Pointing the Gettelfinger

January 6, 2009

On Friday, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger paid a visit to the The Detroit News' op-ed page, and what he said there should come as no surprise to anyone.

In a nutshell, he claimed: middle America actually supports the Big 3 bailout; the UAW isn't responsible for automaker woes; and the UAW is speedy and efficient. He also argued that the UAW is being picked on by President Bush and that cutting wages and benefits for UAW members doesn't benefit anyone.

While he doesn't set his sights on any one issue as "The Problem", he does point to U.S. trade policy and the lack of universal healthcare as major stumbling blocks.

Like most spokespeople, Gettelfinger makes his points and makes them well. He sidesteps potential potholes and uses apple pie phrases like "working families". How can anyone argue with that?

And to be fair, despite the union's many flaws--including its supersized, 22-pound contract--it would be hard to pin blame for the industry's collapse on the UAW's back alone. There are designers, quality control personnel, and plenty of upper managers that have contributed to the meltdown.

Still, there's something so empty about his rhetoric and the way he refuses to accept any blame at all for the Big 3 crisis--it's almost worse than if he'd remained silent. His tone is also defiant and by-the-book, which doesn't bode well for the outside-the-box thinking that'll be needed to overcome the industry's current crop of entrenched problems.

--Richard Read

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