Hey, UAW and Big Three — how about us consumers?

Yep, these are USED. Note that I blocked out the dealer’s name, because it would be unfair to suggest this dealer is the problem. These are quite typical.

You know — the hundreds of millions of people who will be affected by what y’all come up with…

I’m being a little facetious here, but it’s in service of a larger point. So bear with me. Let’s start with the news. And in keeping with my new resolution to link, as often as possible, to things you don’t have to subscription to read or hear, I’ll refer you to NPR:

With less than 24 hours left before current strikes expire, the United Auto Workers’ union and the Detroit Big 3 automakers have not yet reached a deal.

The companies say it’s still possible to work out a viable compromise before 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. The union, meanwhile, has started laying out its strike plan – an unusual one, at that….

Follow the link for the rest.

I’ve been watching this in recent days, while I’ve also been doing something else. My youngest daughter has just moved home from Dominica, and started a new job a week ago. She’s been driving to work in our 1998 Volvo, which, let’s say, is not in what you’d call tip-top condition. So she’s been trying to buy a decent, reliable used vehicle that she can afford. And I’ve been trying — so far unsuccessfully — to help her, which is what made me think to post this about these labor negotiations:

OK, I was kidding there — a little. I’m not asking that the interests of the companies and the workers — be subordinated to Brad’s interests. Anyway, no matter what they do, I expect decent used cars will continue to cost more than I paid the last time I bought a new car. (After all, I’ve only bought used ones since 1986.)

But I was thinking that there’s ONE way for the union and the companies to get everything they want — to jack up prices even further, and by a LOT. And I was thinking there are a LOT more consumers who would be paying for that than there are auto workers or corporate executives combined.

Consider this just another blow struck for thinking about issues in something other than binary, one-and-zeroes terms.

As for the two parties we’re all focusing on… For my part, I’d like to see both sides get what they want, to the extent possible. This country needs a thriving auto industry, and the workers deserve a square deal.

What we don’t need, in my view, is CEO’s making $29 million a year. Nor do we need workers to continue to be paid, for decades, to show up at a plant that’s been shut down, and sit around playing checkers. This is called a “jobs bank,” and after wisely giving them up to keep the industry in business the UAW has recently talked about wanting this arrangement back.

Maybe somewhere in there, y’all can find a way to get what you both actually deserve, and maybe give the rest of us a break, too. Or at least not make the price situation worse.

Anyway, good luck with your confrontation, folks. Here’s hoping that after all the rhetoric and posturing — and probably suffering before it’s all over — you work out something fair to all…

14 thoughts on “Hey, UAW and Big Three — how about us consumers?

  1. Doug Ross

    Cut the CEO pay to zero and you can cut the price of the 4.2 million Fords sold each year by $7.00 each.

    Remember Obama’s Cash for Clunkers program that paid people to take used cars off the market? That automatically jacked up the used car prices by cutting supply.

    A big chunk of the car price goes to health benefits that the unions negotiated.. remember those Cadillac plans that were magically not included included Obamacare to pay back those loyal Democrat Union voters?

    And all those government regulations for safety, environment have a cost, too. Plus all the costs of risk avoidance from lawsuits and recalls.

    Supply and demand is easy to understand.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Cut the CEO pay to zero and you can cut the price of the 4.2 million Fords sold each year by $7.00 each.”

      Yup. And that’s the problem with the assumptions of the striking workers. The UAW president stirs them up with talking about how executive salaries has quadrupled since the bankruptcy days, and speaks as though the workers should expect the same.

      Which is ridiculous. The arithmetic doesn’t work.

      Personally, I don’t expect ANYTHING that comes out of these negotiations to lower prices. I just thought that was a fun way of bringing up the subject, to see if y’all had any thoughts you wanted to share.

      I was simply trying to suggest that, as I do with all things, I would like to see the participants abandon the binary, two-sides-striving-for-advantage model, and look at things more holistically.

      What I would really like would be for everyone involved to look at what’s best for the industry — workers and management — as well as the overall society that relies on having a healthy automobile industry.

      That means everyone taking the long view — or perhaps I should say, the broad view — of improving the situation. Rather than each participant thinking, How can I get as much as possible for MY SIDE?

      Let’s look at executive pay. I think if I were a board member at a Big Three company, I wouldn’t want to pay my executives that much. Maybe the market would “force” me to, but I’d do my best to avoid it. And I’d do it not only for the greater good — for the sake of the workers and society as a whole — but for the company. I don’t think it serves the company well at all to wave such a huge red flag at the workers and consumers and everyone else, stirring up their cupidity as well (“They got THEIRS, so let’s get OURS!”), not to mention broader class resentment.

