By on May 23, 2010

No, the UAW doesn’t want to invest into Tesla like Daimler, or, a few days ago, Toyota did. The UAW wants Tesla to go union, says Reuters. “Our union’s hope is that this venture will give first hiring preference to former NUMMI employees who are already trained and highly skilled,” UAW boss Gettelfinger said. Well, one can always hope.

The odds aren’t high. When partly union-owned GM backed out of NUMMI and left Toyota holding the bag, the union kept quiet. When Toyota closed NUMMI, the unions cried foul.  In the end, Toyota had to spend $250m to pay off NUMMI workers. GM paid nothing. Talk about a union-backed, government-led witch hunt against Toyota as the main driver of the SUA debate has received wide traction. Just a few days ago, Marsha Blackburn (R – TN) complained about congressional “attempts to vilify a corporation” that has a non-union factory in her state. And now the UAW thinks all is forgotten, and they want back in?

If Gettelfinger hopes for union jobs at Tesla, then he needs a lot of patience. Tesla production at the former NUMMI plant won’t begin before 2012. Speaking of Tennessee, “the 2012 timeline is not without skeptics however, many believe that a year and a half is too short a time to re-condition the NUMMI auto plant,” says the Tennessean. The paper also disclosed that the $50m investment into Tesla will yield Toyota a tax abatement from the state of California, worth about $20 million dollars. That deal is getting better by the minute.

Speaking of union jobs, Chrysler will hire about 1,100 new workers for their Detroit plant that has been retooled for the new Grand Cherokee, says Reuters. The Grand Cherokee is the only new vehicle Chrysler will launch between now and the fourth quarter.

Partly union-owned Chrysler is getting a deal from the UAW. New workers will be hired starting at the $14-per-hour wage rates that partly union owned U.S. automakers negotiated in order to slash labor costs. What are the odds that Tesla would have to pay the full monte?

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67 Comments on “UAW Wants Their Piece Of Tesla...”


  • avatar
    educatordan

    So I’m guessing Tesla will go union at about the same time the entire Kennedy family registers as Republicans and the Bush dynasty goes Democrat.

    • 0 avatar
      sjman408

      Union? why? What did the UAW do for their members? Had the UAW agreed to a pay cut, they’d still be working rather than face a layoff! Why union? To get the air conditioner turned up you have to go thru 8 levels of bureaucracy, instead of just asking your supervisor. In a union, it rewards those who work the least hardest. Who wants to be part of a union, where they can work for a company that rewards the hardest workers, and allows the ability for open dialogue between management and employees. The union didn’t fight for their employees, as you see how many people were laid off yet the higher ups at the union are still getting paid? Seriously! I’d rather work for a non-union where my voice is heard, respected and can go straight to management with issues. I want an environment where he who works hardest gets rewarded versus being rewarded for longevity yet not working hard. How many union members had to work overtime to insure quality when their coworkers were running for the door when the bell rings yet were promoted time and time again for longevity. People, please realize when you work for a non-union, advancement opportunities for those that work hard, are endless and not stuck behind a person just because they worked there longer yet didn’t work hard. I do not understand the pro-union people. Pay a d promotion is never an issue in a non-union when you work hard!!

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    “Nice electric car company ya got there. Shame if anything happened to it.”

    OF COURSE this Toyota-Tesla mashup is UAW payback!

    As if Toyota couldn’t stick batteries in an Elise by themselves.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    Someone is all out of bong fuel on this Sunday morning.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    Da boyz an me are here from da UAW. Weze done great tings for GeeM, Fordd and Cryssler. Yah know, weze been tinkin. Weze been tinkin that if youz don’t agree to da card check an’ neutrality soze weze can organize you employees, weze jus might have ta make a phone call to our bud Obama, who jus might make a phone call ta da EPA, DOE and doze big bailout banks dat are providin yur financin.

    Now, youz remember what happned to doze bondholders at GeeM and Cryssler, now don’t ya … it’d be a shame if da administrashun had ta put the lean on youze guys. Here, jus sign here on dis little card check and neutrality agreement, an then weze be on our way …

  • avatar
    mikey

    Retooling a plant requires, masssive quantities of money and time. Mr Gettlefinger is just trying to keep his foot in the door.

