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Union labor under attack

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Link: http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0.../A01-289731.htm

Union labor under attack

Givebacks threaten workers' good life

By Ron French, Louis Aguilar and Brett Clanton / The Detroit News


As a daughter of public school teachers in Brooklyn, Megan Roth once spent a month making signs, picketing and shouting slogans demanding better pay for her parents and their co-workers. "It was a blast," recalls the 43-year-old Southfield resident.

So when a striking Northwest mechanic handed her a pamphlet asking her to boycott Northwest Airlines, she read it intently. Then the financial adviser proceeded to check into her Northwest flight to Atlanta.

"I feel for them," Roth said. "But who is right or wrong? I honestly don't know how to answer that."

It's tough times for organized labor.

Membership is at its lowest in a century. Locally, teachers and auto workers are being pressured to take pay and benefit cuts. Mechanics for Northwest went on strike Saturday and watched helplessly as replacement workers took their place and members of other airline unions crossed picket lines.

Detroit, the cradle of the labor movement, is ground zero in a battle for the soul -- and survival -- of organized labor. Unions are losing pay, losing members, and even losing the sympathy of supporters like Roth to the corporations that employ them.

The cracks in the House of Labor are spreading well beyond the picket lines and union halls. Last month, 4.6 million workers from the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Service Employees International Union split from the AFL-CIO, the biggest rift organized labor has seen in 70 years.

If the power and popularity of unions continues to decline, "it will make an enormous difference to the average American," warned labor expert Harley Shaiken, professor at the University of California at Berkeley. "An erosion of unions today is an erosion of wages and benefits tomorrow."

Union leaders have not been able to organize workers fast enough to stem the losses. Labor groups have repeatedly failed to sign up workers at Wal-Mart stores or the foreign-owned auto assembly plants popping up throughout the South.

The threat of a strike no longer strikes fear in CEOs the way it once did.

A work slowdown by mechanics of Northwest in 1999 brought Metro Airport and the airline to a halt. Strikes in the 1980s and 1990s paralyzed airlines like Pan American World Airways.But when mechanics went on strike Saturday, Northwest shuttled in replacement mechanics and kept most of its planes in the air. Northwest wants to cut the number of mechanics in half and give remaining workers a 25 percent pay cut.

Members of other unions as well as passengers crossed the picket line, some for the first time.

Michael Raymore is a 28-year-old Detroiter who has grown up in a period of declining union clout.

"The idea of job security is too foreign for me to understand," said Raymore, a corporate trainer flying to Louisville on Monday. "I'm already on my second career, and I graduated from Western (Michigan University) four years ago.

"When I hear (strikers) say that their jobs and livelihoods are at stake, I'm like, 'Well, yeah ... whose job isn't always on the line?'"


'We've given enough'


Leaders of the United Auto Workers are meeting in Chicago this week to discuss giving ground on hard-won pay and benefits in order to help General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. survive. The companies are struggling with huge pension and health care obligations for current UAW workers and retirees.

"We've given enough, gee whiz," said Grant Muncy, chairman of UAW Local 211, which represents 2,800 workers at a GM engine plant in Defiance, Ohio. Employment at that plant has been cut in half in five years, and the union agreed to higher co-pays for prescription drugs and doctor visits in the last national contract in 2003.

The atmosphere at the annual conference was more somber than usual. GM and Delphi Corp., the Troy-based auto supplier, are pressuring the union for relief from rising labor costs now -- two years before their contract expires in 2007.

Small groups of men huddled in serious conversation, asking who had heard what and playing out various doomsday scenarios.

"The unions are going to survive," said Gerald Horton, 61, alternate committeeman at a Wentsville, Ohio, plant that makes GM full-size vans. "But they're going to get beat up."

Detroit Public Schools teachers are taking a strike vote today after the school corporation asked them to take a 2.5 percent pay cut and reductions in various benefits.

"I know everybody is taking a cut, but it has got to stop somewhere," said Patsy Bell, 55, of Detroit, who has a granddaughter and three nephews who live with her and go to Detroit's Vernor Elementary. She is worried that school won't start on time but supports the teachers. She doesn't think they should take a pay cut. She says the district's budget problems aren't their fault.

