FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Two Tiers, Three Tiers…

At its national bargaining convention, now taking place in Detroit, UAW president Dennis Williams announced that he is not only opposed to a “three-tier” wage format (rumored to be on GM and Ford’s agenda and aimed at members engaged in the manufacture of auto parts), he is opposed to the two-tier configuration already in place.

For those unfamiliar with the two-tier, it works more or less like this. Union members who are currently on the payroll and receiving decent (let’s call them “middle-class”) wages and benefits, will be allowed to keep those goodies if, and only if, they agree to saddle all future new-hires with lesser wages and benefits.

Management insists they need lower labor costs to remain competitive. Without these guarantees, they can’t stay in business. While senior people get to hang on to what they have (the “top tier”), those who eventually replace them will be locked into a reduced wage structure (the “lower tier”). How reduced? They’ll be earning roughly half as much.

And with the UAW’s assembly workers presumably “comfortable” with the two-tier arrangement, the automakers are now looking to impose a third tier upon those who union members who produce the parts—a job that, without a third tier, could be sent to low-cost Mexico. In fact, a small number of GM parts-makers are already receiving third tier wages.

So, on the one hand, you have the UAW president boldly telling a room full of delegates that he would like to see the two-tier wage format abolished (and according to reports, being greeted with a standing ovation), and on the other hand, you have the automakers drooling at the prospect of implementing a third tier.

Which outcome has the better odds of succeeding? The UAW forcing the Big Three to adhere to an “equal pay for equal work” format and return to one tier, or the Big Three eventually implementing a third, fourth, fifth and sixth tier? Not to sound defeatist, but I think we know the answer.

When I was a union negotiator, a management person once posed this question: Why would a company pay its workers a nickel more than what they were willing to accept? Why would you pay them $20 per hour when you were absolutely, positively certain they would accept $15 per hour?

Anticipating I’d say something about “fairness” or “loyalty” or how “good wages attract the most competent people,” he offered an example of buying a used car. If you were certain the seller would accept $5,000, why would you pay the $6,500 he was initially asking? It’s not about fairness, and it’s not about loyalty. To quote from The Godfather, “It’s business, Sonny.”

Speaking of cars, it’s disappointing how many people are willing to criticize the UAW for being a bunch of greedy bastards, as if making the top-tier rate of $28 per hour ($57,000 a year) is somehow un-American. As if they themselves, if given the opportunity, wouldn’t want to be part of the middle-class.

To those who think unions are “bad” for the country, consider this quote from John Sweeney, former president of the AFL-CIO: “Anything that can be digitalized can be outsourced.” He’s not saying unions can necessarily prevent it. He’s saying that unions are the only institution capable of collectively resisting it.

There’s a reason the stock market continues to soar even as the middle-class shrinks. It’s because we’ve become an “investor economy.” The good news is that as more U.S. jobs are exported to low-wage nations, investors in those oversees ventures continue to profit. The bad news is that Detroit ain’t where it stops. Your job is next.

David Macaray, a playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail