Auto reverse: For the UAW, business as usual is over
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With Fiat officials threatening to walk away from a deal to buy into Chrysler, it's time for the United Auto Workers to abandon its ploy of down-to-the-wire brinkmanship and agree to accept pay and benefits comparable to those of workers in American auto plants run by Japanese firms.
The union should have accepted the inevitable weeks ago, after President Barack Obama served notice by firing General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, that business as usual is over if the U.S. auto industry is to survive.
The UAW no doubt will protest that giving in to Fiat's demand is unfair, but fairness becomes a relative term when Chrysler is fighting for its life.
A pay and benefits package equal to that provided by the Japanese manufacturers is the best deal the UAW can expect. While many workers will deem it a hardship because they are accustomed to the extravagance of the "Generous Motors" era, it will be much less harsh than losing their jobs.
To avoid such a catastrophe, the UAW must climb down from its high horse and drop the game of chicken that has marked its strategy since World War II. The union also would do well to distance itself from the militant Canadian Auto Workers, who seem intent on making even more unrealistic demands on Chrysler.
Fiat holds the trump cards in this high-stakes industrial drama, and it's time the UAW recognizes that.
First Published April 20, 2009 12:00 am