Voices from the Bottom Row: A View from within GM
I read a lot about the public perception of the autoworkers. Since the comments I read are often repeated, I can only surmise that a lot of people are very interested in talking about work dynamics and habits of the typical autoworker. So I decided to give you some perspective from an employee’s view. Read no further if you are not interested in hearing another viewpoint.
I am a body structures designer for GM and I use Unigraphics to do my job. I am currently working on three different programs. I am designing parts and creating design studies for four different engineers. I organize my work by timing of the due dates, and I strive to meet them. I also attend meetings when my parts are required for review.
I go to lunch around 11:00. This usually consists of me reaching from brown bag and eating leftovers from the night before (if we happened to have time to cook between school conferences and other seemingly endless things that pop up as the weeks come into focus). Most times, I eat at my desk and read. Often, work does call during lunch and I return to designing or reviewing while I eat.
I am paid for 8-hours, but I am not a clock watcher. I work what it takes to get the job done. When special projects arise that require a volunteer, I raise my hand.
I am 41 years old. I have a wife with major health issues. She has been hospitalized nine times since January. It is not over yet. I also have six-year-old triplets. We all attend church on Sundays and Wednesdays.
I also attend Central Michigan University in pursuit of my Bachelors degree in Vehicle Design Engineering. I have an Associate’s degree in Vehicle Design from a community college and a Designing Engineer certificate from Michigan Technological University. I have paid for most of my classes out of my own pocket. GM paid once I got hired, but I got myself there. They have now relinquished the tuition reimbursement. I will still go to school.
I hope you understand that, when I read about lazy autoworkers, it hits a nerve with me. I am surrounded every day by men and women doing the same thing I am doing. We are fighting for our jobs and not a single one of us feels entitled to anything.
I am not UAW. However, the common opinions of the UAW is decades old. Yes, there are bad eggs in every job, and there are still steps to take, but if you have been following for the last five years, you know that the UAW at GM is barely a shell of its former self. And there are still metrics in place that will further the progress to being competitive with the foreign business model.
There are times when we’re slow, as is the nature of programs winding down and ramping up, that I feel guilty at the end of the day. I hate not being busy. I WANT to EARN my wages.
I don’t believe I am unique. I believe most everyone is like me. I want to right wrongs. I want to produce. I want to make people happy and, if I could find a way to change the perception of the company I work for, I would. I know we are making the best product we ever have, and I know it is world class. I know we have made great strides in quality, styling, and cost cutting. We are doing way more with much less and I feel GREAT PRIDE in being a part of GM.
It hasn’t been fun for the last 3-4 years, but I still love my job. I have survived headcount reductions, but they keep coming. I know what might be ahead for me. I accept it as well. I will lean on my faith, but I fear greatly the reality of what will happen to my family. Still, I would regret the worst happening without my voice being heard in support of my GM brothers and sisters. I cannot change my external environment, but I can choose how I react to it. This is my reaction.
GM was a major factor in creating the middle class. GM was there to help build war machines. GM has been there with vehicle aid after natural disasters. GM was there to help keep the economy going after 9/11. GM is not just a car company. It is an integral part of American history.
People have strong opinions about autoworkers, and I’m certain they are rooted in varying degrees of history and truth. However, I am here to tell you that today, I represent the general employee base here at GM. Nobody denies the fact that we have made some blunders. We lost our way in the eighties and we stumbled through the nineties. But this company is 100 years old. Along with Ford and Chrysler, our cars and trucks have been the lion's share of choices when it comes to parades, car shows, cruises, farming, construction, contractors, movies, children’s' automotive dreams, and adults' automotive passions. From our earliest models of class and elegance to wartime transformations, we've built history. From dependency on oil to breakthrough technologies in alternative fuels, we are building the present. With a competitive global business model in place, a workforce of passionate men and women, and seemingly endless opportunities to explore new technologies, I know we can build the future!
Peace be with you,