Under the contracts
agreed to by the UAW and the automakers during the near-collapse of the economy, new hires are paid half the wage that existing
workers get. The Times had an article on this disparity today, and this caught my eye.
During negotiations with
Chrysler, the Obama administration called for "maintaining all-in hourly labor costs comparable to its U.S. competitors, including
the transplants," according to an April memo describing the Treasury proposal.
The administration proposal
also called for all new production employees to be paid the $14 rate, expanding a 2007 labor agreement that set up the lower
rate, though only for some "non-core" jobs. In doing so, the administration went well beyond the pay cuts the automakers had
envisioned, sources said.
"From the manufacturer's
perspective, the line workers were always going to be getting $28 an hour," said a source familiar with the negotiations and
the auto manufacturers' thinking. The person, who lacked authorization to discuss the issue, declined to be named. "Those
jobs are difficult. But there are other jobs in the plant, and those are not nearly as stressful. Those were going to be the
"The government didn't say
$28 an hour was overpaying people," the source said. "But they saw the $14 rate as a way to lower overall labor costs to be
that. A labor contract is being negotiated. The union has made concessions. The bosses are willing
to accept them. A Democratic administration comes in and forces bigger concessions out of the union.
At first, I
read it as that there an oversight. The Obamas went beyond the carmakers' demands by accidentally agreeing to the
half-wage for all workers. A monumental fuck-up that didn't surprise me, but that didn't enrage me either. These
are the same people who negotiate with Republicans by giving concessions up front and then standing there, doe-eyed, waiting
for the thugs to give up something in return.
But re-reading it,
I realized that they had done this deliberately. They actually pushed the unions harder and farther than the car companies
did. What the fuck? I thought of the GM execs in Michael Moore's Roger and Me. Brain-dead, heartless bastards genuinely baffled and even offended that anyone would fail to see that, of course those
jobs in Detroit had to move elsewhere. Costs lower. Workers cheaper. Nothing about the history or community
or identity or people of Detroit seemed to have passed, even momentarily, through their heads. And the Obama people are more brain-dead than those creeps?
Of course in both cases it had to be done, right?
Have to compete with companies with lower labor costs. If a foreign car company has lower costs and ships its products
here, then costs have to be lowered here in order to compete, right?
No. It's bullshit. We have a trade deficit
with China because of the way it manipulates its currency. Their goods are artificially cheap here. Not only don't
we do that, in the name of "free trade," we don't even push the Chinese to stop it.
And there's no reason we can't put up other barriers
to goods made in other countries with lower labor costs. That will retard their development. So what? Why
should we destroy Detroit -- city that has gone from a million and a half people to half a million people -- so that
China and India can grow? Go to Detroit and walk through the parts of it -- most of it -- that looks like
Berlin after the war and tell me that was the right thing to do.
Will trade barriers hurt us? Well, there won't
be as much cheap shit to buy and Wal-Mart. But more cheap shit at Wal-Mart is not a better life. If I have to
pay $50 for a camping tent instead of $30, but I live in a stable community with good schools, decent roads and parks, and
parents who can spend time with their kids and still pay their bills -- I'll take that deal.
It's a chase down the spiral, as it is. The
fucking tent costs $30 instead of $50, but if I work at a shitty service job instead of a well paying manufacturing job, $30 looks
just like $50 to me. I have to dig into the budget to find it. Somehow we were
all convinced that people would have the manufacturing job wage to buy the cheap shit at Wal-Mart with.
Who benefits from "free trade?" Only the people
who benefit from cheap labor. That would be Wal-Mart.
And Chrysler, GM, and Ford.
These are not the values of the Democratic Party
I grew up with. My party built and maintained the middle class, primarily through its support of unions.
idea of the UAW and the steelworkers negotiating so that workers could make it into the middle class, of allowing them to
make it as manufacturing workers -- that is all gone," Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University.
"And it's difficult to see how they will be able to find their way back."
two-tier agreement "effectively ends many of the principles established 70 years ago in the UAW's birth," Bill Parker, a negotiating
committee leader, wrote in an unusual dissent. "For years, the UAW embodied industrial unionism and the gains of the New Deal.
So goes the UAW, so goes the American middle class."
Here's the graph that sums it all up.
Every day, Americans
go to work and produce real value that shows up in the top line -- the total productivity of the US that goes up year
after year as that wealth is invested, as we produce technical advances, and the labor force expands. It's our fucking
money. But the bottom line has been flat for over a generation. In a richer and richer country, the average person
gets no more than their parents did for their labor.
The line flattens
out around 1980 -- the Reagan era begins.
And now the Obamas
are doing their best to keep it flat. Never making the case against "free trade" and stepping in on the side of management
because there's just nothing they can do about wages' being undercut by cheap foreign goods.
More change I just