Average pay: seventy-five dollars an hour. Okay, that's an average--some make more, some make less--but you do realize that $75 an hour translates to $150,000 per year, right? (Gross, not net. Still.)
A worker whose job has been banked--ie a guy who punches in, sits in a room doing sudoku all day, and who then goes home at the end of his "shift"--makes 85% of that, or $127,000. For doing nothing whatsoever that benefits his employer. For just keeping a chair warm.
To be sure, I wouldn't mind that job. In fact, I'd like to offer my services to any of the Big Three who want to replace these men: I will sit in a room and heat a chair for them for $50,000 per year without any other compensation whatsoever. Since this kind of thing can be done anywhere I'll insist that the chair to be kept warm be sent to my home, but I'm even willing to pay for the shipping. If the automakers were to replace their union chair-warmers with contract labor such as what I am offering, it would save them $75,000 per employee plus the costs of other benefits. No retirement, no medical, nothing, just the $50,000.
If the union tried to unionize my shop, I could simply vote "no", as I'd be the only worker. (Mom can heat a chair too, but that's her own lookout. Besides, she's retired.)
Oh, but what about the union chair-warmers? What would they do for jobs? They'd all be fired! Well, they could become contract workers and make a much more reasonable $50,000 per year for warming their chairs, and they could even still do it in the same location. But as independent contractors they couldn't unionize.
Let's face it: the kid at Wendy's who makes minimum wage for schlepping burgers is more economically useful than some union baby sitting in the job bank all day. At least the kid is doing honest work; the chair-warmers are doing nothing but sucking at the union teat.
Problem is, the union teat is cancerous and it's killing the automakers. Time--past time!--for a mastectomy.
This is why I don't support the automaker bailout: the automakers need to declare bankruptcy and restructure and get rid of the union contracts.
It's not that I object to people making a lot of money; I don't. But the labor market works best when labor is compensated for its true value. When it comes to run-of-the-mill assembly line personnel, there is not a single one of them on the planet who is worth $75 per hour plus benefits. (There are many skilled tradesmen working for the automakers. A master tool-and-die maker is worth much more than the guy who hangs a fender on a car so the next guy can bolt it down. I'm not talking about the skilled people.) The guy who sits in a room drinking coffee and heating a chair is worth approximately zero to the company--regardless of his skills and training--and should not be employed. He should be laid off or fired, period. Granted, it's not his fault that the company no longer needs him where he lives, but life sucks and everyone has problems; if we made every corporation retain everyone they ever hired unless the guy committed a firing offense no one would ever hire anyone. (Don't believe me? Look at France, which has a huge unemployment rate. This is how France operates.)
Automakers can't continue to support the lavish compensation packages that the UAW demands of them; there is too much competition from countries with much lower labor costs. The UAW has been obsolete since the 1970s, when Japanese automakers began encroaching on the Big Three's market share.
The time for the UAW is over.