At Auto Plants, A Reversal of Fortune

Two Years, Two TiersThe American Dream is that each generation will do better than the last.  But many families of auto workers no longer have that expectation.  As Detroit car makers sped towards financial ruin, their union agreed to a dual wage structure,  plus deep cuts in benefits.  Now, new hires earn about half what traditional workers make.  Changing Gears Ann Arbor reporter Kate Davidson tells how this reversal of fortune has altered their lives.[audio:20100921_davidson.mp3]

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The newest workers at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have an unusual name.  They’re called “two-tiers,” meaning their wages fall on the second tier of pay in their union contracts.

Will Dunlap is one of them.  He says the two-tiers joke that, “If two two-tier people died in a fire, they’d save one GM employee lost.  You feel like half an employee.”

For these two-tiers, the starting pay is $14 an hour.  But when Will Dunlap reports to the assembly line outside Lansing, Michigan every afternoon, he works alongside “traditional employees” who make about twice that.  They include his mom, Debbie Dunlap.

Debbie Dunlap remembers the days more than a quarter century ago when she was first at GM and was paid $14 an hour. She says it’s hard for her to watch the two-tiers now earn the same wage that she did then.  Her son is only 24, still young enough to dye his hair green in support of the Michigan State football team.  He doesn’t have a house payment yet or a family to support.

Will Dunlap says he’d love to be able to buy one of the cars he builds, but does not make enough to do so. “It’s such a far away thought, it’s sad,” he said. “I crank out 500 of them a night and I can never afford a single one.”

(Enlarge the slideshow and click “show info” for captions.)

Making Cars, Making Sacrifices

Will and Debbie Dunlap, who work at the Lansing Delta Township plant, build GM’s popular crossover vehicles – the GMC Acadia, the Buick Enclave and the Chevy Traverse.  These days, the factory is humming with activity, with several thousand employees working around the clock to produce about 1,200 vehicles a day.

This scene would have been almost unimaginable 18 months ago.  By then, the new two-tier system was in place, but Detroit car companies were struggling to survive.  When GM filed for bankruptcy on June 1, 2009, President Obama warned the nation that building a leaner company would involve further costs to everyone.

For older workers, the sacrifice comes in their precious health care coverage and other hard fought benefits.  For newer workers, this reversal of fortune shows up most dramatically in their paycheck.

For Debbie Dunlap the two-tiers bring back memories of her first day on the line in 1984.  When she showed up, she says, her supervisor told her:

“One thing you need to know right up front.  I don’t like women working here.  And if you can’t do the job the same as a man in here, then you’ll go out that door the same way as you just walked in it.”

Today, some two-tiers say they feel like second class citizens.

Union officials have a challenge when it comes to the two-tiers, partly because, for the moment, there aren’t that many of them.  GM says it has about 2,000 two-tier employees out of 53,000 hourly workers nationwide.  The company is currently focused on recalling workers who’ve been laid off, and these workers return at their traditional wage.

The difference between tiers comes down to the date of hire.  Or, in one family’s case, the date of birth.

Brothers … And Not Just In The Union

Derick and Justin Jewell are brothers.  They’re both auto workers.  In fact, their brother and sister are, too.  Derick and Justin live together in Holly, Michigan, in a house that Derick bought.  They’re both strong and good natured.

The main difference between them?

Justin Jewell is 22 and makes $16 an hour.  Older brother Derick is 24 years old and makes $28 an hour.  So that’s two years and $12 an hour.

Still, Justin says, he’s got a good union job.  He’s not flipping burgers for $7 an hour, and he’s not sure where else he could be making what he makes now.

“Lot of plants have closed down,” he says, “And we’re not too far from Flint where, for a long time, a lot of people were laid off.  So there’s a little bit of remorse but at the same time there’s some faith and just being glad to have a decent paying job.”

Quitting Time?

Justin Jewell works at the same Lansing assembly plant as Will and Debbie Dunlap.  At 10:36 every night, as the plant’s second shift ends and the overnight begins, Will Dunlap walks his mother to her car.  She’s proud of her son, proud of their work and the life she’s built.  But she’s worried that Will is only going to be able to survive.

“I wish I could just tell Billy, okay, you’ve had a life experience,” she said. “It hasn’t been pleasant.  It’s time to move on.  How can you?  I mean, he needs an income.”

“It’s not like you have to wear a badge or something,” Will Dunlap said, or that two-tiers “have to drink out of a different drinking fountain.  It’s just that you know every day when you go in there that the life that these people have and made for themselves is never going to be anything that you have.”

It’s a reversal of fortune a lot of families here struggle with.  And it’s certain to be an issue when the union and the car companies begin negotiations to replace their current contract, which expires next year.

THE MATH, according to General Motors:

Wages: Traditional workers at General Motors earn from $28.30 to $28.76 an hour.  Workers in the skilled trades can make more.  Tier-two workers earn between $14.65 and $16.28 an hour.

Retirement: Traditional workers at GM have a defined benefit plan, i.e. a pension.  Tier-two workers have a defined contribution plan in the form of a 401K.

Vacation: Traditional workers at GM top out at 200 hours after 20 years of service.  Tier-two workers top out at 160 hours after 15 years of service.

Health care: Among the differences, it takes tier-two workers at GM longer to become eligible for coverage.

65 Replies to “At Auto Plants, A Reversal of Fortune”

  1. Continue this and our society will fall in revolution. There is nothing wrong with getting an education to make more money, but to claim that you are some how better or work harder is very egotistical. Adjusted for inflation the average worker makes less than their counterpart from the 60s. Parents making less means they can not afford the opportunities for their children to take a different path. Skilled labor is needed to make the products that make the owner rich, they should share in the profits. In the 60s an average CEO made ten times more than the average employee. Today a CEO makes a thousand time more. Right there is the problem!

  2. Hello BrtStlnd,

    Thanks for your comment. Just jumping in for a factual correction. Will Dunlap, who is featured in this piece, is 24 and does not live with his mother. They agreed to meet me together for a joint interview.

    Best, Kate Davidson

  3. It's about time. I don't like big business, but Detroit was the only place where unskilled laborers could make that much money and that's part of why the big 3 were dying. Over here in IL/WI you're lucky if a factory job pays more than $10-12/hr.

  4. I agree kanundra, this is why the Big 3 are dying. $28/hour = $56,000 / year (working 50 weeks) for an unskilled job. Over here in IL, as you cite, we have the same problem with construction jobs. Unskilled labor is making this $28/hr job that is being paid for / supported by your tax dollars – read road construction that is. I am all for people achieving goals, success in life etc. However, to get an unskilled job that pays this much is unequitable and unsupportable in any economic environment.

  5. $14/hr is poor to you? That's right around 30k/yr. It may not be tons of money where you live, but let's be honest, it's just a factory job. Had they not been overpaying workers for decades due to the unions, no one would think anything different with these wages.

  6. No Jaybird – it's called unskilled labor. Go get some skills (trade, college, etc.) and get a better paying job if you don't like the $14.00 / hour – which is still a pretty good wage for a person with no skills. Twice as good as flipping burgers.

  7. But But kanundra that would mean people bettering themselves! we cant have that!

    If GM could get rid of these Choking unions they could pay their people less AND charge less for their cars.(they would have to keep up with the Japanese and Koreans) Then little willie could buy one of his precious Buick Enclaves.

    Its simple really, lower wages means a competitive cost and price with other auto manufactures. More competitive means a growing company, growing company means they need more employees. more employees means people have money to buy cars and clothes and food and all these other consumer goods and those companies grow as well. THAT boys and girls is what we call economic growth and PROGRESS! Have I over simplified things? mildly, Is it a micro-economic view on a macro-economic scale undeniably. will it work? absolutely.

  8. Come on people get real. Just because a manager or executive went to college they should automatically be paid salaries of 60, 80, or 100 Thousand Plus? The heart of this country and any company is the worker bee. The guy on the assembly line. The guy making the product. They should be compensated and well. We live in a country where less then 10 percent of the population makes over 90 percent of the money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What killed GM and the American car companies is not the UAW but cars engineered cheaply and built with cheap parts. Honda puts more engineering into a door handle then GM put into an entire car.

  9. Indeed. $30k a year, especially in that area, is good money. You can buy a new car and a house while living on your own with that salary. I managed just fine on my own making that kind of money in an area with a higher cost of living and never felt like I was poor. Plus, IIRC, they're still not paying any premiums on their health care coverage, something that typically takes at least $100 a month out of your paycheck.

  10. Continue this and our society will fall in revolution. There is nothing wrong with getting an education to make more money, but to claim that you are some how better or work harder is very egotistical. Adjusted for inflation the average worker makes less than their counterpart from the 60s. Parents making less means they can not afford the opportunities for their children to take a different path. Skilled labor is needed to make the products that make the owner rich, they should share in the profits. In the 60s an average CEO made ten times more than the average employee. Today a CEO makes a thousand time more. Right there is the problem!

  11. Come on. $30 Thousand a Year is crap. If you are young and Single that is a good place to start but what if you are married and have kids? If companies pay their workers good wages they can buy their companies products making more demand for their products making more money and the economy gets to moving again. If you have all these working poor who can barely survive then how is the economy supposed to grow? Why do we have to live in a country of have's and have not's? Why can't everyone have a piece of the pie? I am sorry any moron can flip a burger but assembly line work is hard and can be very dangerous. Treat your workers good and pay them well and you will have a successful company.

  12. So Justin readily admits that he makes a lot more than he could make anywhere else with his skill set and he's complaining because it's still not enough.

    Hey, Justin, if your situation is unfair go ahead and try to make your own way in the world. Go to college, get some marketable skills, start your own business, take some risks.

    There's a giant line for your not-quite-good-enough job. Appreciate it or move on.

  13. Unskilled labor is not as valuable to a company or an economy as skilled, specialized labor.

    I don't know if you have noticed but most of our “worker bees” live in Vietnam, China, India, etc. and make a helluva lot less than Justin or Derick.

  14. I went to college and then on to get a masters degree and could barely find a job that paid 35K. After two years moved into another position making 40k. Why did I waste my time and effort to further my life when some one out of high school can make more on an assembly line? Tell me how that is fair? I am the working poor and have skills. Unskilled labor is not supposed to pay more than skilled labor. Other wise there is no incentive for advancement in our society. 30K working at a plant is really good money, puts you in a very low tax bracket and their benefits are paid. I still have to pay for my benefits!

  15. The heart of the company may be the worker bee, but hearts don't work without a brain to control them. Managers and engineers are the brains that have the ideas and the knowledge to organize the whole endeavor so that it can happen at all.

    You can take a pile of silicon sand and “labor” on it from now until the end of time but until you have someone with the brains and ideas to set up the manufacturing process and coordinate all the disparate efforts, you'll never get a silicon computer chip out the other side.

  16. Move to Cuba. I hear everyone gets a piece of the pie there. Here in America, we have something called capitalism, which at it's root involves “have” and “have not's”. If you don't like the category you're in, you also have the freedom to get yourself educated and trained in a high-demand field of employment.

  17. I have a BSEME, Masters in Egineering, and MBA… and the UAW sponsored janitor who empties my trash can makes just as much as I do. Figure that one out.

  18. Oh, BOO HOO. Such an entitlement culture among auto workers. What in the world makes them think that they deserve to be paid so much? It's entry level work- they should be happy they're getting a cent over minimum wage. It is the ridiculous wages like this that cost the big three auto companies so much that they require taxpayer-funded bailouts and can't compete with foreign cars. You know what? If you make $30k annually you are in the top 5% of the world. If you make over 40k annually, you are in the TOP ONE PERCENT OF THE ENTIRE WORLD. Justin, you don't deserve $22/hr- and neither does your brother. Deal with it. The fact that he makes more is due to a system of corruption and greed- sorry you didn't get in on the corruption train, bud.

  19. 28-32k a year plus benefits for a job that needs no education, for a job that takes minimal training in this market and people are complaining? Look the auto unions had it good for a long time and it ended up almost killing the US car industry, this is just the re-balance.

  20. OH, so you dont have any problem with the CEO of GM making a 7 or 8 figure salary and being completely out of touch with everyday Americans? I am sorry it was not the “over paid Union Workers” who destroyed American Cars it was the Greedy Auto Execs who designed crappy cars using crappy cheap parts. Sure the UAW did make mistakes. But I am sorry It does not matter who is putting it together if the parts and design is crap.

    I am sorry if you work hard you should be compensated. What is up with this attitude that no one deserves to make any money unless you went to college and become an Executive? This is what is wrong with this country. We need to stop out sourcing jobs to other countries and start hiring American workers and pay them a decent wage. Great Societies have fallen and America is on the Road to Destruction.

  21. Justification for Higher Education. Sixteen bucks and hour plus benefits is not to damn bad for an unskilled job. Rampant unjustified entitlement might be this groups biggest problem.
    Just because you make 'em doesn't mean you get one either! – You think the employee parking lot at Goodwood is full of Silver Spurs and Phantom Coupes?

