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Last call for a union town
CNN Money ^ | Ellen McGirt

Posted on 08/02/2006 9:09:28 AM PDT by 2banana

Most are furious at the company, calling the entire bankruptcy a fraud, an effort to renege on legitimate union contracts. Some, like Bob Martin, 63, an old-school UAW member, say the union itself has been complicit: "The union betrayed me, the company betrayed me, my government betrayed me. [Delphi is] just trying to get rid of its contracts, and the union has rolled right over."

...

Others turn defensive - if not about the UAW per se, then about the idea that workers somehow brought this on themselves by weighing down carmakers with undeservedly fat union contracts and retiree benefits.

"Everyone hates us," says union member and Delphi worker Shawn Nevin, 37. Nevin builds circuitboards and is a skilled worker whose expertise can't easily be replaced. He feels his contributions to the company - and to a profitable plant - deserve to be rewarded and protected. "Can't they see that everyone has benefits because of unions?" he asks.

But elsewhere among the Kokomo community are quieter voices that seem to be saying, "Get over it and move on already: The days of union protection are dead." While you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who says he's happy about what's happening to the Delphi workers, some do see the bankruptcy as an opportunity.

Most of Delphi's union production workers are paid around $27 an hour (skilled tradespeople make more), and the company is now hiring folks to fill some of those newly vacant jobs at $14 an hour. And from Kokomo townspeople further down the economic food chain than the long-standing union workers, there's been plenty of interest.

(Excerpt) Read more at money.cnn.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; US: Indiana
KEYWORDS: union
As Frederick "Rick" Dubinsky, the hard-driving former chairman of United's pilots union, once said: "We don't want to kill the golden goose. We just want to choke it by the neck until it gives us every last egg," the relationship between unions and the companies they work for is “What can you do for me now.”

Unfortunately, years of union benefits piling on union benefits have made many of the companies they work for unviable. For instance, if Ford wants to lay off union workers, they still must 90% of their salaries and benefits for years. To unplug a computer in the Philadelphia Convention Center requires that a union electrician does the work (the actual unplugging). SEPTA union employees pay not one dime in co-pays or deductibles for their medical benefits and are willing to shut down the entire mass transit system in Philadelphia, indefinitely, to keep it that way.

When companies can not make a profit or compete because they are being squeezed for every golden egg, they have two options. Either go out of business or go to areas where unions are not as strong. This used to mean going to the mostly nonunionized Southern United States, where for the last 20 years every major automobile manufacturer has chosen to build new manufacturing plants, but now means to go overseas in search of the most competitive place to do business.

Management is not innocent, they have created this mess. They have made many unwise decisions of putting short term profits over the long term health of their companies. In the same vein, they have also agreed to outrageous union contracts because the bills and heartburn for them would come due on some else’s watch in the future.

Now the bills are coming due. And all the union iron clad contracts mean nothing if the company they work for goes out of business. Just ask the workers of steel and airline companies. And ask their retirees. All wish that the company they work for or retired from was a healthy and profitable company.

Unions need to focus on how they can make the companies they work for as strong as possible. This is the only way to keep union jobs, pay and benefits around for the long run. And that doesn’t mean massive pay cuts. Flexibly in work rules, retraining for new jobs when technology changes the old jobs, plugging in and using membership brains/experiences to make the company more profitable are all foreign concepts in many union shops. Their company’s future is their future. For instance, when union workers in Japan go on strike, they wear arm bands that proclaim “On Strike” as they continue to work. They understand that to cause unneeded financial damage to the company they work for, in these days of global competition, is one way to lose their jobs forever.

Unions also need to get out of politics. All of the major unions are strong supporters (both in money from mandatory union dues and “forced” volunteers) of the most liberal of democrat candidates. They have publicly taken positions of being pro-abortion, anti-gun and anti-tax cut (among a plethora of other social issues). None of these issues has anything remotely to do with how a union operates. But it serves to isolate unions from over half the population of America who want nothing to do with them just based on their political stands on these controversial issues. Many people actively avoid buying union made products because they feel they are financing their political enemies.

The union’s heritage is of the craftsman guilds. When you hired a craftsman, you knew you were getting value – someone who was trained, knew what they were doing and did the job right. Today, hiring a union person to do a job is synonymous for expensive, inflexible, sloppy work and belligerence. That is the image that needs to be changed for unions to flourish – what can we do to provide value.

Regards,

2banana

1 posted on 08/02/2006 9:09:30 AM PDT by 2banana
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To: 2banana
I wonder if unions couldn't regain some credibility if they stopped negotiating wages. They could be the collective bargaining agency for all other workplace constraints -- benefits, working conditions, hours, safety, wrongful termination, etc. -- but wages would be set by the company. Period.

