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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Auto Execs Declare War (Again) on Middle-Class Unionized Auto Jobs

Just after I had noted in writing my suspicion that the Big 3 auto execs would probably like to continue to use the threat of loss of auto jobs in order to gain concessions from the UAW, I heard this afternoon on NPR that this is literally happening NOW.

The message of the auto execs to the UAW for their upcoming negotiations is apparently that the UAW either needs to be prepared to give up more out of their own pockets, or face even more outsourcing of their jobs beyond US borders! How patriotic is that?!! Yet these are the auto execs that the Bush administration and various Democrats continue to champion and accept lobbying money from!

So this is the nature of the "patriotic" spirit of the US auto execs, who from their rich executive salaried chairs have declared war on the middle-class unionized workers who make their high executive salaries possible (since if there were no employees to make the cars, there could be no auto executive salaries!). Because of their terrible decision-making over the last decade in choosing to emphasize the production of gas-guzzling SUVs over investment in more fuel efficient autos, including electric technology (see the film, WHO KILLED the ELECTRIC CAR?), the auto execs now seem to be placing all the costs of their bad decision-making on UAW workers, who are now supposed to pay the price of these bad decisions (in loss of market share brought about by the bad investment and technology decisions of the auto execs), even while the execs continue to earn sky-high salaries and hound unionized workers to give up more of their wages so the execs can retain their over-priced salaries for making bad decisions.

Since this war on UAW jobs through outsourcing has already been going on for years, it seems the auto execs will not be happy until UAW workers have been reduced to the level of minimum-wage service workers (new Union employees are already down to $10 an hour in some places), which is why the execs now seem completely unashamed in their willingness to declare war on middle-class auto jobs by threatening to outsource UAW jobs if the UAW does not make more concessions in their next round of negotiations.

This is why I have been stressing in my open letters to Rep. Dingell (below) that it is time for Congressional Representatives like Dingell, who say they are friends of unions and auto workers, to NOW stand up and make clear where their loyalties are, and to act accordingly. With this kind of executive behavior toward auto workers, there is no way politically to be a pal of the auto execs, without betraying the interests of auto workers--that is, unless it is recognized that being a "true friend" to the auto execs means realizing that it is finally time to show the execs some tough love.

In the name of defending middle-class auto worker jobs, those who value middle-class auto worker jobs need to lay down the law to the auto execs by making clear that these execs and the Big 3 will NOT be allowed to make up for the mistakes of their previous bad judgments and investment decisions on the backs of their unionized auto workers.

If the auto execs want a true change of direction, they need to work with the UAW to figure out how they can invest and manage the technological resources of the Big 3 to recapture the technological edge they once held in the auto industry, by major investments in electric car technologies, which will allow them to begin to compete with Honda and Toyota where they should be competing--in fuel efficient electric car and hybrid plug-in technologies, rather than on how fast they can outsource unionized jobs!!

All Michiganders with family or friends in the auto industry or any other industry in the state, should be outraged at this declaration of war by the auto execs on the unionized workers of the UAW! And we should all be writing to Rep. Dingell and our other Michigan Reps. and Senators Levin and Stabenow to demand that they let the auto execs know clearly and loudly that the execs will not be allowed to maintain their own rich salaries on the outsourcing of UAW jobs.

If this is the approach the Big 3 auto execs want to take to the UAW, the auto execs are making clear that they have effectively declared war on the UAW and middle-class auto jobs in Michigan and elsewhere (and those familiar with Union struggle will know that many in the UAW feel that the auto execs have already been waging this war for some time now).

And if the auto execs are insistent on trying to solve their market share problems by waging war on their own workers, I believe they will be writing their own epitaph for the Big 3. The irony is that if the Big 3 all end up being bought out by private investment firms like Cerberus, many of these very execs may find their own jobs outsourced (which would be a poetic form of justice).

To avoid this, perhaps UAW leaders, along with national business, political, and community leaders, and those current auto execs who are still interested in preserving a productive and efficient US-based auto industry, need to think about more radical alternatives than are usually thinkable within the US-business model frame: Perhaps those who are interested in preserving both the US auto industry and unionized auto jobs need to begin thinking about taking away from the current auto execs (who wish to wage war against the UAW) their ability to continue to drive the US auto industry into the ground.

As Gregg Shotwell/UAW Local 1753 has written:
Bankruptcy in the US auto industry is not an accident, it’s a business plan. The government does not appear to have an industrial policy, but the transfer of labor’s legacy wealth to offshore accounts is the policy in practice.

When the economy crashes and the entire working class is impoverished we will understand the true “legacy cost”. The legacy of treachery and deceit. The legacy of union/management partnership. The legacy of war after war after war. The legacy of a government that stands down while corporations trash communities as surely as Hurricane Katrina trashed New Orleans.

Perhaps the power to outsource UAW jobs needs to be outlawed, and those who would wish to pursue such an unpatriotic course need to be replaced by those national business, political, and UAW leaders who value and are willing to work together with vision and ambition to preserve the great tradition of the unionized auto industry of the US.

If we could put men on the moon in ten years in the 1960s, and can put them there again by 2018, then we can also in the next ten years build the vision and find the way to bring the unionized US auto industry back from its current brink of self-inflicted decomposition, and make it the most technologically sophisticated and productive auto industry in the world by 2018 (with major reinvestments in electric and plug-in hybrid technologies).

It's high past the time for all citizens and national leaders in the UAW, Congress, and business who are concerned about the fate of middle-class industrial jobs to unite around a better way than declaring war on, and outsourcing UAW jobs in order to solve the crisis of the Big 3.

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