Tag Archives: General Motors

Second Auto Bailout

The ‘Auto’ Industry begs ‘Obama’ for more ‘Bailouts’ after they are unsatisfied with all previous attempts from the government to help revive the auto industry.
The ‘Auto’ Industry begs ‘Obama’ for more ‘Bailouts’ after they are unsatisfied with all previous attempts from the government to help revive the auto industry.

During the 2007-2010 economic period, the auto-industry bailout was a huge controversy. It began with the collapse of many banks and very highly affected the auto industry. Along with the persistence of bad management, which lead to a poor response to the unexpected downfall, the labor union workers were outraged and demanded the unions do something. This brought the major automobile companies: Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors borderline bankrupt. The quality of these company’s products were already being scrutinized for not holding up to the standards that they had in previous years. In addition, their workers were also being paid dramatically low wages which made the matters worse since they were so close to bankruptcy. The public saw the low wages as an attempt, by the companies, to save money and at least stay afloat in the industry, but even with spending less money on labor the companies still found themselves struggling financially. During that time, the automobile companies requested bailout money in an effort to save their companies and their workers. Many factors were taken into account on making the decision of whether or not the government would grant the auto companies the money. The effect the decision would make on the country’s economy was the major influence in the situation. The dilemma arose that if the country lost three major auto companies the economy would suffer. On the other hand, if the government bailed the companies out the taxpayers would have a huge chunk of money taken from them; As the loss of so much tax dollars, through the act of bailing out the auto companies, would have a devastating effect on the economy. The factors were discussed and the American government decided to allow the release of funds towards the bailout of the automobile companies. The government’s decision to allow the bailout money to be issued to the automobile companies had caused the resentment in the tax payers towards the government, hurt the economy even more with this event having occurred at a bad time of economic recession, and brought negative connotation to ‘Auto Industry’ as they had received an unfair advantage.

Published on February 19, 2009 in The Buffalo News Newspaper, Adam Zyglis’ cartoon titled, “Second Auto Bailout” illustrates how the auto industry continues to misuse aid money and disappoint the country no matter how much help they are given; In this case it was widely believed that the auto industry had received an unfair advantage over all other struggling industries towards the end of the recession of 2007-2009. His cartoon shows Barack Obama as a baseball player who seems to be the supplier for the ‘Bailouts’ as they are depicted as steroids. The character representing ‘Auto’ asks Obama if he’s “Got Anything Stronger??” as he already has plenty of syringes stabbed into his back along with the many more used syringes in his hand that he hides behind his back. Obama is pictured as a weak, terrified, and disappointed individual while ‘Auto’ is huge, aggressive, and scary individual because he misuses, by over using, the ‘bailouts’.

The Great Recession, from December 2007 to June 2009, was ultimately the result of the failure of an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble. The loss of such wealth led to cutbacks in consumer spending. As a result, a collapse in business investments occurred, along with the financial market chaos combined with this loss of consumption. Once the business investments and consumer spending was depressed, extensive job loss followed. 8.4 million jobs were lost in 2008 and 2009 from the U.S. labor market.  It was the worst employment devastation since the Great Depression. The country was already in a bad state in the midst of a recession which made the bailout more costly that it would’ve been if it was in a stable economic period. The country, economically, could not afford this act to bailout the Big 3 auto companies. This would explain why Obama, in Zyglis’ cartoon, is scolding ‘Auto’ and why Obama has his back turned to ‘Auto’. Obama is making an effort to ignore ‘Auto’ because the country cannot afford to bailout the auto industry, however with the great recession occurring, the spotlight is really put onto the auto industry and it’s struggles so it is difficult for Obama to NOT acknowledge this issue.

