Monday, October 22, 2007

Last Days of the UAW ?

It appears that the UAW is having trouble getting its members to support the labor agreement that it struck with Chrysler LLC (more here). A conventional interpretation might view this as bad for Chrysler - if the union rank and file demands more, the way to get a deal is to satisfy them. I wouldn't jump to this conclusion, however, because anytime the link between leadership and rank and file is weakened in a major negotiation, it doesn't usually work out well for labor. It appears that Chrysler has created an opportunity to divide and conquer, to play off fiefdoms within the UAW and exploit the UAW leadership's need to save face. With GM's workers on the job and getting paid under the terms of their new deal, it would be hard for Chrysler's rank and file to strike because they'd only be hurting Chrysler and themselves without the prospect of securing gains for UAW workers across the auto industry. As for Ford, they have to be liking the impotency of a strike threat as well as a UAW leadership team that needs a deal or will likely be out of a cushy job.

Gettelfinger & Co. will have to play some serious chess to keep the UAW from fracturing along manufacturer or facility lines. I predicted (and here) that private equity could be the end for the UAW. We still aren't there by a long shot, but we are closer now than we ever have been. This is unfolding fast, also as I predicted.


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