By on February 18, 2014

VW-Gesetz-IG-Metall

TTAC welcomes Jamie Kitman, of Automobile Magazine, NPR’s CarTalk and other international outlets, as he presents his analysis of what went wrong at Chattanooga, and the next steps for the labor movement’s efforts in the auto industry.

With all the clamorous back patting and joyous trills of laughter attending the defeat of the UAW’s unionization drive at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, one has that nagging sensation, increasingly common these days that the whole 20th century never happened.

I am not here to defend everything that has ever been done in the name of the United Auto Workers or any other union, because their list of wrongdoings is long. There has been corruption, laziness and greed, none of which I, or most union members, for that matter, would endorse. But the list of mean, corrupt and otherwise heinous acts committed by manufacturers through the years in the name of unfettered profit is undoubtedly greater. Profits are swell and all that, but the business of manufacturing is most beneficial to communities and society as a whole when all stakeholders have a seat at the table.

Anyone who can remember or has read of the days when a worker without a college education could support a family, buy a house, go on vacation, put three kids through braces and college, ought to think about the good unions have done. Ironically, many who lament the passing of middle class prosperity oppose one of the main instrument s of its creation.

Now there are those whose official position is to go blindly on the side of organized capital, no matter the cost, including apparently enough Republican politicians in Tennessee to fill a basketball arena, and that is their right. Less certain is whether terrifying workers about the parade of horribles that might ensue from a vote to certify the union – based on conversations they claim to have had with VW management – will withstand legal muster; if VW had told workers they’d close down a line on account of a pro-union vote, they’d be in violation of the law. If local politicians with their television pulpits were knowingly doing the company’s bidding, the law may well have been broken, too.

Then again, these are the same politicians who tell their constituents that climate change is a myth, that President Obama is a communist traitor and demand that their children be taught in public schools that the world was formed over a mere 144 hours, 6000 years ago. The people keep electing them, so maybe the non-union South is simply getting what it’s paid for.

What rankles are those who claim to be looking out for working men and women and oppose unions anyway as bad for labor. Where is their proof? That the American auto industry went wrong after 100 years on top? Er, actually, the years of the industry’s greatest prosperity coincided with the years of the UAW’s greatest prominence.

What rankles still more are the so-called journalists covering this story as if somehow the future of capitalism depended on their penning love letters to management. They seem to have forgotten that there were good and honest reasons for autoworkers to unionize in the 1930s. That there were reasons employees tithed a portion of their weekly wage packets to the union, and reasons that laws were enacted to protect the right of workers to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. And there were reasons that, yes, car companies, like Volkswagen, grew to value their union relationships.

Well, folks, those reasons didn’t all go away. Do you honestly believe that no one at any of the southern car factories wants to be in a union? Would that be because life on the shop floor has gotten so pleasant and they feel like they’re getting paid so much and that their work rules and grievance procedures are now so fair that they have no complaints? If so, ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, why aren’t you actually reporting that story on the ground, rather than inferring it from the lack of successful union drives in the South? Or perhaps you might have to start reporting the story of how Nissan and other U.S. transplants spy on and thuggishly seek to disrupt the would-be organizers in their midst, as anti-union managements have always done. That is, of course, how unions were kept down in their early days, all across America, all across the world. Other times, when their movements started becoming too successful, workers were killed for their union activity.

But let’s ignore that part of the ugly history and stay in the moment. Assaying the wholesale death of middle-class factory jobs in this increasingly non-union country, the value of union associations to workers seems kind of obvious. And now as union membership dwindles, we see more auto industry jobs that don’t pay enough for people to even approximate what was known for more than half a century as a decent, middle class life. Instead, we increasingly see workers hired in the non-union, transplant carmakers – Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota, BMW and Honda—not only as non-union employees, but as temporary workers, with few if any benefits to go with their new, lower wages. The auto industry is not alone here, but without a viable middle class, one must wonder who exactly is going to be buying all those cars and trucks our factories can make. If people had more money, maybe they wouldn’t need 80-month loans and all that cash back.

Low wages aren’t as bad as no wages because you have no job, it’s true, but they’re not as nice as good wages and that’s not the choice, anyway. Commentators and pundits lashed out at Henry Ford for paying his workers a living $5 a day wage when half that was the national standard but the move, if anything, helped his company. And the unionized American industry proved for much of the 20th century that you could have both jobs and good wages, with the German automobile industry out there still, continuing to prove the same thing. Not too unsuccessful a manufacturing economy last time I looked, Germany pays its autoworkers the world’s highest industrial wages. And indeed Volkswagen’s 61 other factories outside the US are union shops, excluding China.

So what’s that I hear, Sen. Corker? You think the deal the Chinese workers get is good enough for the hardworking people of Tennessee?

Evidently. For those who weren’t paying attention, the senator was so exorcised by the fact that a UAW preliminary card count showing a majority of workers at Chattanooga supporting the union, that he publicly told VW workers that the SUV the company was saying it might build in Tennessee would go elsewhere if the union was certified.

“I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga,” Corker announced, ominously. Of course, his statement also admits of the possibility that they might have also said they’d build it either way, but clearly that was not the impression he meant to give.

And what Volkswagen was thinking isn’t exactly clear, either. Their union at home in Germany is very powerful, but that doesn’t mean they like it.

Of course, Volkswagen Chattanooga’s chairman and CEO Frank Fischer dismissed any linkage between the vote and the decision to build the new SUV in Chattanooga . But there is good reason to believe Corker’s scare tactic was enough to scuttle the UAW’s drive; just 44 additional people would have had to vote in favor of union affiliation for it to have prevailed.

There’s also ample reason for VW’s Chattanooga work force to question the overall sincerity of its employers, which already reneged on a pledge to build Audis there, so long as the launches of the Jetta and New Beetle (built in Mexico) were successful, which they claimed were. So who knows what the truth of VW’s involvement is?

If they really wanted the UAW in place so as to be able to set up their works council, surely they could have countered Corker’s intemperate remarks. Or perhaps they have another way around U.S. labor laws. Who knows?

What we do know is that the company certainly knows how to sweet talk Tennessee politicians, having received the most generous state grant of any American corporation looking to set up shop anywhere ever – a package that included $577 million in tax breaks, over $40 million in training assistance and over 1,500 acres of land, gratis. All for 1,550 jobs, in a city which can’t afford to update a sewage system that is 100 years out of date, causing the town to reek many days of the year. That’s close to half a million dollars per job.

The really upside down part is that Detroit still pays union wages to some of its employees. So actions like Corker’s are in essence a gift to big conglomerates from Japan, Germany and Korea when they come to America. Until, that is, the moment when the low wages paid in transplant factories fully kill decent wages for the home team. At which point they will have sown the seeds for a union fight as ugly as any ever seen.

Because the harder the workers get stomped on, the sooner and clearer the need for unions will be. Because left to its own devices, big money always races to the bottom. It is the nature of the beast.

So the battle of Chattanooga may be lost. But the larger war is hardly over.

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293 Comments on “Guest Post: Jamie Kitman On The Battle Of Chattanooga...”


  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I’m sure this post will be setting a new record on the amount of comments it gets.

    • 0 avatar
      Dragophire

      I was thinking the same thing about half way through my read. At that point I thought to myself..this is a joke ..right? Then i realized that April 1st is still about six weeks away.

      • 0 avatar
        Skink

        Kitman writes,

        “But there is good reason to believe Corker’s scare tactic was enough to scuttle the UAW’s drive; just 44 additional people would have had to vote in favor of union affiliation for it to have prevailed.”

        Wrong. The margin was 87 votes. 88 ADDITIONAL people would have had to vote in favor of union affiliation for it to have prevailed. Those 88 additional votes could have come from abstainers, who numbered in excess of 100, IIRC. IF 44 who had voted against the UAW had INSTEAD voted in favor of unionizing, then the outcome would have gone in favor of the UAW.

        • 0 avatar
          b787

          If 187 people voted against the union and 100 for it, exactly 44 workers would have to change sides. 187-44=143 < 144=100+44

          • 0 avatar
            Skink

            That was one of my points, and I said so. What Kidman asserted was that the UAW could have overcome an 87 vote margin with just 44 ADDITIONAL votes in favor. That’s only true IF the additional votes also came from 44 fewer votes against. But he didn’t specify that angle. The 88 additional votes would have to have come from abstainers if they weren’t coming from those who voted against. My original post was clear. I hope this repetition and re-explanation helps make it clear for you.

            Lots of campaigners learn it’s easier to create new votes than to persuade anyone to change their mind.

          • 0 avatar
            b787

            Oh, I did’t read your post correctly. My bad.

      • 0 avatar
        Skink

        Kitman adds noise, vibration, and harshness.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      I’m with you!

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      If only he included a question about what his next car should be and a reference to dealer franchise laws I guarantee it would be above 1,000 by the end of the day.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      As long as people keep the discourse civil and ON-TOPIC, I’m fine with that.

