05/04/09 — Eye on unions: Auto industry cannot be saved without hard look at UAW

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Eye on unions: Auto industry cannot be saved without hard look at UAW

For the next few months, Americans are going to be watching with interest to see what happens with Chrysler and General Motors.

Chrysler, in particular, is facing a scary time that could well end in bankruptcy, even with the federal bailout money.

The company's executives are busy preparing a reconstruction plan designed to eliminate some of the company's debt -- and to try to keep the firm solvent.

And, of course, every politician who can possibly come up with a reason to slam the company or its use of bailout money is busy sharing his or her views on the missteps of those who have been tasked with running Chrysler.

But there is a large elephant in the room -- one that has to be addressed if the automaker is going to recover and continue to produce cars in a cost-effective and profitable manner.

The blame for the demise of the auto industry does not just lie in a board room in Detroit. It also can be found in years of mismanagement and unreasonable demands from the industry's perennially strong auto union.

Rather than protecting union workers, these machines have actually lined the pockets of many of their own big shots while making demands that have contributed in large part to the poor economic conditions in the industry.

And now, when the market for new automobiles is not healthy anyway, and the companies are facing bankruptcy, many autoworkers are facing unemployment lines and potential plant closures.

Fixing the auto industry will require more than a new financial plan, it will require a whole new look at unions and what they can -- and should -- demand.

Published in Editorials on May 4, 2009 9:52 AM