By on July 31, 2012

Two times, the UAW tried to unionize the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Twice, the Union received a black eye. The UAW is trying a third time, this time counting on the fact that  “an estimated 70 percent of the workforce is black,” says Reuters in a feature story on the UAW’s last ditch effort to gain relevance in the South.

Says Reuters:

“As the United Auto Workers embarks on an uphill battle to organize Nissan Motor Co’s plant in Mississippi, it is drawing inspiration from the famous struggle waged in the state during the civil rights movement.

The union sees a winning strategy in depicting the right to unionize freely as a basic civil right.”

The problem is, the winning strategy seems to go over the heads of the people it wants to connect with. Says Reuters:

“But the connection between civil rights history and the right to join a union or have a voice in work processes may be too abstract. Workers interviewed by Reuters, both for and against the union, said they simply have not thought about the civil rights link.”

Hate to say it, Bob King: You are no Martin Luther.

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35 Comments on “In A Race For Survival, The UAW Plays The Race Card...”


  • avatar
    dejal1

    How very white of Bob.

    I guess the workers don’t have the intelligence to think for themselves.

    Unless Nissan is illegally blocking a union from forming then Nissan isn’t abusing anyones civil rights.

    Just because you personally don’t use a right doesn’t mean that you have given up that right. I can vote, but may not bother. I can buy a gun if I choose, but I do not want one.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      +1

      As I’ve said before, the internet is the UAW’s greatest enemy. The illegalities and abuses at the transplants would be common knowledge if they were occurring.

      That these black (and white) workers don’t want to stick it to the Man indicates how little leverage the UAW really has.

    • 0 avatar
      jandrews

      What dejal1 said.

      It amazes me that labor unions have not been able to detect their own irrelevance. They performed a meaningful function before OSHA and a federal minimum wage existed.

      They don’t anymore.

      Good luck to them is all I can say (not really).

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        This statement has no basis in either fact or history. In fact with white collar and blue collar wages being suppressed and the resultant drag on the economy , the need for strong unions is quite apparent.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “labor unions have not been able to detect their own irrelevance”

        I don’t agree. I believe they know exactly how irrelevant they are–they just happen to be unwilling to die and so fight tooth and nail to the pathetic end.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Probert,
        Your statement isn’t factual either. The need for unions just isn’t a factual thing, it’s a perception or opinion thing. My opinion is that unions can be a good thing, but the UAW will never be a good thing.

      • 0 avatar
        jandrews

        probert-

        Wages aren’t being “suppressed”. There’s no conspiracy amongst the oligarchs to keep wages down. What they are doing is business in a global economy: They don’t have to pay you (figurative you, not literal you) more because it’s cheaper then to do it in Mexico.

        Wages are unlikely to rise again until everyone involved in the developed world’s markets are at roughly the same standard of living. Rather, it is simply more economical as a business to relocate your operations to the most favorable exchange rate. The data available at this time suggest the planet does not have the resources to allow the current and predicted population of the earth to live at the same standard of living as the developed West. All this is to say: Wages will never again spike in the US (adjusted for inflation, or “real wages”) like they did in the Post-WW2 to Late-70s-Oil-Embargo boom. Sorry.

        Back to The Oligarchs: They *are* taking advantage of the fact that the slowing US economy has resulted in a surplus labor pool. They *are* taking advantage of the fact that they can get more work for fewer dollars per employee because the specter of job loss acts as a “silent gun” to the employee’s head. Again, that’s just business. Labor is a market, and in the last five years, the market changed drastically.

        Labor unions will not help improve wages, nor will they change working conditions significantly. Socialism *might*, temporarily, but would eventually kill the host (think virus vs. parasite). Please illustrate to me how the UAW has improved the lot of its membership in any way over the past 30 years? They sank GM, resulting in a government bailout of the company (I wonder, how much of that bailout came from UAW member tax dollars?). The company is now threatening to sink again, even after renegotiating it’s relationship with the UAW.

        Other major Auto manus that don’t have the UAW yoke around their neck (The Imports, that is to say) don’t have these issues. What they have are fairly treated employees with no desire to unionize, heaps of cash reserves, and happy shareholders.

        Explain to me, one more time, what the UAW can offer these companies, employees, or shareholders?

