Monday, September 24, 2007

UAW strike

I am not going to comment one way or another on the strike by UAW members.

Quite frankly, I am getting tired of being beaten up by Kenosha's UAW local leadership, just because I am the chair of the Republican Party here in Kenosha County. Good grief, even when I am on the side of the workers and the UAW, I still get beaten up. It is ridiculous.

So, all I am going to do is post the opinion written by editors at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

However, all of the rest of you go ahead and comment.


Editorial: The UAW's walkout

The union's risky strategy could make an unhealthy company even sicker. A speedy resolution is in the best interest of the union, the company and the U.S. economy.

The United Auto Workers wants job security, but General Motors Corp. may be in no position to provide it.

That's what makes the union's first nationwide strike in more than 30 years so surprising. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and his 73,000 fellow union members, including those in Janesville, know that GM is in bad shape. The union was so mindful of GM's problems that it was open to the idea of a health care trust fund that would allow GM to shift billions of dollars of obligations off its books.

Yet union members walked off their jobs anyway on Monday, and Gettelfinger blamed GM intransigence. No doubt the union boss has a point. And no doubt part of this is union theater.

But whether theater or genuine blowup, it's risky strategy. The UAW could make an unhealthy company even sicker. Surely, union members recall the devastating 1998 strike at GM's plant in Flint, Mich., which cost the company market share it never regained. A speedy resolution of the strike is essential for the long-term health of the domestic auto industry and for the broader economy.

There is plenty to criticize about GM; it has been nimble as a sloth at spotting trends, for example. But the day of reckoning on the company's legacy costs is long overdue. GM lost more than $12 billion over the past two years and has retiree health care liabilities approaching $55 billion. The company pays more than $1,600 in health care costs for every vehicle that rolls off the assembly line. Japanese rival Toyota spends about $200, a big reason foreign car makers are more competitive than the Big Three.

The two sides apparently agreed on a framework for a landmark plan to create the health care trust fund but could not agree on other issues that would affect how much GM invests in a trust. In the meantime, Gettelfinger is feeling pressure from his flanks to act tough. Even though union ranks are declining - down to 557,000 last year compared with 1.5 million in the mid-1970s - members are in no mood for giveaways after getting beaten up for years. Some dissidents loudly oppose the trust fund, which they fear will mean the end of their top-shelf health benefits.

GM must deal fairly, especially given the union's willingness to help the company offload its health care obligations. But union members have to understand that a quest for job security cannot mean undermining the company that would provide it.

What do you think about the United Auto Workers' decision to go on strike against General Motors Corp. Send a letter to: Journal Sentinel editorial department

Word of warning, if this lasts for more than a few days, I will have plenty to say.

No comments: