General Motors

In 1962 General Motors sold 50% of all cars in the U.S.  Charlie Wilson, President of GM said at the time.  “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” 

In 2009 GM filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and was bailed to the tune of 50 billion by the American taxpayers who ultimately lost 10 billion on the deal.  GM was further helped by its Union Workers who accepted tier 2 workers.  (worker paid less with no insurance.)  Reduced medical benefits for retirees and a moratorium on the right to strike through 2015.  American’s have, indeed, been good to GM as they have posted a 26-billion-dollar profit since the bailout.

Now the big question; how GM has been good for Americans in return.  They have proposed shuttering four more plants in the U.S.  (4 of the most American made cars are Hondas.)   General Motors is the largest auto manufacturer employer in Mexico paying an average rate of $2.30 per hour.  Rather than return the favor of the Unions steep concessions during the bailout it has forced them to strike and see how the workers $250 dollars a week strike pay works against their billions in profits.

GM has treated a few Americans Decently

As the Chief Executive and CEO Mary Barra receives a compensation package that includes her base salary, stock options, short term incentive pay, and a performance bonus. In total, Barra received $21.8 million for her role. In addition to her annual compensation package, Barra is accruing a post-GM safety net through the Executive Severance Program. Upon retirement, Barra is guaranteed at least $38,389,634.  Add in another 34 million for the rest of the executive team.  The Profits have yet to trickle down to the factory floor, hedge funds and other financial firms have been paid 6.6. billion in dividends along with a buyback of 7.1 billion in company stock.

GM is also using its profits to diversify, investing half a billion dollars into Lyft.   A company that offers no training, no benefits, no workers comp, and low pay.

Folks, GM provides a quintessential look at the evolution of Moral Capitalism to Immoral Capitalism.   A Company that once provided great jobs and benefits to millions of people now leverages the taxpayer bailout to exploit workers here and abroad for short term profits for the board and investors.  When GM announced the closure of four U.S. plants, stock prices rose rewarding the investor while penalizing the worker.   With their half-billion-dollar investment in Lyft it is clear to see their goals have little to do with Americans or anyone else besides their own short-term goals of mega profit for themselves.

Charlie Wilson’s quote needs to be edited to reflect GM’s new standards.  What’s good for GM Executives is not good for America.  

Walter Reuther

Portrait of Walter Reuther Department of Labor Hall of Honor

Walter Reuther, President of UAW, 1946-1970

Going back into the history of GM and its workers I found Walter Reuther, President of the UAW from 1946-1970.  Walter negotiated the treaty of Detroit, a five-year contract that gave workers full pensions, better medical, improved job security, cost of living increases and annual 2% increases in real wages.  He started pattern bargaining, whereby concessions won from negotiations with one company were used as a precedent for negotiations with other companies.  The contract ushered in the longest period of working-class prosperity in American history.

Walter was a Socialist (gasp!) He believed the UAW was more than just a trade union.  What he saw was a social movement that should work to improve society as a whole.  He had the UAW support the Montgomery bus boycott and paid the bail for Rosa parks and 87 other defendants.  An ally of Martin Luther King who called Walter, a shining symbol of democratic trade Unionism.

Wage Stagnation

Just as Walter helped herald in the longest period of worker prosperity in American the oligarchs of Corporations have ushered in the longest period of wage stagnation in our Nation’s history, 30 years and counting.

Today, as 50,000 GM workers risk all to take a stand for all of us, I am heartened by Walter’s words.  “A social movement that works to improve society as a whole.” Today we live in a world that is connected.  Platforms like One Union could connect every auto worker in the world, except Communist China.  We can realize that in order to end the exploitation of Americans we need to end the exploitation period.  Dare to imagine a world that each worker agrees to compete on hard work, innovation, talent and not on who is the most exploited.  It would stop this mass exploitation of all people.  Companies would be aided by taking away the sleazy but easy exploitation option and could concentrate on quality and innovation for growth.  This world is a lot closer than you think.

Cheers to GM workers!



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