Surprise: Early Show Economist Blames 'Selfish' UAW

December 12th, 2008 9:11 AM

Let's hope we haven't seen the last of economist Peter Morici on CBS.  The University of Maryland business professor, appearing on the Early Show this morning, put the blame for the failure of Big Three bailout squarely on the shoulders of the UAW for its refusal to accept pay cuts putting its members on par with non-union workers at US plants owned by foreign car manufacturers.  The Early Show did manage to balance things with some Dem demagoguery from the mayor of a Michigan city.

Morici singled out UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, calling him "unrealistic" and "selfish." Comic relief was later provided by Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing, Michigan, who seemed to confuse South Carolina with South Korea.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Do you think that the lawmakers who rejected this are calling [the automakers'] bluff, and isn't that a huge risk?

PETER MORICI: Well I think they are calling their bluff, but I think they felt the American people were at greater risk. After all, these companies can't remain in business unless they accomplish wage parity with the Japanese manufacturers operating here.  And they've been told over and over again that the space between them isn't large. Then why won't the UAW move that distance?  If they won't move that distance before they get the money, then why would they ever move that distance after they got the money?

RODRIGUEZ: So are you saying if that if they file for bankruptcy and that spells doomsday, as the automakers predict that it will, will that be on the shoulders of the UAW who you believe were too selfish and too stubborn.

MORICI: I believe that Ron Gettelfinger, was—that's the president of the UAW—was too unrealistic and too selfish.

And a bit later.

RODRIGUEZ: Do you see GM and Chrysler merging to survive?

MORICI: Merging doesn't solve the basic problem. They're paying $1.25 for lemons, sugar and water and selling lemonade for $1 a glass.  Whether you put the two companies together or break them into seven pieces, if you're paying significantly more for labor in the production of automobiles, you simply cannot compete with Toyota and Honda.

Morici sees bankruptcy as a viable solution.

MORICI: It's possible to save these companies. Their technology's first-rate, they know how to make very good cars as is illustrated by what they do in China, and it's just a matter of getting their labor costs in line.  In bankruptcy court, Gettelfinger will have to deal, or the judge will abrogate the contract.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it's sounding like they don't have much choice.

Rodriguez ended the segment by thanking Morici for his time.  Encouraging that she didn't say "goodbye forever."

I'd encourage viewers to view the whole of Harry Smith's ensuing interview of Lansing Mayor Bernero, but would highlight one gem. Asked if the UAW would be willing to make wage concessions to save the automakers, Bernero fumed.

VIRG BERNERO: Is the US Senate going to dictate exactly what an automaker works [sic]?  Again, I think it's the height of hypocrisy for them to be demanding that we go down to standards of competitors overseas.

Virg, those Southern accents might sound foreign to Michigan ears, but I assure you, Spartanburg's in South Carolina, not South Korea.