By on November 1, 2012

According to the Brazilian enthusiast site webmotors, the UAW has come on down for the São Paulo Auto Show for the first time ever. Could it be that they were interested in checking out the product specialists?

Officially, no. The UAW is hard at work researching how and what factors drive Brazilian consumers to buy the cars they do. More specifically, the UAW wants to know if Brazilians consider or would be willing to consider work relations and conditions as factors in their decision.

Ginny Coughlin, the UAW representative in Brazil declared to webmotors.com: “The future of the car industry is in Brazil. As purchasing power has risen over the last ten years, everyone wants in on the opportunities.”

The Federação Nacional dos Metalúrgicos (or, National Federation of Steelworkers), the Brazilian union, is helping out the UAW on this endeavor. João Cayres, the Federation’s International Relations secretary, stresses that they want to build awareness in Brazilians of the conditions under which their cars are built.

Case in point: Salaries. São Paulo area workers are the Germans of the Brazilian car industry. On average they earn twice as much as workers in other areas. Cayres likes the still Swedish Volvo trucks as the company that pays the best. According to him, those who sweat under the Italians at Iveco (Fiat’s truck arm) get the lowest salaries of all.

UAW’s Coughlin likes what she sees in Brazil and doesn’t like what she sees a home. Coughlin  bemoans that “America is going off in the opposite direction of Brazil. Income distribution is worsening as are work conditions.” She attributes that to the fact that unlike Brazil, U.S. labor laws are local and automakers actively take steps to block unionization. She also complains that temp workers are hired in a de facto permanent condition (without their corresponding rights), maternity leave is only ten days, workers  don’t have rights to a vacation and bonuses. In Brazil, all workers have 30-day paid vacation, Christmas bonus, severance compensation and up to 5 months of maternity leave.

So, what do you say? Do you consider worker benefits, salaries and conditions when buying a car? Does Coughlin have a point and should the U.S. become more like Brazil?

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27 Comments on “UAW: Brazil Has It Better Than America...”


  • avatar
    Robstar

    IIRC, I think Brazilians have severance pay as well, right? On top of that they have week long national holidays….(Recalling conversations with my wife…)

    I know I’ve spoken to some of my wife’s relatives there about labor laws & they are shocked at how little vacation we get here.

  • avatar
    tced2

    The UAW has seats on the board of directors of two of the major American auto companies. The UAW should use their influence from these positions of (considerable) power on the companies to make adjustments.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    The new trend of hiring ‘permanent temps’ is a troubling one. When business is slow you would have no income. How are you supposed to pay rent that month?
    In the retail sector it’s even worse. Some employers expect you to pretty much be on call (with no pay of course) waiting by your phone. If they need you, you come in. If they don’t need you, you wait by the phone like an idiot. You can’t make plans. You can’t have a life.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I know how that feels because I’ve been there. All I can say is, demand better.

      Failing that, find someone else who is willing to oblige for your skills and service.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    Yep, the US definitely needs to go the way of Brazil. If only we could mimic their squeaky clean politics, affordable consumer goods, and eradication of poverty.

    Oh wait…..

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      You know this is a logical fallacy or slippery slope argument, right?

      • 0 avatar
        genuineleather

        How so?

        I’m not implying that increasing worker benefits leads to corruption, merely pointing out that the factors that created Brazil’s current economy are hardly ideal.

    • 0 avatar

      We are talking labor laws here. The question is, in this area, should some sort of national labor policy be in place? Should workers get more paid vacation? Should working moms get some more time with the baby?

      As to all the rest, you are correct, sir! You should definetely not emulate us. Go by me. BTW, I don’t even know if you should emulate or labor laws. Though that seems to be the position of the UAW’s rep here.

      • 0 avatar
        Dimwit

        Frankly, I find that if you need to join a special organization to get sane labour laws, your laws suck and should be changed.

        Everyone should have a decent workplace. Safe, regulated and available to all. Businesses *should* welcome it to make sure everyone abides by the same standards. Most don’t though. Unions should not be necessary and are, in fact, uncompetitive in the marketplace. Hopefully, the threat of having the UAW nosing around should wake up a few in Brazil. It also shows how bankrupt they are in the US. I can’t wait for them to head to China!

      • 0 avatar

        but that’s The thing, it shouldn’t be necessáry yet at this point in time, unions are needed. At least here

  • avatar
    silverkris

    Well, the Brazilian auto industry’s working conditions may be very different from other industries or areas in Brazil. Marcelo, could you comment how wages and working environment are like in other Brasilian industries or sectors?

  • avatar
    Freddie

    Wikipedia: US has 812 vehicles per 1000 population, Brazil has 259.

    Protectionism and mandated benefits help a few workers at the expense of making autos unaffordable for the many.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      Let’s step away from the textbooks and consider the reality. Many countries do protectionist policies as part of a strategy of industrialization/economic development. Believe it or not, the United States, Great Britain, Japan, South Korea, China, and many other now industrialized countries have all used such policies to further an end. The trick is the execution, and the nature of the policies, and how they modify that over time.

    • 0 avatar

      Not so easy Freddie. Brazil is a vast country. In São Paulo, Rio and some other parts, the proportion people/car is almost reaching Western European levels. Elsewhere, specially Northern parts of the country, the ratio is well over 15/1.

  • avatar
    George B

    “Do you consider worker benefits, salaries and conditions when buying a car?”

