Thursday, December 29, 2005

George Will likes Andy Stern?

Andy Stern, head of SEIU, just got high marks from George Will.

This piece is full of surprises, since rarely do I imagine that a right-of-center columnist will have anything good to say about unions. It appears that what Stern is doing well is figuring out how to get the Republicans on his side:

Today Stern thinks globally. He has been to China five times and believes few Americans comprehend the scale of that nation's potential challenge to America's economic supremacy. Intel Corp., he says, sponsors science fairs around the world for students heading to college. Last year 66,000 young Americans participated in the local fairs that select finalists. In China, 6 million participated.

A world with global flows of trade and capital, and with global employers, needs, Stern says, global unions. If Stern could organize China, that nation's comparative trade advantages would be reduced. The National Association of Manufacturers might want to pay his way to go there.

This link comes courtesy of my reader and occasional writer, justme.

Earlier in the week he also alerted me to this editorial in the NYTimes.I had to tie my hands behind my back not to send this editorial off to my brother, who argued that unions are putting people out of work. We nearly had an explosion again at the dinner table over the GM crisis. He wanted to blame the work my mother is doing for all of those employees going out of work. I, however, suggested that he consider the role of health care costs.

Then, justme, sends along this editorial:

Workers' wages are falling, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are being sent offshore. America's largest parts supplier, Delphi, filed for bankruptcy protection, and General Motors, Delphi's main customer, may too, if a threatened United Auto Workers strike occurs next month. Meanwhile, Ford and its main parts supplier, Visteon, seem to be skidding down the same road.

How did we get here? There are many causes: poor car designs, high pension costs, increased foreign competition. But much of it comes down to the overwhelming health insurance costs borne by the auto makers. This is why the union's president, Ron Gettelfinger, has urged Congress to enact sweeping health insurance reforms.

If the government paid everyone's health insurance bills, as those in Canada and most of Europe do, Detroit's Big Three could save at least $1,300 per vehicle. Profitability would return. With deeper pockets, the auto makers could afford to pay their suppliers. Communities would be spared layoffs.

These two pieces, and the fact that justme sent them to me bring me a little hope today. Our national health care crisis and the trade imbalance with China might get more Americans, from both political parties, to value the role that unions and universal health care can play. There might be an alliance that we can make that both benefits workers and employers.

Oh dear, am I just delusional from lack of sleep?