      (looks at growing number of off-topic political rants below)

      Ah, nurtz…

    • 0 avatar
      challenger2012

      Well written Mr. Kitman.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Lack of middle-class factory jobs in the US? What about the lack of middle-class farming jobs? Burn the combines! Luddites of the world unite!

    You mentioned climate change, is the solution for more people to have more money for big houses and cars?

    I don’t like evolution deniers either. But the success of issues like gay marriage and drug reform, at the same time unionization is in decline, shows people are looking at unionization as an individual issue, not being bamboozled by the right.

    White collar workers that don’t have unions speaking down to factory workers that decided they wanted to be judged on their individual merits also is somewhat patronizing and insulting.

    The Japanese work with and respect line workers as individuals. VW just wants the workers to pay for a college educated union rep so that VW wite collar workers don’t have to talk to line workers. VW will still threaten to move to Mexico if the union rep makes any actual demands.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    I have some questions, why is the UAW the only choice for these worker’s chance for salvation? If they want to unionize why can’t they form VW Auto Worker’s Tennessee Union? Oh wait then they wouldn’t pay into an organization that has become a large ponzi scheme.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Any union requires money to operate, so dues would be required. Yes, the workers could form their own union “local” and affiliate with any existing “approved” union to meet the legal requirements for a works council. The problem is getting the workers in that plant to organize themselves.

      In any event, the UAW isn’t locked out. When I was working for the State of California, the union for my area of expertise had it’s own office staff and administrators, and that office staff chose to be represented by the UAW – vs. their union employers!

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The article is the distillation of stupid.

    The author has no understanding of science or economics but he has opinions.

    Thankfully the people of TN are smarter than he is, they saw what happened to Detroit, going from the richest city to bankruptcy.

    btw, Michael Crichton gave a great speech about people like Kitman who don’t understand the difference between science and politics (AGW or whatever their latest diversion is).

    If you want to know the difference, read it:
    https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~scranmer/SPD/crichton.html

    Since Crichton gave that speech to Caltech his case has grown much stronger as evidence of AGW has grown ever weaker – no warming, models that fail to predict anything, including the past. So they change the campaign to “climate change” and tell those who point out the fallacies to “shut-up”.

    “German economist Ottmar Edenhofer, an official with [actually a co-chairman of] the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in an interview with Neue Zürcher Zeitung on November 14: “… it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War. … we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. … One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore ….””
    http://www.masterresource.org/2013/11/warsaw-talks-wealth-redistribution/

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      Ah yes the Science Fiction writer Michael Crichton. Surely the world’s greatest expert on climate change. I mean what do these guys know?
      http://www.nationalacademies.org/includes/G8+5energy-climate09.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        “Climate change”, at least as a new dodge, didn’t exist when he gave that speech, because they needed another slogan since warming wasn’t happening as “predicted”.

        I guess you missed that.

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          Yes, yes you are right and 99% of researchers and experts are just trying to con everyone.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            And Algore’s college degree is in . . . ?

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            >>MPA<<
            You seem to be very uninformed. Crichton and his side debated the alarmist side – their stars – in NYC on PBS.

            Most agreed w/ the alarmists before the debate, but opinion turned in Crichton's favor after the debate:

            "On March 14, 2007, Intelligence Squared held a debate in New York City titled Global Warming is Not a Crisis, moderated by Brian Lehrer. Crichton was on the for the motion side along with Richard Lindzen and Philip Stott against Gavin Schmidt, Richard Somerville, and Brenda Ekwurzel. Before the debate, the audience were largely on the Against the motion side at 57% vs 30% in favor of the for side, with a 12% undecided. At the end of the debate, there was a notable shift in the audience vote at 46% vs 42% in favor of the for the motion side leaving the debate with the conclusion that Crichton's group won.
            http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/past-debates/item/559-global-warming-is-not-a-crisis

            The debate is here:
            http://vimeo.com/8572553

            btw, Algore got D's in science at Harvard and later flunked out of both law and divinity school.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Up to 99% already? George Clooney is still using 97%.

            Seriously, this is science, so consensus means nothing – most “experts” agreed the universe revolved around the earth at one time.

            There should be consensus that the world has warmed significantly since the late 1970s, but also that there’s been a pause in the warming, a stabilization at a higher level, for the last 16-17 years. The IPCC has documented both, but hasn’t provided an explanation for the stabilization.

            There’s plenty of room for disagreement about causes, and quite a bit of disagreement exists, so the 97%-99% argument is a non-starter. Everyone is better off acknowledging the common points and respectfully entertaining the differing theories as to the possible causes. Otherwise, those demanding a particular course of action based on their causal theory will look suspiciously like a steamrolling operation with ulterior motives.

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            This astrophysicist from Australia pretty much demolished AGW “science”:
            “Die kalte Sonne writes:

            Prof. Murry Salby, climate scientist at Macquarie University of Sydney, made a presentation in Hamburg on April 18th as part of a European tour. Prof. Salby is author of the textbook Physics of the Atmosphere and Climate (Cambridge University Press) and Fundamentals of Atmospheric Physics (Academic Press) and is renowned worldwide as an astrophysicist. He recently caused excitement with new findings on the relationship of the 12C- and 13C isotopes and the development of CO2-concentration. From the findings he concluded that the anthropogenic emissions only had a slight impact on the global CO2-concentrations. They are are mainly a consequence of temperature changes. This relationship is known up to now only from the warming phases after the last ice ages. Prof. Salby extends this relationship to our current climate development.

            “Their divergence over the last decade and a half is now unequivocal. In the models global temperature tracks CO2 almost perfectly. In the real world it clearly doesn’t.” – http://notrickszone.com/2013/06/10/murry-salbys-presentation-in-hamburg/#sthash.xqcMxvbh.dpuf
            http://notrickszone.com/2013/06/10/murry-salbys-presentation-in-hamburg/

            And the 97% figure is not supported:
            http://joannenova.com.au/2013/05/cooks-fallacy-97-consensus-study-is-a-marketing-ploy-some-journalists-will-fall-for/

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Interestingly enough, although Salby claimed he had a paper accepted for publication on this subject, it never appeared anywhere.

            He was let go from both Colorado University and Macquarie University for failure to show up to teach (I guess they take that sort of thing fairly seriously at a school). The NSF – during the oil’n’coal-lovin’ Bush Administration – investigated him and found that he was concealing financial conflicts of interest and cut him off from further grants.

            For a time, Salby was the persecuted darling of the Denialists. Marc Morano at ClimateDepot.com put up a post about how a Swedish researcher, Perh Bjornbom had “replicated” Salby’s work in an attempt to shore up the fortunes of this Hero of the Realm. However, he failed to actually look up Bjornbom’s work to discover that Bjornbom found Salby’s work interesting but Salby was, in fact, wrong, that two important terms were left out of Salby’s principal equation.

            Since nobobdy actually published Salby’s 2011 “groundbreaking” work, he has been otherwise ignored, except for a few Denialists who cling fondly to his memory.

          • 0 avatar
            fvfvsix

            @MPAVictoria – maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I do have the data that says they faked the “warming” numbers sitting on my hard drive from way back in 2008. Climate change = the weather. If it stays the same, you’re probably dead.

          • 0 avatar

            How exactly do people who’ve apparently never passed a science class feel like they’re qualified to provide opinions on something as complex as climate? Do they think it’s akin to their opinion on the greatest football player or who wore it the best at the oscars?

      • 0 avatar

        Michael Crichton wasn’t just a “science fiction” writer. He earned an M.D. degree at Harvard. I think he wrote Andromeda Strain while he was still in med school and decided to be a writer. Though I don’t know if he ever practiced medicine, he certainly had enough of a scientific background to be able to look at scientific issues with an informed perspective. It’s not quite the same as questioning Charles Krauthammer’s credentials when he describes irrational behavior in Washington, but Crichton was no scientific neophyte.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          I suppose, then, if I needed a boil lanced, I’d go to Michael Crichton (would have gone, come to think of it). But it’s a poor MD who ignores the current research and literature in the practice of medicine and it would be a poor Climate Scientist who did the same.

          Crichton’s observations on climate were often painfully wrong. That didn’t prevent him being a plausible and persuasive speaker but he was not expanding real knowledge while doing it.

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      Since we’re adding links, here’s a link for skeptics of Climate Change:

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      Apolitical science organizations have a consensus about climate change. Can we just agree to let the experts do their job? If 9,500 out of 10,000 studies show evidence of human-infuenced climate change, can we agree?

      I personally have never gotten cancer from cigarettes or been killed by not wearing my seatbelt, but I accept that both of those things show correlation/causation.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        But, they are totally political – part of the widespread scandal has been that the AGW side have politicized science – trying to create results that cannot withstand analysis.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          You make a common – and usually intentional – error.

          Climate science was not politicized by the scientists, it was politicized by the reaction to the notion that we could take notice of the science, that we didn’t have to cook ourselves to death, that we could turn away from fossil fuels and do something smarter. It was politicized and fuelled by those who had the most to lose (e.g., coal mine operators). It was further politicized by the opportunity for reactionaries to try and exact revenge on the greenies who are responsible for the air in places like Boston and NYC being measurably cleaner than it was in the 1970’s.

