June 11, 2009
GM offers brutal lesson about labor in U.S
By Saul Anuzis
The news that General Motors (GM) declared bankruptcy makes me ill. You see, I grew up in Michigan, where the auto industry was so much a part of the culture, that I and many others considered it as American as apple pie. My father spent 32 years as a skill tradesman at the GM Fisher Body plant in Detroit.
Yet, as GM awaits its $30 billion in government, bail-out money, 68% of which could end up going to the United Auto Workers (UAW), its employees look for new jobs. The same folks who made demands of GM it could not meet now stand to receive as much as $20 billion.
By the end of the day, the Federal Government will own more than 50% of GM and the UAW will own another 20%.
There is an old saying that “as GM goes, so goes America.” Let me explain.
The reason that the great American tradition of making cars in my home state has now gone belly up is due in large part to the irrational and unreasonable demands made by UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger, former UAW chief Frank Garrison, and the union leaders that came before them. And the rest of it lies with the management of the Big 3 who made promises they knew they couldn’t keep, and the politicians who continued to enable this to happen.
GM will have to close plants and dealerships all over the country just to stay afloat. But staying afloat is more than some of their employees may be able to get away with.
It seems like all we are left with are questions. What if the UAW & management had negotiated more reasonable and competitive contracts earlier, would GM have survived?
All of this serves as a sobering reminder of how power-hungry union leaders – still at work trying to elevate their interests above those of employees and employers – pose a major threat to other industries. Currently being considered in Congress is a bill that would decimate small businesses throughout the nation while lining Big Labor’s pockets. The Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA) provides no real free choice to workers or employers, but does ensure both union bosses and their mismanaged pension programs are rewarded and subsidized.
Under EFCA, a worker’s right to a secret ballot vote during union elections would vanish as would a businesses right to determine the wages and benefits of its employees. Leaders on both sides of the political spectrum have decried EFCA as an unnecessary risk to the American economy and a step back in our democracy.
A recent economic study by Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar reveals that every three percentage points gained in union membership through card checks and mandatory arbitration would result in a one percentage point rise in the unemployment the following year.
The American people cannot afford legislation that further damages the economy. EFCA puts everything at risk – our jobs, businesses, sacred right to a private vote, and the right of workers to have a say on contracts determining their wages and benefits.
EFCA essentially serves as an opportunity for the labor bosses to do to small business what they have done to the great American auto industry. But, simply stated, our nation cannot afford it.
The common thread throughout all of this is that the workers suffer most – and in an incredibly challenging economic environment – there are few things that would be more damaging than the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act.
Any vote for job-killing legislation that eliminates worker rights and sacrifices small businesses in an attempt to reward union bosses will never see the light of day. The GM bankruptcy demonstrates just how high the stakes really are in this debate.
Saul Anuzis is the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.