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      +1

      Having dealt with union reps (indirectly) at my company it always struck me as astonishing at how much their effectiveness relied on manipulation of the opinions of their membership.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    That’s some quality leadership the UAW is brandishing.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I actually read the linked article. The best argument for the union is also the best argument against it. Recent hires have been low paid contract workers. The reason the labor rate has fallen from $25 an hour in 2005 to $12 an hour in 2012 has everything to do with the politicians elected by the union machine. More Christmas-every-day thinking will just see these jobs leave all together. Obama has doubled the unemployment rate of the very demographic that is supposed to put their jobs on the line so they can become mandatory campaign contributors. Not nice.

    • 0 avatar
      toomanycrayons

      “The reason the labor rate has fallen from $25 an hour in 2005 to $12 an hour in 2012 has everything to do with the politicians elected by the union machine. More Christmas-every-day thinking will just see these jobs leave all together.”-CJinSD

      I get so confused up here north of the weather map about your problems. It seemed to me, incorrectly it appears, that unions acting LIKE…Wall Street financiers, politicians and CEOs was only part of the problem, not them doing it exclusively:

      “We now have an entitled class of Wall Street financiers and of corporate CEOs who believe the government is there to do… whatever it takes in order to keep the game going and their stock price moving upward,” Stockman tells Moyers.”

      http://billmoyers.com/segment/david-stockman-on-crony-capitalism/

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The problem the union has is that the transplant workers have traditionally been offered compensation packages that are sweet enough that they really don’t need union representation. This of course is not altruism on the part of the companies, it is merely an attempt to keep the union out. Once the union slides completely into irrelevance, so to will the good wages for the transplants. And so goes the standard of middle class living, down the toilet, again. Christmas every day indeed….But hey, we can retrain and go back to school instead of crying in our beer. Just what every 45 year old adult with two children wants to do – go to school again.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Or, the problem the union has is that lifetime employment is incompatible with the modern world. The hardest part of life is making good decisions on who to work for and with. Trying to get a free lunch by joining a union is simply moving the risk. There is no free lunch.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The real problem is that the transplants have operated differently from the Big Three. The UAW gained a foothold when management’s attitude was that workers were just another cog in the assembly line, and their job was to show up, shut up, and do whatever management said.

        When a low-level management employee answered a question asked by legendary Ford boss “Cast Iron” Charlie Sorensen with, “Well, I thought…”.

        Soresen cut him off and yelled back, “Who told you to think?!”.

        That was management’s attitude toward line workers, too.

        The Japanese, from day one, have sought employee input on how to improve the production process, and expected them to contribute to the betterment of the company and the products. That means that workers feel more valued. It also means that the Japanese aren’t hiring just anyone off the street, and have zero tolerance for drug abuse, excessive absences or goofing off during work hours.

        In that type of environment, the UAW has a much harder time making the case for unionization. The two primary arguments are, “We can lower your take-home pay by deducting union dues, and we will help you keep your job if show up drunk, stoned, etc.”. Hardly compelling reasons to join a union, whether you are black, white or Asian.

      • 0 avatar
        toomanycrayons

        “There is no free lunch.”- Landcrusher

        What is an offshore account in the Cayman Islands?

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        There is nothing free about an offshore account. It’s a hassle that’s only worth it if you have enough money that it’s worth it to have some insurance against some really unlikely problems.

      • 0 avatar
        toomanycrayons

        “There is nothing free about an offshore account.”-
        Landcrusher

        Well, it would seem to involve being freed from the common burden of paying taxes/supporting institutions in a country you felt morally/ethically qualified to run, for example?

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Interest earned from offshore accounts is just as taxable as domestic accounts. Hoping the IRS won’t know about it is wishful thinking as a lot of people depending on Swiss secrecy found out a few years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        toomanycrayons

        The tone of the anti-union criticism seems to revolve around their perceived wishful/magical thinking. Obviously, they are not alone in this vice:

        “LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) – Rich individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens, representing up to $280 billion in lost income tax revenues, according to research published on Sunday.”

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/22/super-rich-offshore-havens_n_1692608.html

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      This makes no sense – your statements are banal, shortsighted and factually incorrect.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It makes no sense to you. Probably the result of a teacher’s union provided education. With over regulation stifling employment, labor is less valuable. Ergo, Obama and Co are the primary reason for suppressed wages. Playing games with employment numbers to keep half of the nation’s unemployed out of the news does nothing to help HR departments sift through applicants.

