Right now, the largest labor strike since the 1970s is happening, and nobody cares. But you should.
The United Automobile Workers union (UAW) claims that during the Obama recession, it made certain concessions that helped GM rake in billions in profit, and it wants to claim its piece of the pie. Workers don’t want to pay more for their medical insurance plans, they want temporary workers moved into permanent positions, and they also are seeking wage increases and more U.S.-made product.
Meanwhile, the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, is on the cusp of taking GM more fully into electric vehicles based on her belief in the sketchy science of global warming.
“There was a point in time where we were everywhere for everyone with everything,” Barra said in an interview a few months ago in her downtown Detroit office. “We had to say, ‘OK, where are we deploying capital that’s not generating appropriate returns?’ Once you start to believe in the science of global warming and look at the regulatory environment around the world, it becomes pretty clear that to win in the future, you’ve got to win” with electric and driverless vehicles, she said.
While other automakers, namely Toyota, are skeptical of the mass appeal of electrics, GM is going whole hog. On top of that, the strike by UAW members will almost certainly cause labor costs to go up.
A strike is a strike, and typical of the relationship between the Big Three automakers and labor unions, but there are some wrinkles in the UAW strike this time, namely that the UAW has been the target of a corruption probe that just implicated the current and former presidents of the union.
The bargaining team supposedly tasked with representing blue-collar workers has been caught using dues money and training funds to enrich themselves and possibly influence negotiations. The Detroit News reports that UAW officials spent $400,000 of dues money on private villas, over $100,000 of dues money on meals, liquor, and wine, including four bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne. They spent over a hundred grand on golf for the president of the union and fitted him out from the pro shop, and UAW workers paid for 107 rounds of golf as well. Between 2014 and 2018, UAW workers paid $60,000 for cigars, humidors, and cutters and paid for two parties thrown for the UAW International Executive Board complete with premium liquor, mojito tables, cigars, cigar rollers, and “kandy girls.”
The FBI just raided a northern Michigan UAW resort two weeks prior to the start of the strike, part of an ongoing probe into corruption by the UAW and Fiat-Chrysler, which has now managed to spread to UAW and GM.
The raid at the resort allegedly involves a cottage being built for former UAW president Dennis Williams using strike funds to the tune of perhaps one quarter-million dollars or more. A federal criminal complaint about regional director Vance Pearson indicates that Williams and current president Gary Jones are co-conspirators in setting up phony accounts to pay for lavish lifestyles, and raids were conducted on the former and current presidents’ homes. A raid was also conducted at the home of former aide to Williams.
After a century of claiming that fat-cat companies pay way too much money to their executives while the working man gets the shaft, the UAW management is under investigation for stealing from the working man. So far, eleven people have been indicted or convicted.
Just two days before the strike, UAW regional director Vance Pearson was charged by federal prosecutors of embezzlement, mail and wire fraud, money-laundering, and conspiracy. Pearson was a longtime underling to Jones until Jones was named president of the UAW. Pearson then took Jones’ prior post. It was within that complaint that Jones and Williams were implicated, and Williams was further implicated by a former aide to convicted UAW vice president Norwood Jewell.
Nancy Adams Johnson, Jewell’s former aide, had significant time shaved off of her prison sentence by cooperating with the feds and implicating Williams. Jewell pleaded guilty to conspiring with UAW and Fiat-Chrysler officials to make illegal payments using National Training Center credit cards. The credit cards were abused by other officials including retired UAW associate director Virdell King, who ended up doing no time for her lavish lifestyle on the backs of workers.
Many strike watchers are speculating that the UAW has fewer bargaining chips because of all this corruption. Nevertheless, Democrat presidential hopefuls Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren have joined in with the strikers, without mention of the corruption at the UAW.
“GM is demonstrating that it has no loyalty to the workers of America or the people of America,” Warren said, “Their only loyalty is to their own bottom line. And if they can save a nickel by moving a job to Mexico or to Asia or to anywhere else on this planet, they will do it.”
That actually sounds a lot like what President Trump would say.
Politically, according to the Wall Street Journal, the striking workers are more and more identifying with President Trump, since he has made it clear he is unhappy with GM’s move to close four U.S. factories. The UAW members are asking for the same thing the president is asking for, and that, along with his no-nonsense way of communication and personality, is winning over union workers across the nation.
Meanwhile, GM still owes the American taxpayers about $11 billion for the federal bailout in 2008 because the massive corporation went bankrupt.
Knowing all of this, are we looking at another GM bailout for mismanagement and bankruptcy? We’d better not be. Although this particular negotiation is to be the benchmark for future talks between the UAW and Ford and also Fiat-Chrysler.
How this all ends remains to be seen, but right now, there are some questions. How can the members of the UAW have faith in the people who have increased their dues, then used them to enrich themselves in cahoots with auto execs? How can GM survive when its entire future business model is based on a hoax?
Jen Kuznicki is a contributor to Conservative Review, a blue-collar wife and mom, a political writer, humorist, and conservative activist, a seamstress by trade, and compelled to write. Follow her on Twitter @JenKuznicki.