Why you should NOT feel sorry for UAW workers
If you're feeling sorry for UAW workers, whose incomes will likely soon plummet, you should read Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, written by Ben Hamper, a former autoworker and the ex-husband of my sister-in-law. That erstwhile best-seller will likely cause your sympathy to quickly evaporate by revealing a pathetic work ethic and an alarming lack of conscientiousness on the part of autoworkers. They dug their own graves by demanding too much from GM, Ford, and Chrysler, and by screwing their employers via a variety of scams and unethical practices that ultimately weakened the automakers. If the UAW brass had any brains — and apparently they do not — they would have had a man-to-man talk with their members years ago, saying something along the lines of:
“GM, Ford, and Chrysler aren't the enemy. Instead of endlessly bellyaching about management, you should thank your lucky stars that a person like you, who probably has never been to college and may have slept through high school, can earn more in wages and benefits than some doctors [here's proof]. So, men, let's not make a habit of calling in sick on Mondays and Fridays, drinking on the job, or using drugs to get high. You can't build high-quality cars when you're stoned. You also can't build high-quality cars when you're not at work. Yes, we know about the scam some of you are pulling: Having a co-worker punch your time card for you and rush to do both his job and yours so you can go home four hours early.
Men, the real enemy isn't your employer; it's the foreign automakers who are doing everything they can to make customers buy their cars, instead of ours. By stealing our customers, they're stealing our jobs. And, frankly, many of you are doing a great job of helping them achieve their goals! So stop whining about management. Leave the booze and drugs at home — or better yet, give them up. Many of the diseases you have are traceable to your diet, exercise, penchant for tobacco, and other lifestyle choices. Those diseases aren't just killing you, they're killing us, because they're costing us billions of dollars in excess healthcare premiums that force your employer to increase car prices, thereby making them less competitive. The best job security isn't using our power to force your employer to knuckle under to our demands at the bargaining table; the best job security is building better cars at lower cost so customers want to buy our cars, not those of our competitors. Without customers, we can't force your employer to do anything except go out of business or go bankrupt, so we cannot survive and prosper by undermining your employer.
Basically, we can't continue doing what we've been doing. If you don't agree, walk out the door and don't come back. If you want to drag us down with you, you don't deserve to be here. The rest of us will get to work and do our best to put foreign automakers out of work by beating them in the marketplace. There's only one way to win, and that's it, and that's all, men.”
Update September 2010: We bailed out Chrysler, but some of their workers are still boozing it up during workdays. I saw the same thing in the ER, treating autoworkers with blood alcohol levels over three times the legal limit of intoxication.
I don't intend to imply that all autoworkers are lazy, mean, or have easy jobs. One of my friends, now an eye doctor, worked in the Ford Wixom plant, which he said was a hot (120° F) hellhole. A relative, now retired, was an exemplary worker.