Monday, June 01, 2009

Media: GM was a "club" for retirees; OK, we need a sustainable "transportation industry", not just an auto industry

The MacNeal-Lehrer news hour on PBS has a blog entry in which “retired auto workers ask union chief Ron Gettelfinger their questions,” link here. There’s a video there that I won’t try to embed this time.

The radio show mentioned the characterization of General Motors as having become a “club for retirees” with five times as many retirees as employees, but only employees have a vote in ratifying contracts.

But retirees did make the point that what we need is a “transportation and energy industry” (a la Thomas Friedman – in a hot, flat and crowded world) and not just an “auto industry.” Most everybody gets this now.

Retirees have already lost some health (and especially dental) benefits, but it seems as though much or most of their pension base will ultimately be protected by the bankruptcy court, the PBGC, or ultimately by political pressure on the administration and Congress (yes, that could mean more bailouts).

What we had was a system that had become unsustainable.

Attribution link for Wikimedia Commons picture of Detroit skyline.

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