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Free Market Project

3/5/2006 11:43:13 AM

Updated 02/24/06

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ABC Reporter Portrays Union as Victim, Delphi as Villain
Reynolds ignored Delphiís $76-an-hour wages and $400-million per year spent on laid-off workers.

By Ken Shepherd
Free Market Project
Dec. 28, 2005

Send this page to a friend! (click here)¬†¬†¬†¬† ABC reporter Dean Reynolds promised ďA Closer LookĒ at the woes of domestic auto parts maker Delphi, but instead zoomed in on a story portraying union workers as victims and corporate executives as villains. His December 27 ďWorld News TonightĒ story blamed Delphi, which filed for bankruptcy this year, for securing pay bonuses for company officials while driving the company into the wall. However, Reynolds failed to document how the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has been at the wheel as the companyís bottom line has driven off a cliff.

¬†¬†¬†¬† The story focused on a Delphi shipping clerk from Indiana who may lose his job or take a cut in pay after a round of layoffs. Reynolds didnít report the generous compensation Delphi workers receive as part of the UAW agreement. Instead of dropping an actual dollar figure, Reynolds aired a brief sound bite of Delphi CEO Robert Miller complaining about his companyís labor costs being double or triple that of his competitors.

¬†¬†¬†¬† A November 26 story by Jason Roberson in the Detroit Free Press reported that Delphi workers earn on average $76-an-hour in pay and benefits combined. With a 40-hour work week, thatís $158,080-per-year. By contrast the median U.S. income in 2004 was $44,389.

     Roberson noted that in mid-November, Delphi announced it wanted to scale pay down to $35-an-hour ($72,800-per-year) for UAW workers. The pay cut request has since been withdrawn by Delphi.

¬†¬†¬†¬† Voicing over footage of foreign auto plant workers, Reynolds said Americans were competing with workers drawing ďmuch lower wages in other places.Ē Reynolds failed to mention many of these ďother placesĒ are factories located in the United States which command good wages and benefits. According to the June 22, 2005 New York Times, those areas include the South because many Southern states do not require workers to unionize.

     The Times article said actual salaries were only slightly lower in the foreign owned plants. However, when health care and other benefits were taken into account, union workers earned about $55 an hour, nearly 15 percent more than nonunion workers.

¬†¬†¬†¬† When Delphi wasnít paying union workers to work, it was paying them to not work. An October 17 story by Bryce Hoffman in the Detroit News focused on a ďjobs bankĒ which started in the 1980s as an auto industry concession to the UAW for allowing increased automation of plant operations.

¬†¬†¬†¬† Delphi has 4,000 workers in the program, according to Hoffmanís article. Delphiís CEO Robert S. Miller told the Detroit News that the ďjobs bankĒ cost his company $400 million-per-year. Automotive News reported on December 25 that UAW leaders are steadfastly refusing to agree to Delphiís request to reform the so-called jobs bank.

¬†¬†¬†¬† While Reynolds ignored the $400 million spent on 4,000 non-working union members, he lamented that Delphi worked out a bonus payment plan costing ďpotentially hundreds of millions of dollarsĒ to retain top executives before capping off his piece by showing his featured shipping clerk, a UAW member, worried about losing his house.

     The Free Market Project has previously documented how the media have presented a one-sided coverage of labor union scuffles with corporate management.


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