Similar to the situation in John Knott’s 1937 cartoon entitled, “There’s an Idea”, the workers in Knott’s cartoon are basically striking for more and more demands they want from the government. Over 250 strikes took place in the auto plants within the span of 3 months, so it’s safe to think they had to be asking for a bit too much and had excessive demands. In Zyglis’ cartoon ‘Auto’ asks, “Got anything stronger??” as ‘Auto’ already has many used syringes; ‘Auto’ is wanting too much. In 1973, America experienced an oil crisis which caused the oil prices to rise from $3 per barrel of oil to $12 per barrel. At this time, gas guzzlers were popular vehicles as muscle cars took over the era. American muscle cars became very popular and the auto companies were bloated and successful. As the unexpected and unanticipated oil crisis hit the country, the auto industry had no time to prepare. As result, Japanese auto plants were established in America which was a huge blow to the American auto industry as more competition was added. American vehicles had been producing bigger and more fuel-inefficient cars for decades when the Japanese manufacturers arrived and produced smaller and more fuel-efficient cars which would come to outperform the american style models. The auto industry needed a bailout and the first bailout was issued after this crisis, which is why this cartoon is titled “SECOND Auto Bailout” as it refers to the bailout during 2007 to 2009 recession.

During the late 2000s, ‘the steroid era’ was a term created in Major League Baseball when many players were thought to have used performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs, in the form of steroids. During this period, offensive output had increased dramatically.  In Zyglis’ cartoon, his reference to steroid use alludes to ‘the steroid era’ with the syringes of steroid representing ‘bailouts’. It is likely that the reference could be towards Alex rodriguez, or A-Rod, as he admitted to using steroids in his MLB career, from 2001 to 2003, on February 9, 2009. The cartoon was drawn on February 19, only 10 days after the confession. In addition, at the time of the the confession, A-Rod played for the New York Yankees who are notorious for wearing pinstripes on their gameday uniforms, which many baseball fans see as an outdated fashion and ugly. In the cartoon, the players are wearing pinstripes. Going along the fact that Steroid use in sports was always referred to as an “unfair advantage”, it’s very likely that Zyglis used this reference to the bailout. Since the auto industry required a bailout in the 1970s and the government decided to give them another bailout during the recession was seen by most americans as an unfair advantage just like what steroids does. During the recession, out of all the corporations that were struggling and needed some help, the government decided to give the auto industry another bailout rather than give it to an industry that hadn’t had one yet.

Work Cited:

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Was the Big 3 Auto Bailout Worth It?” The Balance, www.thebalance.com/auto-industry-bailout-gm-ford-chrysler-3305670.

“A-Rod admits, regrets use of PEDs.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 10 Feb. 2009, www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=3894847.

History.com Staff. “Energy Crisis (1970s).” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/energy-crisis.

“National Employment.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iagauto.htm.

“Newsfeed.” NTU – National Taxpayers Union, 12 Dec. 2009, www.ntu.org/governmentbytes/detail/the-auto-bailout-a-taxpayer-quagmire.

“Second Auto Bailout.” CagleCartoons.com – View Image, CagleCartoons, www.caglecartoons.com/viewimage.asp?ID=%7B8096AA1D-D136-416D-81EA-27FAFAADDBEB%7D.

Sepp, Pete, and Thomas Hopkins. “GM bailout costs each taxpayer $12,200, National Taxpayer’s Union says.” Bizjournals.com, The South Florida Business Journal, 20 Nov. 2009, 9:11am, www.bizjournals.com/wichita/stories/2009/11/16/daily42.html.

Swanson, Ian. “Rejecting bailout wins political capital for Ford.” TheHill, 27 June 2010, 11:00am, www.thehill.com/homenews/administration/78211-rejecting-bailout-wins-political-capital-for-ford.

“The Great Recession.” State of Working America, Economic Policy Institute, www.stateofworkingamerica.org/great-recession/.

“The Steroids Era.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 5 Dec. 2012, 4:23 pm, www.espn.com/mlb/topics/_/page/the-steroids-era.

There’s an Idea

A steel worker and the steel corporations contemplate an agreement over the Chrysler sit-down strike in 1937.
A steel worker and the steel corporations contemplate an agreement over the Chrysler sit-down strike in 1937.

Published on March 19, 1937 in The Dallas Morning News newspaper, the cartoon titled “There’s an idea” by John Knott illustrates the measures that the industrial unions took during the 1930s to attain better working conditions, higher wages and improved job security through the depiction of the Chrysler sit-down strike of 1937. In his cartoon, one man, labeled ‘STEEL WORKER,’ is sitting on top of a factory which is specified as ‘CHRYSLER CORP.’ With his hands clutching the two edges of the roof, the worker uses the building as a bench. Alongside the worker stands a man representing ‘STEEL CORP.’ as he holds a document which states ‘Injunction’ as well as having on a fancy suit and top hat. Both the men look off in the distance at themselves signing a contract for an ‘AGREEMENT TO AVOID STRIKES FOR ONE YEAR.’ The signing takes place atop a different structured factory while the men use the building as a table.

