Republicans Hate Workers

It really is all about union busting for righties. Yesterday the UAW refused to agree to steep wage cuts for auto workers, so Senate Republicans killed the Big Three bailout package.

Congressional Republicans have been in open revolt against Bush over the auto bailout. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky joined other GOP lawmakers Thursday in announcing his opposition to the White House-backed bill, which passed the House on Wednesday. He and other Republicans insisted that the carmakers restructure their debt and bring wages and benefits in line with those paid by Toyota, Honda and Nissan in the United States.

Here’s the catch — wages, although not benefits, for Toyota workers in Kentucky are somewhat higher than wages paid to Michigan auto workers.

Hourly wages for UAW workers at GM factories are about equal to those paid by Toyota Motor Corp. at its older U.S. factories, according to the companies. GM says the average UAW laborer makes $29.78 per hour, while Toyota says it pays about $30 per hour.

The Big Three have bigger benefit costs, but not all because GM workers get “gold-plated” health care. It’s because the old U.S. automakers have huge numbers of retirees drawing pensions and benefits, while Toyota of Kentucky does not.

GM says its total hourly labor costs are now $69, including wages, pensions and health care for active workers, plus the pension and health care costs of more than 432,000 retirees and spouses. Toyota says its total costs are around $48. The Japanese automaker has far fewer retirees and its pension and health care benefits are not as rich as those paid to UAW workers.

The point is that wages are not the problem. Yet the Republican senators who stopped the bailout package wanted to cut wages.

One of the compromises being floated around yesterday was for American automaker workers to accept the same wages and benefits that non-union employees get in the South, effectively making unions irrelevant.

But let’s not kid ourselves that Toyota would willingly pay $30 an hour if GM were not paying about the same. Even if Kentucky workers are not unionized, they benefit from the fact that unions exist.

Righties hate unions so much that Little Lulu and others are talking about the UAW bailout, not the automakers’ bailout.

Remember when John McCain got all misty-eyed talking about wonderful American workers and how they were the backbone of our economy? The truth is that McCain and other Republicans in Washington love workers as much as they love dog poop on their shoes. Workers are cost. Workers want to get paid a living wage, and they want health care, and it cuts into profits. Your average Republican looks at a worker and sees money taken out of his quarterly stock dividend.

Although Japanese and other foreign cars are more marketable than what the Big Three have produced in recent years, the fact is that without massive government subsidies Toyota and other foreign manufacturers wouldn’t be building plants here. Further, if nothing is done about our health care “system,” eventually the foreign manufacturers like Toyota in Kentucky will be in the same boat the Big Three are in now.

See also Steve Benen.

27 thoughts on “Republicans Hate Workers

  1. Maha said, “But let’s not kid ourselves that Toyota would willingly pay $30 an hour if GM were not paying about the same. Even if Kentucky workers are not unionized, they benefit from the fact that unions exist.”

    I worked for years as non-union labor in New York City’s theater/concert field. We got a decent rate, but no benefits. Whenever I heard any co-worker complain about the union, I would recite exactly that, “Do you think the company pays us out of the goodness of their heart? We get paid our rate SOLELY because the union exists, and secures their members their rate. if unions didn’t exist we would be getting minimum wage”.

    Further, “Workers are cost. Workers want to get paid a living wage, and they want health care, and it cuts into profits. Your average Republican looks at a worker and sees money taken out of his quarterly stock dividend.” is spot-on! The ruling class, represented by the Republican Party, would far rather have no labor costs (slavery), no minimum wage laws that force them to pay, no benefits…

    If anyone wants to understand the GOP utopia, read Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’. This is what the GOP aspires to bring America back to, where workers are cogs in a machine – if one breaks throw it away and get a new one. Sinclair describes the in-humane working conditions of industrialized food preparation at the turn of the last century, and is one of the reasons we even have an FDA today.

    Remember, folks, there are reasons why we have federal regulations, and agencies like the FDA, OSHA, and Social Security and Medicaid. There is a reason why no Republicans were elected after 1929: because people remembered that they engineered the Great Depression. Today the GOP has carefully crafted another great Depression. We must never forget the inherent hatred of the GOP leadership for humankind, vote them out of office.

  2. The president of UAW just said that he is asking and expects to be allowed to look at Toyota/America’s ‘books.’ Maybe, just maybe all this ugliness will eventually lead to something good – a true picture of the inherent destructiveness of a capitalist economic system out of control.

