Choice for UAW – Cuts or Unemployment?

Today, the head of the United Auto Workers (UAW), held a press conference where he said that the union would not make any more concessions to the Big Three automakers.

You can read an article from the AP here.  In summary, he said that the Big Three need to be bailed out because if one goes bankrupt, they will all go bankrupt.  He also said that it’s the overall economy that is hurting the Big Three and that his union has made a lot of concessions already and should be applauded.  According to him, labor costs make up only 8-10 percent per vehicle.

This article makes it sound like the UAW has nothing to do with the struggles of the Detroit automakers.

Before we make that assumption, read this article from January 2007 in Fortune magazine.

Just look at the per car costs between the UAW plants and the Japanese automaker plants in the US:

Healthcare per car:

UAW:  $1,635      Japanese:  $215

Work rules, line relief and holiday pay (Union rules)

UAW:  $630        Japanese:  $0

Paying UAW workers when plants are closed:

UAW:  $350       Japanese:  $0

That is an almost $2500 difference per car!  This doesn’t even include the employee pay.

Think about those costs above when you look at each manufacturer’s per car profit.  Nissan makes about $1800 per car, Toyota and Honda make about $1400 per car.  Ford loses $1400 per car, Chrysler, loses $1100 per car, and GM loses about $333 a car.

Even the “profitable” companies don’t make that much per car.  The margins are pretty slim.  You can see that the Union costs are basically the difference between profitability and losing money.

While it is not just the UAW that is causing many of the problems with the Big Three, it is easy to look to their compensation as a big reason.  It does not help their cause when their head comes out and starts grandstanding and looking for public sympathy.  It’s a tough time for everyone, and him saying “no more concessions” makes them look greedy and better than the average American worker.

Oh, and one more point about the Union rules.  Does this look like a system that benefits all parties involved?  Read this from the Fortune article:

“If an assembly plant with 3,000 workers has no dealer orders, it has two options. One is to close the plant for a week and not build any cars. Then the company still has to give the idled workers 95 percent of their take-home pay plus all benefits for not working. So a one-week shutdown costs $7.7 million or $1,545 for each vehicle it didn’t make.

If the company decides to go ahead and run the plant for a week without any dealer orders, it will have distressed merchandise on its hands. Then it has to sell the vehicles to daily rental companies like Hertz or Avis at discounts of $3,000 to $5,000 per vehicle, which creates a flood of used cars in three to six months and damages resale value. Or it can put the vehicles into storage and pay dealers up to $1,250 apiece to take them off its hands.”

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One Response to “Choice for UAW – Cuts or Unemployment?”

  1. wilsonrofishing Says:

    The Detroit bailout just prolongs the inevitable. Investing in these companies with taxpayers’ money at this point is subsidizing failure. Let them attempt to restructure when they enter bankruptcy, or succumb to market forces.

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