Between the Lines: The UAW Responds to Ford's Way Forward Plan

After all the build-up, Ford s Black Monday had a distinctly grayish tinge to it. The Blue Oval Boys bad news bash was pretty much what everyone expected: 30k factory jobs, 4k managerial position and 14 factories scythed from Henry s North American operations. The fine print was, of course, exceedingly fine. To wit: no mention was made of the United Auto Workers (UAW) contract, which guarantees that not one Ford assembly worker will find themselves on the street without a significant payoff. If you thought that this iron-clad income protection program would stimulate the union to show a little magnanimity towards Ford s recovery effort, think again.

The restructuring plan announced this morning by Ford is extremely disappointing and devastating news for the many thousands of hardworking men and women who have devoted their working lives to Ford. The impacted hourly and salaried workers find themselves facing uncertain futures because of senior management's failure to halt Ford's sliding market share.

Union boss Big Ron Gettelfinger s opening gambit makes the UAW sound like a WASPy father contemplating his son s pregnancy-inducing dalliance with the maid s daughter — or worse ( I m disappointed in you Fredo ). His condescending tone also implies that Ford s cost-cutting is a betrayal of the UAW workers selfless dedication to the company s corporate welfare. Obviously, the union missed the whole Wall Street thing, where the average American learned that greed is good, employers don t really give a shit about their employees and it s every man for himself.

Less surprising: Big Ron s decision to immediately and unequivocally blame Ford s senior management for the workers uncertain future (as opposed to the future guaranteed by your friendly neighborhood labor union). I guess there s no UAW in team.

The announcement has further left a cloud hanging over the entire work force because of pending future announcements of additional facilities to be closed at some point in the future. Unfortunately, analyst and media speculation during the last month has made these events even more wrenching for Ford workers, their families and communities.

If the UAW builds cars like its officers write sentences, it s no wonder Ford s behind the proverbial eight ball. I haven t encountered a sentence that clunky since I stopped reading badly translated in-flight articles.

Although we get the union s overarching desire to paint their members as victims, why did the UAW take such a cheap shot at the media and analysts? Surely the union s us vs. them, circle the wagons philosophy shouldn t extend to the two groups whose support could help further their cause.

The announced plant closings and future announcements are the subject of ongoing discussions with Ford. Certainly, today's announcement will only make the 2007 negotiations all the more difficult and all the more important.

Just in case you haven t picked-up on his the fat lady isn t even in the house yet tone, Big Ron spells it out: have your fun now Mr. Baby Face Mark Fields; we ll see what s what and who s who in 07. There s also a clear implication that Ford had no business changing anything about the size of its business without the union s say-so — and will pay dearly for their presumption.

Like the 2002 plan, Ford's new 'Way Forward' is based on cutting jobs and closing facilities to 'align' Ford's production capacity with shrinking demand for Ford's vehicles. Then, as now, the focus should instead be on striving to gain market share in this competitive market by offering consumers innovative and appealing products.

Note the quotation marks around the word align; sarcasm is alive and well within organized labor. In his own special way, Big Ron is twisting the knife in Ford s wound, telling the world that Mr. Blue Oval screwed-up before, he s screwing-up again, and we re taking the fall for HIS lack of innovation (ouch!) and marketing savvy. Again. It s not fair! More to the point, it s got nothing to do with us, mate.

The UAW-represented workers affected by today's action are covered by the job security program and all other provisions and protections of the UAW-Ford National Agreement. Our union will rigorously enforce those programs.

Ford s new go-go management team might have an aversion to telling the truth about their rescue plan s fine print, but the UAW does not. On the crucial point of who s going to suffer financially in this restructuring thing, Big Ron s got a message for Ford: don t even THINK about fucking with us. In fact, if the statement s last paragraph was its only paragraph, the message would have been sufficient. Make that more than sufficient

RF

[Jalopnik s Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]

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