Sit-down strikes throughout 1936 and 1937, towards the end of the great depression, were important components in the social movements at this time that gave the Committee of Industrial Organization (CIO) power to unionize many workers in this era’s industries. In late December of 1936, a sit-down strike was held in Flint, Michigan against General Motors (GM). The strike was unplanned and pretty spontaneous. This 44 day strike eventually proved to be an extremely influential event during this time period. Initially, shop radicals, communists, and socialists had led the way but soon were replaced, as commanders, by the United Automobile Workers (UAW) and the CIO. Even though the proportion of who participated in the strike was outnumbered by the rest of the occupants in the factory, the whole ceased production. The ultimate goal of the protest was to urge and require management to obey and enforce labor law. A resolution was achieved on February 11, 1937, between General Motors and UAW. The Company recognized that the union is the consolidated voice of its workers and agreed to work with the UAW on a multi-plant basis. As a result, thousands of unsure auto workers beforehand, now joined the UAW. The chain reaction began with “47 sit-down strikes in March, 170 in April, and 52 in May.” (“Sit-Down Strikes” 2003) While many outside perspectives acknowledged that the act of sit-down striking legally violated corporate property rights, the worker viewed the act as an ethical response to the management’s misstep of not abiding by the law.

After the sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, around 60,000 workers sat down in all 6 Chrysler plants in Detroit and completely halted production on March 8, 1937. The workers demanded higher wages, better working conditions, and stronger job security. The author of the editorial, titled In the Chrysler Plant, and John Knott were definitely in agreement that the labor workers in the Chrysler plant organized there protest in the wrong way. The author of the editorial wrote, “The sit-down strike is not collective bargaining. It is organized hijacking.” It is evident that the author had strong feelings on the subject. Indisputably, he felt that the workers were in the wrong and should not have handled their dilemma the way they did, as they broke the law during their course of action. On the other hand, Knott titled his cartoon ‘There’s an Idea,’ as if to indicate the solution to the protest is obvious. Knott seems to feel that the decision the workers made, to do a sit-down strike, was ridiculous, that they should have just proposed there demands formally. When the strikes started, supervisors were given the boot, entrances and exits were blocked off and secured by workers, and security guards were replaced by union men. Because, in the plants the workers had established many communities and committees. Similar to the strike in Flint, the workers had committees such as publicity, security, and entertainment. Each committee had a job to perform respectively. For example, the entertainment were to keep the workers entertained.

As a result of this strike being in the midst of plenty of strikes during this period, the protesters had precedented expectations. The workers continued their sit-down strike for 17 days in the Chrysler plants. On March 24, the workers made an agreement to evacuate the plants in return for nothing other than continued negotiations. A week later they signed a contract that did not agree to a single one of the workers’ wants and gave Chrysler a no-strike pledge. However, the contract also recognized the UAW and showed the strength of the workers, potentially when they are united. The workers considered this a major victory. They may not have been able to get everything they wanted at once, but they continued to show their dedication. All the way through World War II, pushing past the next three decades they continued to make gains in their progression as a community because the workers were ready to strike at any time.

Even though the workers had, what they thought of as, success, they also had some missed opportunities to strengthen their act of protesting. For example, with all the committees the workers had set up, they failed to assign a committee responsible for monitoring the officials of the strike who could replace the officials that went against their demands. Instead they had overwhelming power over the protest: what they said went. Although the ones appointed to be officials were mostly well-respected workers and held high status’ with the workers, if any corruption was to go on, they should have had a group of people in charge of impeachment. Another missed opportunity they may have prolonged the protest and could have possibly prolonged the protest for more better benefits in the contract, was assigning a committee responsible for conducting hands-on activities and not just entertainment performances that were only visual.

