…Coverage of the Detroit automakers that doesn’t make me want to chew off my own hand. Hint: UAW workers are not actually making $70 per hour, their average wage is the same as that of non-union auto workers, and therefore, MEDIA, the deal-breaking dispute between Ron Gettelfinger and that asshole Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was not over what you keep referring to as “wages.” In order to immediately bring UAW hourly costs per worker in line with, say, Toyota’s, by my math the UAW workers would have to start accepting lower wages and/or significantly worse benefits than their non-union counterparts. The actual dispute is over the total hourly cost per worker, only a portion of which can be controlled by changes to active worker pay and benefits and the rest of which consists of legacy costs.

Point B, foreign manufacturers follow UAW negotiations closely and make sure that their workers are given the same or almost exactly the same (or in some cases better) pay and benefits as union workers. This is so that their plants do NOT unionize. If they offered workers significantly less than the UAW, their plants would BE union by now, and they know it. They are not opposed to unionization so they can screw workers over right this second–they’re opposed to it because contracts might keep them from being able to do so nimbly should future economic conditions dictate.

Also, stop telling me about how “at Nissan they make $14 an hour, so nyah.” Entry-level UAW workers also make $14 an hour (a fact which, incidentally, makes me sad for our nation–even union workers can’t make a decent living anymore). You are not comparing apples to apples and most of you are disingenuous liars. I’m thinking here specifically of the guy from the Wall Street Journal who, the last time Diane Rehm hosted this topic, threw around statements like “they can’t expect to continue making $60-$70 an hour” until another panelist pointed out that the $60-$70 number averaged in all wage and benefit liabilities including retiree pensions, benefits, and surviving spouse benefits. At which point the WSJ guy responded calmly that yes, the other panelist was correct. He KNEW he was misleading listeners and purposely kept it up until someone called him on it. This is nothing but union-busting propaganda, and let me tell you, it is thick on the ground. Don’t believe everything you hear.

But on to today’s coverage:

The Diane Rehm Show–a panel including the Detroit News‘s Washington reporter, another journalist familiar with the industry, and a UAW local president (and, unfortunately–though I thought the other panelists did a pretty good job of letting only his true and salient points stand and debunking his anti-union crap–a guy from the Heritage Foundation) actually explores, in-depth, what is true and what is false about the claim that the UAW’s failure to accept wages in line with foreign manufacturers is the main issue preventing Congress from issuing the loans.

Mitch Albom (via Blogging for Michigan and Flip Flopping Joy)–lets loose with what a lot of us are thinking about the Senate’s disingenuous posturing and the classist double standard applied to the bank bailout vs. the Big 3 situation.

ETA: Also listen to this American Axle employee’s explanation of his wages, the personal cost of their strike earlier this year, and the consequences of a possible Big 3 failure. I guess concessions down to $11 an hour at entry level–that’s about $22,000/year for those of you playing along at home–weren’t enough to convince the senators. Well, I say good for them for protecting themselves and their business concerns from those pesky ordinary Americans… ahem, I mean, ordinary Americans from those damn UAW fat cats.

I think Michiganders are finally getting good and pissed off about coverage that implicitly and explicitly describes us as lazy, entitled, clueless, environment-destroying drains on society. The self-righteousness and failure to understand the potentially disastrous impact of even a small further blow to our fucked-up economy (and bankruptcy or dissolution of one or more of the Big 3 would not be a small blow) on the part of many Americans is breathtaking, and not in a good way.

Look, if someone is making $11 an hour at Wal-Mart and can’t afford to feed his own family, much less subsidize loans to UAW workers through his taxes, I totally get that he’s going to be opposed to being forced to do so. Such Americans, and there are many of them, are at the breaking point already. But on a philosophical level, when did we get so small-minded in this country? When did we start to think “I can’t afford my kids’ health care or my mortgage without crippling credit card debt–that auto worker over there should have to suffer too” as opposed to “Shouldn’t ALL of us have the opportunity to afford the necessities of life and live debt-free? What has happened to the ‘greatest nation in the world’?” We’re blaming the workers when we should be blaming the increasingly stingy, unsustainable corporate structure and privatized health care system under which most of us work. We’re playing right into the hands of corporations, greedy shareholders, and the Republican senators who pretend to have “ordinary Americans'” interests at heart while behind closed doors admitting their true union-busting agenda.

Now if pundits will just stop bloviating about how the Big 3 “need to restructure” and “need to produce greener cars,” as if they had never thought of the former before–and were not in fact doing exactly that before the same greedy, shortsighted banks who were handed $700B+ on a platter with no wage concessions or in fact requirements of any kind caused the credit crisis that actually precipitated the automakers’ current difficulties (my mom heard about a dealer who had 30 customers in his showroom last month, all of whom failed to qualify for credit)–and as if the latter were any kind of reasonable business decision in a climate where consumers purchased and continue to purchase a metric fuckton of trucks and SUVs due to generally low gas prices, my blood pressure might actually go back to normal. I’m as liberal as the next guy and not in the habit of being an apologist for Big Anything, but if I were Rick Wagoner, I’d have punched somebody in the face during those Congressional hearings. I’d still probably make a rude gesture at Sen. Corker if I saw him on the street, but after today the punching impulse has lessened slightly. So yay for that.

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