Sunday, June 11, 2006

UAW chief says tough choices are coming.

Bidness: I am in shock that one union has enough sense to talk straight about what is going on in the auto industry and how they are part of the reason why.

LAS VEGAS, June 11 — The president of the United Automobile Workers union told his members in a strikingly blunt report that they cannot ride out the automobile industry crisis and should be prepared to make tradition-breaking decisions to help rescue the industry. In a written report to members at the union's convention, which opens here on Monday, the union president, Ron Gettelfinger, pointed to many causes of the industry's grave malaise, including "bad management" and declining auto sales. But Mr. Gettelfinger acknowledged that the union's health care benefits helped create a ballooning health cost crisis that had become "unsustainable" in the face of the auto companies' declining sales. This, he said, was a reason why the U.A.W. agreed to substantial health care concessions last year. "This isn't a cyclical downturn," Mr. Gettelfinger said in the report. "The kind of challenges we face aren't the kind that can be ridden out. They're structural challenges," he went on, "and they require new and farsighted solutions."

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