Monday, November 24, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

A few days ago, I published a post called Right Into The Damn Ditch, which quoted from an article in the Wall Street Journal. It was a pretty good indictment of how Detroit Auto Makers bissfully kept making bad decisions and resisted innovation in the face of reality and the glaring evidence that while they were losing their market, Asiatic Auto Makers were ascending.

I was made aware yesterday of another great article, from The Detroit Free Press by columnist, Mitch Albom. He says much of what I believe about the need to preserve the Detroit Auto Makers, but really criticizes the attitudes of the Southern Congressmen and Senators who use the proposed bailout as an opportunity to destroy unions and the hypocrisy they are guilty of. He mentions the Federal Aid and waivers granted to the Asiatic Manufacturers who set up shop in the South in the first place.
I feel the Southern Republican critics of a bail out of Detroit are exploiting the political gains they can make locally by making this a regional battle. Again, thinking on a small immediate politicallyy local level while letting the long term national welfare suffer.
It is an article well worth reading.
Meanwhile, to help us think about "bail outs" here's Tom Waits performing the song, Buddy Can You Spare A Dime . Written in 1931, by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and Jay Gorney, it was the classic anthemn of the Depression. Tom Waits performs a gut wrenching interpretaion, much different than Bing Crosby's.


Anonymous said...

From Engineer of Knowledge
Hello Microdot,
What a timely posting. I saw a political ad just the other day showing a working class man in the office of his boss being told that he would love to give him more money because he did his job so well but because the company had a union he had to pay the working class man the same as everyone else. The ad then went on to tell people to call their Congressman to vote on the Free Work Bill that in essence is nothing more that union busting.

Needless to say my “Bullshit-O-Meter” alarm was going off loud and clear. The power of corporations paying someone a living wage with benefits all came from solidarity collective bargaining. If they can union bust by making some poor worker think that if he dumps the union, that the employer will recognize his talents and pay him more. What a load of crap!

I was traveling to Thurmont, MD to do some onsite consulting work and I was listening to talk radio. A woman caller was going on about how no auto worker was worth $40.00 an hour and that it was the union’s fault that the American auto industry could not compete. Much to the credit to the radio host, he brought up that the CEO of GM paid himself $3.5 million and the CEO of Ford paid himself $9.4 million in annual compensation and bounces. All the while both companies were loosing billions of dollars every year for the last few years.
When the CEO’s of the big three auto companies went to Washington, DC to ask for bailout money, only Chrysler CEO was willing to work for $1.00 for the next year, just like Lee Iacocca did in the early 1990’s. The others wanted to keep their over blown and unjustified salaries hoping the government could keep it coming with the $25 billion bailout.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who is the father of Japan’s industrial revolution, said that 95% plus of any companies problems all started at the top of management.

To get back to the misinformed woman caller wanting to blame unionized autoworkers, which by the way now has an average salary of $14.00 per hour through out the whole industry and not $40.00 per hour, needs to educate herself to the teachings of Dr. Deming. You take a good knowledgeable person with an education of Industrial Electricity and can repair the computers that control the assembly robots that weld and paint the cars on the assembly line, are worth the $40.00 per hour to keep the production up and running. The loss to the company should these robotics go down would be much more costly.

I hope people are not stupid enough to fall for this crap but I am also sure the mindless Sarah Palin type supporters are on the phone right now destroying what little quality of life they have right now because they do not have the education to recognize how this Bill is going to harm them in the long run.

Jeanette said...

Microdot, as a former union steward and local secretary I think I don't have to prove my credentials as a union supporter.

I do, however, find the wages and benefits bargained for by the UAW to be excessive when a company is on the verge of bankruptcy.

I heard the average salary of a line worker the other day and it came out to about $200,000 a year plus benefits.

If put into the situation they are in I would gladly take a pay cut to save my job. I think they are feeling that way too.

