The Labor Lessons GM Never Learned

03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • David Moberg The American Prospect

In 1970, in the midst of the last national General Motors strike (which lasted for a significant 67 days), UAW president Leonard Woodcock urged American businesses to become actively involved in a fight for national health insurance and halt their rising, uncontrolled health care costs. "American management now has the opportunity to help make each American's right to better health a reality -- and at less cost" he said.

Some things have changed. This year's strike lasted a mere two days. Roughly 400,000 UAW members worked for GM then; only 73,000 do now. But some things haven't: Health care was an issue then, and is an even bigger issue this year. And the stakes in the auto industry negotiations involve more than those at the bargaining table. They reflect public policy choices that put workers at a disadvantage. And they have repercussions for the country as a whole, especially other workers, both active and retired.

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