November 30, 2008

Lying about Joe Autoworker

If you're a news junkie or someone who simply keeps an ear to media opinion, you've no doubt heard the latest from the right regarding the potential bailout of the big 3 American automakers.

Republicans are now attempting to distort and push their actual agenda by... yep, lying. (God, can't they stage some sort of intervention to get them to stop their addiction to lying to the American public?)

It seems, according to their prominent shills, that the entire economic meltdown the fault of the poor and Democrats due to a program designed to allow those who make less than $100,000 a year or so to actually get into a house.

Of course, that's preposterous, and as it nearly always turns out, utterly false. (The agency in charge of monitoring this program reports that a vast minority of "toxic" home loans originated with banks participating in this program.)

But more recently, we're now hearing from the usual wing-nut suspects that the reason automakers are going belly up is... yep, like a broken record... the fault of unions and assembly line workers.

If you shower before work, you're OK, if you shower after work, it's your fault.

To gin up some righteous anger and jealousy among those "low information" voters which are all they have left, the Republicans are spreading around the idea that the average autoworker pulls down $74 dollars an hour.

Obviously, if that were true, it would tend to make people think that workers were grossly overpaid (as if execs and CEOs aren't.)

But again, they're lying and playing us for rubes.

They arrive at the $74 an hour figure by being dishonest with their numbers (big surprise) That hourly figure represents:

-Salary... a workers hourly wage

The actual average hourly wage is about $26 an hour. Good pay, to be sure, but a damn sight less than the lie that it's $74.

-health benefits... which are good, but not extravagant.

-pension benefits in the future.

Adding these all together and dividing them by hours worked, it comes to a little less than $40 an hour. A good total package allowing a worker to enter the middle class and retire with some measure of security after decades of very hard work.

But that's not $74. How did they concoct that number?

Well, they're not interested in basic honesty, but they are interested in arriving at some figure which sounds absurdly high.

So they also added to the mix EVERY DIME paid to every worker still living, who once worked for GM, their entire cost of health care and pension.

THAT is where the $74 figure came from....

The total of every worker's hourly wage, health care benefits, pension benefits, PLUS the cost of every single retiree's pension and health care, all wrapped up together and then divided by ONLY the number of hourly wage earners CURRENTLY working.

Neat trick, eh? But clearly misleading and purposely dishonest. You can pretty much count on the fact that anything you hear these folks say is utterly false, to a greater or lesser degree, and most likely toward the greater.

So they take the sum total of every dime expended on all autoworkers, both those who are now working PLUS every retiree out there, and then divide this whopping total by only the number of current workers.

Now granted, this isn't to argue that the enormous labor cost of all of the above isn't a huge and fixed cost that's been an enormous burden for the corporations. But the fact is that they still posted gargantuan profits under this very setup for decades on end.

Now that management has been asleep at the switch and spent energy trying to preserve their place at the top of the heap and being allowed to sail along without having to change much in their vision or attitude, continuing to focus on gas-guzzlers and lobbying against milage standards, and doing all they could to eliminate any competition which didn't follow the gas guzzling model, they're aground on the rocks and want us all to haul their shaky ship back out to deeper waters.

In other words, the damn guy and woman showing up to do mind-numbing work on the assembly line aren't the ones who lead the corporations down the tubes! It's the management.

That's like blaming a sales clerk at Foot-Locker if the corporation went broke because he got a decent wage and benefits.

No, clearly the right is doing what they're congenitally programed to do, which is blame the poor, blame the worker, and in doing so, try to angle towards a position where they can further bust unions and break down workers rights to the point where the U.S. can become a banana republic with cheap, exploitable labor just likle China or Guatamala.

That's what all this garbage about blaming U.S. workers for the auto comany's woes is alll about. It's as though they're pissed as U.S. workers because they won't lay down and work as cheaply, with no benefits, in just as sordid and dangerous conditions as their Chinese and Asian competitors do.

Sure, they say that Honda and Toyota manufacture cars in the U.S. (with parts from Asia), and they pay much less per worker. Yeah, and they don't have generations of retirees drawing pensions either.

