The child becomes the parent: Chrysler, GM

Apr
30

In recent news the UAW will own substantial amounts of both Chrysler and GM; what's not owned by the UAW will be owned by various governments and creditors by the look of it. Hearing the story reminds me vaguely of the cycle between child to parent to child again. As we rear our children and we age we become weaker and eventually our children may have to take care of us.

Has GM & Chrysler come full circle?

Most organizations start out as owner-operated where the people hands-on in the business are the same ones that own the business. There is a synergy between what is best for the shareholders and what is best for the employees. As the organization evolves and "matures", ultimately in the apex of going public, there can be a divergence in values of what's good for the employees and what is good for the shareholder.

It took me a long time to get my head around the practicalities of what it means that the workers (or more specifically the union which may not actually represent the needs of the worker on the line) now own the company against which they formed a union to protect their rights.

Similar to a newly minted owner-operator company, once again at GM and at Chrysler what is good for the share-holder should be (again, at least in theory) what is good for the employees of that organization. I can see some interesting dialog - do we want a $2/hr raise this year, or return higher dividends to the pension fund? One of the people here at the office commented that the workers may have to create a union - or defect to another union - to protect their interests against THEIR UNION - who are now their new owners.

I think it's interesting that in many respects one of the greatest symbols of the success of capitalism in the United States is now a socially owned corporation. Government owned manufacturing companies that are core to the survival of that country. Sound familiar?

The Canadian government and the US government are now partners and co-owners of these major corporations - and their other co-owners are the unions which represent the epitome of the socialist side of North American politics.

I still really can't make sense of what's going on in the complex shifting of who-owns-what, and what these two major companies are going to be when things settle - but I DO know I would not want to be the person from GM or Chrysler that has to negotiate the next labour deal with the UAW.