That way, at least the most visible cost of union presence would be removed, and the unions could at least claim they were concerned less with socialistic greed than with worker welfare.

Just a thought ...

2 posted on 08/02/2006 9:15:02 AM PDT by IronJack
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To: 2banana

Unionized companies were essentially a conspiracy between the unions and the companies to fleece the consumer. As long as the consumer did not have an alternative to the artificially high prices necessary to support profitable business with union wages, the conspiracy could go on.

Once consumers had an alternative, due to deregulation of airlines, importing of cars, non-union firms entering the field, etc.; the artificially high prices could not be sustained and the foundation necessary to support the high wages and benefits of the union workers disappeared.

IOW, union workers did quite well for several decades by shifting the costs to everybody else. In the process they reduced everybody else's standard of living by at least as much as they increased their own.


3 posted on 08/02/2006 9:22:53 AM PDT by Restorer
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To: IronJack

This is exactly right and has been coming down the pike for more than 30 years. I can remember back when my Dad was management for Coca-Cola. The drivers and line workers wanted to go union. I can remember when "management" on all levels showed up at one small bottling plant, put a closed sign on the door, took the equipment and product and left an empty building.


4 posted on 08/02/2006 9:27:09 AM PDT by Sunshine Sister
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To: 2banana
Today, hiring a union person to do a job is synonymous for expensive, inflexible, sloppy work and belligerence. That is the image that needs to be changed for unions to flourish...

Yes, sadly, to a great degree in many businesses. And most union members know it to be true, but can not actually admit it -- a truth that must not be spoken. The free market will force the required adjustments.

Not affected by a free market, however, are government (public school) teachers. Their union must be addressed, starting with the NEA, and in detail. They have high regard for themselves and low regard for stakeholders. Tenure causes apathy. They fill our children's heads with new age, anti-American, anti-Christian, pink triangle, eco-fearmongering, ADHD-diagnosing, everybody-gets-a-blue-ribbon psychobabble. The NEA has a questionable social background and agenda, going back to The Frankfurt School. They're now trying to get our children under their care almost from birth. Scary stuff. Teachers are in every community, in every county, in every state. Public schools are often the largest employer in a community.

5 posted on 08/02/2006 9:55:49 AM PDT by polymuser (There is one enemy and one war.)
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To: 2banana

I once worked in a research lab that had UAW maintenance staff. The union filed a grievance because I opened a window myself, without getting a UAWQ member do it for me. (They actually liked me personally, but there was a principle involved, LOL!)


6 posted on 08/02/2006 9:58:51 AM PDT by expatpat
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To: 2banana

Unions are also stabbing their members in the back by pushing for open borders and amnesty. They would rather increase their member count (with attendant voters and dues payers)with millions of illegal aliens than take care of their existing American members.

It is union members that are hurt most by illegals, being displaced in the trades and services by the illegals or having their wages and standard of living reduced.

If the Bush Administration would wise up and realize that it is distressed union members (Reagan Democrats) where they can get the most votes, not welfare state aliens owned by the Democrats, they might still be in the majority and White House over the next few years.

You wonder if they really care, knowing that their cheap labor corporate masters will all be offering them cushy executive jobs after they are kicked out of office because of this amnesty obsession.


7 posted on 08/02/2006 10:00:17 AM PDT by oldbill
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To: 2banana
"Can't they see that everyone has benefits because of unions?" he asks.

Or, phrased a bit differently by those of a similar bent, "Can't you see that the Earth is flat?"

8 posted on 08/02/2006 10:02:03 AM PDT by TChris (Banning DDT wasn't about birds. It was about power.)
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To: IronJack
I think it's a pretty good idea in terms of credibility building, but I don't think it will help much in the long haul.

My education was in labor economics and the biggest problem with unions is not salary negotiation or benefits, it's that they are a 1 size fits all structure. If they were to negotiate against a bell curve where the most productive get paid more than less productive they might survive. Anything else and all will inevitably be lost for the unions.

The most productive workers can consistently make more without the union than with them, so the net effect of a union is to reduce overall productivity and that usually means death for the company.

9 posted on 08/02/2006 10:09:04 AM PDT by tcostell (MOLON LABE)
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To: IronJack
That way, at least the most visible cost of union presence would be removed

I believe the first thing you mentioned is the most visible cost - - benefits.

10 posted on 08/02/2006 10:16:07 AM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: expatpat

I remember a guy my Dad worked with got in trouble for turning on light switches at a facility in Philadelphia. That was a job for a unionized electrical worker.


11 posted on 08/02/2006 10:18:17 AM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: 2banana
"The union betrayed me, the company betrayed me, my government betrayed me.

You trusted them, idiot.