Bell, who is a union member as a housekeeper at Harper University Hospital, said she's saddened that unions seem to be losing their clout. "It's a shame," Bell said. "How many people fought and lost their jobs and were jailed ... for the struggle? We are going to go back five steps instead of going forward."

Fewer Americans have connections to unions than at any time since the beginning of the 20th century. Fifty years ago, 35 percent of American workers were union members. Today, union workers have dropped to 12.5 percent -- 8 percent when only private-sector unions are counted.


Difficult time for unions


Organized labor has faced tough times before. In the 1980s, companies demanded concessions from unions routinely. "But I don't think there has ever been as bad a time as this," said Gary Chaison, professor of industrial management at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

"In the past, there was always a sense that it was just a bad economic period and things would get better," Chaison said. "Now there is a real sense of gloom about the labor movement, a sense of disarray about what it is to do."

As membership has declined, so has unions' image in the eyes of the public. Labor organizations that once were seen as hero of the common man are often portrayed as greedy special interest groups.

"Consumers don't seem to care (about unions)," Chaison said. "A typical American worker would probably say unions were once effective voices in the workplaces, but in the face of globalization, they don't have a role anymore."

The threat of jobs moving to Mexico or other cheap labor markets has taken the teeth out of labor, Chaison said. "Traditionally, unions made demands and management reacted," he said. "Today, companies can just pick up and move (to a cheaper labor market)."

Northwest mechanics know that Jet Blue, for example, performs maintenance on its airplanes in El Salvador to save money. Northwest already outsources some of its maintenance.

"I think the days of big organizing and labor clout in the way that we usually mean by that phrase are pretty much gone," said Glenn McDonald, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy at Washington University in St. Louis.

"There are a few industries, like construction, where old-fashioned labor clout is still there. But most of the economy just doesn't work like that anymore," McDonald said.


What unions must do


To stay relevant, unions must do a better job of public relations, Shaiken of UC-Berkley said.

"The public has been inundated for decades by an anti-union message," he said.

If unions are to survive in today's competitive global economy, they must be willing to work with management in solving mutual problems, including recognizing that the health care costs are hobbling many employers, said Jules I. Crystal, a Chicago labor attorney.

"The unions have to go beyond the knee-jerk reflex that management is always wrong," said Crystal, a University of Michigan law school graduate who represents management in labor disputes. "They have to take a more flexible, innovative approach."

If unions fail to respond to today's economic pressures, Crystal said, "I think it is possible they will become even more irrelevant to employees and employers than they are today."

Chaison worries that unless organized labor finds new strategies, "they could represent just islands of membership. They'll get smaller and smaller."

Shaiken hopes that doesn't happen. "So much of what American workers enjoy today was pioneered by unions or given by companies trying to avoid unions. Pensions, paid health care, the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, all were a result of unions in past generations," he said. "Labor is going through tough times, but there can still be solidarity."

Detroit News Staff Writers Richard A. Ryan and Christine MacDonald contributed to this report. You can reach Ron French at (313) 222-2175 or rfrench@ detnews.com.

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I sorta chuckled when I read that when the Northwest mechanics went on strike, people were lined up to work in their place. I have no empathy for organized labor anymore. Its outlived its usefulness and anyone thats a member is about to get a serious reality shock when the whole thing collapses. And I can't say I'll be sorry when it happens.
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It's a race to the bottom folks! We will have to compete with 3rd world country's labor rates, and become a poor nation in the process. Won't the whole world be happy when the US is just as poor as they are? So screw Unions, tariffs, restrictions, actual "fair" trade, etc.......lets see if we can compete globally for the cheapest labor!!
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It's a race to the bottom folks!  We will have to compete with 3rd world country's labor rates, and become a poor nation in the process.  Won't the whole world be happy when the US is just as poor as they are?

So screw Unions, tariffs, restrictions, actual "fair" trade, etc.......lets see if we can compete globally for the cheapest labor!!

[post="4466"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


:rolleyes: Please...

