The other day Michael Moore wrote an article about the auto bailout.
He noted all of what the Senate could have done, but didn’t do.
Then he notes what they did do:
But instead, the Senate said, we’ll give you the loan only if the factory workers take a $20 an hour cut in wages, pension and health care. That’s right. After giving BILLIONS to Wall Street hucksters and criminal investment bankers — billions with no strings attached and, as we have since learned, no oversight whatsoever — the Senate decided it is more important to break a union, more important to throw middle class wage earners into the ranks of the working poor than to prevent the total collapse of industrial America.
I know someone who repeated the "it’s the workers fault" line. She echoed the line that they were stubborn and refused to take a cut.
And I told her that was wrong. Over the many years that the big three have had problems the domestic workers have taken many cuts.
I live in Arlington, TX, which has a big GM plant that has seen many of the ups and downs.
Recently – within the last year! – Workers have been accepting early retirements (they were referred to as “buyout plans”) so that new workers can come in on lower wages, per agreements to save the company.
This is from a local news station:
The company estimates that as many as 1,000 Arlington employees—some with 30 or more years of experience—will accept the buyout plan. The most senior workers who are eligible for retirement will be offered $45,000 along with full pension and benefits.
"Some of them are ready to leave because they see the jobs going overseas; they see cutbacks," United Auto Workers Local 276 President J.R. Flores told WFAA-TV. "Some of them are just ready to more on. They’ve done their time; they’re ready to retire."
The workers who accept the buyout will be replaced with lower-paid employees. That, in turn, could have a domino effect on the Arlington economy. [Emphasis added]
I also told friends and family, before the auto bailout talks got underway, that unlike the banks, the government will try to impose condition after condition on not the company, but the workers. Our decades-long assault on organized labor is more a threat than corporate (mal)practices.
It is these kinds of practices by our corporate and political leaders that highlight the fundamental necessity for workers – and I am also thinking about some workers in Chicago – to fight for more direct management and ownership of their work. Because if not, it should be clear that unless we put up some resistance we will be cast aside like trash.
Among other reforms we also need to have a real living wage (even the recent increase in minimum wage was far short of being sufficient to live on) as well as a maximum wage, strengthen our social safety nets, utilize progressive taxation and socialize public services like health care, higher education, etc.
Oh, and we need to put a very tight leash on the financial institutions that do business in our country for reasons that commentary is not necessary.