Short Sighted Greed in America's Heartland
R Merle Lavengood 10/08/05
As I read in the Detroit Freepress today that the auto parts supplier Delphi (formerly General Motors AC/Delco) is asking for a 63% pay cut from its workers to keep from going into bankruptcy, it makes me think back on the years I spent in the 70s and 80s living in Flint Mi.
Flint was heavily reliant on General Motors for its lively hood and the UAW was the big dog on the block with a heavy hand. In the traditional mind of the Flint mainstream getting into the shop was more prestigious than a college degree. A person could be a high school drop out and still command a six figure income.
Having a large home on the lake, a vacation home up north, the boat and snowmobile, a new Harley (flint has the most Harleys per capita in the world) , 2 new cars, the girl or boyfriend the spouse didn't know about at work and a pocket full of coke was the status quo. It was all to common to see the shoprats punching in and then going straight to the bar till it was time to punch out on a daily basis. Everyone knew a guy that charged $5 a punch that would do it for you so stopping into work wouldnt unfairly interfere with your bar time.
Where I worked at the time was next to the AC (Delphi) plant on Center road with a bar between us. The bar (Raincheck Lounge) was full everyday with AC shop workers partying all day while on the clock. The waitresses all making hundreds of dollars a night in tips and unlimited drugs flowing freely. I was there nightly after work and always had a damn good time. After the bar closed the parking lot was packed till dawn with AC workers partying until it was time to punch out at work.
During this time my coworkers and I were ridiculed and looked down on by much of the AC crew because our job paid a few dollars an hour less and required us to actually be there working to get paid. No one was concerned about getting caught because the UAW Union would keep them from losing their job.
The AC (Delphi) crowd is now facing a proposed pay cut down to $10 p/hour and a 4 times higher copay for healthcare along with their pension being cut in half.
While the majority of the AC workers went to work daily, everyone knew that the abuse was rampant and accepted it as how the system worked and ignored it with little or no thought as to the consequences. This was the norm to the residents of Flint.
I feel sorry for the workers facing the big cuts as many were good friends of mine but find it hard to pity them. The short sighted and arrogant attitudes of the workers and the heavy handed tactics of the UAW put them where they are now. If the abusers could have seen past the new 4x4 Suburban every year and the nightly gram of coke maybe they could have helped save the company they were so found of bending over and ramming from behind every day. There is no doubt in my mind that these same people are now whining that they dont know how this could happen and are pointing fingers at everyone but themselves.
This same story is playing out all over the country with plant closings from all of the big three auto manufacturers. I am a union member and have always envied the power of the UAW over the Teamsters but have to wonder if the needs of the members were really served in the long run by their union in protecting the poor workers and screw-ups thus encouraging and promoting bad behavior from others. All making for a hugely inefficient company trying to compete in a global market of cheaper, better designed and higher quality foreign automobiles and parts suppliers. It makes me want to go back to the Raincheck Lounge as I do a couple of times a year and tell anyone crying in their beer to shut the Fuck up!! Lesson learned here: If you keep kicking your dog dont look surprised when it eventually turns around and bites you. To many spoiled ass Americans dont know when they have it good and blindly want themselves into the ground in a state of short sighted, self-centered greed. You reap what you sow. So belly up to a big bowl of consequences and eat up.....Bon Appetite.