This has nothing to do with cheap labor, but FAIR labor. No one in this country has the kind of security that organized labor has. Union workers are living in a utopian world where they can have a job that requires little skill, less brains, and no motivation and make 50k+ a year with full paid healthcare and retirement. And its strangling american corporations. Union workers can either come back to the 21st century, or rot in unemployment when they either A) Bankrupt their employer or B) Their employer fires them all. Whichever comes first.
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:rolleyes: Please...

This has nothing to do with cheap labor, but FAIR labor.  No one in this country has the kind of security that organized labor has.  Union workers are living in a utopian world where they can have a job that requires little skill, less brains, and no motivation and make 50k+ a year with full paid healthcare and retirement.  And its strangling american corporations.  Union workers can either come back to the 21st century, or rot in unemployment when they either A) Bankrupt their employer or B) Their employer fires them all.  Whichever comes first.

[post="4468"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Untill you have walked the walk I suggest you dont talk the talk. What was it you said you would be getting paid with this job you have lined up with the real estate scammers ? And just what positive effect is your "trade" or "skill" going to contribute to society ? Insane inflation ? Market manipulation ? Just guessing I really dont know.

I have never in my life know anyone to wish bad on people like I have heard you do. Whos lined up for the jobs in aircraft repair and maintenance ? What skill is it you have that is so great you think mechanics belong in trailer parks or the slums with the crack heads.

They are trying to be part of the 21 century, they are trying to live a decent life in the world with the rest of YOU inflation contributers. Ever think they might have a morgage? ever think they might have children in college? ever think they might have 400 a month going out just in land and school taxes ? ever think they might be a duel working family that has 2 car payments every month ? ever think maybe they just get by in this ever increasing expensive world ? ever think ? do you ?
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Untill you have walked the walk I suggest you dont talk the talk. What was it you said you would be getting paid with this job you have lined up with the real estate scammers ? And just what positive effect is your "trade" or "skill" going to contribute to society ? Insane inflation ? Market manipulation ? Just guessing I really dont know.

I have never in my life know anyone to wish bad on people like I have heard you do. Whos lined up for the jobs in aircraft repair and maintenance ? What skill is it you have that is so great you think mechanics belong in trailer parks or the slums with the crack heads.

They are trying to be part of the 21 century, they are trying to live a decent life in the world with the rest of YOU inflation contributers. Ever think they might have a morgage? ever think they might have children in college? ever think they might have 400 a month going out just in land and school taxes ? ever think they might be a duel working family that has 2 car payments every month ? ever think maybe they just get by in this ever increasing expensive world ? ever think ? do you ?

[post="4574"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Actually, I ended up not getting that job because the real estate market is low this year.

However, I got a job that pays better than that one, anyway, so its all good.

Anyway, anyone that "just gets by" on what UAW members are making must have poor money managing skills.
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50 grand is only about 30 or 35 through the door. Its an expensive world now. Insurance is the reason, now oil and the effects of that will be colossal. Here in the NE it could cost 4-5 grand just to heat a house. Wait till the schools pay the heat bill, fuel for buses And ya'll want to say its OK to lower a mans income while its clear others are raising theirs at our cost.
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50 grand is only about 30 or 35 through the door. Its an expensive world now.

Insurance is the reason, now oil and the effects of that will be colossal. Here in the NE it could cost 4-5 grand just to heat a house. Wait till the schools pay the heat bill, fuel for buses

And ya'll want to say its OK to lower a mans income while its clear others are raising theirs at our cost.

[post="4626"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



A good majority of this nation's white collar workers would consider themselves happy to earn $50K a year with benefits.....and they have kids....and they have mortgages.....and they have car payments....and they have taxes and insurance to pay.....

They do it without unions. And many of them DON'T get overtime....and DO work well more than 4o hours per week.

And you can be guaranteed they DON'T enjoy the health care, vacation, and benefits that most union workers DO.

