By on December 29, 2011

A good month after our trek to the South where we checked on the (un-) willingness of transplant workers to join the UAW, the hard-hitting team at the Reuters Detroit bureau did the same.  In a special report, Reuters comes to the same conclusion as we did: It won’t be easy. Bernie Woodall and  Ben Klayman of Reuters did more thorough digging. And they unearthed the secret strategy of the UAW: With the help of the German metalworkers union, they want to talk themselves into Volkswagen and Daimler:

“By appealing to German unions for help and by calling on the companies to do the right thing, King hopes to get VW and Daimler to surrender without a fight and let the union make its case directly to workers.”

If that strategy won’t work, and it is highly unlikely that it will, it could be the end of the UAW:

“It’s a battle the UAW cannot afford to lose. By failing to organize factories run by foreign automakers, the union has been a spectator to the only growth in the U.S. auto industry in the last 30 years. That failure to win new members has compounded a crunch on the UAW’s finances, forcing it to sell assets and dip into its strike fund to pay for its activities.”

The UAW will have a hard time convincing workers. Where the UAW reigns, it’s a killing field for jobs:

“Since 2001, the Detroit Three have slashed over 200,000 jobs, eliminating more than 60 percent of their hourly work force. In the same period, Japanese, South Korean and German automakers have opened eight assembly plants in the United States, creating almost 20,000 factory jobs.”

Money-wise, it does not make a lot of sense to join:

“Newly hired workers earn $14.50 an hour at VW in Chattanooga. That is just below the $14.78 that a new hire would make at a unionized GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Adjusted for monthly dues at Spring Hill, the VW worker is behind by only about $15 per month.”

Hopes that the German unions will do the heavy lifting for the UAW likely are misplaced. “We will support the UAW, but we will not do the UAW’s work,” said Peter Donath, an IG Metall official. The German unions are interested in themselves. Of course, German makers with troubles in the U.S. could be discouraged to move more work to a unionized plant in the U.S. Wait, what’s wrong with that picture?

Please read the detailed report at Reuters. It will be an eye-opener.

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54 Comments on “Do Or Die: UAW’s Hail Mary Pass Through The South...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    The greatest enemy of the UAW is the internet.

    Widespread news of the injustices experienced by non-unionized workers would help the UAW, but the silence is deafening.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Their greatest enemy is their own decades-long track record of collectively bargaining their members out of their jobs, and driving their employers into bankruptcy.

      And that totally disregards the decades-long lousy assembly the UAW is renown for which helped speed up the mass exodus of buyers away from the domestic brands and into the welcoming open arms of the imports and transplants.

      We can ruminate 24/7 ’bout what the UAW coulda, shoulda and woulda done but even the almighty UAW cannot undo what has happened in the past.

      Why would the people in the South willingly take on an organization with that kind of track record? It’s not like the employees of the transplants are abused. Why cut off your nose to spite your face, when you don’t have to?

      What’s there to unionize for? What great wrongs of the transplants have to be undone? What inequity must be corrected?

      If some of these employees want to organize and have the UAW represent them, they should quit their jobs at the transplants and seek work at the UAW plant elsewhere.

      Now, really, how many people will actually want to do that? If there were any, they would have done it a long time ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        The biggest problem facing the UAW is the right-wing noise machines pulling levers tricking people into thinking free trade helps anybody when we’ve watched wages stagnate for 30+ years and develop a mentality that we should work for scraps or big companies will send their jobs overseas and just import the products.

        In the end though the second the UAW dies the transplant plants are going to have wages slashed and benefits cut. They just need to hold out a bit longer. It’ll be sad and hilarious watching it happen but by then what will it matter? Our country likes to get kicked in the teeth, all “true americans” do…

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Xeranar, the greatest damage to US economic policy was during the Clinton administration with his philosophy of integrating America into the Global economy. He sold our ports, missile technology, etc to foreigners, some even hostile to us, like China.

        And everything went well until the housing market collapsed and the economy took a dump. Even though 9/11 was tragic, the Bush administration minimized 9/11’s economic effects with effective counter measures. It worked for most of us.

        Sure, the Liberals didn’t like what Bush did and who can blame them? Most of them actually had to go to work. And most Americans were actually better off under Bush and Clinton than they are now with Obama’s economic policies.

        I sure was. I was working then. Had my own licensed construction business that I used to build my own house, and others.