I know for what I was doing there was no comparable wage in the area and I actually know for that job I was highly paid. Too highly paid, but I kept taking the paycheck and the company eventually shut down our office and sold itself to a French company. Wages for the same job have gone up $500 per week since I was there. I know because I recently talked to one of my former co-workers.

Unions are great for bargaining benefits and salaries and especially great in the shop when someone is being bothered by management. Otherwise, we can sometimes price ourselves out of a job.

The engineers need to design vehicles of quality that makes the consumer want the vehicle. So far they haven't done much of that and management must take the responsibility. Why can't the company give shares in the company to the workers as an incentive to keep the company strong?

Bailing out a company to the tune of $25 billion only means the company comes back in a couple of months for more since they pay that much in wages and benefits in a couple of months. This is insanity and I'm sure the majority of workers would prefer a job with a little less pay than no job at all and the death of the industry.

Jeanette said...

By the way, I don't feel the workers should take a huge pay cut, but a small amount would help if spread equally among the workers and especially the management. Management is to blame and from my experience with national union politics the ones who run the national unions are just as rich as the managers they complain about.

Morton Bahr, our national president of the Communication Workers of America, wears very nice suits and travels very well, staying in the best suite in the hotels.

Sometimes it's hard to figure out where the company stops and the union begins. I have great respect for the local union stewards because they are the ones who resolve the labor disputes, but go up one notch to even the local president and they don't care.

I served under a president who was more interested in talking about his gazebo he was building and showing management photos of it than he was of keeping a person's job. He'd finally ask if the guy could get his job back and when the answer was no he would close his file and talk about himself some more.

I was in those meetings and if not for me and other job stewards the case would never have been argued for the grievant.

Morty Bahr had us out on strike for 3 hot weeks in 1986 saying we would never give up our cost of living language in our contract. When the contract was settled we were told we kept the language, but the contract had a statement that the parties had agreed it would not be in effect. Last year they put it back into effect, but the ones who walked the lines did it for the ones who are now working and our pensions never increase. Once you retire, that's all the money you'll get every month for the rest of your life and then they take out a percentage for health care. Health care used to be free to employees who were not management.

I guess you can see my bitterness at the union after my experience.

Sorry to ramble.

microdot said...

The $200,000 a year figure you are referring to as the amount of salary and compensation a line worker recieves yearly is totally false and is a piece of mis information thqat has been repeated by a few talking heads and then repeated by the media with out a reality check.
They have been saying a typical Union Line worker makes $70/hr!

The Unions have been working with the Auto Companies and renegotiating copntracts for years.

What management and the anti union politicians want is to use this crisis as a leverage point to break the power and influence of the Unions and there is no better way thatn to try to portray the Union Workers as some how being priveleged...
These are the same people who are fighting tooth and nail to deny Wal Mart workers a chance to unionize.

Obviously, from what we have learned and know and from what you have said in your posts, the Unionization of the American workforce is not the source of the problem.

To demonize the unions in this crisis is to shift blame and ignore the root of the problems.

We know that the Unions are going to have to work with the auto makers for their own mutual survival. Anti Union forces would like to wipe the slate clean and destroy the Unions all together.

The Unions help create the vast middle class of this country. With out them, we would have a nation of extremely wealthy and lower middle class and minimum wage class.
Again, who would buy the products Detroit hopes to keep pumping out?

This is a time of great economic change, our wayss of doing things have to change, but we cannot go backwards socially.

mud_rake said...

Correct data, microdot The correct source of the false $70/hr. wage lie was brought to the attention of the American citizen recently as a 'reporter' in the New York Times.

No one vetted that figure but of course right-wing radio and FoxNoise picked it up and ran with it. The anti-union message that they put out will, of course, stick in the minds of the right-wingers as they scream about the unionized auto workers.

My right-wing brother-in-law will be joining us at Thanksgiving dinner today and I'm sure that he will drop the $70 figure during 'conversation.' Of ocurse, talk radio is his sole source of 'information'.

Someone sent me an email with the following link to be used at Thanksgiving dinner for the right-wingers in attendance: