The Pen is mightier than the sword, but the Pen must sometimes move the sword against corruption if the corrupt are not moved by the pen.. An idea without an implementer is useless. "The Rulers do not carry the sword in vain"Rom 13:4

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Unions began with nothing, they grew to have everything, now, they have nothing. The UAW (America)

Perhaps the UAW would be better described as an "Onion"....many layers and many tears as the accumulated benefits they extorted from the big 3-GM, Ford and Chrysler have been brought back to a level that proportionally seems to equate with the wages of an Auto worker in the mid 30s when the UAW began under Walter Reuther.

Listening to the speeches of Reuther, I am perplexed. He seems to be a sincere person, but, his vision of 'dignity' in the work place and his "and that is only the beginning....we will have many more demands" attitude after they had achieved stupendous generosity for Auto workers that were unimaginable just a few years earlier. They included pensions for life for retired workers and their families in the event of the retired workers demise. Then, they went still further and demanded early retirement for older workers and the employment of a new batch of young ones. You would have to be a complete and utter dingbat fool to not see how such a move would impact the viability of a manufacturing company which must survive against the onslaught of overseas manufacturing of much lower cost and increasingly acceptable quality.  Reuther's sincere and passionate vision lacked one important ingredient. Like bread made without yeast, it will not rise... the vital ingredient that Reuther and clan were unable to have was control of overseas manufacturing plants where Asian workers lived in sovereign nations away from the USA and the UAW.

The lack of this vital nutrient in Reuthers grand vision of a great society ended up with the square deal and the new deal  or the 30s becoming the absolutely raw deal of the 90s. Not that the deal of taking workers back to barely above minimum wage levels and vanquishing many of their  hard won (extorted) entitlements was really raw... though it must have felt like it to them,  no..it was what a sane person will call the 'reality' deal, the 'survival' deal...the one that in the light of the various competing interests will at least enable a man and his family to survive if not live the high and good life. Only two segments of the community were able to live that kind of life. Union leaders and Corporate bosses.  Reuther emphatically claims that he was the lowest paid Union President in the land. Maybe so, but I doubt that he was not well rewarded for his industrial relations exploits.

The point where Reuther announced to the 1967 UAW convention "This is only the beginning" is where he seems to have had delusions of a large corporation being a proxy welfare state, and seems to be oblivious of the emerging threat from Japanese and European (now Korean and Chinese) car makers, and the possibility of something called the "oil crisis" of 1973.   Still they pressed on, blaming everyone but themselves for the decaying fiscal situation.  Even workers who had to be put off because of inventory imbalance between showrooms/dealers and the public demand,  were given 95% of their wages during times of unemployment. In other words.. paid to do nothing.  I know of no business that could withstand such an attack on it's bottom line.

Though membership declined, the UAW was undaunted and tried to gather in other sectors of the population, even to the level of 'post doctoral research academics'...and surprise surprise...now they are some of the best compensated people in the country:

The expansion of UAW to academic circles, postdoctoral researchers in particular, was significant in that the move helped secure advances in pay that made unionized academic researchers among the best compensated in the country in addition to gaining unprecedented rights and protections. (source)

The astute observer must here look closely at the Union's founding principles and current practice.
The foundational principles were to protect what they called 'exploited' workers from oppressive speedups and long working hours and low pay. Factory workers. Now? Suddenly they are seeking membership from the other end of economic town..."Post Doctoral" researchers? Good grief...those people would be well compensated anyway.... but now under this diabolical Union, they are having 'unprecedented' rights and protections.

To this observer at least, it smacks more of looking after the Union leadership than protecting exploited workers.  The other nasty side of that coin is, that research itself will be so prohibitively expensive in the USA that this will further erode innovation, driving it into the arms of overseas nations who have people there who know a good thing when they see it.  The increasing narcissism of the United States Throne of 'State' is being translated into nihilism and narcissim in the market place and factory floor. Short term ambition and the delusion that as long as a Government has the power to Tax, it can always use that power to sustain the greed of public service unions. There can only be one end to such a strategy and the French Revolution comes immediately to mind, as the common people not employed by the state rise up and place a few Guillotines in public places to use on the Union 'Aristocracy' and it's Monarchical government backers.

Ultimately, the UAW declined massively, now.. in 2014, Workers are payed $14.50/hour....
They employed a man named Richard Bensinger to advise them and help them organize as yet non Union workers at Japanese (trans)Plants in the deep south, but along with this came Obama's "Employee Free Choice" Act which was everything 'but' about free choice. It was a political ploy to place power smack bang in the hands of Union thugs, but you'd need to read up on that to get the full picture.   Bensinger suggested a different approach which involved both management and workers where he   : "suggested a third way to conduct elections that relied not on laws passed by the U.S. Congress but on a voluntary code of conduct that would be upheld by both organizers and management. The “Golden Rule” in this code was “Unions and employers need to behave as they would like the other to behave.” (source)

Well Well Well.....who would have thunk it?  Is this industrial relations or.. Back to the Bible?  Of course it is the 2nd great commandment emphasized by Jesus

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22)

Contrary to my title. The UAW does not have nothing, but the Auto workers themselves certainly do. The UAW leadership is well ensconced in their plush jobs and high pay packets while the workers they once represented languish in the corners of marginal economics.
This is no time to wring our hands over demolished pay and protections for auto workers, it is however the time to recognize that the only people who really benefit from Union activity are Union leaders.  This is the time for workers of the world to unite in recognition of this sad fact.
This is the time for management and labor to see themselves not as a polarized dichotomy at odds with itself, but as part of a whole that must function for the well being of all.   Reuther used to bandy about a few fiscal facts about upper management and how much more than the average worker they received in pay and options.

But I cannot avoid looking at Mr Reuther himself and his own lifestyle supported by Union dues. If a senior leader is not worth "n" times that of a worker...by what standard should we judge the fact that Reuther flitted from place to place on "Union" business in a Lear Jet?  (just like the corporate bosses he loved to loathe)..and how much was he paid? Did he accept the same pay rate as a typical Auto worker? Hardly.. and if he was compensated by a lot more than the average worker, could it be that this was due to his bigger responsibilities and talents? If so, how can he argue that those responsible for the design, development and management of the whole company are not worthy of the same measuring stick?

Here is how a supportive web site describes his death:

Walter Reuther was also an advocate for worker education. In the late 1960’s the UAW constructed an education center near Black Lake in northern Michigan. It was en route to the center that Walter and May Reuther were killed in a plane crash on May 9, 1970. The center is now named in their honor.

This is another report on this 'plane crash' (Wiki)

On May 9, 1970, Reuther, his wife May, architect Oscar Stonorov, and also a bodyguard, the pilot and co-pilot were killed when their chartered Lear-Jet crashed in flames at 9:33 p.m. Michigan time. The plane, arriving from Detroit in rain and fog, was on final approach to the Pellston, Michigan, airstrip near the union's recreational and educational facility at Black Lake, Michigan.

Can anyone spot the difference between the Presidents of GM who fly in a lear jet and Walter Reuther the Union boss who also does?

You cannot even begin to appreciate the enormity of the  money figures involved in the kinds of 'protections' the UAW extorted from people like the Big 3.  One example will illustrate:    In a restructuring of the whole compensation package situation, Bob King of the UAW agreed that the $22 BILLION dollar fund for retirement and health care of workers, be moved to a worker run voluntary organization/fund.   Such amounts are so far up in the galaxy as to be almost incomprehensible to us ordinary folks.

I recall from Walter Reuther's speech a point where he explained the first step of a health care plan was to use only the corporations accounting infrastructure to gather a wage sacrifice from workers who would fund the complete amount.  The next step was to get the corporation to fund it 50%.  The next step was to force the corporation to fund the whole lot. Reuther was called to the President to explain step 1...and the President was impressed and contacted friends in the Auto business to push it through. Little did he know where it would lead.

Today we have the hindsight and perspective to know full well that Unions are primarily about looking after their leaders and not the workers. Any person who joined a Union in this day and age deserves the obliteration such a decision will ultimately bring to his own employment security.

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