        Now I work no more and I don’t qualify for hand outs because I have military retirement and social security retirement income. It doesn’t matter that the economy caused me loss of my other income, even though I paid self-employment taxes that should have funded my unemployment compensation. No union would have helped me. It’s the law!

        There was a place for unions, including the UAW, at one time. These days there are so many government mandates that protect worker benefits and income that there is nothing left to bargain for. The law cometh down from the Hill and we live by it.

        The largest unions today are the public service unions. What is it exactly that those unions can bargain for, except to drive their tax payers into default. Most public service employees get paid much more than the people who hired them, the tax payers.

        Many people simply cannot support the UAW because of their dismal track record and what they did to ruin the US auto industry and its related spin-offs, like part suppliers. Only UAW members and the retirees will shed a tear if the UAW ever goes down. But it will never go down because Congress won’t let it.

        Fear not, the US PBGC will come to the rescue and the US tax payers will gladly fund the lavish lifestyles of the UAW retirees. It already happened in 2009 and it will happen again.

  • avatar
    kenzter

    Left out the fact that the Spring Hill worker will make $19.28 by the end of the new 4 year contract. Will the VW worker?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      It’s been published what the VW workers will be earning after a period of time, which I’ve forgotten, but it was in that same range. It is not in VW’s or any other company’s interest to pay wages that are not in a competitive range. Pay your workers sub-standard wages … they leave. Been subject to that myself … did that myself!

    • 0 avatar
      Mark

      According to the post linked at the beginning of this story the wage at VW rises to $19.50 although it doesn’t say how long it takes workers to reach that amount.

      I find this bit from the Reuter’s article telling;

      “For 2,500 jobs paying $30,000 a year, VW turned away 83,000 hopefuls at Chattanooga, which started up this year. Statistically, an applicant to Harvard University had a better chance of admission.”

      I think that is the best indication that the wages offered at the VW plant are attractive for the labour market in the Chattanooga area. While labour is mobile to some extent, wages are most strongly influenced by the going rate for work at similar skill levels in the region and a 33:1 ratio of applicants to positions implies that the wages offered are competitive for the region. (not to mention the all important health care coverage and other benefits that go along with the job)

    • 0 avatar
      Mark

      My bad – the post linked at the top did say when their wages reach those of a tier two employee at the big three and it’s only 3 years at VW vs. 4 years for a GM worker;

      “After 36 months at Volkswagen, the hourly wage does not only exceed the future tier two wage in Detroit. There is additional shift pay, there are quarterly performance bonuses, a choice of medical plans, and a host of other benefits. “

      • 0 avatar
        musiccitymafia

        Ummm …. lets not forget the Spring Hill assembly plant was on the brink and only just reopened. So is the possible rise in rates the right thing to be discussing.

  • avatar
    scottyT52

    The UAW put dinner on the table in my house as I grew up, but I have to agree with gslippy above, the silence is deafening. If the problems within the foreign transplant assembly facilities were all that bad, there would be an outcry for unionization.

    • 0 avatar
      musiccitymafia

      Exactly. The internet is opening the innocent to the reality that having a job allows the purchasing of a better life. The UAW restricts who’s eligible for said jobs. And unfortunately history has shown it has contributed to how many jobs were available at it’s facilities.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The way the UAW is treating second tier workers should give pause to anyone considering joining.

  • avatar
    Yeah_right

    “Calling on car companies to do the right thing.” That’s their strategy? Begging?! What’s the world coming to when a union goon is about as scary as Mr. Magoo.

    There isn’t a chance in hell that the UAW organizes a plant in one of the right-to-work southern states. Under the HIGHLY unlikely outcome of a union being voted in, they’ll still be unable to collect the dues that are so desperately needed.

    Good riddance, UAW.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The game plan was to organize everybody via card check after taking control of the fed govt in 2009. When their Dem buddies failed to even bring it to a vote, the die was cast.
    OTOH since they can’t/don’t strike anymore, that huge strike fund will last a long time as a nest egg.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      But I think they are responsible for retirees’ health care now, so the union’s expenses are going up much more quickly now than before. I predict money will be very tight very soon.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The UAW workers on the 2nd tier in Michigan have less spending power than the workers in The South. Taxes are lower in the South, and so are heating costs.

