The strike by the United Auto Workers that has shut down most of General Motors Corp. has exposed a flaw in the laws governing management/labor contract negotiations. With 26 of 29 GM assembly plants and many GM parts factories at a standstill, more than 166,000 employees are out of work. The company is losing an estimated $300 million a day while taking a tough stance to boost outsourcing, the crux of the problem with the union.
The strike has severely hurt rubber auto parts makers that supply GM; layoffs have been reported by several rubber processors, and more can be expected.
Yes, outsourcing is the problem. The UAW wants to protect its jobs, while GM would like to increase its outsourcing, currently about 25 percent, closer to the range of rivals Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp.-about 35 and 40 percent, respectively.
But is outsourcing the official reason for the strike? No.
Outsourcing is not a ``mandatory'' bargaining issue, and the union by law can't walk out over it. Instead, the 2,700 workers at the two GM brake plants struck over safety concerns.
Yet everyone-labor, management, suppliers and customers-knows the strike is over job security. The UAW correctly fears outsourcing will cost its members' jobs.
So the union turns to safety issues: There are so many safety-related regulations in existence, its virtually impossible for a company to be 100-percent in compliance at all times. That gives the union the loophole it needs to strike, while the real issue is outsourcing.
This is a silly way to do business. Of course unions will use this device to reopen negotiations so they can address more pertinent issues. But there is an inherent dishonesty to the entire process.
Truth is vital for successful management/labor relations. The labor laws should be changed to allow open, honest discussions about outsourcing, rather than forcing the parties to resort to game-playing.
Morry Taylor didn't win the Republican nomination for president, and, in retrospect, didn't have much of an impact on the process. But give the Titan Wheel International Inc. chief credit-he put his money, time and effort where his mouth is.