He is a cautious man not given to wild exaggeration. But yesterday, when asked about what‘s happening now, he told the Detroit News what was upon us was “nothing short of a disaster for Michigan, if you combine the strike with a government shutdown.”
“It really is the perfect storm,” he said.
Who could have imagined this? The worst breakdown of Michigan state government in half a century combined with an auto strike right when the state and the industry can least afford it.
Native Detroiter Lily Tomlin years ago had a line that sums it up exactly. “No matter how cynical you get, you can’t keep up.”
What’s happening now seems like a ghastly parody of the Michigan of my youth. There were auto strikes back in the 1950s and 60s, some of them long ones. They were hard on the workers, and the company being struck had to absorb losses.
But when it was over, everyone went back to work with better contracts, and the automaker soon rebounded, both in profits and market share. After all, a Chevy guy was a Chevy guy.
He was highly unlikely to buy a Ford, even if he had to keep the old hunk of tin running a few more months. And vice-versa.
As for buying foreign, give me a break. Foreign cars meant an original Volkswagen beetle. Haul the family around in that? I don‘t think so. There hasn‘t been a nationwide auto strike in decades …
Once again, autoworkers have thrown down their tools and struck the nation’s biggest automaker, as they did in September 1970. But it is a different world. There are now seventy-three thousand United Auto Workers union members who work for GM. Back then, there were more than 425,000.
That strike lasted for more than two months, and ended in part because shareholders were horrified that GM posted a third-quarter loss for the first time since 1946. Today, our domestic automakers have been losing billions every year.
More than half the cars sold in the nation are made by foreign corporations. Almost half the nation’s auto workers are not UAW members today, They work for companies like Toyota and Honda.
Every day this strike lasts means more market share for those companies, and a few more sales lost by a stumbling giant that has been losing market share steadily for more than thirty years.
Every day this strike lasts means less money for the state of Michigan, which is so strapped for cash the government may shut down at the end of this week. In fact it will, if our squabbling legislators can’t agree to raise taxes.
Our past is dying and threatening us with a stillborn future. And if you aren’t deeply worried, you aren’t paying attention.