    Also not mentioned, the UAW used to have jobs in the Ford plant in Hapeville, GA, and the Chevy plant in Doraville, GA. That’s the Atlanta area. Those closed nearly 10 years ago. How long ago did BMW and Michelin open their factories near Greenville, SC? They’re not UAW either, and it’s not as if BMW offers a product line that workers can afford.

    If the UAW had a chance in the South, it would have happened. But if anything, they’ve lost significant ground and it looks like the door slammed ‘em pretty hard on the way out.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Heating costs maybe less in the South but the corollary is that if you live in the South you need A/C on much longer and electricity is not cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        musiccitymafia

        Hah … difference is cooling is an option. Heating isn’t.

        OTOH, in grad school I did a study on single vs double pane home windows. There would be more cooling savings in the south than heating savings in the north.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    It is my experience that without a union, non-union wages would be much lower: companies “bribe” their workers with near-union level wages, in order to keep the union out… without the union, there would be no incentive to offer anything but minimum wage.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Without unions there would be jobs. With jobs there would be demand for labor. With demand labor would be more valuable. Wages would be higher. I had jobs in the strong economy of the late ’80s where I was getting paid about double minimum wage in spite of my status as an unskilled highschool student. The reason was because there were more jobs than there were people competent enough to do them. Employers had to pay more to get good people, so they did. Good people don’t exist in the union system. Good people are a subversive concept to adverarial collectivists.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Pretty-much this. The biggest thing hurting labor in the US isn’t the presence or absence of Unions, it’s the adversarial relationship between labor and management. The Transplants work well without union intervention primarily because they come from a corporate culture that doesn’t see their own workers as ‘The Enemy’.

      • 0 avatar
        fred schumacher

        What you are describing is the 19th and early 20th centuries. Lots of jobs, with lots of people working long hours but for low pay and in abysmal working conditions. The existence of jobs does not mean that a middle class follows automatically.

        The growth of industrial unions in the between-wars period, combined with post-WW II U.S. dominance in manufacture (caused by the destruction of war) and confiscatory taxation, which allowed for heavy federal investment in infrastructure, created the American middle class as a norm. That was a temporary phenomenon, as we are rapidly learning.

        Without powerful unions, wages have been sliding. I made more, in constant dollars, as a wet-behind-the-ears 20 year-old in a non-union shop in 1969 than these auto workers are making today. The difference is that I was surrounded by union shops that drove everybody’s wage up.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    It’s amazing that workers don’t want a better life for themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      If you’re implying that the ‘better life’ is found by joining the UAW, the 75% who are no longer part of it since 1980 may disagree.

      My father was forced to join the United Steel Workers in 1967. After watching (with embarrassment) the union bosses mouth off on TV every night for 15 years, he lost his job forever. The union couldn’t save it, and the Homestead Steel Works was leveled and turned into an amusement park. I wonder what he could have done with all the union dues he paid over those years.

      If the goal is to squeeze every drop from The Man so your life is ‘better’ until the job ends, then I guess unions have a purpose. My father would have happily traded the high wages and benefits for a shot at retiring from there.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I thought he was being sarcastic. Having your industry unionized is like going to Vegas. A few people do win. Not a few industries, but a few individuals. Everyone else loses.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    VW knows the UAW. VW suffered labor unrest and crap production. The Japanese watched and learned. No UAW for the sentient.

    Japanese manufacturers soon followed VWoA’s unionized plant into production in the U.S. – achieving success at non-unionized plants including Honda at their Marysville, Ohio, plant and Toyota at their Georgetown, Kentucky, plant.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Westmoreland_Assembly_Plant

    German unions are not British/US unions. German and Japanese unions work with the company. British/US unions work against the company. The British auto industry is gone. US to follow.

  • avatar
    skor

    “How Germany Builds Twice as Many Cars as the U.S. While Paying Its Workers Twice as Much”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2011/12/21/germany-builds-twice-as-many-cars-as-the-u-s-while-paying-its-auto-workers-twice-as-much/

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      And?

      German workers can be paid twice as much per hour because they are at least twice as efficient. They don’t sit around and do nothing. Ala Detroit.

      The same thing applies to German textiles et al. Otherwise the economics doesn’t work, sooner or later you go broke. See Detroit.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        German workers can be paid twice as much per hour because they are more than twice as efficient.

        I’d like to see a source for that factoid. (And of course, there isn’t one.)

