Beyond Blame

Don't Blame the Unions for Putting Automakers In the Mess They’re In. Automakers Signed the Deal with Their Own Agenda in Mind

Jeremy PollardBy Jeremy Pollard, CET

“It was those boneheads who signed the deal.” I listened to a spirited discussion about the auto bailout issues. I wondered who the boneheads were—the auto makers or the unions.

I offered that if the unions didn’t ask for it, it wasn’t in the contract, and if the unions did ask for it, then someone had to sign off on it. I got some strange looks.

The unions have had it good, but their intimidation posture and table pounding will have to go and be replaced with something else.

This goes for a lot of organizations, including public service unions, teachers, government and the like. The private sector has taken it on the chin for a while now. And will continue to.

A trans-generational occurrence is on us, and how you as an individual deal with this means everything for yourself, your company and your family. Scary, isn’t it?

We’ve had it good for a long time. Money flowed for almost any reason, and projects that were marginally successful still were accepted. The “we’ll deal with it later” attitude prevailed. There was another project waiting, after all.

Things will be done differently now.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We might have thought taking a night-school course was a good idea at the time, but the result wasn’t what we expected. It might have been how we approached it since the consequence wasn’t as big a deal as it is now.

I did something very different. I went to a ballet of the Nutcracker, but don’t tell anyone please.

I was totally impressed. The passion of these performers is beyond words. An ensemble of more than 50 dancers, some as young as 10, and a 40-piece orchestra creating a story on ballet shoes.

I really did believe what I was seeing. The costumes didn’t have a thread out of place, dance steps were in syncopation to the last half-inch. And they do it for the joy of the dance.

Unlike Dancing with the Stars, there are no judges except for the applause at the end of the show. They don’t get paid a lot to do this. They did three shows this day. I don’t know if they have a union, but if they do, I think the performers might have told them to go pound salt if the show schedule went outside the contract.

The rehearsal effort between the dancers and the orchestra is monumental. Imagine a 10-year-old girl having the patience and desire and the passion to drive herself to this level. That’s pretty cool, based on most of the 10-year-olds I know.

As we move forward in this time of change and opportunity, I wonder who will survive and the qualities of that company or individual that will allow them to survive.

I don’t knock unions. Everyone needs to be protected, because it is very obvious again that not everyone or every company board will do the right things. But I think the time is now for an alternative path.

I wrote about training before and do so again. Choose something you are passionate about. If you think you can get passionate about something new, then do that.

Maybe it’s becoming a better troubleshooter, learning VB.NET, answering certain questions such as “what can a servo do for me?”

Some of you can do this on your own. Some will need some help.

Be prepared for frustration and disappointments, just as if you are trying to do a quad pirouette for the first time. Don’t expect too much at the start.

And as in the conversation that started this column, people were blaming unions for putting the automakers in the mess they’re in, not withstanding that the automakers signed the deal with their own agenda in mind.

They can’t and shouldn’t blame anyone else.

In our own little world, we accept the responsibility for our own sustainability. We accept the challenge with passion and will not stop until we reach our goal, much like the Snow Queen tingling to a standing ovation.

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