Nobody is happy about Delphi Corp.'s declaration of bankruptcy. But a lot of automotive sages have been predicting that it was just a matter of time.
When you start chasing around the world for the lowest labor rates, you are heading for disaster. And if you don't chase around the world for low labor rates, you're not going to be competitive for long.
You are between a rock and a hard place.
When you are manufacturing products that have high labor content, you're facing competition not just from across the street but from all around the world with labor rates that are frighteningly low.
Too many buyers are interested in the lowest price with little regard to quality, although increasingly the quality is reaching a par all over the world.
Delphi's American workers and many other members of the UAW must rethink their priorities. The time for hundreds of thousands of low-skill, high-pay jobs may be past. Many of those jobs didn't require much training or education.
Since the days of the Henry Ford assembly line and $5-a-day jobs, labor costs have increased relentlessly -- until now.
As competition becomes more global, a much more flexible environment will be required in order to compete successfully.
The change will be slower than some may want and faster than others would like to see. But it's coming. The UAW and other unions will have a tougher time marketing their benefits to workers.
To survive and prosper, the unions will have to demonstrate employee and employer benefits.
Otherwise, they will continue to find themselves on the defensive with no reason to exist as they watch their members' jobs disappear.
Both management and workers will have to re-prioritize what's important. And they will have to accept that what worked in the 1960s and before isn't going to work anymore.
This new world demands a transition, and it must start now.
Threats of strikes will only hasten the death of plants.
Delphi is just the beginning. The times they are a-changin' -- and right now.