Mortal Embrace

These days, whenever I hear news about the perpetual struggles between the UAW and GM, I sort of feel the way I do when I hear about an epic football game between, say, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota. An interesting matchup? Yup. Lots of history? Yup. Nationally interesting? Er, sort of. Relevant in any way to my own life? Nah.

Myself not being an expert on German metaphysics, I’m not sure if it’s possible to feel schadenfreude for both participants in a death-wrestle. But that’s pretty much how I feel reading today’s news from Detroit, where the UAW decided to strike as it continues negotiating with GM over several issues, primarily health care benefits.

UAW members started picketing at Hamtramck, Lansing and Orion and other locations when the union’s 11 a.m. deadline for a new labor agreement with General Motors Corp. passed.

Carole Garcia, driving out of the Hamtramck plant with a picket sign sticking out of her sunroof, said she supports Ron Gettelfinger and believes executives are overpaid while workers are being asked to make sacrifices.

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” she said.

While strikers and sympathizers honked horns, workers streamed out of the plant at their regularly scheduled lunch hour. They hustled to pick up signs and head to their posts at three gates to the plant, which usually makes Buicks and Cadillac DTS sedans.

Ah, yes, the Caddy DTS and various models of Buick.  But surely America itself must soon DEMAND that GM meet the UAW’s demands … how can we live without our Buicks?

And therein, of course, lies the problem.  While GM remains a global behemoth, the weakness of its brands and the perceived poor quality of its vehicles mean that it’s increasingly irrelevant in its home market.  Pride of place now belongs to Toyota, which has very few “legacy issues” with its American workforce.

As for GM’s future, I’m sure there are some workers making $5 a day somewhere outside of Shanghai who are extremely happy about what’s going on in Detroit.  And no joke — GM’s stock is actually up a bit as news of the strike hits the financial markets.