    Damn this makes me mad!!! – Why didn't mom save some of that $28/hour over the years and send at least one of her kids to college?

  22. “Unskilled labor is not supposed to pay more than skilled labor.” I get what you're saying, but market forces and unions make this what it is. Without the union — at all — what would their wage be? And if you paid thousands for a phD in art history and are working as a museum guide, what would that wage be? That's skilled labor, technically. Like anything else, skill has nothing to do with supply and demand.

  23. I 100% agree. I don't understand why these auto workers feel a sense of entitlement to making almost $30 per hour. They have no education and no skilled trade so why should they get more than $16 per hour. Mind boggling.

  24. If these posters are so sure that it is the high wages of autoworkers that drive the cost of cars they should also be wondering why big 3 autos have not fallen in price since the UAW started agreeing to concessionary agreements. Kind of goes back to that equation that less than 10 percent of the cost of a vehicle is labor. It appears some of these posters have drank the kool-aid that suggests the problems with manufacturing in this country are somehow tied to the workers.

  25. I won't begin to assume what your degree or field of choice was in. But something I find friends and others falling victim to is the idea that just because they went to college, they are entitled to a well paying job that will make them the sum of their student loans back in a year or two. What students need to keep in mind is that a college education is an investment, and a big one. If you do not plan, execute, and make strong decisions about what to study, what field to enter, and get quality information about the availability of jobs before following through, you WILL NOT find the job of your dreams and in many cases you'll be lucky to find a relevant job period because you're an inexperienced, well educated applicant in a field with no entry level job market because of an excess of equally educated and more experienced competition.

    It breaks my heart to know that many friends who are going for marketing, advertising, communications, and education degrees (just examples that come to mind) are looking at job markets that are significantly smaller than 4 years ago and in the case of education, still contracting because of local, state, and federal budget problems. In some cases they've gone on to get a masters thinking that would HELP, but rather they will just have a larger mountain of debt and still find themselves in a flooded market.

  26. All anyone ever complains about and all you ever hear about is the over paid union fat cats sitting around and doing nothing. It is only normal for humans to want more, to get jealous, why fault auto workers or any other employees who have decent paying jobs with good benefits. Purely jealousy, just because unskilled workers didn't go to college their at fault for trying to live what used to be called the american dream. For over 70 years the UAW has fought to get their employees the best pay, the best health care, and the best retirement you can get. Whats wrong with spreading the wealth. The union didn't put the big three in bankruptcy, the company did. All the japanese and chinese auto industries had their own bailouts, and their not union. When you make all your money on SUV's and trucks and break even on midsized cars and gas goes up to 4 dollars a gallon thats what happens. The ignorance in these comments is difficult for me to read, learn to seperate what is right and what is spite. These comments make me sick. I can tell half of you didn't even listen to the whole story, Justin said he was “glad to have a job', but you want to sit here and tell him and his brother they don't deserve their wages and their way of life? You try to work on an assembly line for 10 hours a day 6 days a week, to where your wrists can barely move, your hands lose feeling, your back goes out. The problem with this country is we ( the middle to lower class) fight over dwindling resources, while these CEO's and corporate execs. make millions and billions of dollars. Fritz Henderson for General Motors makes 3000 dollars an hour for pushing paper and handing down orders, these autoworkers make 3000 dollars for working almost 200 hours. My father and his father were auto-workers and through Ford and the UAW they paved the way for me to go to college, and earn a living were i could see my family, I could come home and relax instead of pump pain meds, and i can not constantly have to worry about losing my job to over sea work, or lack of work. I make less of a living then my father did, but i still have my health, and the right mindset. All of you are pathetic and should be ashamed of yourselfs to say things about hard working blue collared middle class workers. Go try to work the line for 10 hours, leave your purses at home and dont break a nail pussies.

  27. look at your names. Frustrated, Angry citizen, thats all you will ever be. You all talk about self entitlement and fair pay, but complain about what you make, and think you deserve more. Big time college boys with such good degrees, that mommy and daddy paid for, we are turning into a society of girly boys, and see if this nation can compete as a service industry, it is and will always be a manufacturing nation, why don't YOU deal with it and move to cuba, move to another country. Because i earn my money, and i got my decent paying job. Don't fault me for living the american dream . Im a proud auto worker and i make a great living and its awesome, kiss my union a**

  28. No pity for for this kid or other unskilled laborers that think they deserve more for doing less. If you want to make more money become a skilled laborer, go to community college, get an appretenceship, go to a technical school. $14 or $16 bucks and hour with benefits is fantastic pay for a job that requires basic skills, $28 an hour is absolutely ridiculous and undeserved.

