In 1962, GM had 464,000 US employees and was paying benefits to 40,000 retirees and their spouses, for a dependency ratio of one pensioner to 11.6 employees. Last year, it had a 141,000 workers and paid benefits to 453,000 retirees, for a dependency ratio of 3.2 to 1."
If Reuther's advice had been followed, and healthcare and company pensions had, for example, been effectively nationalised, fluctuations in the fortunes of any single company would not affect a worker's access to benefits. Even better, companies would be better able to compete in a global marketplace.
So, how do we ensure that workers and retirees don't get crushed by the implosion of the Big Three? Simple. Any bailout, restructuring or government-overseen bankruptcy should be accompanied by comprehensive healthcare reform for all workers, along with substantial improvements in the safety net such as wage insurance, extended unemployment benefits, training and education subsidies.