    By the time the first Tesla roll of the line,if ever,Mr Gettlefinger will be long gone

    As far as the Chrysler deal goes? One could say “$14 is better than F.A” but its never the less, a slippery slope. Two tiered wages creates two classes of employees. In the volitile atmosphere,on the plant floor,two tiered workers are a recipe for disaster and disent. As the population of the lower of the two tiers grows,and the population of the higher shrinks. The UAW leadership had better,get thier act together on the plant floor.

    Now is not the time to concern themselves with a plant that may never open its doors.

    The UAW/CAW would be well advised to keep what they got,rather than go out and look for more. IMHO

    FYI Tommy Boy, I’m still unraveling the mysteries of spell check. If I ever do I’ll be sure to pass it on to our “recruiting dept”

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      $14 per hour is minimum wage in Southern California. The people who you can get and keep for that money are not the people you want.

    • 0 avatar
      panzerfaust

      “The UAW/CAW would be well advised to keep what they got,rather than go out and look for more.”

      I don’t believe that is UAW policy, as far as I can recollect, it would be a first for them. Overeaching seems to be the standard operating proceedure, and its worked on the big two and a half for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      hans007

      i worked in a factory in the early 2000s in southern california.

      we only built computers, but it was $7-8 an hour. they still closed it because it cost too much.

      that said, there are plenty of people willing to take $14 an hour to screw a car together even in southern california.

      yes most of them will probably not be white people. there wasnt a single white person who worked for the computer factory (and it had like 400 employees)

    • 0 avatar
      guyincognito

      NUMMI is in Fremont, which is in Northern California.

      I don’t see Tesla avoiding becoming unionized. With $450 mil in DOE loans and setting up shop in a formerly union plant there will be pressure.

  • avatar
    mdwheary

    Why would Tesla want to hire from a group of workers that helped bring down two of the largest corporations in America?

    Is that the ‘experience’ I would want working for me?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      The UAW wasn’t the cause of poor design, quality and customer service/satisfaction. These were the corrosive elements which laid the Big-3 low due to the loss of 50% of their home market.

      If Big-3 management had kept their eye on the ball and maintained a progressive and non-obstructionist approach to design and regulation, they would have been far ahead of each of their foreign counterparts.

      Instead, they fought and delayed practically anything that came from outside Detroit, or their own corporate walls, looking across town at their two competitors and measuring themselves against them while the world caught-up with and passed them.

      Had the companies been managed better, they could have continued to pay outsize union pay and benefits and made a profit; but once the shedding of market share began, there was no way to do all three.

      Bad management was the root cause of the demise of the Big-3, not the UAW.

    • 0 avatar

      Robert, the case can be made the UAW was solely to blame for each and every one of the counterarguments you present.

      Were it not for the UAW turning the thumbscrews on the Detroit 2.3 management, demanding massive pension subsidies and egregiously generous pay agreements, more profits would have been available to, you know, invest in actually building better, more competitive cars.

      Bad management let them do it… but the UAW asked first, and should have been held far more accountable for that.

    • 0 avatar

      The workers did not bring down NUMMI. Workers at NUMMI was responsible for producing the lowest defects of ALL Toyota plants during their last 2 internal audits. That’s the experience you want. If Tesla hires anyone else, its nothing more than union busting.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Rob, study the timeline and you will see that the D3 were, at best, resting on their laurels, and, at worst, practicing willful denial to market share erosion as they churned out increasingly worse product with either, or both, of these taking place long before the legacy costs became unsustainable (due to market-share erosion due to bad product and service.)

      Mother, the union is busted … they were paid to go away when the plant closed.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      For those who missed the link a couple of months ago, the NPR show “This American Life” did a one hour segment interviewing former NUMMI workers and had a very interesting history of the plant.

      http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/nummi?bypass=true

      In short, when GM owned the plant it was run by arrogant jerks, the factory floor was staffed by arrogant drunks/druggies, and all were complicit in building crap. That Toyota was able to turn it around and how they did it (and why GM failed to learn from it) is fascinating, infuriating, and almost heartbreaking. The story/podcast is a very well spent hour of your time.

      After hearing the story (and noting how unfriendly California has become to business in general) it is hard to imagine Toyota wanting to get back into bed with the Fremont CA plant and/or the the UAW.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Re-hiring NUMMI workers would be fair if they, as a condition of hiring, have to give back their separation settlement with interest…

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Manufacturing cars in Silicon Valley by the UAW makes as much sense as opening a vineyard on Mount Everest.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Not really. If you offer a vehicle that isn’t extremely price sensitive, and would have a fertile market nearby, it would potentially be a good thing.

    The question is whether Tesla can be marketed with a nice Toyota halo for it amongst the digerati. You can pretty much forget about the Roadster and it’s ilk being mass market vehicles and that pretty much blows any high utilization prospects for the NUMMI plant.

    If anything, this is an R&D and potential branding exercise for Toyota. The later they may not realize until 2012 or so. But if Scion continues to flounder in North America it may be ‘Tesla’ that becomes the high end sporty side of Toyota.

    Personally I would be happy with the Celica, Supra and MR2 monikers coming back in a more price competitive fashion. The stigma of the Toyota brand has far more to do with the vehicles currently sold than any perceived stodginess.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      Tesla has been hemorrhaging money, in the order of hundreds of millions, if they had any flexibility in PED it would be better spent toward achieving profitability.

      Also, in the US private sector, union membership is representative of 7.6% of the total workforce. In the context of modern America there is little positive sentiment toward the union, especially the UAW. Tesla being a UAW-shop wouldn’t increase sales.

      The issue surrounding the UAW isn’t merely about wages, its about the suffocating work rules and regulations that come associated with them. Moreover, labor flexibility is crucial in a business with razor thin margins and production peaks and valleys.

      The problem with the UAW is that they have little to offer Tesla… (though unionization is not often a choice; CA is a forced-unionism state).

  • avatar
    geozinger

    More weirdness in the auto industry. I cannot see an upside to the Toyota Tesla tie up, especially with the vampire known as Daimler lurking in the wings. Who would have thought after the UA incidents, the recalls, the public apologies, that they would go out and do this?

    Gettelfinger is just doing his duty as the elected head of the UAW. Like Mikey pointed out, he’ll be gone by the time (if) anything ever comes out of Fremont.

    I think Toyoda is having some kind of brain fart. Toyota could produce BEV’s all on their own, and use their massive reputation and purchased goodwill (in the US), never having to associate themselves with a shaky venture such as Tesla.

    WTF?

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Do keep in mind the UAW despite its flaws did play a large role in creating the middle class. Although there is a lot of warranted criticism try to imagine where we would be today without unions.

    For the record, I have never been a union member.

  • avatar

    “When partly union-owned GM backed out of NUMMI and left Toyota holding the bag, the union kept quiet. When Toyota closed NUMMI, the unions cried foul. In the end, Toyota had to spend $250m to pay off NUMMI workers. GM paid nothing. Talk about a union-backed, government-led witch hunt against Toyota as the main driver of the SUA debate has received wide traction.”

    What a poor image UAW created for itself. This sounds as bad as Goldman Saks bidding and making profits on the losses of their clients.

    “Our union’s hope is that this venture will give first hiring preference to former NUMMI employees who are already trained and highly skilled,” Trained and highly skilled in what, bolt tightening? Just around the plant, in Silicon Valley there are so many non-union skilled workers ready to do a better job, also in a better physical condition.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    >>Had the companies been managed better, they could have continued to pay outsize union pay and benefits and made a profit; but once the shedding of market share began, there was no way to do all three. Bad management was the root cause of the demise of the Big-3, not the UAW.

    >>Do keep in mind the UAW despite its flaws did play a large role in creating the middle class. Although there is a lot of warranted criticism try to imagine where we would be today without unions.

    Yes, Detroit had bad management. But to absolve the UAW for its share of responsibility is at best union rationalizing, and at worst union b.s.

    Let us not forget that the cumulative effect of way over-market wages and benefits for the UAW semi-skilled / unskilled labor, parasitic drag of contractual work rules and strikes and inability to fire slackers added unnecessary costs, that had to be offset with lowering quality and content … which the consumer eventually noticed.

    The unions being responsible for creating the middle class is also a union myth. A middle class develops whenever there is free market capitalism — Marx derided the bourgeoisie (middle class) long before there were unions.

