As usual, I'm treading well outside my area of expertise. However, it might be worth noting, not a refutation of those figures, but a possible explanation. Obviously those compensation figures are not the straight hourly wages. GM reports its average hourly wage for its UAW workers is $29.78. Toyota reports paying about $30 an hour. The compensation gap lies in benefits:
GM says its total hourly labor costs are now $69, including wages, pensions and health care for active workers, plus the pension and health care costs of more than 432,000 retirees and spouses. Toyota says its total costs are around $48. The Japanese automaker has far fewer retirees and its pension and health care benefits are not as rich as those paid to UAW workers [Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Ken Thomas, "$14B Auto Bailout Dies in Senate," AP via Yahoo News, 2008.12.12].
Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken made the same point on Monday's Talk of the Nation on NPR. The foreign transplant factories (and yes, Tony, I agree that "foreign" is a decreasingly meanginful term in the global economy) don't have lots of American retirees yet drawing pensions. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are paying a penalty for three things:
- having been in business here longer,
- operating in one of the last industrialized countries without universal health coverage, and
- keeping their promises to retirees.
Tom Daschle and Barack Obama could help change #2... and adopting a universal single-payer not-for-profit health coverage system would be a much more efficient and long-lasting stimulus to the American economy than any of the bailouts handed out so far.
As for #3... well, breaking promises to Grandpa and Grandma doesn't bubble to the top of my list of preferred economic solutions.
We can blame unions and break promises, but Monty, I'll take door number 2.
Update 15:15: Joel Rosenthal evidently misses the memo and makes the silly claim that autoworkers are being paid $70 an hour. Yet even hardcore Republican Joel says the domestic auto industry is a public good—key to economy and national defense!—that deserves saving. I guess socialism is o.k., as long as you dress it up as big tough army-guy stuff.