      And it’s not just about some people being rich and other people not. When you’re throwing millions around to a select few, you’re telling the workers and the world that you don’t need that money for R&D — which you most certainly do. You need to be developing those better electric vehicles and better batteries, and figuring out how to mass-produce them so that they are affordable. Thinking bigger, you need to be working on how to develop a wider infrastructure network so that recharging becomes as convenient to the traveler as stopping at the nearest gas station.

      Show the workers you’re investing what you’ve made since the great recession into ensuring not only a healthy future for the company, but good jobs for the workers.

      That’s what I’d do, anyway — had I that responsibility for the company.

      On a personal level, as you know, I’d prefer to invest in public transportation. In any city with a healthy transit system, my daughter wouldn’t even need that car. She works downtown, and we live very close to a major thoroughfare that runs to there. Any metro transit system would have a line very near us.

      But that’s not practical until we have sufficient population density, and enough of my neighbors agree with me… So I have to keep these vehicles running….

  2. Barry

    Today on Sirius radio 124, Steve Scully had a guest on from the Economist to discuss the strike and the unusual nature of their plans. It was a great interview.

    Steve is such a good host and has great guests and I am glad to get to listen to his show each day from 12noon to 2pm.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I need to write a separate post to ask folks “How many of you watch or listen to things on a broadcast schedule?”

      Which is another way of saying, Do you have to listen from noon to 2? Or can you stream it?

      For me, I don’t watch or listen to anything that’s scheduled at a certain time. I do so when I can.

      Well, let me modify that… sometimes I watch new episodes on ETV with my wife, because she still likes to do it on schedule. Sometimes I suggest, “This isn’t a good time. Why don’t we watch it later on the app?” But not always….

      And I will watch MLB playoffs live, starting on my birthday — IF I can get them on a station I can get without cable. And then, of course, I’ll tune into what our old friend Jack Keefe would call the World Serious…

      1. Barry

        You can stream any of the shows on Sirius 124 from computer or from phone.

        They rebroadcast many of the shows in the evening.

        I was actually listening to the rebroadcast of Steve’s show last night at 7:30 as I picked my daughter up from some after school activities.

        The “live” show is on from noon to 2pm.

  3. Doug Ross

    After you buy the car, you then get that nice property tax bill from the county that is easily over $1000 for a new car. It’s hard to pick which tax is dumbest, but the car tax may be the winner. Doesn’t matter how many miles you drive the car, you pay based on what someone in the county decides it’s worth. A 15 year old truck driven 30k miles a year will likely cost 1/4 or less of the tax of a new car driven by a senior citizen 50 miles a week. How many government employees are required to calculate the tax, handle requests for high mileage rebates, etc? Charge a flat fee per vehicle and be done with it.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yesterday, we got a tax bill for our 2006 Buick Lucerne — which we gave away to ETV last week. (Why? Well, it had been a great car for quite a few years, but it had developed a problem that caused us to spend beaucoup money to try to fix over and over and over, and it still didn’t get fixed. I just hope ETV can sell it for parts or something — most of it’s in pretty fair shape.)

      Anyway, we’re having to ‘splain that to the tax people.

      And also having to explain why I failed to take the license plate off before it was towed away. Yeah, it makes sense, but nobody told me, and I didn’t think of it…

  4. Doug Ross

    Many people hate libertarians until they have to deal with the government.

    Raise the gas tax and eliminate the property tax on cars. My car tax bill shouldn’t pay for schools and libraries and the zoo.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The zoo? Doug hates animals!

      No, he does not. Note that his avatar (assuming y’all can see it; I’m never sure what other people can see) has pretty much always been a pooch.

      But of course, hating libertarians would be even worse than hating pooches….

      1. Barry

        My vehicle tax and property tax are quite reasonable. I really can’t complain about it.

        Raising the gas tax would be a bad idea for several reasons. One reason being more and more people are driving less, especially younger Americans.

        I’ve been quite pleased with our local law enforcement, and EMS and fire services. They’ve really upgraded their equipment over the last 3-5 years and are continuing to do so. I can see where the money is going.

        A small, but reasonable portion also goes to our local technical college where one of my children currently attend. His tuition this semester is under $200 for 4 classes. The county implemented a program for local high school graduates with the goal of helping more of them stay in our local county after graduation. Preliminary data seems to indicate it’s working as the college regularly promotes local students that have been hired at local companies right after they get their 2-year degree or trade certificate.

        1. Doug Ross

          Your taxes are randomly assigned based on the age and assumed value of your car and home . It’s a dumb system

          1. Barry

            It’s doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface. I won’t ague there.

            But right now I don’t think raising the gas tax would be possible, and I am not sure that it’s solution in the long run.

            As your car ages though, it becomes a non-issue for many people given the tax is pretty low.

            I just don’t see a good alternative that most would accept.

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