          The science goes back to the mid 1800s and the first decent projection of how the climate would likely warm was done in 1933.

          It’s true that “consensus” does not actually “prove” anything in science but consensus for stuff that’s been studied for 50 years does mean that contrary opinions are probably crap.

          If the scientists that are involved in this research are out to win political power over us, I’d sure like to know more about their game plan. Environmental issues are traditionally pretty weak power bases; people pretty much have to turn on their taps and get flames before they start thinking – or voting – on the environmental consequences of their actions.

          If you’re interested in political power, the best route to that is to make a crapload of money and start up a Super Pac and then, once in power, start a war.

          Most of the guys doing the research are extremely good with statistics and research, they’d make excellent additions to the staff of any Wall Street firm. It’s a real mystery why they go into scientific research… unless they happen to have that gene that causes them to continually ask, “Why?”

    • 0 avatar
      jbreuckm

      George W. Bush’s messaging team is the one that changed the term from global warming to climate change. The reason is that climate change sounds less scary. It wasn’t us liberals that changed terms, but we’re much worse at messaging than conservatives.

      I’d also point out that liberal democracies allowed the prosperity we enjoy today, btw. Conservative oligarchies never did anything for the common man other than bread and circuses.

  • avatar
    MPAVictoria

    Mr. Kitman you are going to get a lot of push back here by people who don’t know their history. I just want you to know that I agree with you 100%. Thank you for writing this.
    /If we don’t hang together we will surely hang separately.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I stay out of these discussions as they generally lead to discourse. But I applaud TTAC for publishing an article with an opposing view. Most “publications” will only give you one side.

  • avatar

    RE: “Profits are swell and all that, but the business of manufacturing is most beneficial to communities and society as a whole when all stakeholders have a seat at the table.”

    The moment a corporation gains a competitive advantage, workers are eager to wipe it out. When they win a contract they tend to brag to the world about their victory. Their victory includes increasing the cost structure of the company they work for, thereby making it less competitive. Their victory insures their company’s chance of making market inroads, which would increase employment, is blunted. With unions it is all about seniority. Those with seniority are concerned about feathering their own nest, not the good of their company OR the good of younger workers on potential workers.

    Having said this, the German unions have a lot going for them. They recently voted to work fewer hours so more workers could stay employed. I’ve never seen anything like that in the U.S.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming all of the problems with U.S. auto OEMs for the industry’s problems, although they need to bear their fair share. The new two tier pay system sucks, and is a perfect example of senior members taking care of themselves first. Unions have a worthwhile purpose and should have a role, ESPECIALLY as it pertains to safety. Corker and the state executives who publicly took a position on the Chattanooga vote were just wrong to speak out, and could open the door for legitimate legal action. But they might be right. What southern state wants to be known as the first state to vote in a union at an auto plant? It would most certainly spread to AL a S.C. to the other German plants. It is hard to imagine a business wanting to have its workers unionized, even though it is said VW was in favor of this vote.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      The big problem with pushing wage increases is that wage increases are, in economic terms, “sticky”, while profits and prices are not.

      The Japanese are smart enough to offer bonuses when times are good so that they don’t get stuck with permanently higher wages when times are bad.

      • 0 avatar

        Everyone is smart enough for that. The problem is that bonuses are taxed at a higher rated than plain salary in America (surprised? thought income was income was income?). You could give people stock options for a similar incentive, but those are double-taxed and may push a worker into AMT bracket. Also ISOs are essentially suppressed and one can only get RSUs, which are double-taxed more severily.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          Don’t lecture me on tax law if you do not know it. Bonuses get taxed at the exact same rate as ordinary income.

          Withholding for bonuses gets complicated, but since bonuses are generally paid in February (you don’t want people switching companies in January), and people file their taxes and get their refunds in March or April, the refund comes very quickly after the over-withheld bonus.

          Here is an explanation for you:

          http://wiki.fool.com/Are_Bonuses_Taxed_Differently_Than_Salary%3F

          “Your total compensation for wages, including bonuses, will be taxed at the same rate when you file your federal income tax return, regardless of the rate at which taxes were withheld.”

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            There is an element of truth in Pete’s comment, in that higher income levels put you into higher tax brackets.

            Otherwise, a bonus is just income, as you point out.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            I think withholding caused the confusion. At the end of the day someone with $150,000 in wages gets taxed exactly the same as someone with $100,000 in wages and a $50,000 bonus, regardless of tax tiers.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            One little clarification: if the bonuses are paid in February 2014, the the tax is not paid by April 15, 2014, but the following February, in 2015. The IRS goes by the date the money is received, not earned, so the government gets to keep that withheld excess tax for over year.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            Re: Lorenzo – Good catch, my bad.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          Umm, witholding rates aren’t tax rates. I’m not certified to advise anyone on tax matters, but believe that at the end of the year bonuses are just wages. They do start off with higher witholding though.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Shhh. If you keep talking like that, people will think that their tax refund is actually their money that they could have used throughout the year and not an annual gift from the govt.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “The problem is that bonuses are taxed at a higher rated than plain salary in America…”

          Huh? Last I checked, bonuses are just lumped in with the rest of your W2 wages for the year. That might put you in a higher tax bracket (or maybe not), but it doesn’t mean bonuses are taxed separately.

          Unless, of course, you can give us a cite…

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Where I’ve worked, bonuses have more taxes withheld from them in my paycheck, but it all goes in the same W-2 like you stated. It all washes out at the end of the year.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        The biggest problem the US OEM’s had was the cost of UAW retirees health care and Jobs Bank, both completely non productive. Health care entitlement costs inexorably increasing. Both relieved by the ’07 UAW contract.

        These two changes alone contribute the bulk of their current profitability in America.

        After those entitlements, wages were actually behind work rules in concern for cost (and quality) impact.

        Profit sharing today is a pretty good bonus to reward workers when the company prospers and can be scaled back if profits fall. A much better business model than the past.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          Absolutely, the problem for the Big-3 was never what it paid UAW workers to work, but what it paid UAW workers not to work.

          Automation is continuing to shrink the manufacturing jobs base, even as manufacturing returns to America (I would say automation is why manufacturing can afford to return to America). The jobs maximizing ludditism of the UAW is incompatible with that.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            You are right about automation enabling production here by reducing labor costs.

            In my last weeks of work in ’08, I had the opportunity to tour GM’s Delta Assembly plant complex where Enclave, Acadia and Traverse are built. The regional metal fabricating center at the site has few lights and fewer people. Die changes are automated, as well. GM produces a lot of vehicles in the two Lansing plants, but total employment is a tiny fraction of its peak.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            Even in China Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn’s is working with Google to replace Chinese workers with robots.

            http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/press-here/Google-Works-with-Foxconn-on-Robots-244986331.html

            Of course manufacturing with robots in the US avoids the need to send shipping containers half-way around the world.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I’m somewhat bemused that a guy who worked for the company that brought us Dexcool, the Vega, the Cimarron, the Citation, the Aztek and the diesel Oldsmobile still can’t figure out that GM’s greatest problems were its products and the management buffoons who oversaw their creation.

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            @ Good luck doc, trying to slide one past Pch101. He does make a valid point. Who did give the green light to the Olds diesel?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Come on, Mikey. I thought that the Olds diesel was all your doing.

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            Yup…I do remember what a nightmare, it was to run them down the line. I was a rookie production groupleader in 1981. From the body drop, to roll test, we spent most of our day chasing diesel’s down the line.

            The designers, and engineers, where no where to be found.

            @ Doc…..You know I’m right.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            The Oldsmobile Diesel was certainly not the fault of UAW!!

            For some reason you guys think I am claiming management was perfect and all problems lie on the lap of the UAW. To be clear, GM management made plenty of mistakes that bear a large share of the responsibility for the market share decline.

            As I’ve pointed out over the last several years, the issue of market share is related, but there is no question but the reason for the financial failure is that UAW never (until 2007) backed down.

            In the face of declining market share, all three domestic makers faced ever rising labor costs. That is my point. The companies were kept from “right sizing” their business and cost of labor in line with market realities. I’ve cited IBM as a company, without the constraints of a powerful union, which experienced immense market share decline and remained profitable because they could adjust their costs in line with their sales. The automakers couldn’t.

            The numbers are simple. $8 billion a year for completely unproductive UAW retiree health care and the Jobs bank were lifted in 2010, as the contract was fully implemented. The ’07 contract turned all three automakers from losses to profits.

            These are the facts.

            It is Fascinating that an expert blogger, PCH, blithely dismisses and demeans one who was actually there in the trenches for 40 years in favor of what he reads on the internet. Those journalists you like to refer to are the real experts no doubt. lol

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “he numbers are simple. $8 billion a year for completely unproductive UAW retiree health care”

            Those retirees were productive when they worked. The healthcare benefit was a negotiated benefit and the automakers never funded it. I’d prefer to see such actions criminally prosecuted but we gave them a bailout instead.