        In any case, for anyone who bothers to actually look at the numbers, the answer is obvious. The Germans have created a unique niche within the auto industry that is focused on exporting cars that it can sell at high prices, with little deviation between what is sold in the home market models and what is sold abroad.

        They can afford the labor costs because the margins on most of the products that they sell are high. Their ability to get away with selling world cars allows them to amortize their development costs across a large pool, which also helps with profitability.

        But not everyone can get away with doing this. If everyone tried to do the same thing, it would fail. The German model does not work when it comes to selling mainstream cars in high volumes to Americans, which explains why VW recently decided to create US-oriented variants of the Jetta and Passat when it finally chose to get serious about US expansion. (Being that the US is still one of the world’s dominant car markets, VW’s longstanding failure to make competitive US-specific models proved to be a considerable oversight.)

        And the Germans don’t necessarily think that they can keep getting away with it, either. There’s a reason that they’ve opted to buy brands in Eastern Europe, and to set up shop in Portugal, Hungary, Mexico, the US, China and South Africa, among other places. If there is a place that the German automakers won’t be adding large numbers of automotive jobs in the future, it’s in Germany.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        “German workers can be paid twice as much per hour because they are more than twice as efficient.”

        Proof?

        Or maybe the owners of German car companies aren’t all a bunch of sociopathic kleptomaniacs? They don’t sit around all day plotting their next big Bernie Madof style swindle. Ala Wall St.

        The same thing applies to the American financial sector. If not, sooner or later your victims rise up in murderous fury and drag you out in the street by your heels and put and put you up in front of a firing squad.
        See the Bolshevik Revolution.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    To the two illiteratis above, capital investment (capitalism) makes workers more efficient. The German textile industry is illustrative, as well as the auto sector.

    As for moving production to lower priced markets, the UAW has received huge subsidies from Mexican workers, who have allowed inefficient Detroit (US) plants to exist. No smart US manufacturer (UAW bound) would invest heavily in US operations. Only non-UAW can do that.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I asked you for productivity data. You obviously don’t have any.

      Next time that you start considering the illiteracy crisis, take a look at your mirror.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        Facts speak for themselves. Productivity is a measure of investment and output. No one doubts that the UAW works against gains in productivity.

        Productivity gains means fewer union jobs and dues. In their minds.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If that was supposed to be a rebuttal, then I would suggest that you avoid joining your high school debate team.

        I asked you for data. You have none. It’s pretty apparent that you lied and pulled stuff out of your backside. If you’re smart, you’ll avoid further embarrassment by not doing it again.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      “To the two illiteratis above”

      Oh, baby! The Sean Insanity, Glen Dreck, Mush Limpblow fanboyz make it almost too easy!

      A picture of thornmark,

      http://shii.org/mediawiki/images/1/1e/Boeing54kueuvg.jpg

  • avatar
    thornmark

    I kinda doubt you attended HS. Much less graduated.

  • avatar
    haenschen

    The management of the American automakers vastly overpaid their workers and accepted restrictive work rules, why is that the fault of the UAW? GM has been described as an employee benefits provider with an automobile manufacturing division, shouldn’t someone in the executive suite have figured it out in about 2001 when the company began paying more for health care than steel?

    • 0 avatar
      Yeah_right

      Probably. In the Idiots Hall of Fame, you’ll see Big 3 management arm-in-arm with the UAW for their ability to piss away a spectacular advantage in a little more than a decade. Both sides pursued their financial interests, as is their right. The Big 3 got labor peace. The UAW got wages and benefits that made the jobs highly desireable.

      The company was happy. The union was happy. Who could possibly lose?

      Oh, wait. Car buyers lost. The American public got what you’d expect when labor costs accelrate at a rate faster than inflation – more expensive, poorly-designed, poorly-assembled cars from an arrogant company that takes it’s customers for granted. As a result, someone like me who grew up in the shadows of the great steel mills in northern Indiana now buys Japanese autos.

  • avatar
    Number6

    All together now…HUH?