  29. I agree with the responses about supply and demand and such within the job market. But what about this massive shift within the society where every student is told that in order to have a good paying salary they have to go get a college degree and more when in fact specialized labor now has some of the highest paying jobs available. For instance my brother in law is a skilled welder making twice what I do and he is 23.

    There is a fallacy in our society that education equals better pay. Just wanted to point out how I was angry. I should have been a mechanic and specialized like I wanted to. But I was to poor to pay for school on my own and my parents “knew better” than to let me do that…..

    BTW I have a masters in higher education and it is required to be able to work most jobs in the field. It is highly specialized and highly desired. But the pay does not match.

  30. NO He Doesnt! He pays his way just like anybody else, you have no idea of what your talking about, not a surprise considering the source

  31. keep up the angry, silly, rhetoric, we will drive off the cliff sooner, putting your miserable attitudes to rest

    labor and management therefore wages do not have the same goals, get wages when you can, give them up when you have to, this is the American way, just don't get so angry, and how about a novel idea, how about you wish your fellow Americans success?

  32. In the real world, you can't afford to buy what you build. I make $70K a year as an engineer building rockets to launch people into space, but can I afford a ride on one? NO.

  33. Djayhawk, you know why everyone can't have a piece of the pie? Because no one is ENTITLED to a piece of the pie. You have to earn it for yourself.
    A $30,000 annual salary if a fair place to start. If you’re already married with a family when you accept this job you either need a second job or your spouse needs to work too. That’s the way the rest of the country gets by. Hard work and a good track record based on accomplishment will be the path to increasing your salary as the years go by, but not all at once.

    Unions have negotiated huge salaries, benefits and retirements plans for assembly line workers.
    (Notice I did not say unskilled) These jobs have been overpaid even at the entry level and the big 3 have nearly all gone bankrupt because they can’t be competitive. I know management make ridiculous salaries and bonuses and that makes people angry but if you had the education and resume to score one of these jobs you would jump at the chance too.
    I have no problem with a profitable company choosing to pay their workers a generous salary to start, but it’s their choice. You can not feel entitled to receiving someone else’s money due to an “it’s not fair” mentality. Unions have so many loopholes in the rules to get “Free” money for the members for zero effort. It promotes laziness and a sense of entitlement. I worked in the UAW for ten years and always knew this was not reality and the magic bubble would someday burst. So I saved my money and spent wisely so when it finally happened I was prepared to find a real job based on transferrable experience. I’m a hard working guy, I’ve never been to college but I earn 80K annually in New England. My wife still works too. I have a nicer home and drive nicer cars than most college educated people I know. No one has given me anything or done me any favors my entire life and that is what I’m the proudest of.
    One last point. Earning a college degree also does not entitle or guarantee you to a six figure salary. It doesn’t make you better or smarter than the hourly worker next to you. It also does not guarantee your “skills” will make you effective in your chosen profession. You need to gain experience and that begins with an entry level salaried position perhaps in a small company where opportunities to learn and grow are more abundant. We’re all in this together. It doesn’t need to be you against me or us against them. Everyone stop your whining and get back to work.

  34. This is the new reality get used to it. If workers want to strike and complain then automakers can just build another plant in Mexico and Canada were workers will be happy as heck to work for 1/3 or less and manufactures can skirt all type regulations and labor rules that don't apply in foreign soil and make them more competitive.

  35. I really do not get how little some people think of hard working Americans. I am sorry some people are just not what you would call “College Material”. So they do not deserve to have a good job? If you don't go to college then you are stuck in a Min Wage job the rest of your life? What a bunch of crap and that is why this is the greatest country in the world. Anyone can make it. But we do have a problem. The people on top do not need to make a 1000 times more an hour then the people at the bottom. The CEO runs the company into the ground and they get a Golden Parachute and the guy that has worked his Ass off for the company for 20 years gets a weeks pay for every year he has been there if he is lucky. What a bunch of crap. What made America great was a Strong and Proud Middle class working Manufacturing Jobs. The middle class is the backbone of this country. You destroy that and what do you have left. A bunch of rich people greatly out numbered by the poor.

