Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

UAW Forces 400 to Cash Out of Job Bank

Decades in the making, it has finally happened. After years of negotiating to put their out-of-work members in a “jobs bank” where they continued to earn substantial paychecks for doing nothing, United Auto Workers officials fearing total collapse of the U.S. auto industry have begrudgingly started undoing some of the jobs bank’s costly damage. Today’s Detroit News edition reports:

About 400 General Motors Corp. skilled trades workers in Flint and Lansing assigned to the automaker’s controversial jobs bank may be forced to learn a different job or go to work at a distant factory if they don’t take a new buyout offer extended by the company.

GM’s move to clear out the jobs bank — factory workers who collect most of their pay and benefits despite being laid off — was made possible by a first-of-its-kind agreement with the United Auto Workers.

More to the point, the News explains:

Though limited in scope, the agreement shows some movement by the UAW on the jobs bank, which has come to symbolize the inefficiency baked into labor contracts between the union and Detroit’s automakers.

Especially interesting is a quote from labor’s preferred professor, Harley Shaiken. He told the newspaper that “[t]his is an example of the fact that both sides would like to see GM succeed.” If the union wanted so badly for the carmaker to succeed — and be able to keep its members in good jobs — wouldn’t they have avoided the jobs bank in the first place? Somehow, I don’t think GM’s success was at the forefront of UAW bosses’ minds.

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