GM strike makes sense to me. The key issue for the union, quite properly,
is the jobs of its members. The last time the UAW went on national strike, in
1970, it had 400,000 members; now, it has 73,000. It has failed to prevent the
loss of over 300,000 jobs, even as GM has been creating new jobs overseas. So
despite coming to an agreement on the crucial healthcare issue, GM wants to
be able to reduce its US workforce even further, and it’s hard to see how it
would be in the union’s interest to allow that to happen.
Note that this strike is not about pay, and not about benefits:
it’s about job security. So I’m puzzled when Matt Cooper says
that inflation hawks "will look at any settlement as pressure on prices".
They won’t, for two big reasons.
Firstly, GM does not have pricing power. It competes against Japanese manufacturers
who are perceived by the public as being higher quality than GM’s offerings.
If GM tries to charge significantly more than Honda and Toyota, it simply won’t
Secondly, a settlement would not imply higher car prices anyway, and neither
would it imply higher unit labor costs. The outcome of this strike will affect
one big thing: where the extra marginal dollar of GM revenue goes. Now Matt
might like to see that money to GM’s shareholders; personally, I’d rather see
it go to GM’s workers. But either way, the net effect on inflation is the same.
And in general, wage inflation is a good thing, if price inflation
remains controlled: it means people are being paid more money, in both nominal
and real terms. This strike might be a big deal for GM, but it has very little
in the way of macroecnomic consequences.