The Detroit 3 and the UAW are headed for conflict this fall over the controversial two-tier wage system that was put in place in 2007 and helped those companies return to profitability.
Generally speaking, automakers say they want it; auto workers say they hate it and it should end. Fair enough.
But before either side starts throwing body blows at the other, history may offer a compromise.
A system of two-tier wages for identical work with no hope of advancement for the lower tier is morally wrong, and it's wrong-headed from a business standpoint.
But creating a single-tier wage system with an extended progression -- allowing workers to be hired at a lower rate with base wages rising at specific intervals over 10 years or more to a top-tier rate -- would be fairer. It would treat all auto workers at a company the same because they would all be climbing the same ladder.
Automakers wouldn't have to pay new hires top wages while they train or do menial tasks. Auto workers could view such a system as rewarding them for their experience.
In addition, creating a series of specific wage increases at specific times would provide certainty for workers and planning stability for automakers.
Seniority pay was once part of the UAW's bargaining goals. It could be again.