Sunday, July 15, 2007

Detroit Three and UAW Prepare to Talk

The Globe and Mail reports that the UAW and GM, Chrysler and Ford will square off in talks that could result in massive off shoring of North American jobs.

According to the article, pressures on the Detroit Three include health care obligations to retirees and current employees, high hourly labor costs, and reduced demand for pickups and SUVs. Unions can expect to be asked to take large cuts in wages and to assume greater responsibility for funding health care and retirement.

Sounds grim, but it really isn't news. In the context of global competition and production, well-paid American workers have much to lose and have been losing for years. The former Big Three, now the Detroit Three, will ask workers to make greater concessions than ever before in order to remain viable.

Did it have to be this way? We have known since the early 1970s that our excessive use of oil would create economic vulnerability. Yet, here we are in 2007 producing gas guzzling cars, trucks and SUVs. And why? Because, say the auto makers, "consumers wanted them." Who are these consumers and how could they have been so short sighted? Are these consumers also workers?

What happened to Henry Ford's idea that workers who produced cars should be able to afford them? It seems today's auto manufacturers have a different vision for their workers. Workers are workers; consumers are consumers. And producers are producers.These days, it is a lucky worker who can also be consumer.