            You’ll notice Congress isn’t letting the USPS get away with that. The USPS is required to fully fund benefits for the next 75 years. It’s an unnecessarily aggressive standard and you can bet that it’s far more aggressive than what UPS and FedEx aren’t required to meet, if they fund their benefits in advance at all.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @Kixstart- Think how you want from the perspective of what you see as an entitlement. The “entitlement” of healthcare became an insurmountable burden for the company to bear. GM tried to negotiate sharing of the growth in costs years ago, and the union said NO for retirees and current employees. An earlier awakening to the cold reality would have gone a long way toward saving the company.

            You choose to think of the people and the “promise”, ignoring the business results. In the end, nobody will get anything more from it if the business dies.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “@Kixstart- Think how you want from the perspective of what you see as an entitlement. The “entitlement” of healthcare became an insurmountable burden for the company to bear.”

            That’s on management. They didn’t look at their future obligations and take care of them as they incurred them.

            I forget exactly when Old GM finally discontinued its dividend but I would guess it was within a year of The End. Maybe they never did. The priority was making the profits look good the shareholders, even if they ignored massive obligations.

            When he started the Deathwatch, lo those many years ago, Farago initiallly wrote that GM’s big problem wasn’t necessarily the product but was the financial obligations that GM had agreed to and hd done nothing about.

            There’s plenty of ranting hereabouts regarding consumer misuse of credit but it’s not uncommon for the capitalists to mismanage their finances, either. And they often enough “mismanaged” them maliciously.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “The moment a corporation gains a competitive advantage, workers are eager to wipe it out. ”

      Actually, I’d say that they want to share in the benefits of the win. That seems like a smart long term move on the employer’s part to me.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        What he’s saying is that while a business owner would keep the extra income in the business to expand future revenue and profits, the workers want their share right now, cutting into the growth potential of the business. You have to accumulate capital to play the capitalism game.

        • 0 avatar

          Working for several large and small business over the years I have only worked for one that I would say kept its extra income for future expansion and investment. Most companies dumped a trivial percentage in savings and capital improvements, while splitting the rest among there top execs. It was oddly the same in the company of 45,000 as it was with the company of 4 just the company with 45,00 said it was showing return to shareholders.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Heh, its always funny how the shareholders with the most shares tend to be the guys who run the company and receive the most benefit from “showing a return”.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I am thankful that the folks at VW Chattanooga still feel that they can vote their own minds on union representation…at least for now. As a Libertarian, my mind tells me that these folks looking out for their best interest.

  • avatar

    RE: “The author has no understanding of science or economics but he has opinions.”

    Actually, the author understands basic economics quite well. The wealthy do best when they have a robust consuming class to sell to.

    RE: “Thankfully the people of TN are smarter than he is, they saw what happened to Detroit, going from the richest city to bankruptcy.”

    This statement represents complete ignorance of what actually happened in Detroit.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Of course, you are wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Thornmark Hath Spoken.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Thornmark should know. He’s under the impression that the Daily Caller is a legitimate news source.

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            Michael Barone, Harvard and Yale Law grad worked for a Dem Detroit mayor and, unlike you, knows his history:

            “..My guess is that you could sum it up in one word: Detroit. The Chattanooga workers evidently understand that UAW contract demands and acquiescence in them by the Detroit automakers led to the bankruptcy of two of the three Detroit-based automakers — and not entirely coincidentally to the bankruptcy of Detroit’s city government. Any short-term gains they might get from union representation would, apparently in their view, be outweighed by the likelihood of long-term disaster.”

            Michael Barone on the UAW defeat

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Ruggles- I agree that it is incorrect to equate the city’s problems with the domestic industry’s. What, exactly, would you say happened in Detroit, the city?

      I agree with you that the two tier wage system sucks for the people who work along side the higher paid employees. In the end, if we want automotive jobs in Michigan, we have to recognize the market value of unskilled labor is no longer(was it ever really) $48+/hour, including benefits. Thank goodness it is down from $73/hour! We can have lots of $14-$19 jobs, but few or none at $28+ benefits. We have to make the transition to have the enterprises here. I think the Tier 2 folks will have a good shot at Tier 1 jobs when they are replaced, but am far out of touch with it these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Doc Olds
        It called globalisation and competition.

        Something we all will have to come to terms with sooner rather than later.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Doc Olds
        You can google much information of great cities that have died and the successful cities that have existed since classic history.

        It’s a very interesting subject. The rise and fall of cities/empires.

        Detroit geographically isn’t a New York let alone a Alexandria, Damascus or Rome.

        Like a mining town Detroit has based it’s future on a limited resource. What permanence can Detroit offer itself, even culturally. Motown music? The automobile?

        It needs to re-invent itself.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          @Big Al- We can look at the city of Pittsburgh. They were once a steel town, and that industry pretty much left. The city was able to re-invent itself at least to the extent they are doing well these days.

          Detroit’s City government has been unable to do similarly. A strange factoid is that America’s largest city to go through bankruptcy is right next door to one of the wealthiest counties in the country.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Agreed Doc, when I read Big Al’s post Pittsburgh popped right into my mind. They had some hiccups but the city successfully managed to reinvent itself before it ended up like Detroit.

            Detroit to its detriment simply choose to stick its head in the sand.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “What, exactly, would you say happened in Detroit, the city?”

        Post-war America is the story of the newly-emerged middle class using subsidized mortgages and sparkly new freeways to flee from urban cores for the suburbs, leaving a trail of blight and poverty in their wake.

        Detroit was acutely impacted by that phenomenon, perhaps more than most.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I thought we were done with the political diatribes at TTAC. Kitman is just another knee-jerk, New York City (or thereabouts) liberal telling people how to live cleanly and fairly, while owning and driving a bunch of old cars that each emit as much pollution as 10 or maybe even 100 modern cars……………..damn talented writer, though, and really knows his old, cool cars.

    If we’re going to have Kitman, he ought be balanced article-for-article by P. J. O’Rourke.

    • 0 avatar

      We will have the opposite POV coming shortly

    • 0 avatar

      I agree in principle, but I really doubt TTAC could afford ol’ PJ. I think he has a pretty good idea of his financial value, and it’s considerably higher than we could pay …

      D

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Mr. Kitman’s article was preceded by the notation “he presents his analysis of what went wrong at Chattanooga, and the next steps for the labor movement’s efforts in the auto industry.”

      But there was really no analysis of the events in Chatanooga, just an NPR worthy diatribe about the evils of political conservatives and the past glories of the UAW. We’ve heard all that before, over and over; some agree, some don’t.

      How about a boots on the ground analysis from a local reporter, line worker(s), or something else we have not read a hundred times? Maybe a roundtable of a handful of VW workers talking about what they thought of the union campaign and the final vote? That would be useful.

      Instead we get Mr. Kitman’s analysis which is really just a screed, and a similar screed from the opposite political perspective will be no more insightful.

      Lather, rinse, repeat…

  • avatar
    gforce2002

    Thank you, Jamie, for the insightful and well needed post. A nice and welcome counterpoint to the usual type of discussion. And special thanks to TTAC for giving voice to it. It’s a side of the conversation that is seldom heard.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Unions are bad when they bankrupt the enterprises they have under their power. Folks in Tennessee know this.

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      Which is why unions typically don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Noone, management or labor, wants to see the company go under.

      http://www.hawaflcio.org/misconceptions.html

  • avatar

    I don’t think blogs have a “duty” to give platform to “opposing views”. This is not TV. We have HuffPo just a click away.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “That the American auto industry went wrong after 100 years on top? Er, actually, the years of the industry’s greatest prosperity coincided with the years of the UAW’s greatest prominence.”

    Is the author suggesting a cause-effect relationship between UAW prominence and auto industry success in the US? If so, it’s an illusiory correlation as there are many more influential factors that determined the success of the industry as a whole than the organization of the workers.

    If anything, it would be more correct to state that the success of the industry led to the prominence of the UAW. The UAW relies solely on the success of the industries it represents to support itself.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I thought the years of the industry’s greatest prosperity had more to do with the lack of foreign competition. It’s easy to sell new cars that will only last 3-5 years when there’s no Honda/Toyota around selling cars that last 10-15 years.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Bingo.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        True enough, and if you study history, you will learn that the first Toyotas brought in were so lousy, they had to be shipped out of the country. The early Hondas weren’t so great either.

        They did became very good and quality is the reason for their success.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Actually, the good ones lasted about 6-8 years, especially if you took care of them. My family’s Oldsmobile Delta 88s from the late 1960s and mid-1970s were durable cars. And the biggest enemy was usually rust, not mechanical failures.

        The big problem was that styles changed much more rapidly in those days, so even if your five-year-old car was in mint condition, it most likely looked “old” compared to the newest cars. Unless you were driving something like a Dodge Dart or Plymouth Valiant that didn’t change much over its life span.

