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The power of a union

October 19, 2005|Michael Newman

WHAT'S GOOD for General Motors is good for America's editorial writers too. This morning's editorials are unified in their praise for GM and the United Auto Workers union, which agreed to concessions Monday that will save GM at least $1 billion annually in healthcare costs.

But praise is boring, which is why most editorials quickly dispense with the agreement itself and move on to the usual villains. For the Wall Street Journal that would be the labor movement, which it decries as paternalistic and backward. Luckily, it says, the UAW "appears to have awakened from its long, willful oblivion" just in time to save GM. The New York Times, in contrast, has stern words for GM. "Successful companies," it says, "do more than squeeze workers' pay and benefits." The Times and Journal also disagree about the larger implications of the nation's healthcare crisis. The Times says the deal shows the need to nationalize healthcare (because companies such as GM can't afford to pay for it themselves), while the Journal says the deal shows the need for more private healthcare providers (because, um, well, competition is just better, OK?).

USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor are less interested in the implications for the government and more fascinated with bad metaphors. Both see the U.S. auto industry heading for a cliff and the deal as helping the union and GM to avert it. Both editorials also make full use of automotive metaphors in their headlines, with GM "controlling its skid" in USA Today and "going off cruise control" in the Monitor.

Meanwhile, back in Detroit, both the News and the Free Press had grudging praise Monday for the deal.

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Michael Newman

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