  36. So an Auto worker is not a “Real Job”? I am sorry with out the unions fighting for workers rights we all would be working 7 days a week for even crappier pay with out vacation or sick days. I have my college degree and I have a good job with good pay for what I do. But in no way is the CEO of this company worth his 8 figure salary. If you started the company and own the company then yes you should make as much as you can. But if you are hired just like the rest of us then you should be compensated fairly like the rest of us. And YES we are ALL in this TOGETHER but most companies treat their workers with an US V THEM mentality. The big 3 did not go bankrupt because of Unions they went belly up because for the past 30 years they have been flushing out SHIT and expecting people to buy them just because they are made in the USA.

  37. Hello BrtStlnd,

    Thanks for your comment. Just jumping in with a factual correction. The person you’re talking about, Will Dunlap, is 24 and lives on his own. He and his mother agreed to meet me together for a joint interview.

    Best, Kate Davidson

  38. The UAW jobs like the defense contractor jobs I had are like Disney land and not based on the reality of other manufacturing jobs in the US. As far as the unions fighting for workers rights or we all would be working 7 days a week…blah blah blah heard it all before. That was true DECADES ago and they did the working class a huge service but the pendulum has swung too far the other way now.
    I agree with your other points about excessive salaries. How much is too much, right?
    I work for a privately owned MFG co and our CEO pays himself a modest salary. Sure he has plenty of stock too, but it’s his company. Nevertheless he makes fun of these big corporate guys taking ridiculous sallies and bonuses when they have never started and grown a company like he has.

  39. American ingenuity made this country great too. In a global marketplace it is extremely difficult to compete with offshore mfg’s paying their workers .65 to 1.50 an hour. But we can be inventive and become more efficient, create new products and markets. I have worked in a company where the efficiencies gained enabled us to outperform our competition building their product in China. It also allowed us to be more flexible and supportive to our customers. That was worth something to our customers. College degrees should always be a priority but are not necessary for every job as in manufacturing despite what the job description says. Plus with the dumbing down of our colleges and universities experience is making a comeback.

  40. The ideal that a college degree is required for a good salary is a fallacy that parents, teachers, and the government push on people. So many people jump into the degree-of-the-moment since it's the next great thing that will net everyone a Ferrari, but that's simply not the case, at least not after everyone jumps on the bandwagon. I too earned my Master's Degree, but it wasn't with the intention of an immediate pay raise, but with the intention of giving me an edge over my competitors during job interviews or when looking for a promotion.

  41. Hello BrtStlnd,

    Thanks for your comment. Just jumping in with a factual correction. The person you're talking about, Will Dunlap, is 24 and lives on his own. He and his mother agreed to meet me together for a joint interview.

    Best regards,

    Kate Davidson

  42. Nobody's saying that they don't deserve a fair paycheck but what makes auto workers deserve so much more money than other warehouse and assembly line employees? They're not the only ones that come home tired and sore after work. The unions were good back when there were no laws protecting the average worker, but they're basically obsolete now. Their workers make 2-3x as much as the average assembly line worker which doesn't sound like a FAIR wage to me.

  43. What amazes me about these comments, that people are happy other fellow working citizens are making less money. Are you people absolutely retarded? Since when is lowering our standard of living a good thing? Who do you think has the money in this country to put their kids through college, afford to purchase new cars, keep our homes up, and be able to pay the property taxes to keep the teachers, cops and fireman working (And other supposedly smug, educated people commenting here)? Those of you idiots that think this is good, in the end we will all pay the burden for this. Apparently none of you studied macro economics. And PS- those of you driving foreign made cars, are rotten citizens for not supporting their fellow citizens, workers, communities, and R&D, and engineering that all give us better products. Then you are all scratching your head wondering why our living standards are going down, when your purchasing decisions, send American profits and capitol to places where people are paid less. Yep, every day the Chinese worker earns more, and an American earns less, and you pay more in taxes as a result. (And don't give me the “Toyota is made in the USA” business: all the profits they make leave the country).

