Friday, December 12, 2008

Fiddling while Detroit Burns

Reports from the failed senate bill on the auto bailout are still sketchy, but at this point it looks like the holdout was between the UAW and senate republicans.

The UAW agreed in principal to lower the wages they charge American auto makers to the levels they charge foreign automakers producing domestically, but they wanted a year to implement the cuts. Senate republicans wanted the cuts to come in 2009 and when the two sides couldn't agree, the bill failed.

I have a few questions:
First, why was the UAW still charging more to work for american companies than they were for the same jobs at foreign companies? That this wasn't done years ago really makes the UAW look pretty greedy and unreasonable.

Secondly, we're told that the president may provide funds to the big three out of the already passed TARP money anyway. If that's true, I really would like to know how much a part this possibility played in the UAW's unwillingness to play ball with republican senators.

Playing Hardball
This is serious business. The market will probably take a really big hit today on the news. There was plenty of motivation on both sides of the senate to come up with a bill. The only player who might possibly benefit from the bill failing is the UAW who might have seen getting some money now from the president and more money later from the new more union-friendly, democrat senate as preferable to taking wage cuts now, rather than later.

Unions are used to playing hardball. That's what they do. Senators and Representatives and Presidents have to answer to their constituency, but unions have nobody to answer to but their members, and the best way to do that is by wringing out every last penny they can from management.

They're not fighting with management now though. They're fighting with the American people, and holding us over a barrel like this isn't going to play well. Not only do we hold the key to their future with this bailout money, but we're also the future consumers of their product and for the unions to burn what little goodwill they have left with the American people over two dollars an hour is simply foolish.

So who's at fault?
I think they're all guilty of fiddling while Rome burns, but then they were fiddling when the fire started too.

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