The United Automobile Workers Union starts high-stakes contract talks with Detroit automakers tomorrow, at a time when the union counts more retirees than active workers in its ranks—meaning higher health-care costs—and the American automotive industry is in dire financial straits. The talks are being called "the most important in a generation," the Times reports.
Retirees fear an erosion of benefits, while carmakers say they need concessions to compete with foreign companies. Health care and pension benefits cost $1,000 for each car they sell, Detroit claims, vs. a few hundred dollars for Japanese carmakers. One possible solution, with potential appeal to both sides, is the creation of a health care trust. The current contract expires in September.