Why are we blaming the workers?

Time was this country was proud of its workers. We were proud of the grit and determination, the ethos of pulling yourself up by the bootlaces. They built this country and they saved it in its time of greatest need.

Rosie the Riveter

Now, it seems the Republicans are going to take every opportunity to drag them down. Instead of congratulating them on their solid contributions to domestic manufacturing, now they are to blame for the downfall of all that is wrong with American industry.

So, let’s take a look at the situation with the Detroit 3. Republicans, at the last moment, insisted that the unions agree to cut its wages to be competitive with foreign companies such as Honda, Toyota and BMW by a set date. Of course, these politicians know very well that worker wages are not the financial issue. But, it is a handy political issue. Union members don’t tend to vote Republican.

Wages, according to Gwen Ifill of the PBS program Washington Week, account for somewhere around 10 percent of costs in the automobile industry. Chopping down those wages and negotiated benefits are not going to solve the problems.

But maybe if the Republicans are serious they might use the union wages and benefits as a measuring stick. That is, let’s calculate what the workers would be giving up by dropping down to the level of their non-unionized colleagues at Honda, BMW, and Toyota. Let’s make it a percentage of total compensation. Then let’s apply that same percentage drop to all all constituents such as salaried employees and executives, union bosses, shareholders, suppliers, utilities, car dealerships, debt holders and maybe even Michigan politicians. Let’s share the burden equally.

And, let’s see how popular this solution is to everyone. Either it’s a fair assessment of what it is going to take to save this crucial domestic industry, or its not. Just don’t blame the workers if its not a popular solution.

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