Originally created 11/22/05

Unions need to retool

Many times, American manufacturers are victims of unfair competition abroad.

This is not one of those times.

The American automobile industry is experiencing tough times because of 1) outdated and bloated benefits for union workers and 2) sagging sales of gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles.

High labor costs, generous health care obligations and crushing pension liabilities certainly are weighing down General Motors, which hopes to avoid bankruptcy by eliminating 30,000 jobs and closing nine North American plants. The company announced Monday that Georgia's Doraville assembly plant will be among those closed.

Auto manufacturers, as all others, must retool every now and then, and GM is said to have excess plant capacity.

Still, it's the unions that really need retooling. The cradle-to-grave philosophy that underpins most union contracts is not only hopelessly anachronistic but also makes it nearly impossible for American car makers to compete in today's global market.

This is little comfort, of course, to those GM workers whose plants are dimming. All the more reason for auto workers to press their union advocates to accept more realistic conditions of employment.

No one pulls down a paycheck at a closed plant.


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