(Coming from a former Buick Divison white collar worker that worked at Buick City.)
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So now 50 grand on high school education isnt enough? They cant manage all their debt with that amout? But we are the ones not thinking? Maybe they werent thinking by not going to get a higher education, and with that, a higher paying job. Job pay isnt determined by how many bills one can rack up, but by skill level required to do the job, and also supply and demand. I'm going to go ask my boss for a raise because I want a new Corvette. Lets see what he thinks of that. And if they are on strike, and people are going in there to work while they are on strike, obviously the demand is there. We are a capitalist economy, and unions go against that. Their pay should be determined by market forces, like all other jobs. If there is less demand(people who want the job) than supply(positions needed to be filled in the company) then pay would go up, and if there is more demand than supply, pay would go down. Right now there is too much demand for the union jobs because they pay so much, but theres not enough jobs available, as evidenced by the layoffs and plant closures. It really just simple economics, and the union thinking goes completely against that. Edited by CaddyXLR-V
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Untill you have walked the walk I suggest you dont talk the talk. What was it you said you would be getting paid with this job you have lined up with the real estate scammers ? And just what positive effect is your "trade" or "skill" going to contribute to society ? Insane inflation ? Market manipulation ? Just guessing I really dont know.

I have never in my life know anyone to wish bad on people like I have heard you do. Whos lined up for the jobs in aircraft repair and maintenance ? What skill is it you have that is so great you think mechanics belong in trailer parks or the slums with the crack heads.

They are trying to be part of the 21 century, they are trying to live a decent life in the world with the rest of YOU inflation contributers. Ever think they might have a morgage? ever think they might have children in college? ever think they might have 400 a month going out just in land and school taxes ? ever think they might be a duel working family that has 2 car payments every month ? ever think maybe they just get by in this ever increasing expensive world ? ever think ? do you ?

[post="4574"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


razor, everyone lives like that these days. and that's exactly the deal. The general public sees union member compensation as above and beyond the US norm, and since everyone needs to pay for those things you listed, it just makes others upset to see those with more security and benefits being so vehemently vocal about it not being enough, when so many think its better than what they get. And when that happens, the whole 'bring down the fat cat' arguments is useless, because so many in America would prefer the unions go down first before anything else. Edited by regfootball
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And the unions need to be really careful. With GM becoming more global and having announced cars off the same platforms will be able to be built all over the world, a strike would only push GM to start building that car in the other country until the workers decide they cant strike anymore. Very smart move for GM.
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And the unions need to be really careful. With GM becoming more global and having announced cars off the same platforms will be able to be built all over the world, a strike would only push GM to start building that car in the other country until the workers decide they cant strike anymore. Very smart move for GM.

[post="4724"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


YOU GOT IT!
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So ya'll promote the idea of working for less and having a lower standard of living because - - - - - - ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Throughout America we are seeing entire neighborhoods of mansions being built. Bet not one official "Union" member lives in those. Unless you consider the bar association a Union, unless you consider Doctors "organized" and all the many other high dollar jobs "unorganized" - please get a clue. Those high dollar clubs are highly organized, they know what they are doing, lets just take a look at oil prices for example, real estate prices for example, insane insurance rates for example, - -- no theres no organization there. They are getting the big bucks because they say so and for no other reason what so ever. They demand and they get. But we dont what the real contributing part of America to make a decent living - do we. Just the ones that spend all day figureing out new insurance regulation, or business regulations, or new "methods" of treating what ails you, or new laws or regulations to control your every move, all new ways to get into everybodys back pockets. Amazing how ya'll all can turn a blind eye to this, say its OK, excuse it because they got some "higher" education - ya right, what education was that, how to screw over the mass population so you can have it all while the hands that feed you step backwards year after year. You can increase the rate and cost of health care 3 fold and spew out such pile of spin that those lacking independant thought will turn it all on the people at the bottom that just get up and go to work everyday. Saying they need to work for less because those at the top can have more. Just great folks, say nothing about those going large, fast and fat, and blame those that are supposed to go down, fast and furious for not surrendering and bowing defeated before those that are lining their hollowed walls. So when ya'll went to college do they first do a labotomy so they can start from scratch and mold your entire way of thinking or do you retain independant thought ? Dont answer its obvious, the answer. If ya'll learned so much in "college" you would know that once anythings gives a little, surrenders any amount of ground, it is the beginning of the end, give an inch take a mile. Thats where we are going in America, this is not about the inch you guys are blinded into believeing its about. Its about starting the process of reducing the pay scale of the working, contrubition part of America. As an employee I have not beat 30,000 yet, but still I do not hate or despise or wish bad, or have jelously for those that are in better organized trades that allow them to actually get their fair share of the "wealth" (if you call 50,000 wealth). I admire them and realize the benefits being organized has allowed them and believe we all would be better organized, just like the fat boys, - - - - oh thats right - - - theres no organization there. Pull your heads out of your asses, its cuting off the circulation to your brains. If you feel less than 50,000 for your white collar buddies is below level do something about it, dont attack those that have made the effort to stand their ground. Spineless gumbys - dance to the pull of the puppet masters for you lack independant thought.
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Pull your heads out of your asses, its cuting off the circulation to your brains. If you feel less than 50,000 for your white collar buddies is below level do something about it, dont attack those that have made the effort to stand their ground.

