Rick Wagoner may be Motor Trend's most powerful person of the year, but Ron Gettelfinger deserves significant props for what he achieved over the course of the last 365 days. Automotive News has named the president of the UAW its Person of the Year, which is a fitting choice considering that Gettelfinger somehow managed to broker a compromise between domestic automakers and his union workers that satisfied both parties.
On one side of the equation, you had armchair analysts claiming that the UAW would force the domestic automakers into bankruptcy with its high legacy costs that add thousands of dollars to the bottom line of each vehicle sold. On the other, there are thousands of currently employed and retired union workers who don't want to pay an arm and a leg to get their arms and legs fixed. It wasn't easy, as strikes against both General Motors and Chrysler were required to get the deals done. But as 2007 came to a close, new four-year contracts with each of the Big 3 were in the books that would see most of the financial responsibility for retiree health care transferred from the automakers to the union itself, with significant concessions granted that will also reduce labor costs in the short term. The automakers got what they wanted, and in turn the union will keep many of its workers employed who would have otherwise been lost to plant closings and outsourcing. Good job, Ron.
[Source: Automotive News, sub. req'd, Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty]