Friday, July 20, 2007

Concession Stand

(Graphic from CRAP)
As the UAW faces a summer of negotiating major new contracts with US automakers NPR could have used this as an opportunity to look a the range of opinions regarding labor strategies and tactics in the current environment of predatory global capital, nonunion southern auto plants, and health insurance ripoffs.

Instead Frank Langfitt limited the discussion to how pragmatic and necessary concessions are.
Yesterday's ATC and today's Morning Edition focused mainly on how UAW president, Ron Gettelfinger, is so grown up and reasonable (though others would disagree). Here is what we hear about Gettelfinger:
  • "instead of railing against the company, Gettelfinger went to work making changes in the plant and improving the product."
  • "...brings a needed sense of realism as the union bargains with companies staring into the abyss."
  • "... a sophisticated person."
  • "Instead, the word that keeps coming up when you talk about Gettelfinger is pragmatic."
Langfitt does briefly mention that some workers are concerned. He says, "Like other workers, Parker wants Gettelfinger and union leaders to put up a fight. Parker says that if they keep giving up workers' benefits it undermines the union's very reason to exist." That was on ATC yesterday, but this morning we get the following interchange with another autoworker:
Langfitt: " other workers, Henry's resigned to concessions."
Henry: "We've been getting and getting and getting, and we may have to give a little back, it's as simple as that."
Langfit: "But he also thinks if Gettelfinger, the union president, makes too many concessions, workers will reject the contract....and yet the consequences of that could be even worse....the companies will just ship jobs to low cost countries."
See, unions have just been "getting and getting and getting." In fact according to Langfitt (and the conservative George Will) In earlier decades, when Detroit dominated the market, the United Auto Workers got great benefits for their members and built a virtual WELFARE STATE. Now the companies are trying to dismantle it." That is some loaded language. I'm looking forward to NPR's balancing this with describing the auto executives as setting up a virtual extortion ring! I think I'll be waiting awhile for that one.

Some good alternatives to this pro-concession reporting can be found at: Labor Notes and Counter Punch.


Anonymous said...

That corporate globalization viewpoint was standard fare for NPR (or any MSM these days). But what really marks the "NPR style" is the note of relief that creeps into the story when Gettelfinger is described as not being like the rest of those union slobs. The intro described him as "trim", as having a "background in accounting" and as "unable to tell a joke", i.e. "don't worry, listeners, he's one of us". The obvious implication is that typically, union leaders are fat, dumb slobs who'd rather hang out with their buds than study the business environment of the firms where they represent workers. C'mon, NPR, why don't you REALLY tell us what you think of people who get their hands dirty for a living? No matter how rapidly US productivity grows, NPR persists in retailing the myth that US workers are lazy and overpaid.

(Another example of this is the sneering disdain with which Michael Moore's movie SICKO was reviewed.)

Life As I Know It Now said...

yeah, I think you'll be waiting until hell freezes over for that one!