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We’re All Union Members Now

Consider yourself a member of the union which brought down the company you now own — after all, you're paying dues.

by
Brent Littlefield

Bio

June 6, 2009 - 12:47 am

Did you get your card?  Are you planning to vote in the upcoming steward election? What — you didn’t know you are a member of the UAW?

Yes, the UAW. The Unwise Auto Workers. The union that helped crash the storied American automobile industry in which many of them were employed. Thanks to the Democratic Congress’ auto bailout legislation — the “government meddles in private industry” legislation — American taxpayers are now the proud majority owners of General Motors.

But while Americans may think our government bailed out an auto company, Congress is more accurately responsible for the bailout of a union. From Timothy P. Carneya, writing in the Washington Examiner:

The union’s $1.98 million to Democratic candidates last cycle (not counting the $4.87 million in independent expenditures to elect Obama president) is more than any PAC spent on Republicans.

Obama, who has never held a private sector job, sought to save the workers and unions which supported him.

We can add our ownership of GM to our stakes in Chrysler, selected banks, and other corporations, all of which Obama claimed were “too big to fail” — a slogan that defines our time of descent towards socialism.  You may not have considered owning these auto companies in your 401(k), but you own them now and bear the pain of their losses. They seem to be bad investments, much like the $7 billion of bailout funding that Chrysler will not repay U.S. taxpayers — a revelation that was buried deep within Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing but confirmed by the Obama administration. All of this because the American industry responsible for creating the assembly line and producing the Model T has not been able to adapt, while foreign manufacturers do quite well building their vehicles right here in the United States.

Prior to the downturn, foreign manufacturers employed 113,000 American citizens, compared to 239,000 employed by the domestic auto industry. But the Big Three’s hourly labor costs have been 65 percent higher than those of foreign competitors.

How is that possible?

In 2005, upwards of 12,000 UAW “workers” were paid — stay in your chairs — not to work. The Big Three and their suppliers paid billions to keep downsized UAW members on the payroll as part of a UAW contract.

One UAW member, Ken Pool, said he would show up to work and then do crossword puzzles. He earned more than $31 an hour, plus benefits.

Higher costs and legacy costs for retirees were transferred to consumers. An unbelievable $1,500 of the cost of each domestic vehicle paid for UAW health insurance. That’s more than was spent on the steel. As a result, Americans shop elsewhere: U.S. automakers produce less than 50% of the vehicles Americans now buy.

The white-collar leadership of these companies can share in the blame. They failed to innovate. While foreign competitors were sending cars to America with lower price tags, earning praise for being “sleek” and fuel-efficient, in some instances American companies were cranking out cars with the same square plastic push buttons used in the early 1980s. They also failed to battle the UAW. Here’s former Reagan Deputy Secretary of Labor Dennis Whitfield, now executive vice president of the American Conservative Union: ” [I]t appears these companies bought peace from the cannibals just to eat them last.”

The impact has been staggering.  This week, the CEO of Zipcar — which does hourly car rentals — claimed that, among his customers, literally no one wanted Chrysler or GM products. “We have never had a request for a GM product. Out of 300,000 users that we survey every six months, I have never had a request.”

Americans had already rejected the Big Three. But you own their cars now, purchased with your taxes — and the UAW labor bosses who live off member dues will benefit.

This latest bailout is happening at a time when the federal government has already saddled each American family with more than $50,000 in debt, simply as a result of government spending in the past year. But it doesn’t seem to matter to Obama, who is going to add this new GM bailout to our $11,397,900,000,000 total.

As you ponder your stake in GM, consider this. The UAW carries $1.2 billion in member investments, money pulled from workers’ paychecks, from which the UAW draws funds to cover the costs of the Black Lake Golf Club — which the UAW owns and claims is “one of the finest anywhere in the nation.”

You foot the bill for that, too.

Maybe we can at least hope for a UAW membership card. Or a free round of golf. It is the most we can hope for from what Obama has called our “investments” in the companies the UAW helped sink.

Brent Littlefield is a Republican strategist. He makes his home in Virginia.
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