Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 1, 2009


David Sirota, Alternet - Remember Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street? Specifically, remember how Gekko's entire scheme for the airline industry was based on crushing the blue-collar union that Bud Fox's dad (Martin Sheen) was part of? Welcome to a real life version of that story, starring corporate raider Steve Rattner, who President Obama appointed to head the White House team now overseeing the auto industry.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Rattner's strategy is to use the government's leverage to try to specifically crush auto workers and force them to accept even more contract concessions than they've already agreed to:

"After studying the plight of the companies, the president's auto task force concluded GM and Chrysler's survival is dependent on greater concessions from the United Auto Workers union. The White House has total leverage over the situation because the UAW knows that if the industry doesn't get the loans it needs, it will be forced into bankruptcy court, where judges will shred labor contracts . . . Indeed, many analysts believe this is the administration's ultimate goal."

I'm not saying that the auto industry's legacy costs are sustainable - not at all. But I am saying that when you put Gordon Gekko in control of government policy overseeing an industry, you are inevitably going to get a policy that assumes workers are the big problem. If you had a different kind of team, you may have a policy that says, for instance, we have to create a robust universal health care system before throwing retirees off their existing health care.


Anonymous m said...

I would not argue for or against.

The auto industry has shown an incredible resistance to change over the last five decades. Its lack of willingness to evolve is so ingrained in its corporate culture that euthanasia could indeed be an attractive solution.

The century long focus of the auto industries critiques of the buggy whip companies will undoubtedly provide much amusement for our descendants.

April 1, 2009 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

If we have descendants. I'm fairly sure that's not a given at this point.

April 1, 2009 7:34 PM  
Anonymous nlopq said...

I don't think a lot of decisions in the auto industry are attributable to the workers. Having been a union carpenter for most of my working career I can tell you that the US gov't. has actively abetted the mafia infiltration of labor for decades. So to assign any of this colossal fuckup to the UAW's rank and file is so fucking mean and stupidly unrealistic that I don't even want to hear it.

April 1, 2009 9:02 PM  

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