Auto Rescue and Labor Pick

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jeff Green, Detroit bureau chief of Bloomberg News and Sonia Ramierez, legislative representative for the AFL-CIO, talk about President-elect Obama's choice of Congresswoman Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary as well as President Bush's auto industry rescue plan.


Jeff Green and Sonia Ramierez

Comments [29]

sab9 from Suffern, NY

Has it occurred to anyone that if the unions must make concessions to keep the auto companies afloat that the auto execs ought make concessions as well? At the very least unions will be asked to settle for lower wages and reduced health care benefits. Why not ask the same for execs? What about those corporate jets - how much do they cost to operate? At a time when Americans are suffering the public is fed up with hearing about executive mega-salaries. Now is the time to change corporate culture.

Dec. 19 2008 05:36 PM
Daniel Simon from New York, NY

Eric, #24:

Look, I can agree with you on the problem of income inequality. But if American automakers can't compete with other manufacturers, then they will go out of business and the workers will lose their jobs.

I can think that people in the financial services industry are vastly overpaid. I can argue that CEO pay is a scandal. But if US auto labor costs are higher than foreign auto makers' labor costs, and if that results in higher prices for the same product, then who will buy American cars? And how will American workers keep their jobs?

Again, whatever I think about the morality of different pay scales, I can't disregard the realities of the market. I don't know if Big Three wages contribute to their lack of competitiveness. But if they do, then I don't see how these companies will survive unless their workers are willing to receive the same compensation as their competitors. And if the companies won't be competitive, then we have to ask if we're willing to provide indefinite government support (which may violate international trade agreements) to keep them going.

Dec. 19 2008 11:58 AM
markbnj from www.markbnj/ or

part 2

My ORIGINAL point that I wanted to discuss with Brian and you(se) listeners was:

a) The auto companies MUST negotiate with BOTH the unions, AND their DEALERS AND their insurance companies (or a major insurance company, such as MET LIFE) to arrange a PRE-PACKAGED bankruptcy.

IE, Everyone agrees in advance, and then the court just goes (in bankruptcy then 30 seconds later bankruptcy is over.

NOW: With Regard to the DEALER networks:
First problem is TOO many dealers AND too many SALES channels.

Dealer Proposal 1){DP1} New Sales Entity is GMI (GM,inc)
A dealer of GMI may sell any and ALL brands of GM vehicles.

DP2) A current dealer of any GM product will have their current dealerships put together and aggregated (markGM1,markgm2 {instead of GMC/pontiac/etc).
The purpose of this is to see how many redundant dealers in a location may easily be eliminated (If MarkGM1 and markgm2 are at the similar location, this is a no brainer)

Once DP2 has eliminated (say) 500 easy duplicate dealerships, DP3 will start

DP3) only ONE GM dealership may exist within a 30 mile radius. Dealers may own stores in different markets. Negotiations and trading between dealerships to adjust markets will be allowed.

PS: Thanks Brian, had you taken my call, would not have gotten this detailed.

The bottom line is that DEALERships MUST be eliminated, as well as PRODUCT LINES also...

ONE PROBLEM is that the MAKING the auto companies PROFITABLE and Keeping the auto industry JOBS are CONTRADICTORY and work AGAINST each other

Mark Brown

Dec. 19 2008 11:57 AM
Tony from Brooklyn

I have recently received an increased number of "problems with your bank/credit account" for banks and accounts (e.g., Paypal) with whom I have no connection. I also recently receive an email about winning 1 Million in a contest run by Microsoft and AOL.

Dec. 19 2008 11:38 AM
john clagett from nj

i was called on the phone recently from a scammer. they had learned my name, address, my health insurance co--i knew this because they repeated it to me. they then asked the name of my bank. when i told them i would not share that information with them, they said they were simply confirming the information.
my wife called our insurance co. the next day; they said they had not contacted us, and never would ask for such information!

Dec. 19 2008 11:34 AM
Eric Brooks from Brookyn, New York

As regards the issue of union wages in the auto industry, it is wrong to look at union wages outside the larger context of a society in which the differential between the rich and the poor or working person has grown to obscene dimensions. The richest 1% of this country's population have (in 2005) 21.8% of the wealth. Until this undemocratic unbalance is corrected it makes no sense to demand that working people and the poor give further concessions.

Dec. 19 2008 11:09 AM
Eric Brooks from Brookyn, New York

As regards the Employee Free Choice Act, it has three major components:

-- Establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.

-- Provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.

-- Allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

The last point seems to attract a lot of attention by people who don't understand the actuality of how unions are organized. The focus on the "secret ballot" focuses on one moment in a larger process. The secret ballot in and of itself is a mechanism and is not by itself equivalent to democracy. In practice, it requires organization to get to the point of a secret ballot. That organization has to take place under the antagonistic watch of corporate management which is actively threatening working people with job loss, firing people involved in organizing the union, and putting out inflammatory and distorted information on the impact and meaning of being represented. What the Employee Free Choice Act does is allow the process to take place away from the eyes of the management of the company, and diminishing somewhat the brutal coercion that management utilizes to counter union organizing drives. Taken as a process, the Employee Free Choice Act is far more democratic than the process which terminates in a secret ballot.

Dec. 19 2008 11:01 AM
michaeld from nyc

To kai from NJ-NYC: The method of voting may not have been represented correctly, but don't blame Brian. Sonia Ramierez did absolutely nothing to clarify the issue or make any logical argument in favor of the change. All she did was spew talking points that had no relation to what Brian was asking.

Dec. 19 2008 10:59 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

Both Brian Lehrer and the others speaking of a "open voting" are confused. That characterization is not accurate. As Ms. Shneeberg stated:

"Employees sign cards allowing the union to represent them (which they CURRENTLY DO), then after a majority is established the union represents them and the cards are public."

If people think that this is unfair to personal rights to privacy, so be it. What is being discussed is not a vote like one would have in a caucus, but a signature on card. The main problem is not people joining unions for their workers' rights, but with employers firing and busting up people that would like to organize.

Dec. 19 2008 10:38 AM
markbnj from www.markbnj/ or

part 1 of ?
Again Brian did not take my call, do I need to start using an Alias before he lets me on???

1) I agree Brian was quite deliberately pointed with Hilda (the union guest).
2) Callers saying UAW hasn't given up:
they worked for YEARS to get those benefits, and many times they gave up wage increases for some of them.
3) The analogy Brian made Citibank Brokers vs. the Car workers is QUITE accurate.
4) We need to have a HISTORY lesson Brian (and producers...{do you REALLY read our comments?}

What we need to discuss is 1930 to 1950 history of labor movements HERE in the US and the similar movements in Europe.

THE MAJOR difference is that in the US, the LABOR unions asked for BENEFITS (HEALTH care) for ITS WORKERS.

In EUROPE, the LABOR unions asked for BENEFITS (HEALTH care) for EVERYONE.

This is the beginning of the paradox.
The UNIONS never supported universal health care (along with the republicians) in 1950, 1963, 1971,1993)

because they thought it (health care) was a competitive advantage.

Dec. 19 2008 10:36 AM
Aaron from Bronx

Sonia was embarrassingly weak in answering Brian's questions as to (1) how enacting EFCA would keep employers from "holding meetings with workers" to talk them down from joining the union, (2) how retaliation for one's vote from either employers, unions, or co-workers would be reduced under EFCA or (3) how is "non-secret" voting consistent with our democratic principles.

As one anxious to see thoughtful leadership in labor, I can't help worrying for workers If she is the Legislative Representative. More importantly, it is this type of dodging and "old think" that endangers the many gains of unionized labor in this climate.

Dec. 19 2008 10:36 AM
Ken from noo yawk

Allow me to point out that many thousands of financial services company employees are back office workers, whose compensation is, if anything, less valuable than the unionized folks at the auto companies. These are the people who are getting laid off in droves right now.

Dec. 19 2008 10:35 AM
Daniel Simon from New York, NY

Brian raised again the question as to why autoworkers have been asked to make concessions for the auto bailout while stockbrokers were not in the financial services bailout.

The reason isn't necessarily a bias towards people who are making a lot of money or bias against unions. The reason is competitiveness. If the American automakers can't match labor costs of other manufacturers, then it will be hard for them to compete on price for comparable cars and their long-term viability will be in question. Stockbrokers presently don't face that kind of competition, so their salaries were not a factor in determining the long-term viability of their companies.

While it's arguable stockbroker compensation is too high, reducing it may not have been necessary to save the companies. For the auto industry, reducing worker pay may be necessary to save the companies. That's the difference, regardless of how I may feel about the relative merits of the jobs or what kind of compensation they may deserve.

Dec. 19 2008 10:34 AM

The problem is not union wages. The UAW workers earn about the same as non-union auto employees. The difference is in the cost of retirees much of which is medical.

The companies have never supported universal medical coverage which would greatly equalize pay. Also, at the differential of about 20/hr and 20 hours to build a car the cost difference is 400.