The argument boils down to expecting the average worker to take the hit and be taken a few more rungs down the social ladder, all so management, who gets paid millions to fail, can compete and keep the dividents coming for investors.

Bottom line? It's all baloney, to put it charitably.

Sure labor has to be a part of any restructuring or long-range plan for essentially bailing out CEOs for their failures. Unions are major stake-holders in all of this, naturally.

But for ONCE in this country, shouldn't those at the top be expected to shoulder a little of the burden and give up a little of their royal lifestyle too?

Or is it as they say, if you take a shower before work, you aren't expected to give up anything, even if you fail, but if you take a shower AFTER work, you're the first to be expected to take a hit in order to help the company?


At 11/30/2008 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What your article shows is exactly how uninformed you are. The UAW itself has adopted a three tier wage system. A senior guys is paid $129 per hour, the less senior guy earns $21 per hour and the least senior worker is paid $11.25 and hour with no benefits. The rub is that they are all doing the exact same job. Solidarity ain't it great?

At 12/01/2008 7:37 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 3:21

Provide your source for that non-sense, otherwise, I say you're full of it.

Those figures aren't close to being accurate.

And yes, solidarity IS great.

Unless you're some jerk who is in favor of workers continuing to have their wages and benefits slashed until they're in line with Bolivia's.

The 1870's, weren't they great?

At 12/01/2008 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you personally think it was wise of the union bosses to implement a three tier wage system at the UAW, or do you think SOLIDARITY means one for all and all for one?

At 12/01/2008 12:38 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I have no opinion on that matter whatsoever.
I suggest you ask a union leader or at least a union member.

At 12/01/2008 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't have an opinion on labors decision to implement a three-tier wage system, yet think it's wrong for corporate CEO's to ship jobs overseas to find cheaper labor? What if we create cheaper labor in America? Is that what you favor, or do you think folks should be paid a single set wage, or do you favor the UAW's approach of creating various wages even though people are doing the exact same work?

At 12/01/2008 10:23 PM, Blogger Tacky said...

Anonymous sounds anti-union.TID I don't think Anon appreciates the 8 hour day--brought to us by union workers who were strung up, jailed, beaten and killed in the fight to decrease working hours. As for seniority, it is recognized throughout the industrialized world. I don't know where he gets his figures. The auto corporations fought against seat belts, and air bags; they called Nader an idiot and have never forgiven him for "Unsafe at any Speed." These are the guys who bought defective Firestone tires, made the Pinto and the Edsel. So it is no surprise that they make 1200 times the union workers make and still can't make a decent affordable automobile.

At 12/02/2008 1:46 AM, Blogger Saul said...

It's shocking to me that columnists can get away with spreading such factually wrong and politically poisonous garbage. Why does the columnist who came up with this stuff still work for the NY Times?

At 12/02/2008 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lest anyone forget... Unions made the middle class thus made this country a super power. How ironic those Union jobs are at an all time low and we are losing the middle class. The rich get richer and the poor get even poorer. The middle class is almost extinct! WAKE UP PEOPLE. Stop union bashing. Those who whine about the pension or wages most likely are pissed because they could not get hired somewhere or lacked any desire to better themselves. With the economy is in the toilet and Union jobs nearly extinct, I find it hard to believe that it is a coincidence.
There are places where there are tier wages, the reasons are numerous. Union concessions are one likely cause. The employer puts the Union in a hard spot and says that they will cut X amount of jobs or move a plant entirely OR the Union can concede on certain issues. You have the weigh the pros and cons. No jobs for anyone or decent jobs for any new hires. The issues are very complex but remember this county was built by Union labor the middle class is a direct result of Unions. When Union workers could afford to buy the goods they where making,
Without a middle class, any democracy is doomed. And without labor having - through control of labor availability - power in relative balance to capital/management, no middle class can emerge. America's early labor leaders did not die to increase the labor pool for the Robber Barons or the Walton family - they died fighting to give control of it to the workers of their era and in the hopes that we would continue to hold it - and infect other nations with the same idea of democracy and a stable middle class

At 12/02/2008 4:43 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 4:21

You can spoil for an argument all you want, but I'm not going to bite.

