The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

But some shares are a lot bigger than others

Jan 24, 2005

UAW members at Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler (DCX) learned from the newspapers the amounts of their so-called profit-sharing. For their work in 2004, GM workers will get a bonus of $195 each, Ford workers $600 each, and Chrysler workers somewhat above $1,000 each.

Since these are before-tax figures, workers' take-home will be much less. As one Ford worker told a reporter, "It's better than nothing. At least I can take my family out for dinner and a movie."

Yes, a worker's bonus for a whole year's hard, speeded-up labor isn't much more than a nice family dinner and movie. The companies claim that workers should be thrilled with this bonus, since it is a few dollars more than last year's meager payouts.

Workers are also supposed to recall the lean year of 2001 when the industry paid no profit-sharing at all. If workers are so bold as to mention the year 1999, when GM paid $1775, Ford paid $8000, and DCX $8100, all the corporate voices chorus, "Those days are gone."

But then why aren't those days gone for the shareholders? The idle few who do no work at all, but who own huge blocks of stock, 200,000 shares, 500,000 shares, and more, receive their same steady payouts year in and year out.

General Motors' stockholders rake in two bucks a share, every single year. The holder of 100,000 shares in 2001 got $200,000, even when workers got nothing. In 2002, 2003, 2004, whether GM workers got $940, $170, or $195, that stockholder got his $200,000.

The same general pattern holds at DCX and Ford, with a few cents' variation. For 2003, while U.S. DCX workers received not a cent in profit-sharing, a holder of 100,000 shares of DCX received $189,000 – $1.89 per share. A little more than a family dinner and movie!

Unless, of course, the leisurely cruise to the Mediterranean is included.