Exactly! I knew I'd have to come back to defend my statements. No I didn't say assembly line workers should be paid more than engineers... and at $58-60k a year, that's probably not a problem. Most of the people with engineering degrees at my railroad are making way more, and are in the management class that gets real bonuses.
In my office, the highest rated person in the office this year had just over 2 years seniority... In many ways she's clueless... still asks older people like me questions from time to time. She can do her job adequately, yet sat behind a person who was training with her 2 nights ago and let him make a rule violation that could have derailed a train (got any tracks near you?) or killed some company workers... They are pinning the violation on the guy training with her, and not her. After 15 years in the position, she makes like 3 grand less than me. Next year I'm sure she'll make more than me... unless...
Guess what? Because of senseless management like the guys that made her the top rated employee in the office... We're about to have a union vote for my craft at my company. Most of the older people are praying it finally goes thru. Some of those older people were around in the early 80's when the union was voted out because it wasn't protecting the employees!
OK, back to what UAW people make... Sure people can live on less, and many of those autoworkers are making a bunch more (not adjusted for inflation) than their dads... but I guarantee you their money isn't going near as far as their dads did. The money a UAW employee makes now adjusted for inflation isn't near what it was. That's my big problem with whats going on with society. Many of us seem to be making more than our parents, but few really are. Sure, you could argue that we are paying more for extraneous stuff our parents didn't have, like cellphones, cable, etc... but some stuff our parents bought was way way more expensive. My parents paid over $300 for their first color TV in 1970 dollars
Here's a little tale. When I was a kid in 1972 my dad was a LT. in the Navy. My parents bought a new house in Va. Beach for $32k, and a loaded big 73 buick Estate Wagon for just a hair over $7k! The house was in a nice upper middle class area... now ragged for being a golden ghetto of nice schools, and being disgustingly white. My parents caught shit for buying a car OVER 7 thousand dollars from the neighbors. This was back when the only cars GM made more than 7k would have been a Vette or some Caddy's. That loaded buick would be like the equivalent of a H2 hummer for the mom to wheel the kids around in.
Of note here, my parents were financially conservative. My dad grew up without a father, so he had no one to fall back on. And my mom came from a family of freaking misers. We didn't live a life of credit card excess. My parents bought what they could swing. Also of note, this was in 1972... I didn't know anyone who had a working mom. Being military we moved a bunch. It was a single income household.
Lets move that situation up to today.
Today a Hummer H2 is about $49k, and that house cost $240k. That would be $290 or almost $300k. A Navy Lt. couldn't pull that off today. That's why his wife likely works. Likewise the dollars paid those autoworkers today don't go near as far as they did 15,20, or 30 years ago. Wage deflation for the middle class is one of the major reasons we see some many dual income households. Sure we have more crap... but the median income for a man in 1973 in America was $28,100 (at least on the site I found... correct me if I'm wrong) Adjusted for inflation to 2007 dollars thats a stunning $131,223!!!! (my dad's military pay probably put them in the low 20's back then, but military get taxed less, so his take home was closer to someone making mid to upper 20's.) Wage deflation now has both couples working to try to keep up with cost.
And another thing (sorry I'm jumping around, its 0430 in the morning!) not only are cars are more complex today, all unions have taken hits. Productivity per worker has gone way up despite union protection. You know the UAW workers today are having to do more work than they did 20 years ago. I guarantee you the old guys at auto assembly plants today aren't saying that 'these are the good days!'... Nope, they are saying "working here used to be fun!"
All companies have tightened the screws. Bottom line in my opinion is the companies are getting more productivity per man hour, AND paying less out today than they did in the past. They merely want more profit and are whining. Instead of building a solid product tht sells like hot cakes, they are trying to cost cut their way to profitibility.
I do not think that $28 bucks an hour is insane to pay someone who is putting together something of value. Just like I'd pay a little more to know my new house was being built correctly. I don't want a sagging garage roof in 5 years.
Like I said though, the UAW hasn't made their employees stand up and take any responsibility for doing a good job. They are much more concerned with protecting the employees, than offering a quality service from their members. This is a major fault of some unions. Not only do unions have to protect the employee, they also need to offer some value to the employer, or its never going to be more than a purely confrontational relationship.