The words presented a muted contrast to the shrill clatter of the duplicating machine this morning as it churned out copies of United Auto Workers Local 1776's strike duty instructions.
"Sure, a lot of people would be disappointed if there isn't a strike," said millwright apprentice Holton Dillingham. "They've been waiting for a vacation for a long time, and I know I'm looking forward to one."
This isn't the fire-in-the-belly kind of talk that one might expect as the nation's largest and most powerful industrial union goes to the bargaining table with General Motors, America's biggest corporation.
Instead, random conversations with some of the 4,500 UAW workers at GM'S huge Willow Run assembly plant near here -- one of the 46 company facilities targeted for selective strikes if a new contract isn't reached by the 11:55 p.m. Friday bargaining deadline -- point to something less than the textbook labor-management showdown.
They also tell something about the titans of labor and management in the nation's foremost manufacturing industry.
General Motors, the biggest of the Big Three, has revved itself so high to crank out its popular new fuel-efficient, front-wheel-drive cars that some workers claim to have taken in more than $20,000 by midsummer by working nine or 10 hours a day, often seven days a week. That's a lot of money, they say, with no time to enjoy it.
The low inventories for these so called "X cars" is the main reason why the union chose plants that produce them, like Willow Run, as strike targets in this year's bargaining for a new pattern-setting contract.
It also is a reason why Local 1776 appears ready and in some cases eager for a strike, although less than enthusiastic about anything beyond a brief walkout.
"I don't think anybody would mind a strike of a week or two," said Maina L. Jones, an inspector at Willow Run, as she arrived for a strike services committee meeting at the union hall across the road from the plant. "I wouldn't mind that either. But GM doesn't go down for just two weeks, does it?"
There are nagging memories of the last time the UAW took on GM; a grueling 67-day strike in 1970 that cost the union $160 million and left it -- and many of its members -- deeply in debt.
With this in mind, the 1.5-million-member union has built up a record strike fund of nearly $300 million. And, initially at least, its selective strike strategy would idle fewer than 100,000 of its more than 450,000 members at GM. This would slow down the drain on the union's strike fund and, barring a company lockout, enable the union to endure a strike for months.
But for some workers at such target plants as Willow Run there are immediate financial pressures, as well as prospects of a deepening recession that already has forced the layoffs of about 36,000 GM workers.
"Some of our people are living right on the edge. . .with mortgage payments of $400, $500 or $700." said Local 1776 President Richard Debs. Even the mounting number of two-income households hasn't provided the strike cushion that might be expected, he said. "They have debts to match [their wages]," Debs explained.
But Debs and many members of Local 1776, whose 98 percent vote to authorize a strike was among the union's highest, say the rank and file will strongly support whatever the UAW does, including calling a strike if necessary.
The one sour note at Local 1776 is the lack of information about progress at the talks in Detroit, though that could mean simply that they are going better than normal. In most recent auto negotiations (the UAW has not failed to strike a target company since 1964), everyone would be talking by now about why a strike is inevitable. Yet, although the two sides have been slow to tackle major economic issues, at least as of early today, UAW President Douglas A. Fraser clearly doesn't want to do anything to upset what he sees as chances of settling without a strike. Both sides continue to sound optimistic.
If there are any strike issues, judging by the reactions at Local 1776, they are cost-of-living protection for retirees and more time off for active workers -- the same issues UAW leaders have been pushing.
With wages averaging more than $9 an hour and benefits accounting for $6 more, the usual strike issues are secondary. "More wages don't help when you pay it all back in taxes," complained millwright apprentice Dillingham.
But the pension issue appears to be felt strongly among young as well as older workers. For example, Ken Demkowski, a 23 year old body shop assembler, has a father who retired after 33 years with the Ford Motor Co. and now must hold down a part-time job in a laundromat "just to make ends meet." And part-time jobs are not easy for older people to get, noted Alfonso Wells, the retirees' chairman for the local. The younger Demkowski, among others, said he is willing to strike over the pension issue alone.
Retirees' compensation now stands about $700 a month in company pensions and Social Security after 30 years of work, without the cost-of-living protection active workers receive. GM has rejected tying retirees' payments to workers' wages, but indicated it might bargain some phased in increases.
The pressure for more time off -- in gradual steps toward the USW'S ultimate goal of a four-day work week -- appears especially strong among younger workers.
"With all the overtime we've been working," said Gary Frazier, 22 a sub-assembler, "most people just want a little time to relax." As Robert Harris, chairman of community services for the union, put it: "When you're making that kind of money, you want some time to enjoy it."