GM strike

Tom Lehman uswa12 at
Sat Jun 27 20:43:03 PDT 1998

Dear Mike, Do you have a solid hunch on the gross profit margin per unit cost at GM? Fraternally, Tom

Mike Yates wrote:

> Friends,
> I've taught auto workers here in Pittsburgh for many years. The people who have
> suffered plant closings and the black workers (often the same people) were
> usually the most class conscious plus some really old workers. The rest were not
> too inspiring, just busy killing themselves with overwork When at a break, a
> student told me that I was opening a lot of eyes, I wondered - where has the
> union been? Of course, I know the answer - busy pushing labor-management
> cooperation. If you want to learn a good lesson about the UAW see the video
> "Final Offer" about the negotiations between GM and the Canadian UAW--the
> bargaining which led the Canadians to go their separate way and build a much more
> militant union. In my classes some of the workers never tired of bashing the
> Japanese and local school teachers on strike (claiming that they were overpaid,
> etc.).
> I support the Flint strikers. But we should not delude ourselves about what this
> strike means or where it might take us.
> On a related point, I recall list members bashing the reds for their WW2
> policies. Well, I wish the commies had been able to maintain their power in the
> UAW and the other unions (and did not the anti-reds uphold the no-strike pledge
> too?). We' d have a better labor movement today.
> Michael Yates
> Doug Henwood wrote:
> > I'm really surprised by the weakness of the responses to my comments on the
> > GM strike. Lots of evasions and empty moralizing.
> >
> > Tom Lehman wrote:
> >
> > > Dear Doug and the Left Buysiness Observers,
> > >It's always easy to blame the union leadership, and, that's the easy way
> > >out that a lot of people take when the pressure is on!!!
> > >
> > >I know you to be a very smart and righteous gentleman---now is the time
> > >for you to get involved with your union leadership in Detroit. Give your
> > >union a call and ask them what you can do to help out.
> >
> > Tom, you've got to be kidding. The UAW is closed and undemocratic even by
> > the low standards of U.S. unionism. They have no militance, no vision, no
> > strategy. They've done nothing to prepare the members or the public for
> > this strike - contrast this with what the Teamsters did in advance of the
> > UPS strike - and have been unable to articulate any way in which they're
> > fighting for the broad interests of the U.S. working class. They've had 9
> > strikes over the last few years, but all local, with no national strategy.
> >
> > Nathan Newman wrote:
> >
> > >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?
> >
> > That's a different question. There's certainly enough money around to boost
> > the wages of bedpan cleaners and childcare workers (in the technical sense
> > - leaving aside the political implications of it all for now). If workers
> > were paid every penny of the GDP they produce, though, you'd have to shave
> > off a big share to cover investment and depreciation. No matter how you
> > bend the numbers, it's just impossible to pay every U.S. worker a UAW wage.
> >
> > >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.
> >
> > So the Wall Street guy was picking the highest number he could, and you're
> > picking the lowest. The truth is somewhere in between. Autoworkers have
> > been putting in an average of 6-7 hours of overtime a week, which at
> > time-and-a-half is $33/hr. Add to that some very substantial fringe
> > benefits and you're well above $30. But even at $22, you're still talking
> > more than ten times the wage of a Mexican autoworker. And these are jobs,
> > which, while stressful, boring, and dangerous, don't require tremendous
> > amounts of skill.
> >
> > >And for that, I will defend those bourgois salaries those autoworkers are
> > >making.
> >
> > [and]
> >
> > >"When won't they be able to find another worker somewhere in the world they
> > >can hire to work for less? Once you accept their logic, you buy into the
> > >never-ending cycle of playing worker and worker, whether across borders,
> > >union v. non-union, right-to-work states v. non-RTW (for less) states,
> > >native-born v. immigrants, men v. women, old v. young, even one UAW local
> > >against another within the same company. The only significant difference is
> > >at what pace you will run the 'race to the bottom.'"
> >
> > The point isn't that the race to the bottom shouldn't be resisted, and that
> > one shouldn't defend the "bourgois" salaries the autoworkers are making.
> > The point is how you defend and resist. I got a private email from someone
> > who also went on about the dividends, the share buybacks, the ad spending,
> > and all the other money that GM lavishes on its shareholders and promoters.
> > Well no kidding. It's the capitalist organization of production. Between
> > 1987 and 1997, GM ranked 291 in total return to investors in the Fortune
> > 500. Ford was 233 and Chrysler, 195. It's also the worst of the 3, and
> > generally in the bottom half, of profits on revenues and assets. GM has
> > plenty of cash and can weather a long strike. You could imagine GM signing
> > some vague deal with the UAW promising to consider this & that, and then
> > continuing to outsource and speedup. (The UAW has had almost nothing to say
> > about speedup and management by stress. Standard doctrine is that
> > autoworkers should be productive for 57 seconds of every post-Fordist
> > minute, compared with 45 seconds in Taylorite days.)
> >
> > Nicholas Lobaccaro, an auto analyst at Merrill Lynch, is quoted in today's
> > New York Times as saying "I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that
> > G.M. can downsize without having a strike." On the 24th the Times had him
> > saying "There's been tremendous pressure on parts pricing. To compete in
> > the global economy, you need labor to be paid commensurate with value
> > added. And you can't pay $46 an hour to do wire harnesses." This is intense
> > class struggle, and the capitalists are better armed than the UAW, which is
> > waving the American flag, of all things.
> >
> > Doug

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