Former General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz doesn’t hold back when it comes to voicing his opinions, as evidenced in a recent interview in which he criticized the United Auto Workers union over the ongoing GM strike.
With nearly five decades of experience in the auto industry, including positions as a leader at each of the Big Three automakers, Bob Lutz certainly knows what it takes to run a car company. Now, Lutz has indicated that if the UAW demands too much in the current labor contract negotiations, it could end up hurting GM.
“The stakes really are American competitiveness,” Lutz said in an interview with CNBC. “General Motors pays well, cares for its people, has great health care.”
Of course, Lutz’s opinions aren’t simply the product of the recent GM strike. As he points out, the former exec had the same conservative mindset while earning his MBA at UC Berkeley in the ‘60s, a time when the campus was an epicenter for left-leaning political activism.
Although Lutz ended up graduating with a 3.83 GPA, the labor relations graduate course provided some problems for him.
“We had to write a term paper, and I touched on a number of aspects,” Lutz said. “But because I wanted some balance I wrote in it that large unions had plenty to answer for when it came to loss of competitiveness of American industry.”
Lutz said he got a D on the paper. “It was heavily red-circled. In the margin, it says, ‘You haven’t obviously been paying attention in class.'”
During the interview, UC Berkeley Labor Relations Professor Harley Shaiken chimed in, jokingly saying, “Bob, if you send me the paper, I’ll try to raise the grade for you.”
Shaiken also provided a counterpoint to Lutz’s argument. “It’s the competitiveness of the entire economy because of the union and the corporation working together versus being jammed like they are now.”
Meanwhile, the GM strike continues as contract negotiations between the union and automaker have thus far failed to find an amicable solution.
The UAW is negotiating for higher wages, greater job security, and a path for temporary workers to seniority.