Autoworkers Aren't Bankers, Luckily

The UAW says 'if Wall Street can get help, so should Main Street,' but the union is unwilling to make as many concessions as rank-and-file financial workers have.
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The UAW has often bemoaned the massive aid foisted on Wall Street while making its case for a federal bailout of the U.S. auto industry, but the union is unwilling to concede as much as rank-and-file financial services industry workers already have.

In a full-page ad featuring the faces of autoworkers that ran in

The New York Times

earlier this month, the union declared, "We're Not Bankers."

"We don't work on Wall Street or for big insurance companies," it proclaimed. "We build quality cars and trucks. But we've been hit by the same financial crisis. If we go out of business, so will thousands of other businesses. If we lose our jobs, so will millions of others. Our communities will suffer. The economy will get worse.

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"So Congress, if Wall Street can get help, so should Main Street," the ad continues. "We work hard building fuel-efficient cars for our future. Don't let us down. We won't let America down."

The ad seems to imply a perception of Wall Street that everyone makes at least seven figures and has a summer home in the Hamptons. The truth is that many people that worked for the banks were just average Joes making average incomes. The numbers are a bit inflated, but these workers must also bear the extreme cost of living in the New York area, which is 364% higher than the national average, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research.

The average salary for Wall Street firms was $300,000, according to the New York State comptroller's office. The reality is firms paid top management oversized salaries, while the rest of the workers got more modest wages. But the multimillion compensation packages paid to top CEOs, executives and traders skew the reports making it seem as if everyone is raking in the money. According to

, the starting salary for an unregistered broker's sales assistant last year was roughly $29,000, hardly Hampton's dough. A standard bonus for support staff was four to eight weeks pay. Nice, but certainly not time to buy the Porsche.

A quick look at negotiated UAW contracts as posted on the union's Web site shows that a janitor makes $22 an hour. Conversely,

notes that a systems engineer at Merrill Lynch only makes $16 to $18.

The UAW insists that thousands of jobs will be lost if the automakers go bankrupt, yet expresses no concern for the unemployed workers in the financial services sector. Outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas said that financial services companies cut 153,105 positions last year and then sliced another 129,150 this year through October. Another roughly 84,000 job cuts have been announced. That is over 366,000 jobs that will have been lost in a two-year time period.

There are approximately 250,000 actual auto factory jobs that would be lost if the big three went under, the union says. The Wall Street job losses dwarf that number and they haven't stopped. The UAW points to the peripheral jobs that would be affected by plant closings. New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a report that the financial crisis could cost the state and city $6.5 billion in tax revenue -- expect major disruptions in the hundreds of businesses that will be touched like restaurants, child care providers and even the mass transit system that relies on these tax dollars.

Health care?

General Motors

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workers and retirees pay monthly premiums of $10 for an individual and $21 for families. Workers in the financial sector pay anywhere between $150 and $300 a month for health care, according to workers interviewed by


The UAW said it would shut down its much-maligned job bank, in which laid-off workers are paid to do nothing, although it was still a part of the published 2007 contract negotiations. The

Detroit News

reported that 12,000 were a part of the jobs bank in 2005, but

The Wall Street Journal

reports that currently 3,000 existing union members already in the job banks will continue to draw pay.

The union said it would allow workers' wages will be brought back into line with the foreign automakers, but does not have to do this until 2012 at the latest, according to a GM regulatory filing. Meanwhile,

Goldman Sachs

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cut its compensation by 40% and the pay cuts were felt immediately.

The UAW says it has made concessions in 2005 and 2007, but according to its Web site, wages increased in 2005 and 2006. The concessions were to set up a trust to protect the pension and limit the maximum time a laid-off worker could remain in the job bank to two years. These are concessions?

The Wall Street worker bees have no one to fight for them. Their health care benefits end when they leave their jobs. There are no pensions to fight over, what they saved on their own is what they have. Many of the jobs leaving Wall Street will not return.

It's easy for the UAW to keep pointing fingers at the obscene executive pay on Wall Street, but it's easy to forget the thousands of secretaries, customer service workers, clerks and IT people that actually get the job done at

Merrill Lynch



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