Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That's What Unions Are For

I just had to post after my long absence because it's been bothering me that Republican Senators like Mitch McConnell seem to think they're making some important point by constantly highlighting that workers unionized auto workers represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) working at big three auto plants make a higher hourly wage than non-unionized workers working at foreign-owned plants.

Well, freakin' duh! The whole goddamned point of forming a union to represent workers through collective bargaining is to get better wages, better benefits, and improved working conditions. The UAW would be a pretty shitty union if it didn't get its workers better pay and benefits than non-unionized workers in foreign-owned plants. In fact, there would be no reason for the UAW to exist if it didn't, because there would be no benefit. It isn't surprising that UAW workers get paid more than non-unionized workers; it would be surprising if they frickin' didn't!

Which is beside the point of whether UAW workers get so much in pay and benefits that the prevent the big three from being competitive and profitable. And McConnell knows it, because though he wants us to believe that is the problem he's addressing, it isn't. That isn't the argument McConnell and his cronies are making.

No, McConnell wasn't saying he couldn't support a bailout of the big three auto companies unless the UAW agreed to cuts in workers' pay to a level that would allow the big three to be competitive with foreign-owned automakers... No, he said that he would only support the bailout if the UAW was willing to reduce workers' wages to the same level as non-union workers in foreign-owned plants like in his state.

Which, as he well knows, would defeat the entire point of the union. The point for him wasn't making sure that the domestic automakers would be competitive in the future. It was to bust the union. That's what he wants. That's why he keeps disingenuously acting like somehow the fact that UAW workers earn more than non-union workers is somehow wrong or dishonest, when, as he well knows, it's exactly what we would (and should) expect.

Maybe the UAW has negotiated too good a deal. Maybe the legacy costs of retirees that the domestic automakers are paying plus better wages and benefits are making it difficult for them to compete with foreign automakers without those costs. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that's really the problem. If domestic cars were better made and more reliable, if they had better warranties, if domestic dealers and service representatives weren't such scumbags, then more people would buy domestic. But for well-nigh thirty years no the management of these companies have been making bad decisions. They didn't start making more fuel efficient vehicles after the oil crisis in the 70s, and, in fact, lobbied for the loophole that let them build SUVs and avoid fuel efficiency standards (and also pushed through tarriffs that made SUVs profitable). They failed to make their vehicles as reliable and as high quality as foreign vehicles. And they failed to adapt to a changing marktplace. Further, even if the sweet deal the UAW has were the one of the main problems the domestic auto makers are facing, that would be management's fault too, because they were the ones who negotiated such a shitty deal for the automakers with the union!!!

The fault, then, lies with the automakers and the management of those companies, not with the union. The union's job is to get the best deal it can for its workers. We all have the right to negotiate the best possible deal for our employment with our employers and auto workers are no different. Maybe now that the automakers are facing ruin the UAW will have to and should have to make concessions to keep the companies afloat, but that should be as part of overall cutbacks and as part of a cooperative effort with the companies, not as scapegoats and not as a hostile effort forced on it by the management that drove the companies into the ground and not by a hostile Congress or administration that blames the auto workers for the demise of the auto industry while never once questioning the pay of hedge-fund managers and other white-collar Wall Street assholes who had a lot more to do with the failures in the financial industry than the UAW and its workers do with the failure of the auto industry.

Anyway, McConnell, shut the fuck up and stop acting scandalized that workers who have the advantage of being part of a union make more money than the poor bastards in your state who aren't in a union. You and I both know that's why workers form unions, that's what unions are for, to empower workers to get fairer and better wages and working conditions, and you and I both know that's why you want to break the unions: because your real constituents are rich assholes like those guys on Wall Street you gave all that money to, and you aren't scandalized at all about how much a UAW worker makes. You just want to make sure the rich people get to keep more of their money and have to pay the poor people who make their cars less.


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