It seems that everywhere I turn, journalists are carrying water for GM brass and spreading the statistic that $1,500 of every car goes to pay for workers' healthcare, in an effort to get the UAW to talk benefit cuts. The UAW is not buying it, retorting that the problem with GM is that management produces cars with complete disregard for the fact that nobody wants to buy them. While my own evidence is purely anecdotal, GM certainly does not offer anything I'm interested in buying (namely a reasonably priced, well made, high fuel efficiency SUV suitable for dog hauling) and it doesn't look like I'm alone in that estimation.
Ron Gettelfinger, the UAW leader, has refused GM's request to renegotiate the union's contract or roll back health care benefits before the contract expires in 2007. I don't think people in this country realize that the UAW is literally drawing a line in the sand for all of us. We'll have universal health care coverage in this country when GM decides we will. As Meteor Blades mentioned here in the comments recently, it's an either-or situation -- GM is going to get concessions out of workers, or they're going to pressure the government for universal health care to extenalize their costs. If GM can get the UAW to cut back health care benefits, it has no need to waste its money lobbying for government health care. Pretty simple, really.
Gettelfinger also pointed out that GM head Rick Wagoner has some damn nerve asking workers to take a pay cut while proffering nothing from his own pocket. He cites the example of Ford Motor Company's CEO, William Clay Ford Jr., who recently announced that he would accept no compensation until the company's profits improved.
Said Don Swegman, president of a union local in Indiana:
"We're being asked to sacrifice, and I think the sacrifice should go uphill as well as downhill.So remember, the next time you hear some parrot head repeating Wagoner's well-orchestrated PR whine of $1,500 per car. It's not merely a sign-of-the-times problem of some union worker in the midwest. To the extent that the corporate shills of the MSM are successful in painting the labor unions as bloated, corrupt and greedy, union members aren't the only ones who will pay the price.
"I think the bulk of the members on the floor feel the same way. If you look at Ford, their C.E.O., Mr. Ford, has decided not to take any pay at all until they turn things around. That would go a long ways to making us feel better. Everyone needs a paycheck, don't get me wrong."
Referring to Mr. Wagoner, Mr. Swegman added, "But does he need $10 million, when under his leadership the company loses $1.1 billion?"