University of Michigan / Ann Arbor
“ Michigan Today” Magazine 1986
In December’s Michigan Today Roger Smith used the subject
of liberal arts as the vehicle to make some typical General Motors public relation’s comments on GM’s restructuring.
While Mr. Smith promotes GM’s “Mark of Excellence” to academia, what kind of social report card does GM
get in the way it treats workers and communities both domestically and internationally?
The real message of Mr. Smith’s remarks were on GM’s corporate restructuring equation that is directly
and negatively impacting a massive segment of working people and the communities in which they live. While no one is against
these companies’ turning a reasonable return on their investment, what really is at stake isn’t so much profits
as it is the systematic elimination of the future employment opportunities of the next generation of workers, both blue and
of GM’s major restructuring strategies is global production. This forces domestic workers to compete with GM’s
many foreign workers, some of whom make starvation wages. One example is GM’s “Maquila” worker plants in
Mexico where GM has about a 90% annual labor turnover rate. Because of their pitifully low wages, these poor workers cannot
even afford the costs associated with work including the transportation, work clothing or lunch money; GM is now forced to
furnish these hungry workers with one meal per day.
no one wants to be “anti-progress”, in light of several studies like the one recently commissioned by the Michigan
State Senate which projects that by the year 2000 more cars will be produces with an incredible 50% cut in auto jobs it is
less than socially responsible to not raise the questions “progress for whom” and “progress for what”?
is going into the communities in which they operate and demanding property tax assessment reductions on factories being modernized
to “state of the art”, making them not “less” but “incredibly more” profitable and valuable.
While Mr. Smith calls for a good liberal arts education, GM’s tax demands are pulling money out of the education systems
in the communities in which GM operates forcing many local educational systems to now slice deeply into their already low
budgets and put up operating funds to fight GM.
top of disturbing municipal services, this strategy has the potential of creating a devastating effect on our children, making
it in many cases much more difficult if not impossible to even attend college.
are many other critical and quiet strategies being pushed by GM including the redefining of the of the term “union”
and “attitude manipulation” programs directed at their captive workforce, but it is impossible in this short space
to comprehensively define all elements of GM’s restructuring.
educators in many instances are being integrated into the corporate restructuring strategy as potential facilitators of these
changes and it should raise some very complex social-responsibility questions for many of them.
education help improve the situation of our people by promoting values, sensitivity and vision? Why aren’t more questions
being raised on these changes that will impact the lives of so many?
reading an article of speech by a powerful and resourceful business leader, don’t take it for face value. Look for quiet
politics, deliberate corporate-image enhancement and only the points brought out that promote their particular concerns.