October 28, 2009
The UAW’s true colors exposed again for all to see.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 10/27, 11:30am) Detroit. Well, that was special. Just when the new “kumbaya” era of management-union cooperation looked to be actually taking hold of the domestic automobile industry after years marked by, at times, sheer lunacy and flat-out idiocy, we are once again being reminded that common sense and “big picture” thinking are two concepts that continue to escape the United Auto Workers union.
This week, with the Ford Motor Company trying to reach a tentative agreement with the UAW on a series of concessions that would put the company on par with Chrysler and General Motors – two companies that were bailed out by the American taxpayer and that now have built-in competitive advantages over the Dearborn-based automaker that need to be addressed – the union membership is balking, insisting that they’ve already given too much and besides, Ford is doing better and they don’t really need the union’s help.
This past Monday, over 80 percent of the rank and file voting at Ford's Sterling Axle Plant deep-sixed the proposed contract changes, a shocking result by any measure since the facility stands to gain around 100 more jobs if the new contract terms were ratified. One hundred more jobs in a city and a region so desperate for any positive signs of life that it just boggles the mind that these relentless boneheads would even deign to think that it was even remotely a good idea to turn down such a deal.
But that wasn’t all. Oh, no, it never is with the UAW. Last weekend an incredible 92 percent of the union’s workers at the Ford assembly facility in Kansas City rejected the new agreement too, according to The Detroit News.
What has led the UAW to do an about-face on the only company that didn’t take a government bailout and that is just now showing signs of palpable momentum in this market with a slew of excellent, competitive new products?
The agreement in question has the temerity to suggest that there be a freeze on wages and benefits for new hires and changes in work rules that would allow Ford more leeway in how it deploys workers in factories. Shocking, no? But the real crux of the matter is that the deal would include limits on the union's right to strike over wage and benefit increases, which would throw a monkey wrench into the union’s favorite negotiating tactic – pattern bargaining. In other words, if the proposed contract is ratified, Ford workers - like GM and Chrysler’s workers - would not be able to race for the picket lines if they can’t reach an agreement on any increase to wages and benefits during the next round of national contract talks slated for 2011.
Wait a minute, wasn’t it the rampant wage and benefit increases over the last three decades that contributed immeasurably to the domestic auto industry’s demise? And yes, it took two parties to make those deals, but really? After everything that has transpired in the last year the union is still clinging to the notion that they actually have a dog in this hunt when it comes to getting this industry off of the ground again? That somehow, some way, when things get all back to normal again they can go right back to the “M.O.” that helped bring this industry to its knees in the first place?
I’ve got one word for the UAW and its behavior: Reprehensible.
Remember this is the entity that for the most part escaped any serious grilling from the senators and congressman just over a year ago when the domestic auto industry leaders were taken to task - for sins both real and imagined - by a squadron of blowhards spewing their Foghorn Leghorn-like stylings at those hearings in Washington. Lost in the shuffle of the Detroit=Bad, Imports=Good pontifications by pompous carpetbaggers like Sen. Richard “There’s a reason they call me Dick” Shelby and others of his ilk - the UAW basically got a free pass while quietly listening as “management” was repeatedly taken to the woodshed.
It wasn’t our fault, the union quietly - and not so quietly - suggested. The leaders of these companies put us - and this industry - in jeopardy, they insisted. Yes, that’s right, it’s never the UAW’s fault for anything. After all, when this organization’s fundamental negotiating premise for years revolved around the doctrine of less work for more pay – no matter what the cost to the companies involved or from what direction the ominous ill-winds of a dramatically changing global automobile industry were blowing – why would we expect such a noble concept as accountability to suddenly become part of their mission overnight?
This week, despite the crushing realities surrounding the lingering ugliness associated with two-thirds of the U.S. domestic auto industry having to be forced into bankruptcy, despite the looming crisis facing the nation as we watch the continued erosion of our industrial base decimate this country’s ability to compete in the global industrial future, and despite the fact that far too many people in this country are without jobs and desperate for help, the UAW has decided that it’s time to remind everyone why its premise and purpose long ago grew out of step with the future needs and goals of this nation. That when it comes right down to it, this union would rather bring down an industry and cripple this country when it least can afford it, in order to protect their warped view of what the world should be about.
Ford is being taken to task by these pinheads in the UAW because of the most evil word in their limited vocabulary, apparently: Profitability. It’s a terrible thing that the Ford Motor Company mortgaged the future of its very existence in order to survive a looming global economic downturn, according to the warped UAW mentality. It’s a terrible thing that Bill Ford Jr., in a desperate move to save his company and his family’s legacy, hired the most gifted leader to come to this industry since Alfred Sloan - Alan Mulally. It’s a terrible thing that Mulally then led his troops on a mission to save the company and ensure its profitability for years to come by putting the organization’s collective noses to the grindstone in order to develop new, efficient and desirable cars and trucks that could sell on their merits alone.
And it’s a terrible thing - at least according to the virulent union mentality, apparently - that because of those ahead-of-the-curve and costly sacrifices, the Ford Motor Company is just now on the verge of better-than-expected earnings, and that there’s a fiber-optic pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel for the company. Not halcyon days by any stretch of the imagination - because Ford is still haunted by massive debt - but at least a shred of optimism can at least be seen off in the far distance.
And now that Ford has done the heavy lifting, the bottom line is that the UAW wants its cut. It wants to be “rewarded.” For what, exactly, I have no clue.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger - the so-called “enlightened” leader who has gotten a free ride for far too long for being a “nice” guy but who has continuously allowed this kind of nonsensical behavior and bad attitude to fester in his union - has basically lost control. Whatever it is he’s saying doesn’t matter anymore. Whenever we hear the usual platitudes about “unity” and “responsibility” and that the UAW has “the best interests of this industry and this nation in mind” come out of Gettelfinger’s mouth, we can all safely assume that it is - and has been - total, unmitigated bullshit.
The UAW’s true colors have never, ever changed. It is a wildly irresponsible entity that has crippled the U.S. auto industry time and time again with its demands and its insistence on its fundamental “rights.”
“Rights” for what, exactly? The “right” to continue to contribute to the erosion of America’s industrial base? The “right” to put its selfish, totally unrealistic and woefully out of touch goals ahead of what’s best for the rest of the nation? The “right” to relentlessly scoff at basic logic and the bigger picture? The “right” to shirk accountability and responsibility in order to further their whacked-out vision of a utopian future that will never happen?
The bottom line here is that the UAW has squandered every last possible opportunity to talk about its “rights.” It is a misguided, malicious relic that exists in a parallel universe expressly created for the warped vision of its members, and it is simply out of touch, out of time, and out of step with the sobering realities of America’s economic future.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening.
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and friends this Thursday evening, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
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