Friday, November 21, 2008

Why I am not willing to bail out Detroit

Why I am not willing to bail out Detroit



First, I agree -- it sucks for the workers. And layoffs would be really bad. But pretty much this WSJ article sums up some of the reasons for my objections. I don't like the anti-union subtext (it's the WSJ, what do you expect?), but I also have worked in three different union shops -- two for the twins 800-lb gorillas of education -- and have seen first-hand that union contracts can, in fact, reward incompetence and inefficiency, even while doing some of the very important things they do.

But anyway, back to my tax money and bailouts. I'm happy to see my taxes go to bailout any auto company or airline that is willing to restructure its management pay so that execs are not making hundreds of times more than the workers-- plus bonuses. And the workers? I'm sorry, but they average over $70 an hour. I get something more like $24. The top end for my next academic rank at SLAC is still only about half of what a UAW worker makes. Maybe they could also take a pay cut?

In the case of Detroit, I also don't want them having a share of my tax dollars unless they start making smaller, more fuel-efficient, relatively safe cars that come with more standard safety features. And I want the CAFE exemptions for vehicles clearly not meant for work (e.g., those not farm- and construction trucks -- can you say 'Escalade'?) got rid of. It's not just about the consumption in my books, but that I have a small car. If I get hit by an SUV, I'm screwed.


So yeah, bail out Detroit -- if they change their ways.


And the $700 billion? Again with the cuts to obscene management pay, thanks very much. My Congressional reps? I am nagging them.

ETA: Commenter Kristen points out this post that explains the $71 per hour. Apparently, it's not net -- it's hourly plus cost of benefits AND the costs of retiree benefits. The actual income average is a much more reasonable $60k. That makes things a bit different. $60k is still a very comfortable living wage, but it's not exactly exorbitant for skilled labour. Still shows that education is undervalued, but that, as my dad would say, is a horse of a different story.

9 comments:

Ann said...

For the most part I agree with you, although I have zero objection to UAW jobs. I think you'll find that it's only the dinosaurs who make $70/hr.--most of the workers hired in the past twenty years are being forced to accept lower wage scales. (Also, auto workers can be "laid off" indefinitely, whereas we can't once we're tenured.) But, I'm originally from the industrial midwest, whose one-time prosperity was made by GM and Ford (and whose longtime slide into not-prosperity began in the 1970s, when the Big 3 first showed themselves incapable of self-management and of responsible decision-making.)

I was living back in said industrial midwest 10 years ago, when the GM plant in Dayton and the Ford plant in Cincinnati were running 3 shifts a day pumping out SUVs and pickup trucks. Of course, gas was 89 cents a gallon then, and I'm no MBA, but even I wondered "what will they do when the cost of gas goes up? And, what about this global warming stuff we've been hearing so much about?"

One of the things about these "business cycles" is the shocking ignorance or willful refusal to acknowledge history, as in, these people always convince themselves that the good times will never end, Dow 36,000 and all that. What a bunch of idiots. So-called "private" industry that acts like the grasshopper, as though the summer will never end and has to be bailed out by all of us worker ants--screw that, unless GM promises to deliver us all free electric cars.

Historiann.com

Kelly in Kansas said...

And then there are the workers who get 4 YEARS of pay when their plant is shut down.

Kirsten said...

Some useful thoughts about the misleading nature of the $70/hr. wage claim are at:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_11/015760.php

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Thanks for the info , Kirsten -- I've added it to the post.

Ann -- I get that point, although I work at an institution that did away with tenure and went to rolling contracts, so not so much with the same job security ;-)

Ann said...

ADM, I'm sorry to hear about your rolling contracts. I have a friend who's in the same boat--well, similar boat. There are tenure slots, but only one for any given discipline. A guy who was hired a few years before him was tenured a few years ago, so my pal is out of luck. This is roughly parallel to the two-tier system of pay and benefits that many unions have been forced to accede to, while watching CEO compensation and golden parachutes get bigger and bigger every year...

Historiann.com

Ann said...

ADM, I'm sorry to hear about your rolling contracts. I have a friend who's in the same boat--well, similar boat. There are tenure slots, but only one for any given discipline. A guy who was hired a few years before him was tenured a few years ago, so my pal is out of luck. This is roughly parallel to the two-tier system of pay and benefits that many unions have been forced to accede to, while watching CEO compensation and golden parachutes get bigger and bigger every year...

Historiann.com

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Well, to be fair, the contracts are effectively like tenure, and I have colleagues in the British Isles who think this is perfectly normal (although there seems also to be tenure?). But I really find it unsettling, even though I would like there to be more post-tenure evaluation and would like tenure to not be a guarantee for people who aren't doing their jobs.

But for me, it really is a nagging, if minor, fear.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I'm grumbly about top-heavy financial arrangements myself. This past week, the board of trustees of the university system I work for (a 1200-pound gorilla!) voted pay increases... for 17 of its vice-presidents. They also voted to create new hires... for five more vice-presidents. In the meantime, the faculty contract is not honored (no cost-of-living increase for you!), students may have to choke down a midyear tuition increase (after a 10% one at the beginning of the year already), and the Chancellor is telling the state that we need to decrease our enrollments by 10,000, even as applications are up 20%.

But no, we can't possibly expect to be competitive when we're only paying our VPs 175K a year...

Grrrrr......

(secret word verification: "hymeeto": what I'd say to the Chancellor when he starts handing out these raises!)

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