Over the next many decades the UAW continued to grow and gain respect. People and the government began to take the UAW serious after these events. Around the 1970s was when Japanese and German auto companies opened plants in the US. The workers that worked at those plants were not part of unions. Soon, around the late 1970s, is when the peak membership of the UAW occurred and began declining at the point. By 2010, almost ⅔ of its members were retired and covered under pension and medical care plans.

Work Cited:

“Little Steel Strike of 1937.” Little Steel Strike of 1937 – Ohio History Central, www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Little_Steel_Strike_of_1937.

“Minewar.org » Archive » Sit-Down In Wilsonville.” Minewar.org RSS, www.minewar.org/?p=643.

“Sit-Down Strikes.” Edited by The Gale Group Inc., Dictionary of American History, Encyclopedia.com, 2003, www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/us-history/sit-down-strikes.

“The Chrysler Sit-down of 1937: The Workers Organize.” The Chrysler Sit-down of 1937: The Workers Organize – The Spark #796, The Spark, 16 Apr. 2007, www.the-spark.net/np796401.html.

Not a Good Place to Sit

 

“Not a Good Place to Sit” (Knott)

The cartoon Not A Good Place to Sit by John Knott refers to the Sit-Down Strike Law proposed by Texas Democrat Senator Martin Dies and its continuation within Texas, which made it a felony for workers to perform sit-down strikes. Sit-down strikes are a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at factories or other centralized locations, take possession of the workplace by “sitting down” at their stations. (Encyclopedia Britannica) These strikes occurred throughout America in the 1930’s as a result of unsafe labor conditions and inadequate pay. (Encyclopedia Britannica) The cartoon is a supplement to an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News titled Texas vs. Illegal Strikes published on April 7, 1937.

The cartoon itself is visually simple. It depicts a prickly pear cactus with the words “sit-down strike law” written on it. The cactus is growing out of the center of Texas. The humor in this cartoon can be found through the use of the cactus because if can be interpreted in two ways. At the most basic level and without knowledge of the sit-down strike law, it is obvious that Texas, a place with an abundance of cacti, is not a comfortable place to sit. Additionally, because the cactus is specifically a prickly pear, the name adds to the idea that Texas is inhospitable and prickly. It also strengthens the link to Texas because the prickly pear cactus has a long association with Texas and other southern states, and was even named the official state plant of Texas in 1995. (Cain) On a deeper level, it is clear that the cartoon is referring to the sit-down strikes and legislation taken against them at the time in the state of Texas. It is specifically referring to Texas because Texas legislation took the national sit-down strike law one step further. This made it, quite literally, more dangerous to “sit” in Texas than in other places in the United States.

Sit-down strikes were met with such intense opposition due to their ability to render huge businesses entirely helpless. They effectively prevented their employers from moving production to other locations because the strikers would need to be physically moved in order to continue production (Encyclopedia Britannica). Furthermore, this form of protest prevented their ability to bring in “strike breakers” (Encyclopedia Britannica). These were people brought into the company to replace the workers on strike alleviated pressure on the companies being protested against (Encyclopedia Britannica). Because sit-down strikes made it impossible for companies to get back on their feet without adhering to the strikers’ wishes, they were extremely controversial throughout the United States.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were the first American union to use the sit-down strike (White). On December 10, 1906, at the General Electric Works in Schenectady, New York, 3,000 workers sat down on the job and stopped production to protest the dismissal of three fellow IWW members (Authors of History.com). A decade later, the United Auto Workers staged successful sit-down strikes in the 1930s, most famously in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937 (Authors of History.com).  GM argued that the strikers were trespassing and got a court order demanding their evacuation; still, the union men stayed put (Authors of History.com). GM turned off the heat in the buildings, but the strikers wrapped themselves in coats and blankets and hunkered down (Authors of History.com). On January 11, police tried to cut off the strikers’ food supply; in the resulting riot, known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls,” 16 workers and 11 policemen were injured and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) took over the adjacent Fisher Two plant (Authors of History.com). On February 1, the UAW won control of the enormous Chevrolet No. 4 engine factory. GM’s output went from a robust 50,000 cars in December to just 125 in February. Despite GM’s enormous political power, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy refused to use force to break the strike.
Though the sit-ins were illegal, he believed, he also believed that authorizing the National Guard to break the strike would be an enormous mistake. “If I send those soldiers right in on the men,” he said, “there’d be no telling how many would be killed.” (Authors of History.com) As a result, he declared, “The state authorities will not take sides. They are here only to protect the public peace.” (Authors of History.com). Meanwhile, President Roosevelt urged GM to recognize the union so that the plants could reopen (Authors of History.com).  In mid-February, the automaker signed an agreement with the UAW (White).  Among other things, the workers were given a 5 percent raise and permission to speak in the lunchroom. A wave of sit-down strikes followed, but diminished by the end of the decade (White). This was due to legislation proposed by Texas senator Dies, which led to the courts and the National Labor Relations Board holding that sit-down strikes were illegal and sit-down strikers could be fired (“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes”).

