Thoughts on the Auto-Workers’ Strike

Thoughts on the Auto-Workers’ Strike

WHEN the negotiations between the auto industry and the United Auto Workers began, the company spokesmen presented themselves as industrial statesmen. It was in the interests of the American economy, they said, to have a noninflationary settlement and they, as responsible citizens, would exercise their corporate power toward that end.

Of course, it just happens that this disinterested logic leads to the conclusion that the workers in Detroit should not demand a big pay increase. The industry, in short, is ready to volunteer sacrifices on the part of its employees. May I propose that those selfless executives and stockholders might also do something for their country?

The figures released by Leonard Woodcock, the UAW president, simply do not support the myth of greedy workers forcing civic-minded corporations into an inflationary spiral. Between 1947 and 1969, Woodcock reported, the auto industry made $82 billion in before-tax profits. If it had contented itself with average rate of return on investment in manufacturing industries, which is 21.3 percent before taxes and 11.9 percent after, there would have been a dividend of $27.4 billion which could have been passed on to the workers and consumers. Split 50-50, it would have lowered the price of every car sold during those years by $120 and raised the hourly wage of every worker by 45 cents.