    I recently heard that Toyota sells its immensely popular Prius at cost, in other words no profit. ( My community is loaded with them.) The question, to me, is why would a company sell a popular commodity at cost. Since demand normally raises price, this doesn’t make sense. It’s this kind of stuff that the UAW study might uncover and we’ll be the better for it, I hope.

  3. I am reading the book “The Toyota Way” and this first of the 14 principles says a lot about corporate America compared to other countries.

    I. Having a long-term philosophy that drives a long-term approach to building a learning organization. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

  4. Thanks, Angelia for answering my question.

    Maha’s recent article on ‘react vs respond’ easily applies to the American way of doing business.

  5. The GOP just keeps on bitting off their noses. The so called battle ground states will not vote for the GOP for at least 2 generations.

  6. Sure the GOP senators killed the bill, but Americans killed our auto industry. The perception that “foreign” cars are better or more “marketable” is bullshit. This myth has been part of the corporate propaganda that we see daily on TV news. I have never owned anything but American cars (ford, GM, Chrysler) and have never, not once had a lemon. I get a new company truck every 2-3 years never a lemon. In the end if the automakers fail we will only have ourselves to blame. Everyone in this country wants everything cheap, they want cheap cars, cheap products from wal-mart, cheap vegetables picked by illegal’s, everything cheap. Well don’t bitch when all you can make is $12.00 and hour.

    Hungry? Eat your Nissan!

  7. …just heard an interesting interview with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI, for those who may not know). She said she was a party to the failed negotiation session and says that UAW representatives agreed to the initial Republican demands, after which more stringent demands were brought up by the Republicans, to which they also agreed, after which even more stringent demands were brought up by the Republicans, to the point that it became clear to others in the room that there was never going to be a compromise.

    Oddly enough, that’s exactly the sort of scenario I would have predicted. The interesting thing is that the Republicans, judging from the recent comments of Shelby, DeMint, Huck Graham, and others, aren’t even trying to hide their overriding interest in union-busting at all costs. “The New Hoverites”, indeed…

  8. Does anyone know how you can calculate the actual cost of a car? Labor price varies so I’m trying to exclude that factor for now, but simply calculating the cost of its parts doesn’t technically work either, since machines assembling parts into a whole need to be maintained.

    I’d be interested to know exactly how much of the $25,000 I paid for my car actually went to the plant workers who assembled it. I’m guessing, not as much as everyone thinks.

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  10. The Congressional Repugs seem mentally stuck in 1908; for them, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is still 5 years in the future. Jeeves, wind up the Victrola and light me another cigar, while I chortle over our latest opportunity to smash those Red agitators from the IWW! (See Jack K’s comment above, for a synopsis of how this was done.)

    Meanwhile, I heard a scary statistic on NPR this morning: Best Buy advertised 24,000 seasonal jobs this holiday season, and received nearly 1 million applications.

  11. I heard DeMint interviewed on All Things Considered the other day. He said something to the effect that this auto bailout isn’t to help the workers, it’s to help the union.

    Uh, OK.

    I just wonder if these GOP idiots ever want to win another election. I guess maybe they think they have the wind at their backs since Chambliss managed to win in a recount, but do they really want to be responsible for the demise of GM and Chrysler? I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine that’s going to be popular with voters.

  12. Before any worker considers a compensation rollback, Congress should cut its own pay.

    In fact, Americans should make that our rallying cry in any case: Paycuts For Congress!

    Some of the folks who caused these economic crisises should be held accountable before ordinary workers take further hits.

  13. I’d be interested to know exactly how much of the $25,000 I paid for my car actually went to the plant workers who assembled it. I’m guessing, not as much as everyone thinks.

    Comment by Mrs. W —

    Just heard someone on CNBC state that the cost per auto worker is $800.00.

  14. Rachel Maddow (sorry no link) interviewed Robert Reich about this (he was Clinton’s Labor Secretary). Reich made the point that there’s kind of a war between the states aspect to this – that 18 new foreign auto plants are slated to be built in the South – mostly/all non unionized, and all with lavish taxpayer subsidies. I am curious how the GOP’s intransigence is received in their home states – obviously it benefits these foreign corporations.

    Rachel mentioned how the South has a strong and recent tradition of union busting, she brought up a 1934 textile mill strike.

    I get the sense of the old Southern aristocracy in action – first with the plantations, then textile mills, now autos. Nothing’s changed, and the union (in all sense of the word) be damned. Even better, is to seriously kick the US economy in the side with Detroit’s demise, and lay it at the feet of Obama to try and clean up the mess. In GOP terms, this is at least a two-fer.