        Today, for example, a Honda Accord from 2003 doesn’t necessarily look dated compared to a 2014 car.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        This is the most obnoxious statement I tend to read when I deal with this issue. There is ZERO supporting evidence that Japanese cars were inherently better built in the era we’re talking. They had roughly the same rust and failure rates (arguably slightly higher durability because they sold in fewer numbers to more careful individuals). The argument somehow that your 1979 Civic was running great in 1994 vs. a Ford LTD is just silly. What drove people to foreign cars was access to them and the perceived social value. Generations of baby boomers were raised in Olds, Chevys, and Fords. When they gained access to foreign cars at far more reasonable prices they went generational to them. The same reason that Volvos and Saabs became cool to the upper-middle class is the same reason that Toyota and Honda became ubiquitous to the lower-middle. It represented social standing to have something out of the ordinary. Well into the 1990s Ford Taurus still outsold the Camry and Accord (though not together).

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Lean production produces lower defect rates.

          The use of lean production in the auto industry was pioneered by Toyota.

          Roger Smith of GM attempted to introduce lean into the GM system via NUMMI and Saturn, but his efforts were mostly rebuffed while he was CEO and unwound after he retired.

          Those who fail to recognize that Toyota innovated the production and development processes will simply never understand what happened to Detroit. Toyota deserves full credit for being the most important innovator in the production side of the business since Ford’s creation of the assembly line. The Americans were beat fair and square.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            As much crap as PCH gives me personally, I will still support the accuracy of his praise for the Toyota Production System.

            GM benchmarked it as the best in the industry and have essentially mirrored it with GMS.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          Xeranar: There is ZERO supporting evidence that Japanese cars were inherently better built in the era we’re talking. They had roughly the same rust and failure rates (arguably slightly higher durability because they sold in fewer numbers to more careful individuals).

          You obviously weren’t there to experience the reliability of various makes on a firsthand basis.

          Japanese cars of the 1970s weren’t competing with the full-size and intermediate American cars. They competed with the Chevrolet Vega and Chevette, Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin.

          The Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans from the 1970s were more reliable, displayed superior assembly quality and drove better than their domestic counterparts. The only area where they were inferior was in rust resistance (except for the Vega).

          You might also read The Reckoning by the late David Halberstam. He notes that, in the late 1970s, the rental car companies sent Ford the repair rates of various cars they owned. Their records showed that the Japanese makes were more reliable than comparable Fords (and other domestic manufacturers).

          As for the Ford Taurus outselling the Accord and Camry in the early 1990s – that was because Ford relied heavily on incentives and fleet sales to prop up the car’s sales numbers. Ford temporarily retained the sales crown, but eroded its brand equity in the process.

          Both the Accord and Camry were outselling the Taurus if one looks at RETAIL sales to customers who used their own money to buy a car.

          Ask yourself this question – if the superiority of Japanese quality was just a myth, why did the domestics in general, and Ford in particular, spend BILLIONS to revamp their factories and adopt as much of the Toyota Lean Production System as they could? And why did Ford, in particular, show real quality gains during the 1980s and again during the 2000s when it embarked on this effort?

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          Xeranar;

          You are so far out of touch with both history and the present that I don’t even know where to begin. Are you really going to deny there was such a thing as a maliase era for Detriot built automobiles, and that the success of foreign built cars was strictly based on percieved values? That the Japanese not only did not built better cars than Detriot during that era; but the technology they used did not enable them to build cars that still got good mileage and performance at a time when most of Detriot’s offerings were smog-control equipment choked dinosaurs.

          Of course the Ford Taurus sold well — it was Ford’s first clean-sheet North American design that lead it’s return from the Malaise era. It was a total break from the Ford cars of the malaise era; and embraced technology that had already been used by Japanese and German auto builders; along with new technology like aerodynamics. It had more in common with the Accord, Camery, and Audi 5000s than the Ford LTD it replaced. Same for the Ford Sierra in Europe, which replaced the ancient Ford Cortina; though it was not as well recieved.

          Please keep posting. You continue to prove just how out of touch with history and reality your world view and the view of your peers is. No wonder your writings are well recieved by your peers; you are all out there in la-la land.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Geeber – I don’t need first hand experience especially since your argument is one based on anecdotes which is anathema to actual science. But thanks for playing.

            Further more the lean production system has zero to do with unionization and the principle issues under it. The design work was done by management/white-collar level citizens and the quality is again controlled by those people. The Unions had little control over that and while you insist on blaming them you’ll find little sympathy outside of your armchair economists here.

            JHefner – I don’t need to deny the malaise era, I just have to point out the argument that Japanese cars were so superior in every way that they could last 15 years versus a domestic is exaggerated wishful thinking and again until the late 1980s into the 1990s regardless of where those cars were sold they were sales leaders. Honda & Toyota played off their non-domestic image to gain popularity than used their quality to garner more attention but it wasn’t an overwhelming advantage as so many of you insist on.

            By the way, I appreciate you calling me out of touch, I’ll be sure to share the comments at the next conference I attend and talk with some of the economists I know. They’ll get a kick out of it.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “lean production system has zero to do with unionization and the principle issues under it.”

            Unions and lean are compatible, but not when the union fights to preserve job classifications.

            The effort to bring lean to Van Nuys failed because it was resisted by both management and labor, neither of whom wanted to change. While management deserves full credit for creating lousy cars, both sides deserve the blame for not seeing the linkage between bad cars and the company’s prospects. Profitability and customer satisfaction both matter.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Xeranar: I don’t need first hand experience especially since your argument is one based on anecdotes which is anathema to actual science. But thanks for playing

            That’s nice – so when are you going to provide the actual “science” proving that Japanese cars weren’t more reliable than their domestic counterparts? So far, you’ve provided your opinion that this is so, which is not the same thing as “science.”

            I guess you also missed this in my post:

            “You might also read The Reckoning by the late David Halberstam. He notes that, in the late 1970s, the rental car companies sent Ford the repair rates of various cars they owned. Their records showed that the Japanese makes were more reliable than comparable Fords (and other domestic manufacturers).”

            To translate – the rental car companies bought vehicles from several manufacturers. Said companies kept detailed records of the repairs required by each brand of vehicle. Their records showed that the Japanese cars required fewer repairs than their domestic counterparts.

            Perhaps those reports aren’t scientific enough for your standards, but they certainly don’t constitute anecdotal evidence, and they trump your opinion, which is all that you have provided so far.

            At any rate, if you have a problem with those reports, you may want to take it up with Hertz management and the estate of the late Mr. Halberstam.

            As for this:

            “Further more the lean production system has zero to do with unionization and the principle issues under it. The design work was done by management/white-collar level citizens and the quality is again controlled by those people. The Unions had little control over that and while you insist on blaming them you’ll find little sympathy outside of your armchair economists here.”

            Please show me where, in my post, I a. blamed the unions for anything, and b. even mentioned unions.

            Xeranar: I don’t need to deny the malaise era, I just have to point out the argument that Japanese cars were so superior in every way that they could last 15 years versus a domestic is exaggerated wishful thinking and again until the late 1980s into the 1990s regardless of where those cars were sold they were sales leaders.

            Higher sales don’t necessarily mean a better product. The Chevrolet Vega outsold the Honda Civic every year that both were on the market. Are you going to argue that the Vega was the better vehicle, and that its higher sales prove this? That should certainly be interesting to read.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I really would hope that vehicle quality isn’t perceived as a political issue.

            Defect rates can be quantified, and it’s pretty easy to see why the Toyota Production System and its derivatives would produce lower defect rates than the traditional mass production system that was created by Henry Ford.

            The original Ford system assumed that defect rates would be reduced through rote work and interchangeable parts. It grossly undervalued the role that workers could play in improving quality if given the chance, missed the risks of building parts in bulk, and generally tolerated a high defect rate.

            Toyota did a better job. This should be easy enough to figure out, no matter who you vote for.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            I agree…I don’t see where politics has to enter into this. Toyota introduced a better system, and when the domestic manufacturers worked to implement it, their quality went up, too. So, incidentally, did worker satisfaction.

            It’s not as though Ford, for example, succeed in having the UAW decertified as the workers’ collective bargaining agent in the 1980s and 2000s when it made real gains in quality.

            Any slacking off on implementing the Toyota system had more to do with management declaring a touchdown when it got the ball to the 80-yard line, and then being seduced by easy profits from light truck sales in the 1990s.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            I hate to break it to you Geeber but sales are traditionally the measure of discussing a ‘superior’ product which is by definition subjective. Your argument was that the foreign makers were so superior in 1979 that they were definitive leaders except the sales don’t bear out that relationship.

            As an aside, congrats on quoting a book nearly 35 years old written by a journalist published by a popular book publisher in the height of Reaganomics. I’m not saying he was wrong but without seeing the reports myself I really have nothing to go on but what a right-wing blowhard (i.e. Geeber) is saying about the book. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but the argument is moot since frankly even if Hertz did happen to get a spate of higher repaired vehicles it doesn’t account for the entire fleet or specifically represent the reliability ratings over a given time.

