Saturday, April 4, 2009

Government to get tough with the auto unions

The government is weighing the possibility of delaying support measures for the auto industry in order to win meaningful concessions from union workers, official sources said Sunday. Too good to be true? Has the government finally realized the unions are a major part of the problem with the auto industry? The answer is yes, but it’s not the US government. The story is datelined Seoul, and the unions are South Korean. There is very little hope the Obama administration will address the union problem with any degree of enthusiasm. Nor will they let GM declare a bankruptcy that will allow a bankruptcy judge void or alter union contracts. All talk of bankruptcy is in terms a “surgically structured” one. By that they mean the administration wants to be in control of bankruptcy proceedings, and rest assured meaningful labor reform is off the table. And the reform needed isn’t just labor costs. It’s who controls the shop floor. It’s ending the ceaseless grievances for the most insignificant changes; it’s ending the practice of being able to call a strike at a plant because every single grievance hasn’t been resolved even though a national contract has been agreed to. What the new administration won’t address is the reputation for shoddiness the UAW label has given the Big Three. Instead of matching the efficiency and quality of the domestically produced imports, the administration’s plan is to force them to organize through Card Check, reducing their efficiency and sullying their reputation. Card Check allows a union to organize a company without a secret ballot, an open invitation for intimidation and thugishness. And even worse it mandates an arbiter write the new labor contract. In a world where there is massive overcapacity in the auto manufacturing industry, the Big Three are the high cost manufacturers. They still will be. Obamanomics can’t make water run uphill, and it won’t save the Big Three.

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