The editorial Texas vs. Illegal Strikes focuses on the legislation passed specifically in Texas in order to take the sit-down strike law a step further (White). The national anti-sit-down strike law had already been passed, but the Governor of Texas, James Allred, wanted to make sit-down striking a felony (White). This was a generally agreed-upon stance in Texas, so when the Welmert bill to make sit down strikes a felony was proposed, it was immediately and unanimously accepted by the Texas Senate (White).

Although this legislation was widely supported by Texans, it caused others to become fearful of being charged as felons for past actions. One of the most prominent dissenters of this legislation was John L. Lewis,  the driving force behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which established the United Steel Workers of America and helped organize millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s (White). At the time, Lewis was attempting to organize the vast Texas Oil Industry and was worried that his unionizing activities would be stopped if he were to be charged for organizing any sort of sit-down strike.

The growth of the CIO was phenomenal in steel, rubber, meat, autos, glass and electrical equipment industries (White). In early 1937, Lewis’ CIO affiliates won collective-bargaining contracts with two of the most powerful anti-union corporations, General Motors and United States Steel (White). General Motors surrendered as a result of the great Flint Sit-Down Strike, during which Lewis negotiated with company executives, Governor Frank Murphy of Michigan, and President Roosevelt (White). U.S. Steel conceded without a strike as Lewis secretly negotiated an agreement with Myron Taylor, chairman of U.S. Steel (White). The CIO gained enormous strength and prestige from the victories in automobiles and steel and escalated its organizing drives, now targeting industries that the American Federation of Labor (AFL) have long claimed, especially meatpacking, textiles, and electrical products (White).

Harvey C. Fremming, a colleague of Lewis in Texas, demanded that Governor Allred look into Lewis’s activities and exonerate the CIO organizers completely (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”).  This was based on the grounds that the CIO had only fostered sit-down strikes in states other than Texas, and should therefore still be allowed to operate within Texas (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”). Lewis was never charged with as a felon, but the  entire CIO group was expelled from the AFL in November 1938 and became the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), with Lewis as the first president (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”).

In conclusion, this cartoon is a commentary on the sit-down strike law and the turmoil it caused in Texas. It shows how the Texas government caused sit-down strikes to become almost non-existent due to legislation passed which made such strikes felonies. It clearly shows that this legislation made it exceedingly dangerous to attempt to perform a sit-down strike. In all its simplicity, the cartoon fully conveys the prickly climate of Texas at the time and all the turmoil that would come out of a group of workers simply wanting to be paid a decent wage. Though this seems ridiculous, echoes of this time are still heard today and these issues continue to fester in the broken labor force of America.

Works Cited:

“ALLRED AND PEERY AGAINST SIT-DOWNS.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 40. Apr 04 1937. ProQuest. Web. 22 Feb. 2017 .

The Authors of History.com. “Sit-down Strike Begins in Flint.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

Cain, Delman. “Prickly Pear Cactus, Our State Plant.” Native Plant Society of Texas. Native Plant Society of Texas, 03 Aug. 2015. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Strike.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

Knott, John. “Not a Good Place to Sit.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Apr. 1937: 6.America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 7 Apr. 1937: 6. America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

White, Ahmed A. “The Depression Era Sit-Down Strikes and the Limits of Liberal Labor Law.” Seton Hall Law Review 40.1 (2010): 1-82.