In one of the most pressing business news items, a workers’ dispute involving General Motors has generated multiple headlines. For more than a month, the UAW labor union representing employees of the iconic American automaker squared off with management. The grievances of the GM strike involved healthcare benefits, temporary workers, pay raises, protocol for new hires and plant closures.
As with any conflict, the two sides offered viable arguments. For the workers, many are involved in labor-intensive roles. Therefore, they require robust healthcare from both professional necessity and ethical principles. Moreover, issues such as cutting temporary workers before their lengthy probationary period was over reeked of corruption.
On the other hand, management in large part have their hands tied behind their backs. Primarily, the forces driving these undesirable changes is the economy. Fewer people are buying cars. And let’s face reality: American cars are hardly the paragon of reliability.
If these factors weren’t enough, management must deal with the consequences of the U.S.-China trade war. In fairness, China is rapidly developing their own car brands, progressively booting foreign automakers to the wayside. But the trade war hasn’t helped matters: generally speaking, the Chinese love American cars.
Losing influence on this major revenue stream has forced tough decisions. However, that doesn’t really matter from the perspective of the individual worker. Invariably, then, the GM strike has continued for as long as it has and may do so longer if the UAW rejects a recent proposal.
GM Strike Is a Microcosm of American Politics
With an issue like the GM strike, it’s difficult to make a one-sided pronouncement. Sure, in a free market, companies are incentivized to find the cheapest overhead possible. At the same time, cutting workers impacts jobs, which affects the sustainability of the overhead-cutting company.
However, what I can say is that the GM strike is a microcosm of American politics, specifically our push for political correctness. Specifically, workers complained bitterly about the two-tier employment system, where newer (often temporary) workers were paid significantly less than their full-time veteran counterparts.
As some workers have argued, everybody does the same job; therefore, they should receive the same pay.
While this notion sounds reasonable, it’s actually not. It’s also one of the reasons why our higher education system is deficient.
For instance, all students go to school. And they all perform the same functions, such as homework or exams. Yet they all won’t receive the same grades: some students perform better than others.
Naturally, we understand this concept. Yet under the context of the GM strike, suddenly, everyone loses their bearings. While equal pay for equal work sounds correct, in practice, it usually doesn’t work that way. That’s because some workers produce a superior product or service more efficiently than others.
Paying everybody the same because they have the same job title is the exact opposite of capitalism. This disincentivizes performance, which is why our auto industry – and our country – is in its sad state.