23 January 2006

The UAW's Alternative Universe

I don't know how they (again) kept the fat out of the fire, but St. Paul Assembly survived a round of restructuring by Ford. Even if they pulled the plug today, the plant workers would have been paid through 2007, when the national UAW contract with Ford expires. How about that; being paid for 15 months for doing nothing.

In 2004, Ford closed a plant in Edison, New Jersey that also made the Ranger pickup. Some of those workers went to other Ford plants, some retired, but others are determined to live the life of a union man:
Each weekday, the former Edison plant workers travel to a gray, nondescript office building in nearby Piscataway, N.J. For eight hours they read, chat or play checkers with each other in a setting that resembles a carpeted high school cafeteria. No card games, other gambling or online access are allowed. Workers get two short breaks and a longer lunch break, during which they can also go to a gym down the street and work out.
So much for dignity and self-worth, I guess.

Victor Pashkevich, 40, one of the workers at the GEN pool site, spent 13 years at the plant before it closed. He's single and said he plans to stay with Ford as long as he can. Matching the pay and benefits from Ford is difficult, he said, but adds that the GEN pool isn't the best situation either. "People aren't happy here," Pashkevich said. "They want to go to work." Well, Victor, then go to work. Somewhere. They've bulldozed this plant. It's not coming back. Step away from the UAW's alternative universe teat.
I hope they really can keep St. Paul Assembly open. Not because it's important to keep the UAW economic pseudo-fantasy alive, but because it a good part of a diverse local economy. It's 2,000 locals making pretty good money given their education and training. The plant also kicks in plenty of green in an environment where no tax dollar goes unspent. As the capitol city, St. Paul has a tremendous amount of government property that doesn't kick anything into the property tax pot. There's a church around every corner, and lots of colleges on prime real estate.

St. Paul Assembly is Ford's oldest operating plant. It's made 7 million vehicles since 1924, and can screw together over 300,000 Rangers a year if it needs to. It's been modernized and long paid for. It makes it's own electricity, and has everything going for it except stamping. I hope it stays, but if it goes, the spin from the company, the union, the developers circling overhead and the politicians will mind-boggling.

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