Software Nerd

Monday, September 24, 2007

The UAW pretends to strike

Today, the UAW began a nationwide strike against GM, for the first time in decades. Yet, it gets nothing more than a big yawn, because everyone believes it's a "pretend" strike.

In the year leading up to these contract-renewal talks, GM has done a good job showing that they expect much better terms than the older contracts. They shed quite a few worker via "buy-outs". They even tackled their biggest headache, their health-care liabilities, by proposing to hand over a lump sum of money to the union, and washing their hands of it.

Everyone expects the unions to give in. GM's stock traded higher as contract talks begun, and hardly moved when the strike was announced. The truly left-wing elements of the union have been trying to make a noise about being sold out, but the union bosses and most of the rank and file seem to understand that they need GM more than GM needs them. Many heads of locals, interviewed today, were hoping that the strike was a short one; hardly any militant talk.

Paradoxically, the strike is the union's face-saving way of pretending that they put up a fight. Workers who are straggling, will feel a little different after a week without pay, and mortgage payments to be met. [UAW has an $800 million strike fund, but nevertheless an actual strike helps to concretize the abstract notion of unemployment.] Workers won't need much convincing: over the last few years auto-workers have realized that their jobs are really at risk this time around.

There's always a remote chance of miscalculation, but it's slim. GM should be a stronger company, come 2008. I'm glad to report that the decline of unionism continues unabated.

[Links: Two earlier posts about GM and UAW. Here is a somewhat rambling, but informative article, written by someone who used to work on a GM assembly-line.]

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