Chart of UAW compensation compared to manufacturing average

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Mark J. Perry (a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan) of Carpe Diem asks why people who make much less than United Auto Workers doing the same kind of work should fork over their taxes to keep them employed.

[A] UAW assembler earned 91% more in monetary wages than the average worker in the manufacturing sector, and a UAW electrician earned 123% more in wages than the average manufacturing worker.

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This is actually a tribute to the amazing success of the UAW - it was able to not just build a middle-class of autoworkers, it was actually able to elevate its members from the middle class into the upper-income class, even though most UAW workers had (have) only a high school degree. Unfortunately, that success could not be sustained in the long-run, and UAW wages have to come to back down to realistic levels, e.g. the $16.78 average hourly wage that prevails in the rest of the manufacturing sector, before the wages push the Big Three into bankruptcy. Is there anything so special about auto assembly manufacturing work that it justifies a 91% premium over the rest of the manufacuring sector? I don't think so.

Maybe we should subsidize all manufacturing jobs in the US so everyone earns as much as a UAW assembler. Isn't that the fair thing to do?

UPDATE: Media Matters investigates the figures presented here and concludes they are false.

And here's an excerpt from an AP article that mentions UAW wages:

But GM, which negotiated the four-year deal that serves as a template for UAW deals with Chrysler and Ford, says its total hourly labor costs dropped 6 percent this year from pre-contract levels, from $73.26 in 2006 to around $69 per hour. The new cost includes laborers' wages of $29.78 per hour, plus benefits, pensions and the cost of providing health care to more than 432,000 GM retirees, GM spokesman Tony Sapienza said.

Middle-Class UAW? How About Upper-Class