My bet is that dad would have stayed with the UAW

Automotive News | December 14, 2012 - 12:37 pm EST

My father was an auto worker. He had a love-hate relationship with his union, the UAW.

All this talk about right-to-work in Michigan has me wondering how the late Ken Barkholz would have responded to the new opportunity to leave the union. I trust he would have stayed.

This issue has been portrayed as so black-and-white in the national media. Like most things, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

See, my dad appreciated much of what the UAW did for him. He knew the union was instrumental back in the ’60s and ’70s in negotiating a livable wage and benefits for workers. He never got rich -- not with a wife and six kids to support.

But he could afford his own modest house. We had enough food. And later during his more than 30-year career as a journeyman electrician at General Motors auto plants, he could provide eyeglasses for us and dental care without straining too hard.

But Ken, make no mistake, loathed how the union protected shirkers, drunks and floaters. He would have been outraged how the UAW recently used arbitration to get nearly a dozen Detroit Chrysler workers back on the job two years after they were fired for drinking and drugging outside the factory during their lunch hours.

He knew from standing on ladders and getting inside locked-out machines that auto plants were dangerous enough without inebriated co-workers running around.

My dad also was ultraconservative. He had NRA stickers on the back of his GMC Sierra, liked to hunt and was a Reagan Democrat before there was such a thing. He probably was the only man in my working-class Downriver-Detroit neighborhood to vote Republican Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. He was a Goldwater Democrat.

So he would have found the millions of dollars spent by the UAW on re-electing President Obama and other liberal candidates to be, well, wrong-headed.

Yet, at the end of the day, he would have stayed with the UAW, even if given a chance to opt out by right-to-work. The union, he believed, produced more good than bad for members.

Besides, he disliked shirkers. And he would have never shirked paying dues while benefiting from the UAW’s collective bargaining.

David Barkholz is a reporter for Automotive News.David Barkholz is a reporter for Automotive News.

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