February 16, 2008
A Fighting Chance?
New York Times Editorial
There seems to be no end to the Big Three automakers’ woes. This week, General Motors offered a new buyout plan to its 74,000 unionized workers in the United States — those who didn’t take the 2006 buyout offer. The Ford Motor Company and Chrysler also have plans to buy out thousands of employees. Still, there is a glimmer of hope: the companies plan to hire new workers to replace at least some, and perhaps a substantial share, of those they let go.
Detroit wants to take advantage of the contracts signed last year with the United Automobile Workers union. They allow the carmakers to hire new entry-level workers at much lower wages and with smaller benefit packages than current employees. This would reduce their labor costs significantly, giving them more of a chance to compete with the foreign car companies that are eating their lunch.
. . . Though the Big Three culled tens of thousands of workers in the United States in the last couple of years, they are still operating way under capacity.
. . . The American carmakers’ problems underscore the need for a government-backed system of universal health care, which would relieve some of the costs that have made competing so much harder.
. . . The union allowed the companies to hire cheaper noncore workers. These measures will reduce labor costs and give Detroit a better chance to compete head to head with Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai. If Detroit’s carmakers can also design more desirable cars, this might be the beginning of their turnaround.
If I understand this correctly, the New York Times sees it as a ‘glimmer of hope‘ that GM is buying out the contracts of 74,000 union workers at union wages, so that it can ‘replace at least some‘ at much lower wages and with smaller benefit packages. One wonders just whose hope is glimmering, the Bloomfield Hills Country Club set or the line worker with twenty years in and two kids in college.
It gets better–without the faintest recognition of the irony involved–NYT’s editorial staff goes on to declaim that the ‘American carmakers’ problems underscore the need for a government-backed system of universal health care, which would relieve some of the costs that have made competing so much harder.’
45 million Americans find that lacking health care makes raising their children and avoiding medical-emergency bankruptcy so much harder. At the NYTimes, competing gets the editorial nod and trying to get through life without families falling apart is an unmentioned (and likely unrealized) side benefit.
Carmakers be damned. They designed and delivered crackerboxes, whined about competition, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to ‘quality circles,’ treated their employees like dirt, refused to build anything driveable but trucks and SUVs and are now throwing their employees under the bus and demanding national health care.
These are the same bullies who fought national health care tooth and nail for thirty years, decrying it as ‘socialized medicine.’ Now they have the hutzpa to turn their backs on the working men and women these same white-shoe ‘industry leaders‘ lead down the certain path to destruction of the industry. Some leadership.
Wages and benefits never wrecked the industry–hubris did it in. The Japanese (with high wages and benefits) built superior cars that reflected the needs of drivers, innovated high mileage and performance standards, imported every scrap of raw materials, shipped the completed product half way across the world and still made a profit.
Ford and Chrysler and GM just never got it. They
- absolutely read markets wrong,
- then tried to manhandle the buying public,
- intentionally built shoddy small cars to pimp their land yachts and
- sat around the 19th hole at Bloomfield Hills, telling each other stories about the good old days and how they’d soon be back.
The original Henry Ford, who was a builder rather than a destroyer, would have run the whole bunch into the Detroit River and held their heads under.
You bet we need national single-payer health care in this country. It would and will make our largest employers more competitive in a world where national health care is the norm. But to push it–after decades of neglect–after millions of sick kids and cancer-stricken parents bankrupted millions of American families–is perfidy of the first order.
The New York Times ought to fire the editorial misfit that wrote this piece and make a Page One public apology for taking 45 million Americans for granted. Making them second class citizens to an all-but-dead-and-buried auto industry.
Anybody out there think I’m angry? Yeah, I just might be.