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When workers own GM and Chrysler
New deals could give the United Auto Workers, and taxpayers, big stakes in the struggling automakers
 

What happened
Under pending deals to stave off bankruptcy at Chrysler and General Motors, the United Auto Workers union would take 55 percent ownership of Chrysler and a 39 percent stake in GM. In return, the automakers would slash contributions to their UAW health-care pension funds. The U.S. government would hold 50 percent of GM’s stock. (The Globe and Mail)

What the commentators said
UAW workers now get to show if they can run GM and Chrysler better than their bosses, said Dean Foust in BusinessWeek. And if a similar experiment at United Airlines is any guide, their success hinges largely on whether they “act as owners,” including accepting the “trade-offs and sacrifices that owners sometimes have to make.”

Fat chance, said Holman Jenkins in The Wall Street Journal. Now on both sides of the labor contract bargaining table, the UAW will continue to “extract uncompetitive pay and benefits,” with support—and directives on making unmarketable “green” cars—from Washington. Bankruptcy would be preferable, as it would be for the benefit of the automakers’ “shafted” creditors, not its workers.

Some “conservative ideologues” may see this as an attack on “free market principles,” said the Detroit Free Press in an editorial. But the “more adventuresome” among us might look at it as a challenge: Can Uncle Sam and the UAW really “save auto jobs, reduce climate-warming pollutants, diminish dependence on foreign oil, and turn a profit, all at the same time”?

 

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