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March 10, 2009

E-mail to GM President: “It’s time to pay for your [own] sins, Detroit”

by Stephen Littau

My apologies to those who have already read this, but for those who haven’t this is just too good not to share. Since December 2008, the Knox e-mail to GM has been making its way to inboxes all over the world; I learned of it only yesterday when listening to Neal Boortz yesterday. Within an hour of Boortz reading the now infamous e-mail, Knox himself called the show to verify the authenticity of the letter. The letter has also been verified to be “correctly attributed” to Mr. Knox by Snopes.

First, the abridged letter from Troy Clarke, President of General Motors North America

Dear Employees & Suppliers,

Congress and the current Administration will soon determine whether to provide immediate support to the domestic auto industry to help it through one of the most difficult economic times in our nation’s history. Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical to our continuing the progress we began prior to the global financial crisis [...] As an employee or supplier, you have a lot at stake and continue to be one of our most effective and passionate voices. I know GM can count on you to have your voice heard.

Thank you for your urgent action and ongoing support.

Troy Clarke
President General Motors North America

Knox wrote the following e-mail in response and had originally sent a cc to his mother who then asked if she could forward it to her friends. Shortly thereafter, the e-mail went viral (and after reading it, you’ll understand why).

Gentlemen:

In response to your request to contact legislators and ask for a bailout for the Big Three automakers please consider the following, and please pass my thoughts on to Troy Clark, President of General Motors North America.

Politicians and Management of the Big 3 are both infected with the same entitlement mentality that has spread like cancerous germs in UAW halls for the last countless decades, and whose plague is now sweeping this nation, awaiting our new “messiah”, Pres-elect Obama, to wave his magic wand and make all our problems go away, while at the same time allowing our once great nation to keep “living the dream”… Believe me folks, The dream is over!

This dream where we can ignore the consumer for years while management myopically focuses on its personal rewards packages at the same time that our factories have been filled with the worlds most overpaid, arrogant, ignorant and laziest entitlement minded “laborers” without paying the price for these atrocities…this dream where you still think the masses will line up to buy our products for ever and ever.

Don’t even think about telling me I’m wrong. Don’t accuse me of not knowing of what I speak. I have called on Ford, GM, Chrysler, TRW, Delphi, Kelsey Hayes, American Axle and countless other automotive OEM’s throughout the Midwest during the past 30 years and what I’ve seen over those years in these union shops can only be described as disgusting.

Troy Clarke, President of General Motors North America, states: “There is widespread sentiment throughout this country, and our government, and especially via the news media, that the current crisis is completely the result of bad management which it certainly is not.”

You’re right Mr. Clarke, it’s not JUST management…how about the electricians who walk around the plants like lords in feudal times, making people wait on them for countless hours while they drag ass…so they can come in on the weekend and make double and triple time…for a job they easily could have done within their normal 40 hour work week. How about the line workers who threaten newbies with all kinds of scare tactics…for putting out too many parts on a shift…and for being too productive (We certainly must not expose those lazy bums who have been getting overpaid for decades for their horrific underproduction, must
we?!?)

Do you folks really not know about this stuff?!? How about this great sentiment abridged from Mr. Clarke’s sad plea: “over the last few years …we have closed the quality and efficiency gaps with our competitors.”
What the hell has Detroit been doing for the last 40 years?!? Did we really JUST wake up to the gaps in quality and efficiency between us and them? The K car vs. the Accord? The Pinto vs. the Civic?!? Do I
need to go on? What a joke!

We are living through the inevitable outcome of the actions of the United States auto industry for decades. It’s time to pay for your sins, Detroit.

I attended an economic summit last week where brilliant economist, Alan Beaulieu, from the Institute of Trend Research, surprised the crowd when he said he would not have given the banks a penny of “bailout money”.

“Yes, he said, this would cause short term problems,” but despite what people like politicians and corporate magnates would have us believe, the sun would in fact rise the next day… and the following very important thing would happen…where there had been greedy and sloppy banks, new efficient ones would pop up…that is how a free market system works…it does work…if we would only let it work…”

But for some nondescript reason we are now deciding that the rest of the world is right and that capitalism doesn’t work – that we need the government to step in and “save us”…Save us my ass, Hell – we’re
nationalizing…and unfortunately too many of our once fine nation’s citizens don’t even have a clue that this is what is really happening…But, they sure can tell you the stats on their favorite sports teams…yeah – THAT’S really important, isn’t it…

Does it ever occur to ANYONE that the “competition” has been producing vehicles, EXTREMELY PROFITABLY, for decades in this country?… How can that be??? Let’s see… Fuel efficient… Listening to customers…
Investing in the proper tooling and automation for the long haul…

Not being too complacent or arrogant to listen to Dr. W. Edwards Deming four decades ago when he taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations could increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs. Ever increased productivity through quality and intelligent planning… Treating vendors like strategic partners, rather than like “the enemy”… Efficient front and back offices… Non union
environment…

Again, I could go on and on, but I really wouldn’t be telling anyone anything they really don’t already know down deep in their hearts.

I have six children, so I am not unfamiliar with the concept of wanting someone to bail you out of a mess that you have gotten yourself into -my children do this on a weekly, if not daily basis, as I did when I was
their age. I do for them what my parents did for me (one of their greatest gifts, by the way) – I make them stand on their own two feet and accept the consequences of their actions and work through it.

Radical concept, huh… Am I there for them in the wings? Of course – but only until such time as they need to be fully on their own as adults..