  • avatar
    damikco

    It’s hard to understand the drunken hate of the unions as of late. Before there where unions or common work rules pioneered by the unions there where very low wages and very long hours in plants with unsafe working conditions. Why in the sam hill do you people think the absence of unions will make things better when obviously these conditions will only return. The only reason for pay in the south being what it is, is becuse of union influences and nothing else. When did people asking for a good living in America become vilified?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Why do some people think asking is earning? Demanding and begging aren’t synonyms for earning either. Why don’t more people aspire to being like Henry Ford instead of wanting to minimize the amount of work they do and maximize their pay for it? The union mentality is anti-competitive in every way. Sorry to be the first to tell you this, but people who have less than they want and aren’t brainwashed to blame others for their place are willing to compete. People who aren’t willing to compete WILL have less than people who are willing to compete eventually. Do we let the unions destroy all of our standards of living, or do we stop accepting the loss of our industries, the exploding costs of our government, and the sacrifice of our children’s futures because of the corruptive and corrosive influence of unions?

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        Unions work perfectly fine in Japan and Germany. The population are very much behind them becuse unlike in America people undestand that they provide a good living. Its mathematically impossible to have 350 million Henry Fords or Steve Jobs in this nation. Since 99% of us are not CEO’s or on the bored, salary negotiating is a must, to corporations sadly salary is viewed only as another expensive and will pay us .50 just like in developing nations if we allow them. Its entirely foolish to think otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        We don’t have German or Japanese unions. We have organized crime.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        Please explain, until then you just sound like a Fox News anchor.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        What needs explanation? Japanese and German unions work in partnership with their employers. Our unions have corrupted our political system to the point that they’re not accountable for acts of domestic terrorism in the name of collective bargaining. You can look it up. Or do you doubt that industries have fled? That the SEIU is a bunch of thugs that get paid more than they’re worth in exchange for political contributions to people who pay them with tax dollars? How can you need an explanation? Are you an academic with no unfettered contact with the outside world? Mystifying.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        Lol please describe these “acts of terrorism”.

      • 0 avatar
        4solidarity

        CJinSD wrote:

        “Do we let the unions destroy all of our standards of living, or do we stop accepting the loss of our industries, the exploding costs of our government, and the sacrifice of our children’s futures because of the corruptive and corrosive influence of unions?”

        RE: You have not provided any evidence to back-up your claims that each and every worker who carries a union card is corrupt. Also, our nation has lost 11-million manufacturing jobs since 1990–with the vast majority being at non-union workplaces.

        I find you’re stereotyping working people in general. The workers in the U.S. transplants are not union workers. They should have the right to form a union just like a business has the same right to organze their business organization.

        Ralph Lyke
        Upstate New York

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        4solidarity: “The workers in the U.S. transplants are not union workers. They should have the right to form a union just like a business has the same right to organze their business organization.”

        I agree..

        Unfortunately the way the law works, as I understand it, they don’t. They have the right to join the already-established industry-wide union or go scab, if neither of those options is palatable to them they can’t form their own union or explore any other possible alternatives.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        Lets be honest here, transplant workers would love to have the same pay,money and benefits as the UAW, who wouldn’t? The fact is they are afraid of termination to fight for it.

  • avatar
    damikco

    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/2011-executive-compensation-highlights-lowlights-080951787.html

  • avatar
    4solidarity

    CJinSD wrote:

    “That the SEIU is a bunch of thugs that get paid more than they’re worth in exchange for political contributions to people who pay them with tax dollars?”

    RE: There is no mention of the SEIU in the above story. It is an American right of representative democracy for working people to have a voice in the political arena.

    Ralph Lyke
    Upstate New York

  • avatar
    4solidarity

    Les wrote:

    “Unfortunately the way the law works, as I understand it, they don’t. They have the right to join the already-established industry-wide union or go scab, if neither of those options is palatable to them they can’t form their own union or explore any other possible alternatives.”

    RE: Actually the National Labor Relations Act guarantees the U.S. transplant workers with the right to form “any” type of labor organization. They can be an independent union, and don’t have to affiliate with any existing international union.

    The point is that these U.S. workers have never earned the title of “scabs.” And they should have a free, uncoerced choice of banding together with their fellow workers in forming their union.

    Ralph Lyke
    Upstate New York

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      Who said anything about international unions?

      You really believe the transplants can form their own union completely independent of the UAW and it’ll just be sunshine and puppies for everybody?

  • avatar
    4solidarity

    Thornmark wrote:

    “Facts speak for themselves. Productivity is a measure of investment and output. No one doubts that the UAW works against gains in productivity.”

    RE: On the contrary, UAW workers have always stressed increased productivity in order to bargain for higher pay, benefits and working conditions.

    Ralph Lyke
    Upstate New York


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