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Tuesday: GM dumps retiree health care

Isn’t that special? Now, the rest of us can pick up the bill for them:

Mr. Gettelfinger, for his part, is trying to protect one of the jewels of the U.A.W. contract, which is essentially health care for life for anyone who worked on the assembly line and their surviving spouses. G.M. has already canceled health care for more than 100,000 of its salaried retirees.

“The U.A.W. at this point understands that it can very well turn into the villain of this whole thing by insisting that its workers receive health care benefits that few workers do,” said Gary N. Chaison, a labor expert at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

U.A.W. members are bracing for bad news, and worrying that their health care plan will be sacrificed to keep G.M. from going bankrupt.

“Where does it all stop?” said Mike Green, president of U.A.W. Local No. 652, which represents workers in Lansing, Mich. “It would be devastating. Our typical person works between 30 and 40 years. They did their part. Why should they have it taken away with the sweep of a pen?

Or, GM could stop thinking in the present like it has been doing since the first oil crisis and turn out cars and trucks that are actually energy efficient and well designed.  It could stop hiring CEO’s who live in the moment and oppose universal healthcare until the enormous cost of it threatens to bring down their industry.  They could stop blaming labor for all of their problems.

Did you ever notice that whenever there is a crisis in an industry, it’s always labor’s fault for demanding too much?  They’re damned it they work with no protection and damned if they work with it.  If they get laid off these days, they get blamed for the cost of unemployment.  Industry would work so much better if the damn workers would just show up, do their jobs for free and go away when they’re not needed any longer.

But NOooooOOOoo.  Now we learn that the unions enjoy privileges that most workers do not.  We can all point our fingers at them and say, “They are getting more than we are.  That’s not fair!” instead of saying, “Which bozos were in charge in the past 30 years who allowed this to happen?”

As for the retirees, I feel bad for anyone with a fixed income and a health problem.  It’s too late for them to find jobs.  If they were promised healthcare, someone needs to deliver on that promise.  But instead of determining whether the company bargained in bad faith, knowing that they wouldn’t ever be expected to deliver on their future promises, we are supposed to see the UAW as the villain for trying to collect on deferred compensation.  What did the UAW concede when it struck the “retiree health care” bargain in the first place?

It sets a really bad precedent to treat retirees in one industry badly because that kind of bad behavior has a tendency to spread if no one is held accountable for promises.  What about the rest of us who have been paying our taxes and have been promised pensions, 401K’s, cash balance plans and social security?  If the UAW is forced to sacrifice for their industry, who’s next?

Ahhh, here’s the problem:

But G.M.’s plan to shrink its way to profitability will not mean much without an agreement with the U.A.W.

There is apparently no other way that GM can make a profit without getting concessions from the unions.  They can’t make better cars.  No, no, that’s completely off of the table.  And it can’t stop stupid finance deals or cut executive pay or ask their shareholders to forgo their dividends until the American auto industry gets back on its feet.  No, profitability hinges on screwing the workers.  And Obama has decided to appoint Tim Geithner and Larry “Women are intrinsically incapable of doing higher level math” Summers to supervise the agreement that gets hammered out.

How strange.  In the case of the banks, there is a decidedly hands off approach to how the financial bailout money gets spent.  The taxpayer is a silent partner while the bankers divvy up the spoils and reward themselves with lavish bonuses.  To interfere with THAT is taboo and unAmerican.  We can not direct how executives are compensated.  But with the auto industry and their measley $14 billion, well, that’s a different story.  For that, we need Geithner and Summers to supervise directly.  And unlike Wall Street, there are unions that are to be considered.  And these union members have to make concessions or the industry is unprofitable.

Ok, I see where this is going now.

Hey, don’t blame us.  We didn’t vote for him.

On another note:

Marie Cocco hits the nail on the head: the middle class benefitting from the fruits of its productivity.  We aren’t making enough to maintain a middle class lifestyle.  It’s not that we took on too much debt.  It’s that we can’t make it on what we earn these days.  Oh sure, there are always going to be people who live beyond their means intentionally.  But what about the people who live beyond their means *unintentionally*?  Why are so many people struggling with mortgages and student loans that will take a generation to pay off?