12 posted on 08/02/2006 10:23:11 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim (Crazier than a rattlesnake at a Thai wedding)
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To: Restorer
Brothels were essentially a conspiracy between the whores and the pimps to fleece the johns. As long as the john did not have an alternative to illegal sex, the conspiracy could go on.

Once johns had an alternative, due to deregulation of personal liberty,  the artificially high prices could not be sustained and the foundation necessary to support the high wages and benefits of the sex workers disappeared.

Hmmm.
13 posted on 08/02/2006 10:27:12 AM PDT by gcruse (http://gcruse.typepad.com)
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To: gcruse

Okay?


14 posted on 08/02/2006 10:32:39 AM PDT by Restorer
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To: Restorer

Just thinkin'...


15 posted on 08/02/2006 10:37:51 AM PDT by gcruse (http://gcruse.typepad.com)
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To: tcostell

Reminds me of the union shop-steward who was at a Union Convention and decided to get some illegal sex. He asked at the first brothel if it was a union shop and was told "No". He went down the street and found one that was. He spotted a pretty young blonde and told the Madame that he would like her. The madame told him: "I'm sure you would, but Sophie over there is 76 and she has seniority."


16 posted on 08/02/2006 10:40:03 AM PDT by expatpat
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To: tcostell

An excellent suggestion. Unions have become havens for incompetents and conscientious workers get tarred with the same brush. If unions negotiated contracts based on the reality that some of their members are goldbricks, slugabeds, and slackers, and that nobody is served by championing such people, then I think they could establish a more co-operative working relationship with management, instead of the adversarial one that exists now.


17 posted on 08/02/2006 11:12:51 AM PDT by IronJack
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To: 2banana
He feels his contributions to the company - and to a profitable plant - deserve to be rewarded

It's called a "wage." That's your reward.

18 posted on 08/02/2006 11:15:46 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Lancey Howard
I believe the first thing you mentioned is the most visible cost - - benefits.

That may be true for the company, but to the public, it's always going to come down to pay. And the benefits would have to be reasonable too, of course. One can't successfully transfer the socialistic load from pay to benefits and expect to achieve any progress. The unions would have to realize that the free market will take care of salaries; companies that don't pay a competitive wage won't be able to hire or retain decent workers. Some pay differential can be made up in improved benefits, however.

19 posted on 08/02/2006 11:17:02 AM PDT by IronJack
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To: Lancey Howard
By the way, the shift to benefits as the collective bargaining platform actually benefits (!) the employer as well, since it broadens the mechanism by which an employer can compensate his workers and gives him vastly more flexibility. Many of the components of a benefits package could be more readily managed by the employer, and offered at varying rates or subsidies depending on factors like seniority, performance, training, evaluations, company profitability, etc..

I think it could be a win-win.

20 posted on 08/02/2006 11:20:51 AM PDT by IronJack
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To: IronJack
More to the point, they should be doing their best to make sure they don't add perverse incentives to the mix by their very involvement. Many an otherwise productive worker has been turned into a slacker by the unions.

If they negotiated floating rates of compensation based on productivity, and allowed the corporation to fire anyone who was more than 1 standard deviation below the mean, the company probably wouldn't even try to get rid of them.

21 posted on 08/02/2006 11:25:42 AM PDT by tcostell (MOLON LABE)
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To: 2banana
"Can't they see that everyone has benefits because of unions?" he asks.

The only benefit to the consumer today is higher prices. Having worked at more than one union shop, all I saw was that the average union employee is not exactly an artisan, nor is he terribly concerned about a quality product. Far more important to the daily routine was break-time, maximizing their paid down-time, and complaining about their lives.

And yes, I am ardently opposed to the teachers' unions, as well.

22 posted on 08/02/2006 11:29:54 AM PDT by Teacher317
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To: IronJack
By the way, the shift to benefits as the collective bargaining platform actually benefits (!) the employer as well

I totally disagree.
"Benefits" includes health-care insurance and (to a lesser degree theses days, thankfully) pensions. These are not fixed costs and the trend has been increases that are sharply higher than the rate of inflation. Heck, this is exactly WHY the unions do not want "benefits" replaced by higher wages, and exactly WHY so many companies are going belly up (or moving).

Regards,
LH

23 posted on 08/02/2006 12:05:43 PM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: oldbill

"Unions are also stabbing their members in the back by pushing for open borders and amnesty."

Then they get nailed with new and additional guest worker programs and the realization even the new "restrictions" won't be enforced. They're dumb.

Or bought out. The head of the AFL-CIO sat on the board of the National Immigration Forum for years. Money involved?


24 posted on 08/02/2006 12:16:22 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: 2banana

bump


25 posted on 08/02/2006 3:42:26 PM PDT by GOP_Proud (The price of gas is proportional to how badly I need a fill-up.)
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