  44. At 38 I went back to school to get my teaching degree. My intentions were/are noble. In other words, it is the work I do not the money I get for it. What a laugh! I chose to go directly for my masters degree because I figured I would never want to go back and do it after I started teaching; plus, that masters was worth 10K a year more. Problem was, I was not worth the 10K more a district had to pay to hire me. I have 5 credentials in two states including SpEd and math science. I drove over three hours for an interview the other day. The interview was good. I liked the person and felt she liked me. Her parting words were, “I have been doing this for years. I never thought I would see the day when this many special education teachers would be looking for a job.” Well, I have 70k in student loan debt, a house, family, blah, blah, blah. What can I say? I took a chance at something I thought paid well enough and was soulfully satisfying. What pains me is that I have an ego that says, “You aint getting me for free”. Districts are actual trying to fill SpEd position by paying long term sub pay. That's no benefits and maybe at most 25K a year. The system is not equitable and not amicable to the worker. Many feel teachers could be paid a lot less and that private industry could do a better job, i.e. charter schools. There's no good data to prove that, but I don't expect that will stop the movement when there is half a trillion dollars of public education dollars at stake. I mean c'mon, I saw this country sit on its collective butts while Bush was elected twice by 25% of registered voters. I have watched Americans happily give up the rights tens of thousands have died for–the patriot act–so they could feel safer because now the NSA can monitor everyone's emails and phone calls domestically. And I watch with horror contemplating the fact that anyone at all could possibly contemplate putting Sarah Palin into the White House. I just know I need to be in service work. Lots of people make more than me for what they put into their education. Remember before Reagan came along, one income could sustain a family? Do a little homework. There are a few people that want it all. If you let them, they will get it. Never be too busy to speak out. Stay tuned folks. It;s going to be a bumpy decade.

  45. You're right! A little angry, but right. Theory and logic should tell us that the hardest most dangerous work should pay best, but what does a soldier make, a policeman, a ditch digger? Not what they should for sure. So what does make a wage the right wage? I have a couple dozen answers to that one including humans as a commodity and/or cannon fodder. We want security and safety. We should shoot higher and take some risks now and again, however, when things get rough. I assure you, I look around and see these old gents bent over because of a lifetime of hard work. Why did they do it? For themselves, their families, for the betterment of society? Maybe a little of all of that. My worry is that people don't seem to know what they want other than the fastest computer, the newest Ipod, the shiniest car, the biggest house. Maybe this “recession” will put us back on earth and allow us to remove our collective heads from our collective behinds. It's time to fight back on behalf of all those bent old men and the women that live and die with them. Just like they did for you.

  46. You got it. Race to the bottom. I can't wait to make .40/hr so everyone but me can buy the things I spend 80 hours a week making. What a buffoon! Are you serious. I can't tell because one rarely sees something so ignorant put so intelligently. You remind me of the blond guy from Harvard in the bar spouting out the profundities of the last book he read with no real understanding of the ramifications of the authors postulates. Oh sorry, that was a scene in the movie “Good Will Hunting”. See..that's where I get my wisdom!

  47. Don't get too cocky “tier I”. I am union too and out of work. Tiered salary schedules are not new. When I went to work for Boeing in 1980 and was fired a year later, I was making more than those being hired in the “90s”. My mom threw me out at 17–and rightfully so–I paid for and went in debt for my education knowing full well the risk and benefits of my career choice and level of education required to be competitive. As a teacher I will tell you what a joke it is to think every student should or even wants to go to college. We ignore the desires and strengths of our students and as a consequence, push them out of the education system into a work force that no longer gets tier I wages. Even if you have no worries about you and yours, you might want to remember that the world does not begin and end at your front door. 1/3 of Detroit is deserted. What do you think? Bunch of lazy complaining college boys? Or maybe just really hard working folks screwed by the companies they worked for and the government that regulates them. But good luck. They say America is what it is because of its optimism. Not many calories in that though.

  48. I work at a light axle plant that supplies to GM, and, I am a tier 3. Which means, we all started out at $11/hr. w/ 401k. I feel for the ones that make less, but at least we have a job. Hopefully, the 2011 contract will get us a little more money.

  49. I understand but other auto workers and assembly workers need to come up to Union wages and benefits, not the other way around. There's so many people that gave everything for a labor movement that bettered everyone, union or not. Companies had to compete with Union wages to remain competitive when jobs were plentiful. Then we hit a recession and some how its the Unions fault? Everyone in this world deserves a piece of the pie when their company prospers. When GM and chrysler went bankrupt, concessions were made. GM grossed 14.5 billion dollars in the first quarter of this year, were is our return. Where will society and America be when the unions are gone, hisotry repeats itself and we will be back to where we were in the early 1900's, poor working conditions, and low wages. Remember who you are talking about when you Union bash, not just auto workers but state workers, nurses, teachers and many more. The enemy isn't the middle-class hard working man, it's these corporate ceos and big shots who sit back in there million dollar homes in Malibu, and watch us peasants beat eachother up.

