America's Auto Workers Deserve Better Than the UAW [Update]

Illustration for article titled America's Auto Workers Deserve Better Than the UAW [Update]
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Unions, tariffs, and everything else making life good and/or hell.

1st Gear: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I am, as always, proud to be a Union Man. Jalopnik is a union shop (major injury free for 0.27 days!), and anytime we point out how much we love that and unions in general, we get always get a couple of huffy old commenters who are like “OH YEAH WELL WHAT ABOUT THE UAW HUH???????”


And frankly, they’re right. Don’t get me wrong, the United Auto Workers has accomplished great things in its history – fair pay for workers, excellent benefits, strong safety cultures – but it’s also the poster child for Unions Gone Bad. Case in point, the ongoing saga of the UAW training center embezzlement scheme. This has been going on for a while now (exactly one year ago today a former Fiat Chrysler labor chief was indicted over it), but the crux of it is that a whole bunch of UAW officials allegedly coordinated with manufacturers to funnel money that was supposed to be intended for training run-of-the-mill-workers into gifts for themselves and their cronies.

You know, the usual sort of gifts, like mortgage payments, jewelry, and furniture. Totally normal.

But while this was all going on, a big lingering question was how far up in the UAW this whole thing went. The Detroit News is reporting that it allegedly went all the way to the top, of course:

A former labor official told federal prosecutors that United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams directed subordinates to use funds from Detroit’s automakers, funneled through training centers, to pay for union travel, meals and entertainment.

As part of a plea agreement filed Monday, Nancy Adams Johnson told investigators Williams made the directive to relieve pressure on the union’s budget. Williams, the union’s president from 2014 until mid-June, and the UAW had no comment on the allegations made by Adams Johnson, the second-highest ranking official in the union’s Fiat Chrysler department.

The Detroit News points out that Williams has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and so far we have no indication that any charges are forthcoming.

Still, not a good look. When the UAW does crap like this, it hurts all unions. The UAW may have been good for its workers, but it’s bad for everyone else – especially other unionized workers.


UPDATE: Even though we did not ask for the UAW’s thoughts on the whole matter, a UAW spokesperson sent me an unsolicited note to say that they do NOT want to talk about the whole matter.

We did have a response:

“We can’t comment on speculation from unsubstantiated allegations” related to the News story today.


Alright then.

2nd Gear: Trump Is Already Messing Up The American Car Industry

Hahahahahahaha, you thought you’d get a whole day without reading about something dumb Trump did and the inevitable chaos that followed? Silly you.


All three of the Big Three cut guidance yesterday because Trump’s 25 percent car tariffs are going to severely maim the American auto industry at best, the Financial Times reported:

Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler cut profit forecasts and their shares fell sharply on Wednesday, in a clear sign the global trade war is hurting the world’s largest carmakers.

GM’s shares closed down 4.6 per cent after it warned of higher steel and aluminium costs tied to new metals duties. Its cross-town rival Ford echoed the warning later in the day, cutting its own earnings guidance and sending its shares more than 4 per cent lower in after-hours trading. Fiat said changes to Chinese import tariffs were stifling demand, and coinciding with the news of the death of its chairman, saw its shares fall 15.5 per cent.

The warnings came on the same day President Donald Trump tweeted tariffs were “the greatest!”.


Ford alone said it would feel an impact of $700 million to $800 million.

Things are definitely the greatest.

3rd Gear: Oh Sorry, We’re Not Just Limiting This To The Big Three

Remember Polaris? You know Polaris. They make all sorts of ATVs and that dorky trike, the Slingshot. Polaris’ profit is up 10 percent on the strength of all those ATV and dorky trike sales, and you would think that would be a cause for stock prices shooting up and celebration. But instead, the share price is plunging. Can you guess why?


If you cannot guess why, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune can help:

CEO Scott Wine said in a conference call with analysts on Wednesday that the global trade tariff situation is “the biggest threat” Polaris faces and that the company is relocating some of its Indian Motorcycle production from Spirit Lake, Iowa, to an existing plant in Poland.

The move is one of a host of strategies the company is considering to combat the impact of U.S. trade tariffs enacted by President Donald Trump on imported steel and aluminum.


We’re bringing American jobs back, to Poland.

4th Gear: But Back To Ford For A Second

I know we just got done talking about Ford, as it’s about to lose a ton of money on tariffs. But let’s not pretend that everything is right with Ford at the corporate decision-making level, either. The company’s decision to stop making all cars except the Mustang, and switch to a lineup almost entirely made up of SUVs and pickup trucks which will definitely not blow up in its face as soon as gas prices spike, will help contribute to a restructuring charge of $11 billion, Bloomberg writes:

Ford Motor Co. warned investors it’s embarking on a costly restructuring that will take years and punctuated an ugly day for Detroit’s big carmakers, with all three cutting their 2018 profit forecasts. The shares fell in late trading.

The second-largest U.S. automaker expects to rack up $11 billion in charges over the next three to five years, as it exits businesses beyond North American sedans. A stale product lineup in Asia and costs to comply with tougher emissions rules in Europe contributed to both regions swinging to losses in the second quarter. The struggles Ford is having with those operations spurred the decision to slash its earnings projection for this year.


Ford is selling a ton of pickups now, and NOW IS THE ONLY TIME THAT MATTERS.

Everything is dumb and bad.

5th Gear: About All That Tariff Talk

President Donald Trump had a big showy press conference yesterday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, where they both agreed to “work towards” resolving the whole trade dispute created by Trump. Trump went out of his way to mention “non-auto” industrials, and everyone from Reuters to Bloomberg is heralding the notion that Trump put car tariffs “on hold” and has “relented.”


This is not the case. This notion is, in fact, wrong.

If you actually watched the dang thing, Trump said that he would not impose tariffs right this second as he and the E.U. “work towards” resolving the matter (I’ll even link to the Fox News version of the broadcast, just in case you think I would be so crass as to stealthily edit our beloved Big Giant Pumpkin Boy):

But as they say, money talks, and the bullshit, well, it walks.

President Trump loves doing this thing where he announces some sort of agreement, when in fact no such agreement has ever remotely taken place. He’s done this with North Korea, he’s done this on trade, he’s done it a whole bunch of times already.


If car tariffs really were over and done with, you wouldn’t see the Big Three warning of massive downturns coming down the pipe. You wouldn’t see the German auto industry pointing out in other Reuters articles that “a significant portion of skepticism remains” and that it may face “new unreasonable demands from the USA.”

I’m just saying, don’t believe the threat of tariffs are over until they really are over. Especially if the large President is singing.


Reverse: A Very Sad Day 20 Years Ago

The U.S. 500, the most prestigious race in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series, dissolves into tragedy on this day in 1998, when three fans are killed and six others wounded by flying debris from a car at MichiganSpeedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.


Neutral: Let’s Think About Happy Cars

Everything is bad. What happy car do you want right now? I’m not talking about Angry Jeeps or anything. Happy cars. I want a Nissan S-Cargo.

Deputy Editor, Jalopnik. 2002 Lexus IS300 Sportcross.


Auto Guy


Here’s the correct way to look at it:

What the current issues mean: It’s a big, ungainly, ancient behemoth. It needs new blood, new reforms. And throw the corrupt fuckers out. Oh, and FCA’s role? Let’s just say that it was like giving coke to a teenager. And not the kind in the bottle.

What the current issues do NOT mean: That unions are bad. Trumpmerica would have you think this, and they are wrong.