Blogs & Comment

Why CAW is worse than AIG

Yesterday I argued that AIG employees should keep the multi-million-dollar bonuses that have created a public outcry in the United States, despite the fact that the company has been handed billions of tax dollars to stay afloat. That post forced another journalist to reply: “Yes, and Haliburton should not be questioned about the billions it has reaped in no-bid government contracts because, after all, the Vice President of the United States said it was ok…”
That missed my point, which is that the bonus money in question was negotiated before the crash and should not be taxed back by politicians (especially ones simply out to pander to mob mentality). I didn’t argue anyone should feel good about the AIG payouts. I said legal contracts should be respected.
For the record, I think the company should have been put into bankruptcy. And while it is on public life support, I don’t think new contracts at the U.S. giant should be anything close to what was OK during the good ol’ days. Then again, as far as I can tell, AIG employees are not bold enough to publicly demand that no real sacrifices are made as the company moves forward. And that’s why I think the attitude at the Canadian Auto Workers union is actually worse than that at AIG.
You can read Ken Lewenza’s take on the matter in the current print issue of Canadian Business magazine, which also has an editorial that points out the ridiculous nature of maintaining CAW perks. In this blog, I’ll just note that a lot of taxpayers in this country see unionized autoworkers as the guys and gals with the pay and benefits to beat, and not just amongst the blue-collar crowd.
I have a lot of respect for unions, but I am no leftie. I respect some hedge fund managers, too. Let’s just say, I am right-handed, but my mind is wide open. Anyway, in this case, my argument is not political.
I have no problem with anyone taking what was negotiated with any corporation as a going concern. But the not-so-big-anymore Big Three are broke and the CAW still insists its members deserve perks and pensions that most Canadians can only dream about. And that includes workers who do exactly the same job at Toyota and Honda.
The latter automotive plants are not asking for handouts. But they are just as Canadian as any operations run by the Detroit trio. The jobs they create go to citizens who work just as hard as any CAW memberfor less. These folks, of course, are being asked to support bailouts that put their jobs at risk by keeping overcapacity in the system.
You could argue that supporting the Big Three is required for the greater good in this economic climate. Still, tax dollars are being demanded by workers who think they deserve more than less demanding people on the hook for the bailout bill, which is why I think CAW members should think twice before blasting anyone at AIG. DOUBLE TAKE:Aside from trying to promote myself while generating Web traffic that helps put bread and butter on my table, this blog aims to stir debate by taking a harder look at current news and events. I obviously enjoy voicing my own opinions, but I am a big boy and I welcome all comments that dont require R ratings. So let me have it via this blog or send me an email at tom.watson@canadianbusiness.rogers.com. I reserve the right to post email comments without disclosing the senders name.
THOMAS WATSONis a Senior Writer and editorial board member at Canadian Business magazine. Since winning a community journalism award as a cub reporter with the Hamilton Spectator in the early ’90s, he has covered business, finance, politics and technology for various news outlets. Prior to joining CB in 2001, he reported on the steel and automotive sectors for the Financial Post. Watson received his first magazine award nomination for exposing a stock manipulation plot aimed at Waterloo, Ont.-based Open Text in 2000, when he was head of investor relations for an international venture capital outfit in the City of London. Watson holds graduate degrees in journalism, international relations and public finance and undergraduate degrees in history and politics.