Delphi options are bleak, but strike is not the answer
The 2,100 employees at Delphi Corp.'s Limestone County plant have every reason to be anxious and angry, but nothing good is likely to come from a strike.
Delphi's chief executive officer, Steve Miller, at times seems to be playing a game that only he enjoys.
He'll announce devastating wage cuts and then, just as United Auto Workers start to look at the wisdom of a strike, Mr. Miller will switch to a conciliatory tone. One day he cries out that the U.S. auto industry is headed for ruin but, when General Motors shares decline, his tone becomes optimistic.
Mr. Miller complains of the inefficiency of U.S. Delphi plants in general, but when he visits those plants he walks out with nothing but praise. He gives ultimatums to UAW, but then asks the bankruptcy court to give UAW more time. One day he promises major cash bonuses for senior management; the next moment he has second thoughts.
At times, it seems he is trying to be good cop and bad cop simultaneously.
This is the sort of conduct that makes it tough to refrain from a strike. If Mr. Miller changes his tune at the threat of a strike, maybe the reality will trigger even more change. Maybe things are not as bad as they seem.
Whether workers like Mr. Miller or not, however, he is not the only thermometer telling them that their employer is critically ill.
Delphi stock now trades at 33 cents per share. Its main customer, GM, is being battered by declining sales and increasing costs. Delphi is spending $100 million a quarter for inactive employees in its job bank. The company is $4 billion in debt and, because its bonds have a junk rating, maintaining that debt is expensive. It lost $788 million in the third quarter alone.
We have lots of sympathy for Delphi workers, but no good answers. Going on strike, though, would likely push Delphi off of the edge of a cliff. Years of corporate mismanagement leave workers with few choices. A strike should not be one of those choices.