Spineless gumbys - dance to the pull of the puppet masters for you lack independant thought.

[post="4909"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

[/quote]


The union's efforts to "stand their ground" is doing nothing but helping add to the ruin of GM, Ford, and other unionized businesses....

(and YES I know the union isn't the "only" problem GM has)

That's why so many people on here are fighting against the unions. And by the way, it's not just the UAW that is like this in regards to unions.

But the overall bitch is the unions' attitude of "gosh, we've given back enough" or "it's not our fault GM is in this mess" or "let's see Wagoner take a pay cut" or "they signed the contract so we're not renegotiating" etc, etc, etc
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Unions should be more concerned about job security than pay. What's more important? Having a decent paying job with good job security or a better paying one where you could be abruptly laid off.

Yes, everyone and their brother knows the real problem lies in the ridiculously rising price of oil and healthcare. Guess what, its a problem that everyone in the economy is facing...so nobody is going to feel sympathetic about unions.

I could go into politics and say what our government should be doing, but I really am not going to go there.
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So I guess it would be smarter to stand your ground and fight the company that pays you, even though they are losing money and marketshare. No unions might not be the only reason for GM losing money and marketshare, but the fact is, GM is losing money and marketshare. They do have to pay additional costs that foreign competitors dont have. And typically, the companies with the cost advantage win, and the others fold. I would like to see GM stay in business. Its really only a choice between see GM go under and pay no workers, or have GM cut costs where they need to be cut to remain competitive, even if that means less pay and benefits. Lower paying job or no job?
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So ya'll promote the idea of working for less and having a lower standard of living because - - - - - - ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Throughout America we are seeing entire neighborhoods of mansions being built. Bet not one official "Union" member lives in those. Unless you consider the bar association a Union, unless you consider Doctors "organized" and all the many other high dollar jobs "unorganized" - please get a clue. Those high dollar clubs are highly organized, they know what they are doing, lets just take a look at oil prices for example, real estate prices for example, insane insurance rates for example, - -- no theres no organization there. They are getting the big bucks because they say so and for no other reason what so ever. They demand and they get. But we dont what the real contributing part of America to make a decent living - do we. Just the ones that spend all day figureing out new insurance regulation, or business regulations, or new "methods" of treating what ails you, or new laws or regulations to control your every move, all new ways to get into everybodys back pockets.

Amazing how ya'll all can turn a blind eye to this, say its OK, excuse it because they got some "higher" education - ya right, what education was that, how to screw over the mass population so you can have it all while the hands that feed you step backwards year after year. You can increase the rate and cost of health care 3 fold and spew out such pile of spin that those lacking independant thought will turn it all on the people at the bottom that just get up and go to work everyday. Saying they need to work for less because those at the top can have more. Just great folks, say nothing about those going large, fast and fat, and blame those that are supposed to go down, fast and furious for not surrendering and bowing defeated before those that are lining their hollowed walls.

So when ya'll went to college do they first do a labotomy so they can start from scratch and mold your entire way of thinking or do you retain independant thought ? Dont answer its obvious, the answer.

If ya'll learned so much in "college" you would know that once anythings gives a little, surrenders any amount of ground, it is the beginning of the end, give an inch take a mile. Thats where we are going in America, this is not about the inch you guys are blinded into believeing its about. Its about starting the process of reducing the pay scale of the working, contrubition part of America. As an employee I have not beat 30,000 yet, but still I do not hate or despise or wish bad, or have jelously for those that are in better organized trades that allow them to actually get their fair share of the "wealth" (if you call 50,000 wealth). I admire them and realize the benefits being organized has allowed them and believe we all would be better organized, just like the fat boys, - - - - oh thats right  - - - theres no organization there.