            Furthermore, why not mention unions? This whole argument is about unionization and if you weren’t blaming unions for the failings of designers at the Big-3 then why bother to talk about it all? Acknowledging management fails accepts that the UAW wasn’t an infinitely powerful creature that dictated the malaise era but was merely a responder to change. In the end according to you the better products are built in union facilities in Japan and Germany that have a less antagonistic relationship with their management than the US does. If you want to debate why those countries are farther left-wing than we are and successful, well you would have an ample partner in that discussion. Otherwise disparaging the UAW and leftists in general then praising the Japanese is ironic.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It really makes no sense to attack Halberstam’s work without reading it.

            In any case, it’s a strawman to pretend that The Reckoning is the only source for this information. There are surveys such as JD Power and Consumer Reports that have documented the difference, and studies such as the MIT study that led to the coining of the term “lean production” and the resulting book, James Womack’s “The Machine That Changed the World.”

            Go read Womack’s book before commenting further on this. You’re not helping your case by ignoring one of the definitive academic studies of the subject.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Xeranar: I hate to break it to you Geeber but sales are traditionally the measure of discussing a ‘superior’ product which is by definition subjective.

            Wrong. Plenty of cars sold well when new that, in retrospect, were crappy. They sold based on brand loyalty, styling, or some other feature that provided immediate gratification.

            Although, if you want to argue that the Chevrolet Vega was better than the Honda Civic, please list your reasons why. I would like to read them. Please note, however that, “Because I said so” does not constitute an acceptable argument.

            Xeranar: Your argument was that the foreign makers were so superior in 1979 that they were definitive leaders except the sales don’t bear out that relationship.

            For the third time, you cannot rely solely on sales figures to prove the superiority of one make of vehicle over another.

            The Japanese were still building their dealer network at that time, so their dealer presence was spotty once you got beyond the coasts and some of the bigger metropolitan areas. And there were still plenty of people around at that time who refused to buy Japanese cars based on what had happened during World War II, not because of the merits of their products versus those of the competition.

            The better approach is to examine the overall TRENDS in market share of domestic manufacturers versus the Japanese competition during the 1970s. The market share of the Japanese was INCREASING. The market share of the domestics was DECREASING.

            Also note that, within one year of 1979, Chrysler needed federal loan guarantees to avoid certain bankruptcy, and Ford’s North American operations were bleeding red ink and were being propped up by its European subsidiary. If these companies were so successful in producing quality products, why was this happening?

            Xeranar: As an aside, congrats on quoting a book nearly 35 years old written by a journalist published by a popular book publisher in the height of Reaganomics.

            The book was published 28 years ago, not 35 years ago. It came out in 1986.

            And please note that 35 years ago was 1979, or one year BERFORE Ronald Reagan was elected president. I’m all ears as to how Reaganomics was running rampant even before President Reagan had assumed office.

            At any rate, I’m not so sure what President Reagan has to do with this, given that he didn’t write the book, the book was not about Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and David Halberstam was hardly an unalloyed fan of the president.

            If we are talking about the reliability of cars made 35 years ago, it stands to reason that we use a contemporary source. If you have a source that proves otherwise, please provide it, but, so far, you have provided nothing to back up your assertions.

            Xeranar: I’m not saying he was wrong but without seeing the reports myself I really have nothing to go on but what a right-wing blowhard (i.e. Geeber) is saying about the book. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but the argument is moot since frankly even if Hertz did happen to get a spate of higher repaired vehicles it doesn’t account for the entire fleet or specifically represent the reliability ratings over a given time.

            Perhaps name-calling scores one points during discussions among members of the faculty, but not so much here.

            We may need to reference the old issues of Consumer Reports from that time. Hertz was hardly the only source that told Big Three executives that their quality was inferior to that of the Japanese manufacturers.

            Again – if American quality was so great, then why have the Big Three spent BILLIONS revamping their production processes and even their design and testing regimens?

            Xeranar: Furthermore, why not mention unions?

            Let’s recap. You accused me of criticizing the UAW in the discussion over the Toyota Lean Production System. I pointed out to you that I never mentioned the UAW (or any other union) in that post.

            You can talk about the union all that you want. No one is saying that you cannot do so. Please do not, however, put words into other people’s mouths.

            Xearnar; This whole argument is about unionization and if you weren’t blaming unions for the failings of designers at the Big-3 then why bother to talk about it all?

            Actually, no, these particular posts are about the Toyota Lean Production system, and the relative quality and reliability of Japanese cars from the 1970s and 1980s versus their American counterparts. And how the Toyota Lean Production System helped the Japanese build more reliable cars, and how this, in turn, fueled their rise in the American market.

            Xeranar: Acknowledging management fails accepts that the UAW wasn’t an infinitely powerful creature that dictated the malaise era but was merely a responder to change.

            Again, if had bothered to read my posts, I’ve hardly spared management for its stupidity.

            Xeranar: In the end according to you the better products are built in union facilities in Japan and Germany that have a less antagonistic relationship with their management than the US does. If you want to debate why those countries are farther left-wing than we are and successful, well you would have an ample partner in that discussion. Otherwise disparaging the UAW and leftists in general then praising the Japanese is ironic.

            Actually, most Honda, Nissan and Toyota products are built in plants located in this country, and with non-union labor. This has been a sore point for you, based on previous discussions.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            With all this talk of lean production and worker involvment v.s. rote work; this was also implemented for the first time as part of the design and production of the Ford Taurus; and was one reason it’s overall quality was so much better than the LTD it replaced.

            Source: “Taurus: the car that saved Ford”

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            Xeranar DOES NOT LIKE ANECDOTES, despite your experiences.

            I got your back, jhefner. My brand new ’78 Trans Am Turbo spent 4 months out of the 12 I owned it back at the dealer getting the Turbo mapped correctly. My ’80 Mustang V6 had constant fuel feeding issues that couldn’t be righted. My ’81 Celica was a revelation…it ran right and smooth from Day 1, and was light and tossable. That’s when I crossed over to the Japanese and haven’t looked back.

            The Celica made 7 years and 160k miles, needing only a starter and usual maintenance (tires, brakes, oil). Granted that’s when I moved out of snow country, so I imagine it would have developed rust issues eventually as most cars do up north, but especially early Japanese cars.

            My Nissan truck made 220k and sold well. My Trooper made 250k and has just been retired to vacation duty. I expect my Subaru to make it 200k minimum.

            The proof and evidence lies with Consumer Reports and TrueDelta. No one collects reliability data like them, although they analyze differently. JD Power means nothing to me…if a person didn’t love their brand new car they’d be an idiot. These days even three years is a small distance in a car’s life. Thankfully the domestics HAVE greatly increased their game; I award that game point to the pressure from the Japanese.

            I drove my wife’s Edge the other day – 4 years old, 100k. Neither one of us is impressed with how it’s aged (NHV and drivability), and we’re thinking Highlander next time. Although it still looks good.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          The Japanese cars weren’t that good to start with. I remember the Honda Civics lined up behind an Olds-Honda dealer to be bought back and scrapped because the front suspension support structure would fall out of them due to rust. Honda also had head gasket problems on one of their early engines. I recall using them as an example of how to handle the Q4 head gasket- Honda told owners, if it fails we’ll fix it, regardless of age, mileage, or how many owners. The were blessed by about 1/10 of the volume at the time, which made their choice easier.
          I will agree with PCH and others in that the Japanese success was primarily the result of their much higher quality, plain and simple.
          Interest in higher fuel efficiency gave them a boost during the Arab oil embargo and superior dependability gave them owner loyalty that fed their long term growth.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Also, when there had been no domestic production for nearly 4 war years and people loaded with war bonds to cash in, producing incredible once-in-a-lifetime demand.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed. correlation does not equal causation.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    The years of American prominence were enjoyed with a pattern contract whereby the big three carmakers had the same labor costs and shop rules.
    The entry of competent off shore competitors without the burden of the same costs and work rules, and CAFE started the decline of the American companies. Pre-collapse, American makers had labor cost of $73/hr, versus $43 (iircc) for transplant OEM’s.

    Sadly, the UAW has killed off a million of its former jobs by bankrupting the enterprises they controlled. In fairness, the industry has evolved to require far fewed people in the process. Not like the days of Henry Ford’s 100,000 plus at one plant.

    Ron Gettelfinger gave me some hope that the UAW was evolving to be a lot more cooperative, like the German and Japanese unions apparently are. Some of King’s rhetoric makes me nervous they will go back to the old ways.

    Sure, they should have a seat at the table, but everybody in the enterprise has to realize there needs to be enough profit to run the business with some left over to pay stockholders.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Sadly, the UAW has killed off a million of its former jobs by bankrupting the enterprises they controlled.”

