I am a big believer in the historic role that trade unions have played in development of a sense of fair play, and basic protections of and for workers, in our economy; particularly given that they started out as advocates for the poor and unvoiced in the early 19th century. That said, I also believe that the union model needs to be "re-imagined," and unions need to be re-aligned; both with its original mission and mandate, as well as with the times we live in today. Not so long ago, the most expensive part on a GM car was health insurance. Now, I am all for quality health care for all Americans, but we are winning battles and losing the war here. It is simply not sustainable. Some will win, but ultimately, America will lose.
And yet another example of winning battles and losing wars is what appear to be the average wage rate for union workers at say Chrysler. I was literally stunned to learn this week that an average worker at Chrysler, per the union contract and working a standard 40 hour week, would earn well over $100,000.00 a year, or more than $62.00 an hour! What? The current "fight" is over whether Chrysler can get these same unions, "fighting for the poor," to reduce that hourly rate down $19 an hour (in Canadian factories) to around $47.00 an hour. I cannot tell you how many poor people we serve at Operation HOPE would be absolutely thrilled at just half that reduced hourly rate. I spend too much of my time trying to convince folks that it is not in America's interest, or the world's, to have someone working a full 40 hour week, at minimum wage, and still cannot afford to pay for modest rent, utilities and food for their families. It is an issue of dignity yes, but it is also common sense. Someone needs to inject some common sense into this $62.00 an hour common wage fight between Chrysler (and maybe all the major U.S. automobile manufacturers) and the unions.
Please read the complete AP article on this mess for yourself, here. Enlightening.
We can, and must begin to find true win/win solutions for America, and not just parts of America (whether rich, or otherwise).
John Hope Bryant is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, America's first non-profit social investment banking organization. His work and advocacy at HOPE led then President Bush to sign an executive order making financial literacy U.S. policy. Today, Bryant continues to serve as vice chairman of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy as well as chairman of the Council Committee on the Under-Served, in President Barack Obama's Administration. Bryant is also the financial literacy advisor to the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Financial Empowerment.