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UAW Employees Earn $130,000 a Year

Workers at other car plants earn significantly less money -- and don't need bailout

Average Hourly Labor Costs

Here’s a little known fact about the Big Three automakers: The average unionized worker costs his or her employer about $75 an hour in wages and benefits. That’s more than $130,000 a year — three times as much as the typical American worker.

With executives for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler pleading their case for a government bailout, it’s worth remembering the UAW’s role in the problem. These high salaries are chocking the Big Three. Rather than making concessions, however, the union wants the government to pony up money.

My colleague James Sherk, a labor policy analysts at The Heritage Foundation, ran the numbers for UAW employees and those who work for Japanese plants located in the United States. Sherk notes that UAW workers’ compensation comes as benefits, not cash. The chart shows the dramatic difference.

Unionized workers at the Big Three cost employers between $71 and $76 an hour for a total of $130,000 in 2006. By contrast, employees at Japanese plants cost their companies between $42 and $48 an hour for about $80,000. The average American private sector worker earned about $25 an hour in 2006.

What’s my point? If taxpayers are being asked to fund a bailout for Detroit automakers, the UAW should come to the table with concessions. Maintaining this rate of pay is unsustainable in the current economic environment. Everyone but Detroit seems to get the message.

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