I don’t want to oversimplify a complex situation, but there certainly are unmistakable parallels here between the proper role of parenting and government. Detroit and the United States need to pay for their sins.
Bad news people – it’s coming whether we like it or not. The newly elected Messiah really doesn’t have a magic wand big enough to “make it all go away.” I laughed as I heard Obama “reeling it back in” almost
immediately after the final vote count was tallied…”we really might not do it in a year…or in four…” Where the Hell was that kind of talk when he was RUNNING for office.

Stop trying to put off the inevitable folks … That house in Florida really isn’t worth $750,000… People who jump across a border really don’t deserve free health care benefits… That job driving that forklift for the Big 3 really isn’t worth $85,000 a year… We really shouldn’t allow Wal-Mart to stock their shelves with products acquired from a country that unfairly manipulates their currency and has the most atrocious human rights infractions on the face of the globe…

That couple whose combined income is less than $50,000 really shouldn’t be living in that $485,000 home… Let the market correct itself folks – it will. Yes it will be painful, but it’s gonna’ be painful either way, and the bright side of my proposal is that on the other side of it all, is a nation that appreciates what it has…and doesn’t live beyond its means…and gets back to basics…and redevelops the patriotic work
ethic that made it the greatest nation in the history of the world…and probably turns back to God.

Sorry – don’t cut my head off, I’m just the messenger sharing with you the “bad news”. I hope you take it to heart.

Gregory J. Knox, President
Knox Machinery, Inc.
Franklin, Ohio 45005

A few minor arguments aside, overall I think Mr. Knox is right. The financial problems that GM is currently facing was caused by mismanagement, unions, and an unwillingness to compete in a global economy.

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7 Comments

  1. Excuse me, but I can and will tell Mr Knox that he doesn’t know what he is talking about when he says, “That job driving that forklift for the Big 3 really isn’t worth $85,000 a year…”.
    My ex-husband has worked at GM for almost 30 years; most recently as a forklift driver. I can assure you that he makes nowhere near $85,000 a year. I would also hasten to point out that his plant, Toledo’s GM Powertrain has been given industry awards for the productivity of their employees. I really take offense when loudmouths like Mr. Knox twist reality to suit their own narrow ideology. It’s too bad that so many people are willing to give them a forum.

    Comment by Deb in Toledo — March 10, 2009 @ 12:21 pm
  2. Mr. Knox,
    Amen. Couldn’t agree more. I know a few guys that work at GM in the Dallas/Ft. worth area. They have have been laughing in our faces for years. Its time to pull the rug out from under the unions.
    Lets get all those jobs back we have sent to Mexico and Asia. We need to learn to live within our own means. Mr. Knox what you wrote needs to be branded between the eyes of everybody in Washington and I mean branded like you do a cow.

    Comment by terry — March 10, 2009 @ 12:36 pm
  3. Deb,
    Your husband may not bring home the entire $85,000 but that is probably close to what it costs GM to employ him, not to mention what it will cost them after he leaves.

    Comment by John — March 10, 2009 @ 1:02 pm
  4. On a another note. I worked on Offshore Drilling Rigs in the Gulf of Mexico for 27 yrs. That is one of the toughest jobs known to man. Never ever have has anybody to my mind talked about unions. You signed on to do a job for x amount of money, period. If you didnt like it after awhile, you could pack your bags and go home. I’ll take a group of home grown American roughnecks teach them how to do something and put them up against anybody else in the world. They will do it better and faster. They work because they like working,they make a decent living,and they understand nothing is free.
    Look at federal and state workers. One digging the ditch and 3 watching. I dont get it. Come on people stop feeling that someone or something owes you. I see so much waste on the state and federal level. I dont see how we have made this far.

    Comment by terry — March 10, 2009 @ 1:05 pm
  5. In reply to deb. I don’t know what your husband’s wages are. Did you include the cost of insurance and paid retirement. I am self employed and can say that my health insurance costs me over $1,100 a mo. That price is individual insurance not family plan. That’s with out dental and optical. When I need a pair of glasses I need to get $500 out of my pocket not the insurance company. When my teeth need fixed it is all from my pocket. Add those costs to his pay check and see how you stack up. When I retire I will continue to pay from my pocket for insurance. It will not come from the company. My wife is a teacher when she retires it again will fall on her to keep health insurance not the school system for the duration of her life. I have also worked in a factory and have been told slow down your making us all look bad. The truth is that if worked hard I could do 8 hr. of work in 6 hr. I do not recieve paid vacations, when I go the pay check stopes. When your husband goes on vacation the pay check keeps coming from GM. That costs the company the same per hr. with no production from him.

    Comment by mark — March 11, 2009 @ 8:50 am
  6. Mark

    You forgot to add that you also have to pay the 1/2 of the social security tax that Deb’s husband employer pays. In addition, they pay for unemployment insurance, workman’s compensation, possibly disability, and maybe some life insurance. Add in the retirement package that Deb’s husband likely will get and $85,000 probably isn’t enough.

    Comment by TerryP — March 11, 2009 @ 10:33 am
  7. What about UPS? Why do the package truck drivers who don’t even need a CDL make $28.16 an hour? They average a 47.5 hour work week, get nine weeks vacation after 25 years of service….
    But the thing is that the workers in the UPS hubs unloading, sorting, loading parcels lucky to make $13.00 an hour and most work part time. google it

    Comment by mike — March 12, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

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