  • avatar
    Loser

    “the right to unionize freely as a basic civil right.”

    What about the right to not unionize and not be harassed by the union?
    If the workers felt the need for a union I’m quite sure they would have asked. Kind of like dealing with a telemarketer, if I wanted new siding for my house I would have called.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Are you serious? Did you just make this stuff up?

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Yes, he did. He presented an opinion. Arguing that someone’s opinion is false is just rude. There is a right way and a wrong way to disagree and you keep going the wrong way.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        What part looks made up? So workers don’t have a right to not be harassed by the union? How many times does the UAW need to be turned down by the workers until the UAW gets the message? Is it too far fetched to believe the workers are smart enough to contact the UAW if they feel the need?

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Sort of like that old song, “If the phone don’t ring, you’ll know it’s me.”

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Well in right-to-work states you don’t have to unionize and you get to enjoy most of those union benefits as most good companies will try to balance the worker agreement against the union agreement with the exception of termination but there again any company that operates around the US will most likely abide by the most stringent rules governing termination so that as middle and upper management moves around they don’t commit a faux pas and put the company in a position where a worker wins the work lotto in court.

  • avatar
    Toucan

    I do like this distinct scent of Bertel’s hidden satisfaction when he writes about the union loosing ground and taking on water.

  • avatar

    How low can you go? Go Bob go

    How many womyn are working at the plant?

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    IIRC, the UAW has a racist history, and a rather diversity challenged top office. How many UAW presidents have been black? Seems to me the only people still playing the race card are the few fascists left among us. The only more racist people left are the overt ones like klansmen and neo-nazis.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Even if we disregard the race card, what exactly does the UAW have to offer the workers in ANY non-union plant that they don’t already have, except maybe paying the dues every payday?

    And how many of the non-unionized workers would like to see the UAW collectively bargain their employers into bankruptcy, like GM and Chrysler?

    Maybe an avid UAW member would like to take this opportunity to educate the rest of us infidels and non-believers.

    • 0 avatar
      toomanycrayons

      “And how many of the non-unionized workers would like to see the UAW collectively bargain their employers into bankruptcy, like GM and Chrysler?”-highdesertcat

      I’m wondering why the IDEA of unions is being attacked merely on the grounds that the UAW has some warts. The idea of capitalism/free markets seems promising. When will we gets some? The world is falling around us thanks to Wall Street and its Washington rent boys. Are you preparing a bonfire for that ideology as well, or just the working/lower class’?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Former trade union(s) member here. The labor unions have brought us an eight hour work day, guaranteed lunch breaks, guaranteed breaks, and your two day weekend. Ground breaking work done by Walter Reuther and John Lewis. However, all of this was done 70-80 years ago.
    When the big three were the big three, they agreed to UAW demands, cars went down the line, and everyone was happy. The UAW needs to realize the big three, big 2 1/2? Big 2?,I don’t know; are scrambling for their lives.
    Me? I built things and made a good living. I love the irony of cubicle dwellers who think skilled tradesmen are stupid, until they find out how much we make. I had to get out due to nerve damage and I work with some guys who where in skilled trades. To a man, we miss it every day.

    • 0 avatar
      moedaman

      I for one don’t think skilled workers are dummies. My father was a highly skilled and highly intellegent man and earned good money. He worked in unions for most of his life and ended up working for GM as a UAW member. When he was in the United Steel Workers union, he was a local official (treasurer) for a few years. After he was working for GM for a few years, he hated unions.

      He pretty much felt, and taught my brother and I, that the UAW leadership doesn’t care about the locals or it membership. They basically only care about those union dues because that money gives them a say in the political process. And this is what these membership drives are all about, union dues to pay off politicians and keep the UAW leaders relevant (and have great retirement benefits).

      • 0 avatar
        toomanycrayons

        “He pretty much felt, and taught my brother and I, that the UAW leadership doesn’t care about the locals or it membership. They basically only care about those union dues because that money gives them a say in the political process.”-moedaman

        Not much different from Management/GOP then in their relationship to other people’s money? I guess the issue is which group is doing/has done the least harm. We won’t be told.


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