  15. The unionization of workers in America has a unique pattern. Whereas most workers are not unionized at all, and efforts to unionize are usually illegally suppressed, the ones who, after all, are unionized make up a kind of “working class aristocracy”. This follows the pattern of “exclusive unions” common in other western countries in the 1800s. These types of unions were based on the medieval tradition of guilds, and would protect and insulate only those inside the unions. When labor movements became successful in Europe in the late 1800s, there was no longer any need for these exclusive unions, and “inclusive” unions were started instead.

    Inclusive unions would not be restricted to working for the needs of the members of the specific union, but would also have a focus on all working class people in general, and were instrumental in the creation of welfare societies. Some European countries have degrees of unionization in excess of 80% of the workforce, also including non-working class people.

    The autoworkers at GM are part of this working class aristocracy, and hence their high cost is choking GM. Why should one working class person, such as an autoworker, make five times as much money as another working class person, such as a restaurant worker??? The autoworkers unions should start over, abdicate from the throne of the working class aristocracy, which is now only to their own detriment, and start working towards the creation of inclusive unions in America.

    The U.S. Parliament

  16. On the plus side, I heard that Smithfield Pork, one of the worst abusers of workers in the country, has just gone UNION!!! 🙂
    I have not bought any Smithfield products since the late ’90’s when their labor practices were explained to me.
    Smithfields plant is about 20 miles from Fayetteville, NC, where I’ll live for another week before moving to upstate NY – unemployed.
    I know a woman who worked there for 6 months.
    She suffers from lung problems and other health issues, and will for the rest of her (probably) shortened life.
    In North Carolina, a blue, but still conservative state, this is very important.

  17. All of the southern states have double and tripple digit million dollar deficits. The only state without a deficit is LA. LA provides no sevices beyond police and the worst court system The use of non union labor has not improved the south’s ability to balance a budget.

  18. Not only are union hating Republicans hogs of the first order, they’re stupid too boot. I’m thinking when Henry Ford, not known as bleeding-heart liberal or even a very nice man, was called on the carpet by his fellow-industrialists for paying his workers $5.00/day, his reply was that he wanted them to be able to buy his cars.

  19. This was/is posturing by the Republicans. They wanted any ‘deal’ to fail. They wanted the failure in negotiations to be the fault of the UAW. They want the Democrats to override what happened yesterday, preferably on Obama’s watch. They want GM to fail after a bailout and default on the loan. The objective is to place blame in 2012 – on the UAW & foolish Democrats who invested in GM & Chrysler when they wise Republicans knew better.

    Republicans are betting against the US auto industry (which may be a smart bet) and forcing Democrats as a party to commit to save the industry. Leaving Dems up a creek if the indusry fails.

    Bipartisan my ass.

  20. The autoworkers at GM are part of this working class aristocracy, and hence their high cost is choking GM.

    Rubbish and rot. It’s bad management combined with health-care costs that are choking GM.

    The autoworkers at GM are part of this working class aristocracy, and hence their high cost is choking GM. Why should one working class person, such as an autoworker, make five times as much money as another working class person, such as a restaurant worker???

    We’ve learned that the average GM autoworker makes just under $30 an hour. So you’re saying that workers should be paid $6 an hour (30 is 5 x 6)?

  21. This afternoon I learned firsthand how this is playing in the non-union heartland:

    Three women at coffee break– lefty me, middle-of-the-road Lucille (an Obama admirer and Bill Clinton despiser), and righty Angie (well-intentioned but brainwashed).

    Lucille: “Well, the auto makers aren’t getting that bailout they wanted.”

    Angie: “It’s because the workers refused to give anything up.”

    Me: “No, Angie, it’s because the Republicans played bait-and-switch with the union. [I proceed to relate the Stabenow version of negotiations. Angie looks very surprised.] And besides, it’s all a question of scale. If one CEO gives up his $6 million bonus, how many workers’ annual health-insurance premiums would that pay? A thousand?”

    Lucille: “Think how we’dfeel if [sotto voce] the bosses here came and asked us all to take pay cuts–”

    Me: “–Or to give up our health insurance benefit.”

    Lucille: “But the union workers don’t need to make $70 an hour.”

    [I correct Lucille’s figures, and point out that the Toyota workers make about the same as a UAW worker for the Big Three.]

    Angie: “But Toyota’s making cars that people want to buy.”

    [Frequently there’s no causal connection with Angie’s observations. I’ve learned to take it in stride, because in this manner she often wins my arguments for me.]

    Me: “Right… the Prius, which everyone wants right now, because it’s fuel-efficient. Detroit has to stop making driveable buildings with four tires that get three miles to the gallon.” [A subtle dig at Angie, who only ever drives big SUVs.]