The problem has been poor management and bad long term planning. Lastly, all car companies sales are dramatically down, not just US companies. So the problem is not sales but financial management.

Dec. 19 2008 10:32 AM
michaeld from nyc

Good god, this is a terrible representative of the AFL-CIO. Even Brian is making a better case for the UAW.

Dec. 19 2008 10:31 AM
robert from park slope

The question is not what is the appropriate wage level for auto laborers, but how many auto labor jobs should exist world wide. As new auto companies have emerged in Korea, India, China and elsewhere, global capacity to produce cars is much greater than needed. Some of the jobs -- and companies -- will disappear. Only after the production capacity falls to a level lower than global demand will workers have the leverage to gain significant wage increases.

Dec. 19 2008 10:31 AM
KC from NYC

Why are all these callers (like Ron) so anxious to throw working people under the bus? Are they angry that people want to have decent lives? Is this some form of psychosis?

Dec. 19 2008 10:30 AM
Ken from noo yawk

About the Employee Free-Choice act: there are plenty of examples of non-secret balloting in our lives: Congress, Co-op board votes. Making union voting non-secret would help eliminate, or at least expose, private deal-making between management and selected workers.

Dec. 19 2008 10:29 AM
Farid Faryar from New Jersey

I believe it is wrong to give money to the automakers for as long as the same management, including the board of directors, is in place. The auto industry bailout is rewarding the people who are responsible for the failure of the industry. Subsidizing is bad for market based economy. Instead when there is a need for government intervention it must go to where we are doing well.

Instead the money should go to: (1) Boost the unemployment funds. (2) Partnership with other private funding sources, such as venture capitalists, to reorganize the companies into new profitable industries (not necessarily auto making). (3)Educating future generation.

Dec. 19 2008 10:29 AM
Sue from Manhattan

Why is the focus of the Labor Secretary discussion on organized labor. There are many, many of us - the vast majority, in fact - who are not organized. Can the guest please talk about the Secretary's efforts on behalf of non-organized workers.

Also, its very disturbing that she cannot articulate why she is for an open ballot. Keep asking her, please. Or sum up that she doesn't know.

Dec. 19 2008 10:28 AM
Nathan from Brooklyn

secret ballots will not help the union. If the guest hasn't grasped what the rest of the non-union country thinks of unions, this act will only reinforce the perception of unions as corrupt.

Dec. 19 2008 10:28 AM
hjs from 11211

sure uaw should get the same pay as honda workers if the big 3 CEOs take the same pays as honda's CEO

Dec. 19 2008 10:27 AM
Ezekiel from sunnyside, queens

As Bush describes this, it sounds like a classic IMF deal. A bad one. . .

A federal requirement that a private company achieve profitability or suffer the consequences means either a blow to the creation of wealth (distribution of wages, benefits, and stock earnings) or some sort of national takeover. Does Bush want a Third world Michigan or nationalized/colonized auto industry? Does he care either way as long as the big "E" Economy keeps churning?

Dec. 19 2008 10:27 AM
Frank from Brooklyn

You cannot compare US automakers with unions to Japanese automakers in US. You must compare US autoworkers in US with Japanese autoworkers in Japan, or for that matter, German workers in Germany. If we accept the system that pays native automakers with the salaries of foreign automakers in the US, then we may as well see ourselves as a declining manufacturing nation who is subject to second world benefits. Germany and Japan have stronger social safety nets than the US, making the unions here necessary. We must compare US auto makers with Japan makers in their own country, not the salaries of Japanese makers in the US.

Dec. 19 2008 10:26 AM
Doeke Hekstra from Manhattan

I'm all for unions, but as we heard from the lady on your show, they have no real defense of their proposal to abolish the secret ballot. This is just union power play, hoping for a tit-for-tat with democrats. I hope enough democrats in Congress will have the guts to oppose it.

Dec. 19 2008 10:25 AM
August Schneeberg

Do the UAW and it's members not deserve a fair wage? Do children of UAW members not deserve the same healthcare YOU deserve?

Dec. 19 2008 10:24 AM
Brian Reynolds from Red Bank

She doesn't have any idea why she supports getting rid of a secret ballot.

Dec. 19 2008 10:23 AM
Pablo from Queens

This is typical of Brian's and WNYC in general of the disrespect offered to Latino people who speak power to truth!

Brian your contempt is plain to your guest.

Dec. 19 2008 10:23 AM
Robert from NYC

Sock it to'em Hilda!! Brava!

Dec. 19 2008 10:18 AM

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