Monday, May 21, 2007

Journal Sentinel Is Consistent: Concessions Are Needed!

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) is nothing but consistent when it comes to editorializing on labor relations. It has never seen a wage or benefit concession it won't support.

Over the last six months, as corporate profits have risen to their highest level since the Gilded Age and labors’ take has declined to its lowest, the MJS's editorial board has urged three separate groups of local employees to agree to concessions.

First, County employees were urged to be “realistic”and praised for agreeing to pay more
for health insurance and scaled back pension and sick leave benefits.

Then Milwaukee’s Harley Davidson workers were urged to accept lower wages for new employees and changes in their health and pension plans even as Harley generated record revenues and rewarded its executives with huge compensation increases.

Now the editorial board has urged Kensoha’s Chrysler workers, members of UAW Local 72, to "be realistic" and accept “painful concessions” from the company's new owner, the private equity firm, Cerberus, even though Cerberus hasn't even asked for them.

In contrast to the MJS's suggested "...spirit of compromise," management at the County and Harley played hardball in negotiations.

The County threatened to layoff 100 employees, many of them courthouse complex maintenance workers and parks laborers, if it did not get concessions and replace them with private contractors, despite the failure of privatization at the Milwaukee County Public Museum and in providing child welfare services.

Harley threatened to make a new investment, including 100 new jobs, elsewhere if it didn’t get the give-backs it was demanding.

In the case of Chrysler, the editorial board didn’t even wait for Cerberus, a hedge fund with $24 billion in holdings that paid its CEO $50 million last year, to demand concessions before it began to advocate for them.

Its not as if corporate American needs the Journal’s help in fleecing workers. The compensation gap between CEOs and employees has soared; virtually all wage gains since 2000 have gone to the richest 10% of Americans; Bush’s tax cuts have exacerbated the growth in inequality by benefiting high income earners and investors; the percentage of private sector workers represented by unions has fallen below 8%; and workers who receive healthcare benefits from their employers are paying up more and more of the costs which continue to escalate.

The MJS editorial board ought to spend less time lecturing this city’s working people about the need for cooperation, and a little more time advising the corporate class on treating its employees fairly!

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