      A contributing factor? Yes. The ONLY factor? No. It wasn’t the UAW who put a gun to the automakers’ heads and forced them to make Vegas with melting engines, exploding Pintos, or rusted-through Aspens. They didn’t force the Big Three to spend the billions they made on trucks and SUVs in the 1990s on foolhardy mergers and alliances with the likes of Fiat, Hummer, Saab, Volvo, Jaguar, or Land Rover, versus plowing the profits back into desperately needed fresh product. This is the reason why Ford and GM were both selling key, vital products – the Taurus, Cavalier and W-bodies – that were based on mid-1980’s designs and mechanicals for well over 20 years. If I’m not mistaken, GM is STILL making a W-body. It’s hard to understate how unbelievably foolhardy this move was.

      And, of course, the unions didn’t force GM and Chrysler to not recapitalize before the credit markets collapsed, which is what ultimately saved Ford.

      The unions are not blameless, but they’re far from the only party to blame here. The Big Three made a string of incredibly bad business and product decisions over the years.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s really disturbing about political cognitive dissonance is when someone should know the inside details of how much Detroit product development and production sucked compared to the competition still harps on the few bucks more an hour the guy screwing down the panels was getting paid.

        I mean, they probably saved that much on the salaries of everyone who weren’t smart enough to collectively bargain compared to dem socialists in germany and japan.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          Cognitive dissonance is epitomized in presuming to know better than first hand observers what actually happened based on later reports in the newspaper.

          • 0 avatar

            One doesn’t have to depend on newspapers to observe that Detroit cars were bad in a way that had nothing to do with turning the screws at the end.

            If first hand observers can’t see the results that any outsider trivially could, then we must wonder what made them so blind.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Freedmike- “A contributing factor? Yes. The ONLY factor? No.”
        Agreed. The problems were complex.

        A big factor is that the industry evolved to require far fewer workers.

        GM was working to recapitalize in early ’08 creating a retirement window I jumped through.
        The plan was to increase liquidity by $15B, if memory serves. The ensuing market collapse in October caused by financial crisis and credit freeze which closed off any commercial credit availability was the final blow.

        The thing I keep hammering and Wagoner and the Board knew was that $8B would have been added to the bottom line by the ’07 contract, but not until 2010 because that was how long UAW needed to set up the VEBA with GM’s $30B upfront contribution.
        Its unknowable whether the company could have made if not for the market collapse, but it looked like they would have had a fair shot.

        These issues are immense, and don’t get much discussion at all.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    More nostalgia. What’s the relevance of the 1930s 80+ years later? At the time, the mechanization of agriculture (and a concomitant increase in productivity) led to a surplus of unskilled and semi-skilled labor, which flocked to the cities. We see the same thing happening in 3rd world countries today. There were jobs to be had in manufacturing, but manufacturers — facing a labor surplus — were not interested in paying workers a whole lot. (There were a myriad of safety and other issues as well, but these are now addressed by legislation, not by unions.) With transportation being expensive, these new large businesses faced little, if any, competition. So, sure, they made a lot of money and weren’t forced to share it with workers. The unions took care of that. Unfortunately, when oligopolies in steel and autos began to collapse in the 1960s (in the face of competition from overseas) neither the companies nor the unions responded appropriately. Wages and prices are “sticky.”

    Henry Ford, by the way, is not an example that supports unions. The notion that Henry paid his workers more so that they could afford to buy his cars is a cherished myth. Ford paid his workers more because he figured out that it was cheaper to do that and retain workers than to pay them less and suffer the costs of rapid employee turnover. Interestingly, despite the UAW, it was the Japanese companies that educated the auto industry in the benefits of treating workers as humans, part of a team, rather than dumb interchangeable parts. The link between Ford and the “middle class” is that Ford conceived of the automobile as something other than the luxury good that it had been up to that point. So, by achieving economies of scale, and pricing low for volume, he made a lot of money by sacrificing per-unit profit in favor of larger volume.

    I’m not sure what global warming has to do with any of this discussion unless what Mr. Kitman is elucidating are a number of components of a comprehensive belief system, which is another term for “religion.” In religion, if you don’t adhere to all of the tenets of the faith, you can’t belong. So, I guess what Mr. Kitman is saying is that if you support the UAW no matter what, then you have to believe in Global Warming, too.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I think he threw the climate change out there so people who disagree with him could take the bait and ruin thier credibility. Let me counter: climate change is real, humanity has caused a great deal of it, and the UAW must die if the Americal auto industry is to survive. I’m not against unions in general, just all the ones I know much about.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Kitman: “Then again, these are the same politicians who tell their constituents that climate change is a myth, that President Obama is a communist traitor and demand that their children be taught in public schools that the world was formed over a mere 144 hours, 6000 years ago. The people keep electing them, so maybe the non-union South is simply getting what it’s paid for.”

      This kind of eliteism is bad enough in the comments section, but it is worse when TTAC solicits is from a contributor. How about sticking to cars instead of political click bait?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Well put, its quite nauseating. Should we again expect dildo references TTAC?

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          Which is worse, dildo references or worthless political broad strokes?

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            Gentlemen,

            I spoke with Mr. Kitman about that paragraph. I found it extremely distasteful. However, we offered the man a platform and I would rather be criticized for allowing him to misuse that platform for bigoted posturing than know that I had silently censored his opinion.

            This is America.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Tough call Redav. I suppose the dildo references were more random and shocking.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            On reflection, I’m glad Mr. Kitman put the paragraph in there, and that you left it. Including that nasty little bit of disdain tells us quite a bit about what the writer really thinks.

            Of course the idea that it does not reflect well on him or his thesis may have escaped him at the time he wrote it, but it definitely speaks volumes. Removing it would made the piece more concise and focused, but it would have scrubbed out the underlying biases. For that reason most editors would have deleted it; now I’m glad it’s there.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            +1 Jack Baruth.

            It is great to see different points of view expressed on ttac, rather than the ‘one-size fits all’ mentality of organized labor and the ‘us vs them’ never-ending ‘woe is me’ predicament.

            People are free to disagree with an author. Opinions are like @ssholes — everybody’s got one.

            Since the majority rules in America, I say let the workers decide for themselves what they want.

            Let them have a secret vote to have their say based on what they feel in their heart of hearts.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Jack,

            First off, distasteful why? It’s true. It’s not “elitist” to say the GOP has a habit of supporting bad science; it’s a fact. Nor is Obama a communist/socialist/Nazi/Kenyan and I do hear those things from Tennessee politicians from time to time (I’d hear it more often but I don’t live in TN, so I don’t pay too much attention to them). Now, Corker might be a little too polished to do so himself… but he’s not going to curb his dogs, either.

            Second, you’re the editor. If you want, edit. First Amendment rights involve the right of people to speak up without government oppression. You’re an editor and represent the publisher, which is a private enterprise. If you don’t think it meets TTAC standards (I think it certainly does), you’re within your rights to let Kitman publish elswehere.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            And let me point out that the other article includes a sentence describing how “Chairman Obama” would be heppy to lead “the Red tide.”

          • 0 avatar
            mypoint02

            Agree Jack. He lost me at that paragraph, but I still appreciate the lack of censorship around here.

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            @Jack Baruth: What, pointing out that being swayed by crazy conspiracy theories and anti-scientific religio-political fundamentalism is stupid, is somehow “bigoted posturing” in your book?

            Out here in the “fact-based community”, it’s called the simple obvious truth. Being swayed by crazy conspiracy theories and anti-scientific religio-political fundamentalism IS stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Yeah no kidding Toad. I stopped reading at “then again…..

      • 0 avatar
        bnolt

        I found that a good place to stop reading.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        ” It’s not “elitist” to say …”

        @KixStart

        “The people keep electing them, so maybe the non-union South is simply getting what it’s paid for.”

        It is a divisive generalization and put down to an entire region of the country with only a tortured relation to the subject at hand and was added to the piece to make the author and those that share his opinion feel better about themselves.

        The “non-union South” isn’t a mass of sameness anymore than “Women” or “Italians” or “Muslims” or “factory workers”.
        ______________
        “And let me point out that the other article includes a sentence describing how ‘Chairman Obama’ would be heppy to lead ‘the Red tide’.”

        Which is also a freaking waste of time thing to say.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Right. I get it now. “Divisive” is that which annoys *you*.

          Generalizations can be useful. Do I think everybody in Tennessee is like that? Of course not… but those are the attitudes which currently define most of Tennessee’s politics, so it’s a very useful generalization here.

          My favorite moment from ’08 was when Sarah Palin, escaping the Big City where people asked that straight shooter impertinent questions that presupposed she actually knew something about the country she’d like to govern, arrived in some small town in North Carolina and declared how glad she was to be back in “The Real America.”

          Divisive? That? Oh, no, not at all.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “Generalizations can be useful.”

            Yes, useful for making one group feel superior to another and preaching to the choir.

            Yesterday and parts of last week it was the right-wingers chance to talk about how they are better than the “worthless moocher classes that don’t want to work” because they went to a college with a recognizable name, and today you & Mr. Kitman get your chance to take their digs at those you don’t like. Awesome.

            Nothing gets resolved but it’s okay because the other side does it too. That about cover it?

