Thursday, December 11, 2008

Union Hating

Republicans like to attack.

They seem to think that their current best targets are unions.

There are two prominent attacks on unions that need to be refuted:

1) The ludicrous figure that United Auto Workers earn 70 dollars an hour, and that union labor is the cause of Detroit problems.

2) The silly concept that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was trying to bribe Balgojevich or was party to the deal making going on.

The first concept is just factually wrong, while the second argument uses facts to arrive to an incorrect conclusion.

In the current discussions about problems with the big three automakers, the United Auto Workers have been attacked because of the benefits they have won for their workers.

Many people have falsely stated that one of these benefits is a wage of 70 dollars a day. As factcheck.org explains, the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) made the claim workers "earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits – almost triple the earnings of the average private sector worker" and then said, "The vast majority of UAW workers in Detroit today still earn $75 an hour."

This was then repeated by Republicans and members of the media. For examples from Factcheck:
At a Nov. 19 House Financial Services Committee hearing on a possible bailout for the auto industry, Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus said, "Even with recent changes, the average hourly wage at General Motors is still $75 an hour. ..." Two of his GOP colleagues on the panel made similar statements. And in a Nov. 18 column in the New York Times, business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote, "At GM, as of 2007, the average worker was paid about $70 an hour, including health care and pension costs."
Unfortunately, this is also not true. According to the manufacturers, average autoworkers make $29 an hour. This, in fact, is less than some Toyota workers in the United States. The foreign companies with workers in the US pay very close to the UAW wages. The $70 an hour that is cited comes the costs that manufacturers incur from paying for the generations of retired workers that they are obligated to pay (a cost that is covered by governments at oversees factories). These companies created the middle class and were forced to take up the costs of pensions because the American government was unwilling to develop a national health care system.

The Senate failed to pass the $14 Billion bailout because the Republicans were unable to get enough concessions from the autoworkers. I say good for the autoworkers because if we are asking them to take further concessions we would essentially be asking them to take the hit for the development of the middle-class over the past 40 years. That's not fair.

Not only is the $70 figure misleading, it's silly that people are keying in on the cost of labor. Labor makes up 10% of the costs of producing a vehicle. Further, Americans are not complaining about the cost of a vehicle, rather they are complaining about bad design and fuel guzzling vehicles. Clearly, Republicans are using this as a Trojan horse to attack Unions.


The second point of contention is the theory being tossed around that SEIU officials, maybe the president of SEIU, considered making a deal with Blagojevich to get their preferred candidate in the Senate. The specific paragraph critics are pointing to is the following:
On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with SEIU Official, who was in Washington, D.C. Prior intercepted phone conversations indicate that approximately a week before this call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH met with SEIU Official to discuss the vacant Senate seat, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH understood that SEIU Official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1’s interest in the Senate seat. During the conversation with SEIU Official on November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed SEIU Official that he had heard the President-elect wanted persons other than Senate Candidate 1 to be considered for the Senate seat. SEIU Official stated that he would find out if Senate Candidate 1 wanted SEIU Official to keep pushing her for Senator with ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that “one thing I’d be interested in” is a 501(c)(4) organization. ROD BLAGOJEVICH explained the 501(c)(4) idea to SEIU Official and said that the 501(c)(4)70 could help “our new Senator [Senate Candidate 1].” SEIU Official agreed to “put that flag up and see where it goes.”
Why this is silly: the SEIU does not need an Illinois Senator appointed as a favor to Obama. Obama has stated that he supports worker legislation, most controversially (and importantly for the Unions) the Employee Free Choice Act. Maybe the SEIU should have simply said, Blago you're nuts, but instead the official said he or she would "put a flag up." Clearly the SEIU is humouring the Governor. Gov. Blagojevich was already under investigation, proved a bad administrator, and seemed generally incompetent. Who would have hired him? Certainly, not a well connected Union whose candidate is moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The critiques of the SEIU are dumb attacks based solely on the fact that the union's name now appears in the headlines in connection with the governor of Illinois.

Unions help workers and provide protection for the American middle class, especially in this time of globalization and worker vulnerability. Don't let Republican big business representatives fool you by using bad facts and bad analysis.

By the way, Wall Street Bailout= 700 Billion Dollars; proposed Auto Bailout= 14 Billion. Do the math.

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