  50. “GM grossed 14.5 billion dollars in the first quarter of this year, were is our return.”

    And the entitlement mentality at it's finest folks. Do you know the difference between goss profit and net profit? And since their net profit was a meager 900 million, would you like them to divy that up to everyone on the line as “their fair share”? Considering how fagile the company was at the time, don't you think it would be wiser to bank some of that NET profit for the eventual losses they'll take in the future? And their will be more losses. Lots of them.

    I agree that some CEO's get paid way too much for what they do. But they didn't get that salary at 22. Even most of them had to prove over the course of 30+ years (unlike autoworkers, the rest of us have to retire at 70 or more these days) in their field that they could rise to a position of that much power. And if they are smart enough and lucky enough to negotiate a compensation agreement that is as big as it is, then they're lucky and know it.

  51. So I fail to to see the problem. 16 and hour with bennys isnt good enough?? I know what those workers do and its not really work. You want to see people work? Join the military and head overseas and see combat. I bet when you come back home that 16 an hour seems to damn easy. Plus remember even though they are working cheaper and their family still sucking the life out of a company, they are helping America be competitive with companies overseas. Besides us 20 somethings dont buy cars like our parents did so why cry that you cant afford a car that you build? Its the worst investment that you can make anyway.

  52. You mistake is one many people make – the debt is a tool. You would be much better off if you had made different choices on how to pay for your school. It would have still been expensive, and it may have taken longer to get there, but you wouldn't have been saddled by the debt.

    I'm happy to say, that being debt free is what has given me the ability to float through hard times. It's amazing how little you can live on (and still save) when you're not paying student loan debt, mortgages, car payments, that TV you bought 12 months ago, etc.

  53. Did I ever make and excuses for the executives? I did not. In fact, I pointed out that corruption and greed were to blame for this problem- and that doesn't come only from the ground-level workers. It's in auto company and UAW top-level leadership too. Would leadership corrupt enough to let compensation packages like these get out the door stop there? No, they award themselves the enormous salaries that you and I both object to. I think the UAW did more than make mistakes- the term 'mistake' denotes a bad result from good intentions, and I don't think that's the case. UAW was out to milk the cow as much as they could and they've milked it almost to death.

    I won't disagree that the caliber of cars being created is lacking and out of touch with what people really need, want, and can use.

    Hard work should be compensated, I completely agree. But there are plenty of people in this nation working just as hard as they are for $10/hr or less. They deserve a paycheck in accordance with their effort, but that isn't $22/hr, or $16- nor does it include healthcare and retirement benefits fit for a king. That's not what they earned. Their hard work doesn't earn them anything more than the non-UAW workers who make $10/hr with minimal or no benefits. Does it suck to live on? Yes. Deal with it.

  54. I deserve more? Surely not. I don't deserve anything without having worked for it, just like everyone else. I've worked for every cent I've ever gotten and more. Yes, I'm working on my degree. But you know what? I've paid for every cent of it and sent money home to support my parents while I'm at it. I'm not working some bigshot job right now, either- I'm actually a full-time volunteer and I work part time to feed myself. Someday I'll have a nice white-collar job, sure. Guess where? Inengineering, likely supporting manufacturing. Don't assume that everybody who doesn't like the union has a silver spoon in their mouth- some of us know how to think analytically and don't like the system because of what it is, not for who we are.

    You know, I think you're the one who should move to Cuba, since you sound like everybody deserves the same regardless of what they do. They're on board with Marx and Lenin there, just like your ideas.

  55. What do (many) auto workers, state workers, nurses, teachers and fireman all have in common?
    Over compensated jobs, bad attitudes and a sense of entitlement. It's time for a reality check for them the politicians and the Corporate CEO's.

  56. There is no American Car or SUV worth 50-60 THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! They're overpriced and depreciate at an alarming rate. A Caddy is just a retrimmed Chevy. A Lincoln is just a retrimmed Ford. A Chrysler is just a ….. overgrown Fiat.
    Period end of story.

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