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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Quagmire Ahead

There is much to agree with in David Brooks' column (The Quagmire Ahead, New York Times, June 2, 2009: A21). It will be very hard to change the GM culture.

I must object to his sneers against the UAW for it having negotiated the job bank and 'out at 50' deals. He has forgotten their rationale.

In the past, the big automakers used to close down for a couple of months each year in order to retool for the next model year. The union negotiated that the 10 month wage should be spread over 12 months. That is the genesis of the job bank.

Assembly line work is backbreaking and debilitating. The cycle time at Lordstown was about 63 seconds. That is, a worker faced a new car assembly every minute and had to undertake his or her assigned operation, that is sixty times an hour, and about 500 times a day. And that is for your whole working life, day in and day out. That is why the retirement at 50 deal was negotiated.

A better understanding of labor history would enable us to realize that these labor practices were not insane.

Sent to New York Times

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