    Lucille: “So why do we hear that it’s all the union’s fault?”

    Me: “Well, where do you get your news? [A longstanding rhetorical point which the others need not answer, for I know that Lucille watches CBS and listens to Paul Harvey, and Angie watches Fox and listens to Rush.] The Republicans in Congress see this as their chance to do some union-busting, so they’re selling it that way. And if the news you listen to is just promoting their agenda, you won’t have the facts.”

    Lucille agrees with this observation, I suspect because Katie Couric has begun to grate on her nerves. But it’s time for us to return noses to grindstone, so the discussion ends.

    Moral of the story? The average cubicle dweller in Nebraska is more sympathetic to the UAW than you’d think. The trend in our thinking is toward working-class solidarity; in the last three months, the scales have fallen from many people’s eyes.

    Oh, and Moral #2– someone needs to send us a big box of Russell Stover chocolates, stat, before we start throwing punches.

  22. Mrs W @ 1:09:

    “I’d be interested to know exactly how much of the $25,000 I paid for my car actually went to the plant workers who assembled it. ”

    Mrs. W, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in three different assembly plants over my 23+ year career. The answer to your question is: it depends.

    Let me explain

    On average, a domestic vehicle requires 22-32 hours of direct assembly labor to produce. That range is a consequence of the different content and complexity in vehicles, i.e. power windows or not, power locks or not, type of transmission, type of engine, etc. Pickup trucks and small cars tend toward the lower end, while complicated sports/luxury cars are more labor intensive. Add to that direct labor about 3-4 hours of indirect labor for maintenance, material and support functions.

    Little known fact: the gap between domestic and import labor content has been narrowing for the last 20 years so that it takes GM about the same amount of labor to build a Malibu as it does for Toyota to build a Corolla, with the same or better fit, finish and quality.

  23. Labor is about 5% of the cost of a car for US auto makers, 10% if you count the cost of retiree’s benefits. If we had universal health care, these numbers would go down.

  24. The GOP senators wanted to take a shot at unionized labor. That’s all.

    They wanted it so bad that they were willing to send our economy further into the crapper (assuming, of course, they hadn’t gotten a wink from the White House, so they knew Bush/Paulson would fold on their resistance to using TARP $. They might have.)

    It wasn’t really about numbers; there was no number that would have worked. The senators in question wouldn’t have agreed to the bill even if the UAW had volunteered to work for $1 a year and give the senators daily foot rubs. The senators would have demanded something, anything, that the UAW couldn’t agree to (coconut oil, or a different time for the foot rubs each day, or something) just to have the excuse to blame the breakdown on the union.

    And, of course, set the Democrats up as stooges in the thrall of the unreasonable union for wanting to get the deal done. Why else would the Democrats be supporting such an “unreasonable” union position, if not because of the UAW’s campaign contributions? It’s a two-fer.

    These senators aren’t actually interested in governance; they care less for the effects of what they do in the real world than for the effects it has in the kabuki power rituals and ideological dance of the Senate.

    I hope Barack, being the smart guy I take him to be, is prepared for the fact that, for all that he might want to be post-partisan and pragmatic, there are still a bunch of bomb-throwers in the GOP who will be happy to derail any reasonable legislation, for ideological purity or just for the fun of it.

  25. The only American unions that qualify as “aristocracy” are the sports unions–football, baseball, basketball, and umpires. The rest of union people struggle from paycheck to paycheck like most other Americans. The Repugs are so rich and have been so rich for so long, they have forgotten what it is like to struggle every day to make ends meet. I agree with someone above who said we should start demanding that Congress take a cut in pay to set an example. I know–don’t hold your breath. Remember whe Congress men and women used to weigh the issues carefully with ALL the facts; and, then, do WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE COUNTRY. How can any reasonable person (which I understand eliminates a lot of Republicans) could think that this auto bailout is a bad thing is beyond.

  26. This is not just about taking a shot at labor… it is not unlike King Solomon threatening to cut the baby (auto industry. it’s jobs, and supply chain businesses) in half and a supposed but petulant parent (GOP legislators) saying “Go right ahead.”

    They would rather see American industry crumble than cooperate. What manner of persons have been elected to whom cooperation is worse than death. Who do they serve?

    One thing is for sure, they are the ones who brought us to this point and not anyone else.

    Once again they prove they will not be wrong, these economic jihadists…not so different from suicide bombers albeit in the economic sense. They will bring everything down if they cannot have their way.

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