Pull your heads out of your asses, its cuting off the circulation to your brains. If you feel less than 50,000 for your white collar buddies is below level do something about it, dont attack those that have made the effort to stand their ground.

Spineless gumbys - dance to the pull of the puppet masters for you lack independant thought.

[post="4909"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I don't know what you think but it takes a hell of a lot more education, money, time and determination to become a doctor or lawyer than it does to assemble cars. Like CaddyXRL-V said, the more education you have the more money you're going to make, even in a normal job such as teaching. Also, the more difficult and specialized your job is the more money you're going to make. Add those two together and it's substantially more than your typical American worker.
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OK, If you take your Doctors and Lawyers and other high dollar jobs and compare them to the pay of Unionized workers, Id say the scale is fairly well balanced. Thats providing this 50,000 # were pulling out of nowhere is accurate. Many are below that, and non union jobs fall of the edge of the flat world very fast. We had someone here last year that felt no one deserved to earn even 10 per hour, give it a try. Then while I realize some of you are tying to be the super heros to save GM with a tear in your heart, realize that the tiny fraction they are asking for isnt going to change a thing. GM isnt loosing market share because of the Unions, in fact if more of the country was unionized as it was 30 years ago there would be no market share problem, think about that, no dont bother, its probably not deep enough for educated minds. Lastly, has any one other than myself ever wondered why all this hype about market share and profits when its been clearly stated in many press releases that GM has had its biggest volumn years ever. Yet the volumn of employed N.American auto workers is way way way below what it was 30 years ago when GM had the huge market share. Seems market share is just hype, total volumn is all that matters and total volumn is at its highest, Union employees at the lowest. Hmm ? The whole thing just doest pass the calulator test. Thats OK though, Im sure your all right, the hype is always right. Off to the trailer parks you worthless "uneducated" wastes of oxygen. Well, you'd be alright if you were willing to work for the wages of the average Korean or Turk. Rock on a Me rica
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how much competition was there 30 years? GM controlled the market, and the prices. Now there is huge pricing pressure from everywhere. And GM is still paying for many of those retired workers from 30 years ago still today.
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America sometimes is about investment and lots of folks have put themselves in debt to tens of thousands of bucks to get their higher education, for exactly the reason that its more exclusive and specialized and higher pay traditionally goes with it. We all had that choice at age 16,17,18 whatever. Get decent grades, save some dough, get into college, study your ass off....and in return you have a lot less chance of having to have a union do your bargaining and set your worth for you. Your worth is instead defined by your ambition, work, continuing education, and desire to always achieve more. Before anyone says anything about some kids couldn't go to college for this reason/that reason...I'd like to know what those are. I worked full time most of my way through college, couldn't get any student loans (I amassed less than a thousand bucks in loans) and my parents didn't hand much cash over to me. If you have kids, its all to important to make sure they feel the need and desire to get some sort of higher education after graduating high school. Those that don't take it upon themselves to develop their skills or career, well, then I could see why you would be interested in someone or some group having to bargain for all that stuff for you.
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People like Razoredge just don't get it. They think every person on the planet is entitled to the highest standards. Well, they're not. No one is entitled anything, its earned. And organized labor hasn't earned anything, they've literally stolen what they have from their employers through mob tactics. Strong-arming companies to do things that are NOT in the interest of survival for the company.
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how much competition was there 30 years? GM controlled the market, and the prices. Now there is huge pricing pressure from everywhere. And GM is still paying for many of those retired workers from 30 years ago still today.

[post="5026"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Youre kiddin me right ?

What did you just ignore the statement I made about more sales now than ever ? That market share does not equate into gross reciepts and really means nothing, market share means nothing except braging rights.

then I guess you figure that those retired folks dont deserve a retirement ? Seriously Ive heard all you working class haters say it over and over, "retirement obligations". Like theres something wrong with retireing. Just how old are you anyhow ?
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