This is going to be a tough fight for our sisters and brothers in the UAW (of which I am a member). The Wall Street Journal has a story previewing the bargaining convention taking place in Detroit next week:
United Auto Workers union leaders will convene in Detroit next week for a critical collective bargaining convention against the backdrop of hard times for the U.S. auto makers and suppliers that anchor the 72-year-old union's membership.
The convention, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, is a longstanding ritual for the UAW in the runup to national contract talks with Detroit's Big Three, which begin this summer. In the past, UAW leaders used the convention to rally their troops to seek improvements in job security, pay and health-care benefits.
But this year, the UAW will confront intense pressure from the auto makers to give up hard-won gains, amid the most difficult environment for the unionized U.S. auto industry since the dark years of the recession and energy shocks of the early 1980s.
Shake your head time for this little nugget:
At the same time, GM and Ford have announced plans to give bonuses or stock awards to top management -- reflecting the diverging markets for skilled, managerial talent and UAW hourly workers who increasingly are measured against lower wage, nonunion workers in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
Well, sure, it may be true that UAW members are competing against lower wage workers. But, the "diverging markets" relative to pay have more to do with the unbelievable corporate greed, not some competitive issue. Executive pay abroad is not close to the outsized packages that the pigs in our corporate suites seem to believe they are entitled to.
Yesterday, I pointed out that GM executives have no shame in their excessive greed. In today's piece, a UAW leader asks the same question:
"Why do they deem it necessary to reward these executives with exorbitant bonuses?" asked Rick Vargesko, president of UAW local 544, whose members work at a GM metal-fabrication plant in West Mifflin, Pa. Recalling the union's acceptance of buyouts in the past two years to help GM rein in costs, he added, "I thought we were in this together. Are we saving this company or not?"
The answer is that auto executives don't really care about saving the industry if they end up with huge pay and pensions--they figure that they can land somewhere else if the company goes under (failure in the corporate suite has never been a barrier to future employment) or retire somewhere and live off the pile of money they've socked away--money that the rank-and-file workers they are about to screw made for the company. Is this a great system, or what?