Anybody who has read some of my blogs knows that I can lean any which way that makes sense to me. I’ve said I’m fiscally conservative but socially progressive.
So what about this auto industry bailout? If the “Big Three” went bust, it would be a tragedy for this country in terms of jobs lost, and the ripple effect would be massive. But I have to say that right now, I have to support the more conservative Democrats and Republicans who are saying to the UAW “you need to make concessions”. The reports I’ve read is that these Congressional leaders are asking the UAW to bring their wages and benefits in line with what the foreign automakers pay within the U.S. Makes sense to me.
Honestly, I think unions had a time and place, and in some circumstances still do. But I haven’t seen any automobile plants here in the U.S. that even remotely resemble a sweat shop where workers don’t earn a living wage. In many industries the time is long gone where unions really protect the workers. They do nothing but hurt the workers and drive the industry into the ground. I have worked in unionized industries before where the workers had little choice but to join the unions even when they didn’t want to join, and the unions did very little for them but take their money and strike every time the contract was due. And conversely, I personally have NOT been union when I damn well wish someone had represented my interests when I was being outsourced, downsized, laid off, companies being merged, health plans being modified, in-sourced, companies being sold – all with me having absolutely no say whatsoever as to how I would be treated in the process. I was simply a commodity in these transactions. These days, it is fashionable to call employees “associates” which makes the company appear to have some respect for the employee resource. It is just as easy to downsize, transfer, or demote an associate as it is an employee. But this is happening in white collar jobs. So the union jobs get protected, but the white collar jobs are dispensable because they aren’t represented in most cases.
Back to my point. The UAW has done such a fine job of protecting its members that it may just bankrupt the companies that employ its workers. I’m not saying that management hasn’t had a hand in making a myriad of bad decisions along the way. Why they are just now figuring out how to make dependable cars that get decent gas mileage is beyond me. Japan has been doing it for a while now. I never understood why anyone would say “Buy American” when the American product was inferior in quality. I say, let my dollar speak for itself. If the Toyota or Honda product is a better quality, then I’m going to buy it (and I have). I bought a Chrysler over 20 years ago. It transmission literally fell apart (it fell out of the car on the ground while I was driving) with less than 12,000 miles on the car and the dealer wouldn’t fix it. Why would I EVER go back to Chrysler – and I mean ever?
The big three need to not only make the necessary adjustments in fuel efficiency in their auto design, but we need to also insist that the UAW pony up to the table with the appropriate concessions to keep the companies competitive. As a taxpayer, I don’t want to loan any money to a company that doesn’t have a sustainable long term plan, and unless these companies can make cars that the world wants to buy at a price that is affordable, we shouldn’t subsidize them.