Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on UAW contract talks

Back in the 1950s, UAW contract talks with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler took center stage in American life, creating a key venue for social change. Under the legendary leader Walter Reuther, the UAW won the sort of pay and benefits that came to define a middle-class lifestyle. Among those victories: The UAW won the first paid holidays for General Motors workers (in 1947); The union won the first employer-paid and jointly administered pension program at Ford (in 1949); And the union won fully paid hospitalization, surgical and medical insurance for retirees (in 1964). This year's round of UAW talks, now underway against a Sept. 14 contract expiration date, promises no such broad social impact. Rather, the union is fighting more of a rear-guard action, hoping to stave off the plant closings that GM has announced, rather than achieving broad new categories of benefits.  "Outside of the region I doubt that these talks get much attention at all. You can probably pick up a newspaper in any major city in the United States and probably not see a story on them at all," Marick Masters, a professor of business at Wayne State University, said. "The collective bargaining relationship is a manifestation of an institutionalized labor management relationship. You have to work through somewhat rigid institutions."

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