G.M. and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union could not come to agreement by the deadline set, forcing the UAW union to strike. The sticking point is a guarantee of jobs and benefits. These are the two main reasons for having a union in the first place. So how did it come to this? G.M. has suffered competitively for several years. To enable the company to avoid filing for bankruptcy, the UAW has worked hand in hand with the company to reduce the work force by providing early retirement packages. The UAW has also accepted concessions on health care costs.
That is the line in the sand. At some point the UAW has to stop enabling G.M. to remain competitive solely through reduction. By striking, the UAW is saying that G.M. must get more creative and innovative with their product offerings and strategies. Unfortunately for the UAW, G.M. might be a little ahead in that regard. Plants in other parts of the world, that don’t have union representation, are thriving and sales are up around the globe. In a global economy, the US dependence softens. So the UAW was absolutely correct in striking after the deadline has passed. It is their job to show how without their presence many assets falter. Otherwise, G.M. will continue to set find viable alternatives.
When I was in college I took a Labor Negotiations class. The main aspect of the class was to broker a new contract between a union and a company. I was the head of the union. It was my job to speak to the corresponding representive of the company. It was also my job to find the best strategy for my constituents. My team went through the numbers, prioritized, and found areas where we were willing to bend and others where we weren’t. The process started and for the first 5 weeks (we only met once a week) or so we debated and came to terms on the lesser important matters. But as the class was winding down we still had several important terms to discuss. I was ready to stand firm.
About two weeks before we were to conclude I was at a party. Tom, my opposing leader of the company was there too. We often socialized together prior to this class. Tom pulled me aside and said he didn’t want to negotiate anymore. He wanted to wrap it up. I listened to what his offer was. He found an accepted middle ground on every point and we worked out a framework deal right then and there. We each knew the acceptable number for every point and we were willing to oblige each other. No one was trying to “win” the negotiation. Our next class was somewhat awkward since we had to pretend we didn’t already have a deal in place. Either way, we flew through it and got a good deal done. The professor was pleased that everyone completed fair deals and I think earned a B+ in the class.
So what is the point to this little aside? That communicating and knowing the opposition are vital to getting over the “winning” aspect of negotiations and finding a fair deal. Tom and I were able to speak without all of our constituents present, find a fair a deal, and move on. We didn’t have to posture or anything like that. We boiled down our goals and since we each knew the fair numbers we didn’t have a wide gap to close. I see this a lot in lawyer movies.