomes a serious drag on the potential future of a company?  What is your solution for them today?

        •  I guess the real question (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is why do we have to constantly drag down unions and their membership that negotiated good pensions and health benefits instead of discussing how we can bring everyone else up to their level?

          It is amazing to me that there is a prevalent attitude that we have to tear down what union members have instead of building up those who don't have it.

          The solution?  Universal health care for all.  That would cut the costs off US vehicles between $1200-2000.  All of our competitors benefit from nationalized health care.

          Fair trade. And

          smarter management.  I wouldn't say get rid of them wholesale, they are good CEO's like Ford's Alan Mulally.

          •  No (0+ / 0-)

            I asked you what your solution TODAY was.  Universal health care is not a solution today, it is a solution for tommorrow.  These companies need a solution today or they die.  I have nothing wrong with the union winning unreal pensions and health benefits.  I do have a problem with tax payers bailing out companies that agreed to such horrible terms though as it proves management is horrible.

            How do you propose "building up those who don't have it"?  The whole idea was just proven not to work.  And you want to repeat it?

            What is the solution today to make sure these companies don't die?  How you do make them profitable today?  Remove the Job Bank, Pensions, Lifetime health insurance, cut upper management pay by 3/4th, cut union pay in half.  Just some ideas that would help.  The Big 3's problem is they spend to much.  The easiest way to fix that is cut costs.  The big expenses are benefits, union pay, and upper management pay.  Cut them all drastically and you have a shot at saving them.  YOu would still need a bailout however.

            •  Wow, you sound like a rightwing nut (0+ / 0-)

              who thinks everything can be solved by waving a magic wand.  But, your wand is to screw the workers who had nothing to do with 1) poor management decisions; 2) overwhelming corporate and executive greed and 3) a terrible Republican deregulated economy.

              But, my resolution--stop throwing money at the rich elite--ie; the banking industry and AIG.  Give the money where it will be spent on the economy, to the auto industry.

              Take away the bonuses and executive pay packages of Wall Street.  Have their employees take pay cuts, lose benefits and their pensions.

              Build the middle and working class don't attack and take them down even further.

            •  Wow, i think you are a rightwing nut (0+ / 0-)

              I didn't read your post too well, but the reality about building people up did work.  It was the labor unions and the New Deal that created the middle class and worked quite well until the Republican Party started tearing it down.

              There were Republican legislative victories such as the Taft-Hartley Act and LMRDA.  There was also the big business, anti-union propaganda war (which has always been in existence).  The politicization of anti-unionism throughout our history.

              Yet, labor, middle class and lifting everyone up worked quite well until Ronald Reagan who started dismantling the labor movement and social programs.  This trend continued at full speed through Reagan, Bush I and Bush II (with minimal slowing during Clinton years).

              So, the anti-union, anti-labor, deregulation policies of Rightwing Republicans did not work.  That's been proven time and again, not just in the USA, but worldwide.

              Ayn Rand's ideas don't work, even Alan Greenspan (a Randiate) agreed.

    •  You don't understand how pensions work (0+ / 0-)

      Pensions are a much more efficient and cost-effective retirement plan than 401k's are.

       Unless, of course, your point is to ask why save for retirement at all?

      "The people have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want & the courage to take." - Emma Goldman

      by gjohnsit on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 11:57:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Business wants to treat employees as a commodity (0+ / 0-)

    (if they're roling out a new product the want to bring on 200 sales units and jettison them as soon as they sales stabilize).  Unions are a bullwhark against this attitude.  The nature of the relationship between unions  and management is to require long term planning to create a win win for both sides.  Management wants a riggied game where they can ask anything of their employees, and owe them nothing.  They call that flexibility.

    "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Victor Hugo

    by lordcopper on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 10:51:18 AM PST

  •  The Republican party made this exact same attack (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on unions in the 1980s.  They have dusted off the exact same phrases to demonize the unions again.  They claimed then that the Democratic Party was captive to the unions and I am hearing that same, wrong rhetoric again, almost word for word.

    It was their successful attacks against the unions, claiming that they made too much money, they were responsible for corporations leaving the country,and that they were responsible for everyone else's high cost of medical care that worked before! This because union members were able to have too many medical tests, too many hospital stays, too much elective surgery and it was driving up the health care costs of everyone else.  Unions were blamed for inflation, greed, and called unamerican!

    Unfortunately it worked.  Everytime the Republican Party dusts off their old, used divisive tactics in the past they have worked.  It was all bulls**t.  Yes the unions had negotiated these benefits for their workers, and because they had, we all benefitted.  

    It was the Republicans who began to divide America into blue collar and white collar workers, when it was no longer fashionable to divide us by race and gender.  Be careful, they are out to demonize unions again.

    The Republican party, always working against the best interests of America!

  •  Nothing Makes the Wingnuts' Heads Explode Faster (0+ / 0-)

    than saying, "Unions used to keep illegal immigrants out of the workplace, too."

    Source & rebuttal for the $70/hour myth at Media Matters

    BushCheney Inc. - They lied to me, they lied to you, they lied to our troops.

    by jjohnjj on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 11:40:20 AM PST

  •  Amen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The bailout of the auto industry is about $25 Billion and directly effects around 3 million jobs. This bailout might not happen.

    The bailout of Wall Street is nearly $8 Trillion and effects about a million jobs. This bailout has already happened and without much debate.

     Can you say "double-standard"?

    "The people have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want & the courage to take." - Emma Goldman

    by gjohnsit on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 11:55:27 AM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site