    I’d avoid a car built using forced labor from political prisoners in China. I’d also avoid helping fund political opponents on the left so I’m more likely to buy a car not built by the UAW. However, I want the non-union plants to pay enough to hire good workers just so the finished product is built right.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      Your comments remind me why I don’t drink Coors beer because the Coors family has a history of funding rightwing political causes. Heck, Paul Weyrich got Joe Coors to put in the seed money to start the Heritage Foundation.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I don’t drink Coors beer because it isn’t very good. I don’t buy UAW cars because they’re further from me ideologically than any enemy we’ve ever taken up arms against. That they’re all flawed just makes it easier. As my friend whose father spent his career as an engineer at GM and who is currently a Marine deployed in Afghanistan for the at least the third time told me, I’d sooner buy a car from Al Qaeda than from the UAW.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        ‘As my friend whose father spent his career as an engineer at GM and who is currently a Marine deployed in Afghanistan for the at least the third time told me, I’d sooner buy a car from Al Qaeda than from the UAW.’

        What does your friend drive?

        Did he make that choice because:

        a. he was born to someone who worked for GM on a salaried basis and had a reason to not buy GM or not like hourly UAW workers because of his father’s job?

        b. somehow the fact the he chose to join the military and has had to have multiple tours is somehow related to the fact that GM has union workers?

        c. he saw a bunch of cool cars designed and built in Afghanistan that he likes?

        I’m confused by your point beyond the fact that you don’t like Coors beer (common ground here with me)

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        He’s in Afghanistan, so he isn’t driving anything as far as I know. His 1993 RX-7 is in my garage. I believe he has a Chevy Trailblazer parked on a local Marine base awaiting his return. It is leftover from before Obama shafted salaried employees for his commie fellow travelers. I’ve also seen him driving a new A4, but I think that’s his girlfriend’s car.

        The retired engineer is not the one in Afghanistan. That is his son, my friend that made the statement of his own preference for Al Qaeda over the UAW. He was a helicopter pilot for years, but reached a point in his career where he doesn’t fly anymore. Maybe he’d have retired by now if the economy weren’t hobbled to create more dependent Democratic voters.

  • avatar
    wormyguy

    Interesting that the UAW wants to draw attention to Brazil, where their favored protectionist policies mean that a Toyota Camry costs over 100,000 USD. It *has* had their desired effect of making foreign automakers assemble their cars in Brazil, with workers hired at Brazilian-level wages (no surprise there), that also screw consumers over by being overpriced pieces of crap (you can get a stripper last-gen Ford Fusion for merely the price of a well-equipped 3-series in the US…).

  • avatar

    Well, it all depends. I seem to remember reading that, thanks to high import duties, Brazil has the highest car prices in the civilized world. If it’s going to cost the equivalent of $30,000 for a car costing $10,000 in the USA, I can’t afford it and it doesn’t matter whether the working conditions include relaxing music, free Yoga classes or periodic 10-hour breaks.

    Also, I think it’s debatable whether unionism makes work better, or worse. I would think it would be far nicer to work in the more collegial and less rule-based non-union factories.

    D

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      I’d think Singapore has the highest prices for cars – and it has nothing to do with protecting a local industry since they have none (all cars are imported). It has everything to do with managing vehicle growth and traffic congestion on a small island with finite space. A Honda Accord costs 3x to buy than in the USA.

      I think the point is that there isn’t necessarily much relationship or correlation between the purchase price of the car and whether it is unionized or non-unionized workforce. Price has more to do with government policy, taxes, tariffs as well as market forces.

  • avatar
    silverkris

    @George B: “Frankly, I find that if you need to join a special organization to get sane labour laws, your laws suck and should be changed.

    “Everyone should have a decent workplace. Safe, regulated and available to all. Businesses *should* welcome it to make sure everyone abides by the same standards. Most don’t though. Unions should not be necessary and are, in fact, uncompetitive in the marketplace. Hopefully, the threat of having the UAW nosing around should wake up a few in Brazil. It also shows how bankrupt they are in the US. I can’t wait for them to head to China!”

    Well, in Germany and Japan, they have unions and AFAIK, they make very competitive products there, I’d say that they haven’t been going to a race-to-the-bottom mentality that is common in the US to justify cutting wages and benefits.

    Actually, labor unrest is pretty common in China, they’ve had lots of industrial action at auto plants run by Nissan, Honda, and other companies, though surprisingly, not GM (this has nothing to do with the anti-Japanese sentiment going on due to the Diaoyutai Islands dispute). So the UAW has nothing on Chinese workers in terms of strikes. IIRC, Brazil has also had a few strikes at plants as well.

  • avatar

    There are better Unions than the UAW, I am sure Brazil has there own LABOUR organizations and not sure they would like any help or info from a troubled UAW Union from the USA!

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    Brazil is a country ruled by the Worker’s Party, PT, itself a lovechild of different industrial labor organizations. It is a deeply unionized country. In fact, pretty much everyone is unionized in Brazil, and that’s mandatory.

    We have specific-oriented Federal Labor Justice, and not long ago the labor courts had what we called “classist judges”, which were judges appointed by the unions. That led to countless corruption cases and got canned, but you get the picture.

    And those labor laws we have, that are so good for the average brazilian industrial worker, are the same that make investing so hard. It has an intense, hazardous effect in the small businesses and entrepreneurship as a whole. Informal work is everywhere, and that leads to higher taxes since informal business don’t follow labor laws and don’t pay taxes either.

    So there you go. Brazil is not an example for anything after all.


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