UAW on Concessions: Let's Not Get Hasty

According to the Wall Street Journal, the United Auto Workers don’t want to get ahead of themselves and agree to too much in the way of concessions on compensation:

Although the UAW has said it is ready to negotiate, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said Monday it is unclear what kind of reductions it will have to agree to. The Treasury Department has said GM must have a plan by March to become “viable” and have “positive net value.”

“We are still trying to figure out what that means,” Mr. Gettelfinger said in an interview. He added the union has heard little from the Treasury on what is expected. “We have no documents, no contact with the federal government,” he said.

Gettelfinger doesn’t sound as if he’s motivated by a sense of urgency to help fix what’s broken at GM. Rather, he sounds like he expects another multi-billion dollar federal lifeline. If he really believed that the jobs of thousands of his constituents depended on a viability plan, he would be negotiating.

Gettelfinger is no dummy; he understands that it’s basically impossible to get clear policy guidances during a presidential transition — particularly one from a Republican president to a Democrat. The new Treasury Secretary hasn’t been confirmed yet, and all the senior policymakers at Treasury are about to be replaced by a new team. Given those circumstances, it might be wise to err on the side of doing too much to help GM, rather than too little.

At the very least, the UAW and GM could work together to produce a plan that makes objective sense, rather than await some prescriptive formula that won’t be prepared for months. But for what it’s worth, it sounds like GM’s management is just as nonchalant about the company’s future:

But, Mr. Wagoner said, GM could be forced to ask for additional loans after March 31. He said he hopes he doesn’t have to return to Washington on a regular basis to ask for more money.

He hopes? How about some action, instead.

Via Mickey Kaus