    The unions did temporarily increase the wages of unskilled labor during the anomaly of post-WWII U.S. economic dominance without competition — but as the world economy began to return to normal and competition resumed (Japan, Korea, China) the UAW and Steelworkers and such withered. If they can’t maintain a “middle class” during normal economic conditions, they certainly can’t legitimately take credit for having originated it.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Detroit bears most of the responsibility, but that doesn’t absolve the unions. The B.S. that we’ve seen out of the Big 3 and the union leadership in the past decade reminds me of the same crap they pulled in the ’70s, which led to NUMMI being a brilliant example of how to do things right. I have no doubt that many of the union workers are highly skilled and would be wonderful assets for Tesla. I have every doubt that union leadership will be nothing but reactionary and obstructionist.

    • 0 avatar
      pgcooldad

      “UAW semi-skilled / unskilled labor,” The UAW does not hire anyone, after 90 days of probation the worker get represented. Who’s fault is it for hiring crappy workers that everyone, union and management has to put up with? It was management who hired every single one of them.

      Management has the ability to fire workers but don’t want to put in the effort to see it through. The good workers begged supervisors to write the lazy asses up, the good ones did. I have seen UAW workers get fired at Chrysler.

      I know Ford has a lot of debt right now, but aren’t they profitable this year with the same UAW workers they had 2,3,5, 10 years ago? Are todays Ford vehicles de-contented to pay for UAW wages and benefits? Had they had good management like they have now, they would be in a much better situation. What did Nasser do with Fords money? Piss it away buying Jaguar and Land Rover than giving away the No 1 midsize car volume to the Transplants. Was it Wagoneer at GM who paid Fiat 5 billion dollars for …. nothing! 5 billion dollars! Again, bad management.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Being middle class is a matter of attitude and habits, not income. People of meager means can be middle class, and lottery winners can be trashy. But I will concede that the UAW, along with an oligopoly, did much to make its members the economic royalty of blue collar labor.

    I agree that Toyota is having a brain fart. They should go where $14 an hour will draw plenty of happy and willing workers, not pissed-off former employees of unionized Big 3 plants. The latter will never be content.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    “A middle class develops whenever there is free market capitalism”

    This is simply not true. A middle class develops in a capitalist country when the tax and other government structures favor a healthy middle class developing. There are plenty of capitalist countries where a real middle class never developed, where a small number of people have the bulk of the countries wealth and the rest are effectively poor.

  • avatar
    daro31

    I resent people saying that union menbers are untrained low skill workers, what when I started on the line at Ford, they gave me three days to learn how to put in a tailight with six bolts and put in two light bulbs, all in one minute. it was almost 2 weeks before I could do my job, withought thinking about it. Can anybody else do that for $60,000 a year, try it before you criticize. Oh by the way I did get out of that, go back to school for 2 years and get a quality technicians job for $50,000 a year. Hey whats the matter with this picture?

  • avatar
    troonbop

    “it was almost 2 weeks before I could do my job, withought thinking about it.”

    Hilarious. If you can do it without thinking about it, it’s unskilled.

  • avatar

    why would any worker in California consider accepting a job for $14 per hour, let alone contribute to a union that made such an arrangement?

    Solidarity Forever from a guy named Dollinger….look it up. you’ll discover Genora was a bit more socialistic but similar in compassion for the hard working folks whose sweat shapes the metal.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    The UAW has created their own irrelevance and, as part owners of GM, the UAW is now in direct conflict with themselves.

    • 0 avatar

      in reality it’s the union leadership in conflict with their own membership. just might have something to do with the loss of a million auto mfg jobs in this country (ya think?). now I’m not saying the “Concession Caucus” is crooked, but can anyone out there even imagine presenting any kind of a case that they’re not? where’s the next Walter when we need him? forget the glory, we need jobs! and why do we get Euro sedans stuffed down our throats? because the unions in Germany won’t take closings lying down the way we do (after believing the bill of goods hurriedly forced our way), that’s why. so we get their excess production, even tho it won’t sell…at least not in current design. will they learn from the new Regal’s impending failure and not bother with the Astra/Skylark wannabe? stay tuned….

      and that my friends is why this is “The Truth About Cars”.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      hi buickman, i’m not sure what you mean, can you put a bit more detail behind your comment above? thx.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    >>This is simply not true. A middle class develops in a capitalist country when the tax and other government structures favor a healthy middle class developing. There are plenty of capitalist countries where a real middle class never developed, where a small number of people have the bulk of the countries wealth and the rest are effectively poor.

    True. And this country, becoming more socialist since FDR, and looking to Obama to put the final socialist nail in our coffin, is rapidly heading that way.

    Marx hated the middle class. He wanted equality through everyone being poor. It didn’t quite work out that way in practice. In the Soviet Union and China you had no real middle class, and almost universal poverty, but still the “rich.” Only there they were Communist Party officials and apparatchiks.

    We are increasingly emulating that here — an elite (public sector workers) and then the rest of us in the proletariat.

    As for the comment about Ford doing well in spite of UAW labor — consider that Ford is enjoying a bump because of people avoiding “Government Motors” and its bastard cousin Chrysler.

    Also, within the last year the UAW told Ford to go F*** itself when it sought to align its payroll costs to Government Motors / Chrysler.

    So the taxpayers have been forced to invest tens of billions to prop up “the Big Three,” but the UAW hasn’t changed and the UAW will again drive them into the ground. You see, while bad management has plagued Detroit, even good management can’t compensate for the parasitic drag of the UAW, as least not forever.

  • avatar
    RangerM

    Is it me or does that guy in the Youtube link look like Freddie Mercury?

  • avatar
    boyphenom666

    Could this all just be a ruse to get Toyota out from under cleanup costs associated with this facility? Sell it to Tesla, pump $30 million into it (chump change) and Tesla gets stuck with the envrionmental cleanup.

    • 0 avatar
      boyphenom666

      Suspicious … why does Toyota need Tesla? Another thought: Is any cash going to change hands, or is Toyota merely signing over the deed to the NUMMI plant to Tesla, with the NUMMI plant being appraised at $50 million. Toyota writes off the investment and gets a tax refund while Toyota gets a free plant. I’m sure there was another backroom deal letting Toyota off the hook for environmental cleanup.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      This smells funny to me too. It’s got to be some sort of PR event for Toyota. It seems the impending release of the Volt and Leaf has got Toyota spooked…

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The UAW wasn’t the cause of poor design, quality and customer service/satisfaction. These were the corrosive elements which laid the Big-3 low due to the loss of 50% of their home market.

    I dunno, but hearing and reading about the purposeful sabotage of car quality during the strikes of 1970 through 1998 made me swear off UAW products forever. Jobs banks? Stifling ‘craftsman’ roles and responsibilities? Come on….

    My own experience of mandatory union membership in the service industry proved overwhelming; energy and innovation were hardly welcomed. I couldn’t get to a right-to-work state fast enough.

    The sooner the UAW scam is over, the better.

    • 0 avatar
      vento97

      This is one of the many reasons my parents (who as retired union members – NOT UAW or Teamster members) encouraged my siblings and me to further our education and avoid unions altogether. And we thank them at every opportunity…

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    In retrospect both the UAW/CAW have given all Unions a bad name in North America, they are so entwined with the Detroit Three they can’t be separated, such a shame too! and yes I was a active Union member and a Steward!

  • avatar
    vento97

    If the NUMMI experiment taught me anything, it was this:

    The problem isn’t with the rank and file workers. The fact that the quality of NUMMI-manufactured automobiles rivaled that of Toyota itself back in the day provides strong evidence of that assertion.

    The problem lies with the process fostered and cultivated by both GM Management and Union leadership – the “Sludge flows downhill” theory, if you will….

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    You can not blame the UAW for the demise of GM, Chryco or the near death experience of Ford. The UAW didn’t design the vehicles, specify the parts they contained or have anything to do with deciding what the assembly process would be. They also didn’t agree to their contract demands, Big Three management did. The UAW is far from blameless yet they are not the root cause, management is.

    To compare China, India, etc. as competition is nonsense. Those are third world countries with far lower standards of living and none of the pollution restrictions the U.S. has. That is why the level of third world outsourcing that exists today is present in most every industry. No developed first tier country can compete with an undeveloped third world country. There is no way to get around the enormous wage level difference or the capital expenditure required to conform with U.S. pollution laws.

    To say income level has nothing to do with being middle class is contrary to basic economics. The definition of income level is what classifies lower, middle and upper class.

    Again, the UAW does deserve their fair share of blame but to try to blame them entirely ignores reality.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      mtymsi: To say income level has nothing to do with being middle class is contrary to basic economics. The definition of income level is what classifies lower, middle and upper class.

      Which is why one shouldn’t rely solely on economics to determine who falls into which class.

      To a certain extent, social class is as much a state of mind as it is a level of income.

      People who hit the lottery are good examples. Most people who play the lottery are invariably from the lower classes. When they hit it big, they receive a huge sum of money that should, in theory, be enough to lift them into a higher social class.

      But their attitudes regarding money and work are largely unchanged (those attitudes are why they were playing the lottery in the first place)…note how many big-money lottery winners end up broke within a few years. Receiving a large sum of money didn’t change their social class, because it didn’t change their attitudes to money, work and the need to delay gratification for gains down the road.

      mtymsi: Again, the UAW does deserve their fair share of blame but to try to blame them entirely ignores reality.

      The UAW isn’t solely to blame. On that we can agree. But their successes, and then subsequent reluctance to make any real sacrifices when times were tough, DID hurt the companies and force them to scrimp in certain areas. The UAW also made it more difficult for companies to maneuver when times got tought.

      The UAW has been just as stupid and oblivious as top management in this whole mess.

    • 0 avatar
      kamiller42

      You can not blame the UAW for the demise of GM, Chryco or the near death experience of Ford. The UAW didn’t design the vehicles, specify the parts they contained or have anything to do with deciding what the assembly process would be. They also didn’t agree to their contract demands, Big Three management did. The UAW is far from blameless yet they are not the root cause, management is.

      Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the union should have stood up for the interests of the consumer and the product they produced instead of fat salaries and pensions. Their contract wins is proof they could have had a direct positive impact on the quality of D3′s cars. Instead, they chanted “Give me. Give me. Give me.”

      UAW deserves blame. They are not innocent bystanders.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      I have said repeatedly the UAW does share in the blame. What I vehemently disagree with is that they are the entire blame.

      How would the UAW stand up for better products? They aren’t even in the loop that decides what, how or when to build a vehicle.

      The fact of the matter is the Big Three gave away the U.S. car market to the Japanese by concentrating on much higher profit SUV’s and pickups while at the same time producing inferior uncompetitive cars.

      Ford today produces competitive cars that are on par with the quality of Japanese cars. Why? Because Ford management concentrated on doing so, they designed the cars and specified the parts and assembly processes. For the most part it is many of the same UAW workers building those cars today. The non-union workers at Honda, Toyota, Nissan etc.’s U.S. plants aren’t better car assemblers than the UAW members, they just had better designs and higher quality parts. Today Toyota pays their U.S. workers a slightly higher wage level than the top UAW wage levels.

      The UAW never had any capability to correct Big Three management mistakes.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The daily absentee rate at the transplant operations has historically been at 1-2 percent of the blue-collar workforce. At UAW plants, it has been 10-12 percent – a huge difference.

      Undoubtedly a big reason is because the transplants are pickier about who, exactly, gets hired to assemble a vehicle. Once those workers are hired at a transplant factory, it is easier to fire them than it is at a Ford, GM or Chrysler plant.

      Those incentives and conditions tend to produce a higher quality, more motivated workforce.

      One example – as recently as 2005, the UAW rebelled when GM attempted to ban smoking on the assembly line. That’s right – the UAW rushed to protect the rights of workers to smoke while they were building new vehicles.

      That doesn’t do much for quality. And I seriously doubt that this was an issue in a Toyota or Honda plant located within this country.

      As for Ford’s recent successes – one, it has moved production of some key products away from the U.S. (Fusion and Fiesta are being produced in Mexico).

      And, two, it got rid of a lot of the old-guard hardliners among the blue-collar workforce by giving them a buyout – part of the reason for that big, fat mortgage it must now pay. Ford didn’t have the luxury of telling UAW members to either shape up or hit the streets.

    • 0 avatar
      1996MEdition

      True Tales of the UAW:

      A line worker is MIA after lunch. 3-1/2 hours later the missing line worker is seen driving up to the plant entry cattle gate, reaching through the gate to hand her ID to a fellow worker who swipes her out. All this was in view of the plant manager, the worker’s supervisor, and the plant UAW rep who were participating in a joint productivity workshop. What happened to the workers? Were they fired? Did they receive time off without pay or benfits? No. Instead, management allowed the union to use these workers as bargaining tools to achieve some of the goals they wanted from the workshop. The workers were back the next day, not docked pay, and were later caught again doing the same thing. Our plant was eventually closed.

      I know that things like this go on at non-union shops and even with white collar jobs. The difference is that non-union and white collar will pay the consequences. The UAW considers their actions in cases like this as “job protection”.

    • 0 avatar

      As much as I hate seeing US jobs head south of the border, truth is I’d much prefer my next automobile be built by Mexican workers grateful for their jobs, than UAW “employees” with their sloppy skills and sloppier work ethics.

      Good to see automakers like Ford realizing this. To hell with the America-”1st”-ers, and the UAW. There’s nothing un-American about wanting a quality product.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    You can site as many of the true examples of UAW involved nonsense as you want it still doesn’t absolve Big Three management of their complete failure to design and build competitive cars for so many years. The UAW could only build the vehicles management approved for production.

    Ford builds the vast majority of their vehicles sold in the U.S. in the U.S. The Fiesta isn’t even on the radar yet for a quality rating and the Fusion certainly didn’t by itself give Ford the quality rating they have today.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      When the UAW-involved nonsense impacts the quality of the final product, it is relevant. If GM has to put more money into labor costs instead of a nicer interior because of absenteeism, or workers are smoking on the lines and therefore leaving blemishes in the paint or interior panels, it will affect the final product sold to the customer.

      Management has to consider those factors before approving ANY design for production.

      The Fusion DID start the revival of Ford quality. It was the first Ford vehicle that really earned reliability scores equal to those of its transplant rivals. It still is one of Ford’s top-scoring vehicles in that regard.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      The Fusion is built in Hermosillo, Mexico. According to Wikipedia the new Fiesta is also being built in Mexico. I’m pretty sure neither are UAW shops.

      The writing seems to be on the wall: all new Ford models will come out of Mexico and the plants producing the older models will be quietly closed, one by one. The current UAW workers may keep the wages and benefits they “earned” but their children will loose that opportunity, and they will have nobody to blame but their parents.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      geeber, I don’t disagree that there were instances UAW members were at fault on quality issues but really, do you think for example a Ford Tempo and Chevrolet Celebrity were on par with a Civic, Accord, Corolla or Camry insofar as the actual design and quality of components?

      The Big Three did not lose their traditional share of the U.S. car market because of the UAW they lost it because they failed to produce vehicles that were in any way competitive. And that is management’s fault. It would not have mattered what the UAW did or didn’t do, the Big Three would have still lost market share.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Mtymis,

      Those cars were not the equal of their Toyota and Honda counterparts, but that was because GM and Ford could not put the same level of quality into their vehicles and still turn a profit. Their cost structure – driven in part, by the UAW contract – simply did not allow them to produce a competitive product and sell it for the same price as a Civic or a Camry.

      Today, in 2010, this cost disadvantage is gone, and the new vehicles are much better. But the domestics can’t counter the negative perceptions built up by 30 years of uncompetitive product with one generation of vehicles. It has taken Hyundai, for example, a good ten years of much-improved vehicles – and a really strong warranty – to get people to forget about the crappy vehicles it sold in the 1980s and 1990s. The company still isn’t out of the woods.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Mtymsi, if you don’t think that the cost or quality of the line workers is important in the survival of a manufacturing business, you live in another world. Just as assemblers can’t build quality into a bad design, it is impossible to design around bad workers.

      And UAW = bad workers. If you believe I’m wrong feel free to set up a UAW staffed factory in Michigan. You will have you choice of shuttered factories, bitter ex-auto workers, and few other shoppers for these properties or services. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is giving it a try so maybe you can show us how it is done.

      On the bright side, maybe you’ll get a bailout when you go bankrupt. On the other hand, the government may just give your (or formerly your) business to your former employees.

      Good luck.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    geeber we will have to agree to disagree. I think you are blaming the UAW workers for management mistakes. Remember, the vast majority of UAW workers that built the inferior cars are the same ones today building the higher quality cars.

    Toad, sorry but I think you are greatly mistaken to say UAW = bad workers. I live in metro Detroit and the only Big Three plant closed in the last three or more years is the Ford Wixom assembly plant. Did Ford close it because of the UAW workers or did they close it because management failed to provide updated products for the Town Cars and Continentals that were produced there? The answer is obvious. Also, the new Focus will be built here. If Ford didn’t think they could build a high quality product with UAW labor why are they building the new Focus here?

    To say UAW = bad workers is an opinion driven by some sectors of the mainstream media. It is not true and has no basis in fact.

    I will add that I have owned four 98-05 F-150′s built by UAW workers and only one of them was serviced under warranty one time. Certainly not anybodys definition of poor quality vehicles built by bad workers is it?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      mtymsi,

      We’ll just have to disagree – no sin there. I would note, however, that the domestics have used the buyouts over the past 10-15 years to get a lot of the diehards on both sides – union workers and plant managers and foremen – out the door, and on to the retirement rolls.

      It’s not the same union workers who built, say, the Tempo or Cavalier, who are building the new Focus or Cruze. It’s not the same managers leading them, either.

      It ain’t your father’s domestic auto plant…

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      mtymsi and geeber… I’ve been following your debate,and you both make same valid and informed points.

      @ geeber..12 percent controlable absentee rate? Maybe 10 -12 years ago. Closer to 3 now.

      UAW = bad workers is a total crock. Yeah..for sure there is some real ass—s,I won’t deny it,and the union defends them, I won’t deny that either. Show me any work place blue, or white collar with a couple of thousand employees. I’ll bet you got a 100 ass—s.

      Here’s a fact of life for any shop steward/comittee person. 95% of your problems come from 5% of your members. Ask any office manager the same question. The numbers won’t vary much.

      Your right on geeber…this is not your father’s auto plant. I havn’t set foot inside the plant for 18 months,but I am in touch with those that still do.

      Its a whole different world,than the one I left.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    mtymsi:
    How would the UAW stand up for better products? They aren’t even in the loop that decides what, how or when to build a vehicle.

    Let me respond with another quote.

    ” It was my misfortune to become entangled in these[GM lousy products] atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes…That is what the[GM Management] government did. . . . At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the [Union Worker] subordinate“

  • avatar

    None of what you’re saying about union workers is right. As far as NUMMI is concerned, their UAW workforce achieved the highest quality of all Toyota plants. That proves all the stereotypes wrong

    Lets go back to why NUMMI was closed.

    Toyota had no valid reason to close NUMMI. They had and still have 10s of billions in cash. Each plant only cost $1.3 billion (according to their site). Corollas and Tacomas were selling well and people were working overtime even after GM pulled out. (The Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix accounted for 10-15% of total production). NUMMI was also turning a healthy profit for the last 25 years.

    The real reason NUMMI closed was because Toyota wanted to lower wages and they could not do it with their only UAW plant operating. With NUMMI, Toyota has to peg their wages at their other plants to NUMMIs to keep out the union. With NUMMI gone, Toyota no longer has to peg their wages to NUMMI and they will be free to lower wages. GM learned a little about lean manufacturing from Toyota and Toyota learned about union busting the good ol GM way…… plant closings as a way of turning a higher profit. GM did back in the 80s (Moore’s Roger & Me) and history repeats itself again with Toyota shuttering NUMMI.

    Its not just the workers that lose. YOU lose too. Fewer dollars get pumped back into our economy and it drags everything else down. Less people with money buying good and services which support YOUR job. It’s just how the economy works when 70% of our GDP is consumer spending.

    And some of you think that lower wages is good? Good paying union jobs, like those at NUMMI prop up other wages. With good paying union wages gone, there’s nothing to support your wages and your own wages will begin a downward spiral. It’s a fact that wages have not kept up with inflation and when you take into account health care, housing and education, the average income is falling rapidly behind. All this time, union representation is at an all time low. And at the same time, the income disparity is back to 1930s levels with the top 1% income earners making more and more of the income. When union people get screwed over, so do you.

    As far as this deal is concerned. its still up in the air as to the details of what will happen. Toyota has not given any money yet. Toyota has pledged to buy $50 million in shares after Tesla’s IPO. There’s also no guarantee that the S Model will sell. These cars cost $50k+ . Will people buy them? Will Tesla sell 20,000 of them per year?

    There’s the problem of how many will be hired. Tesla claims 1000 will be hired for an eventual production of 20,000 cars. But NUMMI employed 4500 to produce 400,000 at its peak. That does not add up.

  • avatar
    Mailbox20

    Anybody think Toyota will use Tesla as a “mini Scion”? A place to build and sell more “niche” vehicles (volume well under 100K, more like 30K-50K). FT-86? A-Bat?


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