Examples of the divide between us and them
Updated Okay, I said there is a basic divide. You want some examples of that divide? For now, I'll give you two:
For example number one, consider General Motors.
You know about the recall of 2.6 million older GM cars because of a faulty ignition switch that could jump from "run" to "off" or "accessory" while the car was moving - with loss of engine power, power steering, power brakes, and airbags. GM itself says it knows of 13 deaths and 32 crashes as a result.
The flaw was the result of a wrongly-designed part, a spring-type plunger that was too short for what it had to do and so could slip. The cost of the replacement part was just 57 cents. Now, some have leapt to their rhetorical feet to shout that the number is a distortion because it's only the cost of the part and so doesn't include the cost of redesigning the line to use the correct part. Which is true - so let's say it would have cost $1 million to redo the line while these cars were still in production. Hell, let's say it cost $10 million. Ten million dollars spread over 2.6 million cars is another $3.85 cents per car, for a total additional cost, including the new part, of $4.42 per car. Anybody think that'd be a deal-breaker on your purchase of a then-new car?
Here's where it gets worse.
GM knew about a problem with the ignition no later than February of 2002, when the supplier told the company that the part did not meet GM's specifications. In 2003, GM's own engineers were reporting the problems. The company "investigated," only to close the investigation in March 2005, having decided a fix would take too long and cost too much. That is, "none of the solutions represents an acceptable business case."
Even after learning of deaths from the failing switch, GM continued to stall, to "investigate" for years, and do, essentially, nothing - until the recall began in January. That was nearly 12 full years after GM learned of the problem and knew what caused it. Twelve years after they knew there was a problem, they are finally doing something about the risk of death they thrust onto unknowing customers. Because for 12 years, the "business case" was to do little and say less. Because for 12 years, the "business case" was more important than human lives.
And even now the corporation continues to stall, so much so that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the NHTSA, is fining the company the legal maximum of $7000 a day for its failure to turn over all the documents that the agency has called for in its investigation.
But still there are people defending GM, claiming it's "taking responsibility" and how it's "not fair" to expect the company to spend the money to repair the vehicles being recalled because of a potentially lethal problem that the company knew about all along. Those people defending GM and GM itself are on the other side of that divide.
GM is not on your side. And you should not be on theirs.
Here's another example:
Jairo Reyes was a 24-year employee of UPS, working at its facility in Queens, New York City. He was fired in February after the company accused him of clocking in early. Soon after, on February 26, 250 of his co-workers showed their support and solidarity by walking off the job for 90 minutes, after which they returned to work.
Union officials say the way Reyes was fired - without a hearing - was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement it has with UPS. Which it was: Under the agreement, an employee can be fired without a hearing only for two reasons: drinking on the job and "proven or admitted dishonesty." UPS claims that by clocking in early, Reyes was being dishonest - but as the union points out, that charge is neither proven nor admitted.1
No matter. UPS doesn't care. So UPS has responded by announcing plans to fire all 250 workers. Why, how, what for? The corporation claims the 90-minute stoppage was an “unauthorized walkout” and the delay "jeopardize[d] our ability to reliably serve our customers," although it offers no explanation of just how that is true.
As of April 8, 36 had been fired and the company says it will fire the rest as soon as replacement drivers are trained.
Which means that apparently the company is not concerned about jeopardizing its ability to reliably serve its customers through the use of an entire fleet of rookie drivers - not when the opportunity arises to dump 250 people who actually remember that the word "union" means "together as one" and making middle-class wages and replace them with a whole crew of others working at beginner pay and benefit levels, with the possibility of breaking the union hovering in the background.
UPS is not on your side. And you should not be on theirs.
Update: UPS has agreed to give all 250 workers their jobs back, but there are some serious costs, which I will discuss more on next week's show.
1. To specific, Reyes admits to clocking in early but maintains it was done with the knowledge and permission of his supervisor.