Labor's Hard Lessons
- David Macaray, CounterPunch
One thing organized labor has learned from its dealings with management is that, basically, anything that can be used against a union will be used. Take specific accommodations, for example. No matter how limited or exceptional a particular arrangement starts out, if it’s seen as something that can be used to management’s advantage, every company in America will try to use it wherever it can, as often as it can, in every way it can, no matter what the circumstances.
Three examples of good faith accommodations that have more or less back-fired on the union are: bonuses in lieu of a general wage increase (GWI), the two-tier wage configuration, and “last chance” agreements.
First introduced in the 1970s by the auto industry, the “bonus” (a lump sum payment in lieu of the traditional GWI) was the Big Three’s way of compensating UAW (United Auto Workers) members while, simultaneously, applying the brakes to their escalating labor costs. Getting the union to agree to a 4-year contract that consisted of yearly bonuses, and left hourly rates unchanged, represented a huge savings.