Common sense would tell that if there's a tiered wage system in place, it's due to corporate pressure for concessions from the union, which, I might stress, they've given many many times, including recently with the autoworkers.

The unions have agreed to LOWER wages many many times, and they've always gotten nothing in return.

If there's a tiered system, it's likely because the corporations have pressed them to lower wages and the unions have agreed to lower starting wages.

As any child could figure out, this would then result in some people making less for doing essentially the same thing.

I'd also remind you that Deere & Co. employs UAW workers. If their wages are so cripplingly high, how come Deere isn't going belly up?


Because it's NOT the fault of working people that corporations fail.

It's the leadership and management who chart the course of the company, NOT the line worker.

At 12/02/2008 4:46 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Tacky and Anon 9:35,

Well put indeed. It's clear that on balance, the unions are not only necessary for the economic health of the vast middle class in this country, they're essential.

At 12/03/2008 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is kidding who? UAW's three tier wage system is set up to protect old workers and screw new workers, if not they would stand as on in solidarity. Greed is killing the UAW!

At 12/03/2008 1:15 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 12:53

I'm not sure what's got your undies in a knot, but stop and think... if YOU had put in say 20 years and the union was demanding give-backs and wage cuts, would you be jumping up and down with your hair on fire if they decided YOUR wages were going to be slashed to the same as a guy on the first day of work?

Of course you would be having a stroke.

So it's YOU who needs to get serious here.

What the hell is it you think they should have done?

As to your belief that greed is killing the UAW, I can't comment, but it's pretty laughable that you're up in arms about greed in the union while CEOs routinely get multi-million dollar bonuses when they get fired after having failed completely in their jobs.

They get 100 million dollar bonuses routinely and live like princes, flitting from Aspen to Paris in corporate jets. Hell, the very execs from AIG that just got bailed out then flew right to a spa in CA and ran up several hundred THOUSAND dollars in luxury spa bills.

They get golden parachutes that guarantee they'll walk off with hundreds of millions even if they drive their corporations into the ground.

And you're up in arms about greed in the unions.

Laughable if it weren't so sad.

At 12/03/2008 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not know where you come from but in the Union days where the average union guy was a Democrat and fought for better treatment and wages they would never go for one member making less for the same work.

In the new union days where most UAW are Republican because they make so much money and are so greedy as to make the new members get less than the old members. They did this because they had hit the limit they could get from their employer so they started to take from their own members.

Two tiers for all.. What's next, pension plans for the first tier and 401K's for the second and third tier.

Solidarity for the Republican UAW.

At 12/05/2008 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UAW should die on the vine. They are nothing but greedy good for nothing lazy car industry killers.

At 12/28/2008 2:30 PM, Blogger Joe 1-5960 said...

Regarding the $14 billion loan proposal for the Big 3 automakers that was passed by the house and stymied by a group of 'agenda seeking' republican senators bent on destroying the UAW, it is unfortunate to see how a large amount of mainstream media chose to aligned itself with these senators and blame the UAW for not agreeing to an arbitrary timetable for wage concessions. Furthermore, it is an outright shame the media failed to mention that the UAW had already made significant concessions. Its 2007 contract created a second- tier wage level with a beginning wage of about $14.00 per hour for new hires while making significant cuts in health care coverage and eliminated future pensions for them.

The media also failed to mention that these key republican culprits, under the guise of working in the best interest of the country, all represent southern states that have bent over backward to attract foreign auto factories. For several years, these states have been subsidizing foreign automakers with free land, new infrastructure and tax abatements, all with taxpayer money, all for non-union jobs. In their defeated effort, these senators were not trying to rescue the American auto industry which in turn would save millions of taxpaying jobs; but rather as stated above, were simply trying to crush the unions.

Contrary to some reports, union labor expenses for the Big 3 automakers only amount to about 10 percent of the price of a new vehicle and nine of the 10 most efficient auto assembly plants in North America are union plants, according to data from the 2008 Harbour Report, an annual study of manufacturing efficiency.

Let's place the blame where it should be; on the current banking/mortgage crisis, not the UAW.


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