Journalists visiting GM find out firsthand that building a car ain't easy

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Over the years, we've heard of the supposed vast riches of the United Auto Worker. When accounting for health care and legacy costs, the typical UAW floor-sweeper earns over $70 per hour. The hard truth, however, is that even the tenured line worker receives less than half that amount in their paycheck before taxes, and about 20 percent of the UAW workforce makes only $14 per hour. [Autoblog]

Image: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

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DISCUSSION

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most educated person on how the UAW works and how the financial crisis that GM got into came about, but here's what I perceive on the matter:

1) About 20 percent of the UAW workforce makes only $14 per hour

Well, considering that my first job fresh out of college with a shiny, newly-minted Bachelor's Degree paid $15 per hour, that's not half bad. In fact, it's quite impressive when you consider that I paid $70k for that degree in order to get a job making $15 per hour. And, for the record, I considered myself damn lucky, and I still do. I'm very grateful for the opportunity. Let's also not forget the fact that they have standard benefits like healthcare and 401k, not to mention additional, unheard-of benefits like guaranteed hours, mandated paid breaks totaling at least 2 hours out of the work day, and a job bank.

Also, is that $14 per hour before or after the UAW takes it's obnoxious membership fee? Something tells me it's after.

2) Legacy costs

They aren't the sole responsibility of GM. The UAW is equally responsible. Maybe if the UAW had actually saved the excess money it received from membership dues and invested it rather than buying themselves private jets and a golf course, it could have done something to benefit its members. Of course, providing benefits to employees is never a mandate of a union, so why should the UAW be any different, right?

3) Cost of living

Let's not get too carried away in lamenting their pay rate without taking into consideration the cost of living. In Los Angeles, $60k is barely enough to a single person living alone, and that's assuming they aren't homeowners. To be a homeowner, you usually have to make closer to six-figures at a minimum.

What is the cost of living in Detroit? Isn't Detroit a place where you can buy a two-story house for less than $100k, where that same size house would costs upwards of $600k in Los Angeles? In that sense, $14 dollars an hour, which annualizes to a little over $31k, may very well buy the same standard of living in Detroit that would cost a Los Angeles resident several times as much.