AUTOS: Double-Edged Sword

In 1948, when General Motors Corp. and Walter Reuther's United Automobile Workers (C.I.O.) signed a "cost-of-living" contract, both sides hailed it as a noble experiment in labor relations. Under the contract, the autoworkers got an 11¢ an-hour raise, plus an automatic boost of 3¢ an hour at the end of the first year. They also agreed that their wages should be adjusted up or down each quarter to compensate for sizable movements of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' "cost-of-living" index. For a while, it looked as if the union had played it...

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