General Motors strike "imminent"
It is somewhat like the story about the scorpion and the frog. Faced with a flood, a scorpion and a frog must cross a river.
The scorpion suggests that the frog swim across carrying the scorpion. The frog, however, isn’t interested: “you’ll sting me.” But the scorpion assures the frog that it would not be in the scorpion’s interest to do so, for then both would die in the raging river.
Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog.
“Why did you do that,” asks the frog.
“It’s in my nature,” says the scorpion.
So, too, is it in the United Auto Workers’ nature.
It is now reported that a strike by the UAW against General Motors is “imminent.”” At least that’s what some media outlets are reporting, ostensibly based on insider news. The definition of “imminent,” isn’t clear, but it looks as though the union’s management is anxious to call a strike, just so they can pretend they’re being strong leaders.
The conventional wisdom, all along, has been that a strike wouldn’t happen, because both sides would lose too much from a strike. GM would lose sales and market share, the union would potentially cripple the company upon which it is dependent for succor.
But the talks between the two sides have apparently dragged on and the UAW is reportedly impatient. GM, for its part, is said to be unwilling to give the union what it wants. In the past, GM has always opted to conserve market share, at the cost of caving in to union demands.
This time around, however, it may be acting differently. GM’s management seems to be considerably less flexible than it has been in the past. It has been reported that the union is willing to take retiree health care benefits off of GM’s shoulders, but only if GM will guarantee job security for the union’s members. GM isn’t willing to pay that price. It wants both the VEBA and freedom to outsource jobs.
For its part, the union seems caught in its past, trying to preserve its place in a world that no longer exists. The union seems unable to wean itself from the “us against them” mentality of its formative and glory years. The focus of the union appears to be on preservation of its members benefits and wages, not on how it can help make its employer globally competitive. But achieving the former depends, ultimately, on achieving the later.
If nothing else, this is compelling theatre. On each side, the competing players are trying to keep what they once took for granted. On each side, success ultimately depends on the actions of the other side, but neither side trusts the other.
And each side can destroy the other
But only at the price of sharing the scorpion’s fate.