NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

Assaulted by overpaid autoworkers

One of my brother's friends—I'll call him Ron—worked for GM as a millwright in the late 1970s and made over $100,000 per year (now equivalent to $340,000). My brother added that Ron always took a book to work with him, because he averaged less than 3 hours of work per week. The rest of the time, he would sit and read, or have a friend punch him in and out on the time clock so he could go home several hours early. Here is a video documenting similar abuse.

I spoke with a car dealer who said that one of his relatives works in a Big Three auto factory snapping some plastic doodad onto a windshield wiper blade once every seven to eight minutes—yes, that is minutes, not seconds! Snapping the parts together takes only a few seconds, so he spends most of his time sitting in a leather chair.

An autoworker reported that some union electricians intentionally work at a snail's pace so they must work overtime, at time-and-a-half or even double-time pay.

Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, written by the ex-husband of my sister-in-law, reveals that the above “go home early” scam was hardly a rare occurrence. It also reveals a pathetic work ethic and an alarming lack of conscientiousness on the part of some autoworkers.

Here's a true story that wasn't included in his book: My brother Paul (not his real name) lived with Ron (the overpaid, underworked go-home-early guy) and his wife for two semesters while he was in college. After class one day, Paul hopped in his Mazda and headed home. Along the way, a road rage incident developed where two men gave him the finger, culminating in a high-speed chase that ended in Ron's driveway. After Paul exited his car, one of the men grabbed and held him as the other repeatedly slugged my brother while berating him for buying a foreign car, adding, “It's because of fuckers like you that we're losing our jobs!

No, Einstein, it's because of morons like you. And your UAW bosses.

The thugs then began kicking the Mazda while ranting about how Americans should always buy cars made by UAW workers “if they know what's good for them.”

Yes, we do, Einstein, which is precisely why we preferred foreign cars.

What those two presumably UAW goons did not realize is that this assault occurred in the driveway of a proud American autoworker, who was in his home sleeping—but still on the clock because he took off 4 hours early, leaving his buddy back at the plant to punch his time card out later that day.

Such irony.

When Paul first called to tell me about the incident, I wasn't home. I was waiting on campus for my girlfriend to pick me up. She'd borrowed my car—a GM vehicle, by the way—and was hours late. I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Around 11 PM, she finally showed up and explained that the steering wheel came off while she was driving.

Such irony.

Oh, those two hoodlums? They worked in Lansing, Michigan, at a GM plant. Such irony.

Read what a former autoworker said about how the UAW destroyed Detroit. Excerpt: “I came away from this experience believing it surprising that anything came out of that place working at all.”

Update September 2010: We bailed out Chrysler, but some of their workers are still boozing it up during workdays. I saw the same thing in the ER, treating autoworkers with blood alcohol levels over three times the legal limit of intoxication.

I don't intend to imply that all autoworkers are lazy, mean, or have easy jobs. One of my friends, now an eye doctor, worked in the Ford Wixom plant, which he said was a hot (120° F) hellhole. A relative, now retired, was an exemplary worker.

Related topics

Why you should NOT feel sorry for UAW workers

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

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