I've never had the boy gene for cars--the apparent salivation (or other bodily reaction) that goes with having the perfect car. But, I know enough, mostly from watching way too many sports events, to understand that BMW has spent a ton of money marketing itself as the car to have. But, fear not--BMW is no different when it comes to crushing the dreams of hard-working people, and taking taxpayers for a...ahem...ride.
I missed this terrific column from a few days ago by The Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik, which tells the story of a BMW distribution warehouse in Ontario, CA:
Times being what they are, when a Teamsters committee came to the plant in early June to open negotiations over a new contract to start Sept. 1, they thought they might be asked to accept minuscule wage increases and maybe some givebacks on health coverage.
They were stunned by what they heard instead: As of Aug. 31, the plant would be outsourced to an unidentified third-party logistics company and all but three of its 71 employees laid off.
The union contract will be terminated. Some of the employees might be offered jobs with the new operator, but there are no guarantees. And no one expects the new bosses will match the existing $25 hourly scale or the health benefits provided now.
The story is pretty familiar: people built their lives around the plant. Gave it everything they had. The average seniority is 20 years:
These employees exemplified the best qualities of the American worker. They devoted their working lives to BMW, at a time when it was building and solidifying its U.S. beachhead. Their wages, with benefits, paid for a reasonable middle-class lifestyle if they managed it carefully. Throw in the job security they were encouraged to expect, and they had the confidence to make sacrifices and investments that contributed to the economy for the long term, like college education for the kids, an addition on the house, a new baby. Then one day they were handed a mass pink slip, effective in a matter of weeks.
The harvest will be weighed in foreclosed homes, college educations deferred or abandoned, new cars left in the dealers' lots (BMWs not excepted) and consumer goods on the shelf, one more little cascade of blows to the U.S. economy.
It's not as if BMW is a struggling company:
The German automobile giant, Bavarian Motor Works AG, America's most popular automaker for luxury-class autos, booked its richest earnings in its 95-year history this quarter. BMW had global sales of almost $81 billion in 2010, or about $848,000 per employee, ranking it number 82 on Fortune's Global 500 Companies. BMW also received over $3.6 billion in secret low-interest loans during the 2008-2009 taxpayer bailout.[emphasis added]
Or as Sen. Barbara Boxer wrote in a letter to Jim O'Donnell, BMW USA' CEO:
During the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, BMW received $3.6 billion in taxpayer assistance from the United States Federal Reserve when private capital was frozen. As the economic recovery continues, it is deeply disappointing that these loyal employees would be penalized at a time when your company recently reported 2011 first quarter earnings of $1.78 billion-triple that of first quarter earnings in 2010-and first quarters sales 12 percent greater than last year.
So, in sum: BMW took taxpayer money and, then, told taxpayers--their workers--they weren't needed anymore.
Hiltzik has the last word:
On Monday, the Fourth of July, Americans will gather to celebrate the overthrow of tyranny. But the ease with which we allow corporate employers to impoverish their loyal workers should make us pause under the fireworks and think about how over the ensuing 235 years we've simply substituted one set of tyrants for another, the new ones immeasurably more heartless and bloodthirsty than the ones we shed.[emphasis added]
9:33 AM PT: Wow this is really scary and crazy--but this post must have been "sniffed" by advertisers because there is a big ass BMW ad running at the top of the page...