GM strike

Nathan Newman nnewman at
Fri Jun 26 18:16:05 PDT 1998

-----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at>

Nathan Newman wrote:

>We should be fighting for all workers to make as much as a UAW worker.

Doug then wrote: -And while we're at it, let's make everyone earn above average too! -The average hourly wage - excluding fringes - for a production worker in -"motor vehicles and car bodies" was $22.59 in March. That's nearly twice -the private sector average of $12.66. If you divide U.S. GDP of $8 trillion -by 125 million workers, and then divide that by 52 and then 40, you get -$30.80 as hourly GDP per worker. So bringing everyone up to autoworker pay -would be impossible.

Maybe my math is worse that yours, but by your numbers, there is potentially $64,000 per worker available with a GDP of $8 trillion. Even in your numbers, there is $30.80 in hourly GDP per worker, so even with costs of materials (which is usually mostly other peoples' labor downstream), why is it so inconceivable to move much more of the population from the low wages they are currently paid?

Of course on a global scale, this is much tougher in the short-term, but pushing wages up, not worrying about the few wage outliers like autoworkers, should be our focus.

I would also note that, as I expected, the $44 per hour number you initially cited is almost double the real average hourly rate for most autoworkers.

>The sad thing is that people are supposed to celebrate an economy where a
>kid with a college degree can step out and make $50,000 his first year
>the job market, then turn around and begrudge an autoworker for making
>that much after decades in the job.

-Most kids don't make $50k straight out of college.

The issue is not that most kids do; the question is whether we should worry about a few autoworkers making that much after decades of work, when there is a sizable minority of these young (and not so young) folks making so much with little invested in time in their jobs.

>How much is General Motors paying their executives, engineering staff,
>advertising staff? I bet their salaries have gone up much faster than the
>lineworkers and parts subcontractors.

-Well no shit, Nathan, but do you really think the UAW is about to question -the class structure of American capitalism? The UAW is one of the dumbest -unions around. They've got no strategy, no vision, no politics. It pains me -that I pay them dues (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981).

As a UAW member (or rather member until I recently finished by graduate degree), I can't disagree that the UAW has not been that creative, but the leadership has actually been getting better under Yorich. They've fought hard in a number of battles and actually been using these brushfire fights at small contractors and units quite effectively to take on the auto companies. I believe that they have even had their membership increase in the last few years.

Are they taking on capitalism? Well, they are demanding that workers get their pay and trying to take it out of the hides of the stockholders. Its not socialism but it hurts capitalism a hell of a lot more than a nasty Marxist lecture in a classroom.

Some of the recent discussions between the UAW and the German unions actually raise the spectre of truly global union integration which, if it takes the next step beyond those two countries, could really shake things up.

And for that, I will defend those bourgois salaries those autoworkers are making.

--Nathan Newman

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