In the 1979 film Norma Rae, Academy Award-winner Sally Field, playing a textile worker, chats with Ron Liebman, a union organizer. I know the unions the only way were gonna get our own voice, make ourselves better, he tells her. She nods. I guess thats why I push, she says.
Todays labor unions arent pushing for a voice. Theyre pushing for better benefits; theyre pushing for higher wages; theyre pushing for more retirement pay. And theyre pushing American-style capitalism over a cliff.
While Americas trade unions are hardly conspiring to bring capitalism down about our ears, trade union leadership couldnt care less about the current economic crisis. Theyre still pushing for their perks. The union leadership is no longer in business to create decent jobs -- the union leadership is in business to boost its own power.
Take the Big Three automakers, for example. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler are in danger of bankruptcy. It isnt because they lack the technical know-how or the manufacturing capacity -- its because the United Auto Workers have made the cost of labor untenable. Writing Nov. 19 in the New York Times, former Michigan Gov. Mitt Romney stated that because of the UAW, American cars cost an average of $2,000 more to make than foreign cars. The average UAW worker makes $75 per hour in salary and benefits, as compared to $42-$48 per hour for workers in Japanese plants in the United States. The average UAW worker has an expensive health plan including laser eye surgery, hearing aids, and dental care -- and it costs him just a $10 premium per month. The retirement plans for UAW workers are even better -- thats why GM has three times as many retirees on the payroll as active workers. Chrysler workers get seven weeks of vacation time per year.
While the Big Three struggle to keep out of bankruptcy, the UAW refuses to sit down at the bargaining table to work out a solution. They insist instead that U.S. taxpayers bail out the Big Three so that UAW workers can receive their negotiated benefits. Explains UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, We do not believe there is any justification for conditioning assistance to the Detroit-based auto companies on further deep cuts in wages and benefits for active and retired workers.