            “Divisive? That? Oh, no, not at all.”

            It was very divisive and not an attitude I’m looking for in a Vice President. However, other than to show yourself as a raving, partisan ideologue, I don’t know what Sarah Palin’s words in ’08 has to do with a UAW vote in Chattanooga in ’14.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            What Sarah Palin said in ’08 is also characteristic of GOP attitudes, which carry forward to this day in Tennessee.

            The GOP is a party that feeds on divisive politics; it has since Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Tennessee is part of that.

            If Tennessee would prefer not to have their politics characterized by divisive politicians that embrace bad science, they should probably vote them out. They haven’t done so.

            Draw your own conclusions.

            My remark on “Chairman Obama” and “Red tide” by the way, had more to do with Baruth’s remark that he found the Kitman paragraph in question “distasteful.” It didn’t seem to bother him that “Anonymous” was also deliberately using charged language in a provocative way. That’s a curious thing.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “The GOP is a party that feeds on divisive politics”

            If the attitude of you and Mr. Kitman are a good representation of the GOP’s opposition then I would say that both sides enjoy the “us versus them” game.

            “If Tennessee would prefer not to have their politics characterized by divisive politicians that embrace bad science, they should probably vote them out.”

            “Draw your own conclusions.”

            I certainly have. I think you and people like Mrs. Palin are just different sides of the same political coin.

            “It didn’t seem to bother him that “Anonymous” was also deliberately using charged language in a provocative way. That’s a curious thing.”

            I agree, although in his defense Jack didn’t say he liked the language used by “Anonymous”. I didn’t even read the other piece. I wasn’t going to read this one either because I knew both would be ideological dumpster fires, but your comment on the side-frame caught my eye. Unfortunately, I’ve now given it a bunch of clicks and made three comments that have nothing to do with vehicles or the topic at hand.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            There’s a clear difference between saying that Tennessee politics are dominated by a political party that will rush to embrace bad science (which is true) and observing that the electorate there returns them to office repeatedly (which is also true) and dismissing half the population of the United States as “unAmerican.”

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            @ajla: “I agree, although in his defense Jack didn’t say he liked the language used by “Anonymous”.”

            Has he said he DIDN’T like it? What I know for sure is that Jack called a paragraph in *this* article “bigoted posturing”; if I gather correctly — I haven’t red the other article yet — he has NOT done the same with regards to that one.

            If KixStart’s quote of “Chairman Obama” and “Red tide” is correct, that is certainly at least as much “bigoted posturing” as the simple truthful pointing-out that stupidity is stupid above.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        “Elitism”? http://www.gregfolkert.net/asimov/A_CULT_OF_IGNORANCE.html

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “I guess what Mr. Kitman is saying is that if you support the UAW no matter what, then you have to believe in Global Warming, too.”

      Knowledge of science isn’t a belief, any more than the knowledge that 2+2=4 is some kind of act of faith.

      On the other hand, the insistence on denying the current state of scientific research just because it is unpleasant is most certainly a belief, and of the worst kind.

      That being said, I’m not exactly sad that the UAW lost this one. I do hope that the workers do get their works council if that’s indeed what they want, without GOP bullies in the Tenneessee statehouse trying to quash the rights of workers to form unions if they so choose.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        This article points out that a major cohort of the South advocates against it’s own interest and/or espouses theology in science class, the other article is an anonymous polemic against ‘leftist perfessers,’ meanwhile Baruth is concerned about authors being ‘distasteful.’

        This is one absurd Overton Window.

        • 0 avatar

          > This article points out that a major cohort of the South advocates against it’s own interest and/or espouses theology in science class, the other article is an anonymous polemic against ‘leftist perfessers,’ meanwhile Baruth is concerned about authors being ‘distasteful.’

          “Fair and balanced” :)

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            @agenthex: “Fair and balanced”

            Which is flimflam here just as much as on Faux “News”, if it’s done — as it appears to have been done in this case — the same way they do it.

            (Yeah, Bender, I know that’s probably what you meant; just had to spell it out for the frighteningly many posters here who have apparently “opted out of the fact-based community”.)

            [Edit: Substituted \"flimflam\" for another word which may have triggered moderation.]

      • 0 avatar

        I agree I’m not upset or surprised they lost but If i were a voter in Tenn I would be a bit disappointed in the appointed leadership butting into a business operations.

  • avatar
    Aquineas

    So many horror stories on both sides. Unfortunately, my own personal horror story includes a job which required that I join a union and pay approximately $75 a month (a lot to me back then when I was only making $5.65 an hour to begin with). That along with relatively recent horror stories about workers at a particular auto plant caught on camera smoking weed and drinking, getting fired, and then getting the union to get them their jobs back. Sorry, I’ll never be in favor of this type of abuse, so at least in my opinion, the pendulum hasn’t swung far enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Workers? You mean 1-2 worker at a Chrysler plant that employed thousands and were protected only because the union has to protect everybody….

      • 0 avatar
        Aquineas

        Well yes, it was Chrysler, but it was 15, not 1-2. And by what reasoning does the union “have” to protect people who smoke weed on the job?

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          They didn’t actually ‘protect’ them as you so gleefully remark, they issued them a lawyer in arbitration as they’re legally required to do so. See how quickly the moral agenda falls apart when you read the bylaws of an agreement? In fact if the arbitration board agreed they didn’t violate policy than that is on the company.

          Also, 1-2-15? Still amounts to a microscopic amount on the workers.

          • 0 avatar
            Aquineas

            You’re arguing over pebbles vs. rocks. My point, which you have unsuccessfully attempted to detract from, is that any process that allows people to get caught on camera getting high and drunk at lunchtime and then, via UAW mandated arbitration, get re-hired, is in further need of adjustment, no matter how you label it. The reason it made news in the first place is that it’s ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Well the idea of ‘policy change’ is vastly different from ‘the UAW is corrupt!!!” If anything the idea of mandated arbitration isn’t the problem here. The board of arbitrators (that is not controlled by the UAW) decided against them and from what I remember of the incident they didn’t have video until after they were back on the job. Regardless, the argument isn’t that the UAW shouldn’t protect them, the argument is the arbitration board failed to act and if anything it seems it wasn’t an issue for their work as arbitration allowed them back.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            The Chrysler guys were outside the plant at least. We had UAW employees stealing engines and radios dismissed and then getting their jobs back to settle some “grievance”. Meanwhile a contract engineer “borrowed” a roll of duct tape for some small job and was done forever. The Assistant Chief Engineer went to bat for the contractor, and HR let him know that his own job was a risk for doing so!

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Dr. Olds, care to provide some hard evidence? Perhaps explain this ‘grievance’ issue you’re talking about. From what I understand the situation you describe would have been an arbitration board and if that independent group allowed them back that had zero to do with the UAW. This always sounds like the half-truth stories that turn up. It doesn’t mean you’re lying with intent but the facts rarely quite line up with the story because the official rulings are usually secret.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            I am the hard evidence. I worked inside the company for 40 years. My knowledge comes from being part of running the enterprise. That brought me into contact with thousands of people, hundreds I got to know pretty well. I can’t begin to tell you where you can find evidence of hundreds of grievances my friends in labor management spoke of being settled.

            Unlike most here, who read about things that happened in many cases before they were born, I was in the middle of it. Recall a poor validation engineer living across the street from me trying to drive into work one morning when a UAW striker jumped on the hood of his car claiming he was hit.
            This was a real incident that made the local news and I remember the guys name was Bruce. He was aghast, a mild mannered nice guy who wouldn’t hurt a flea. He never brought a car home again. This is one of hundreds of direct experiences of individual incidents.

            My knowledge comes from knowing individuals involved, including workers and managers, understanding events and reading distortions in media.

            I can’t send you to a link for what I know from direct experience over decades.

            WRT the UAW grievance process inside GM, it goes something like this. After I had moved into a new building at the Warren Tech center, I very imprudently moved a hanging wall cabinet from an unused cubicle across the aisle to my new one, I got two grievances written against me. It turned out that one trade “owned” the job of lifting the cabinet off the wall and putting it up on the other, and another trade “owned” carrying it across the aisle. Those two grievances could be settled by simply paying one of each of the tradesman the wages they lost by me doing the work. What typically happened is the union collected the grievances and chose to resolve some of them in this manner and held some in a pile that was used as a bargaining chip at contract negotiations. There was no mediation board involved. That’s the way the game was played, probably still is.

      • 0 avatar
        jetcal1

        Xeranar,
        Not getting into specifics, use of drugs at work is far different than after work. And I see no difference between an automotive assembler and an aircraft mechanic. Immediate dismissal. End of conversation. ZERO tolerance at work.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          I’m largely with you on this issue except that if an employer signs an agreement that all employees get an arbitration hearing I have no problem with that arbitration hearing ending in their dismissal. The failure was for Chrysler to prove it was happening. I wasn’t in the arbitration room to hear the case and I wasn’t privy to the transcripts but it bears no reflection on the Union.

          If the case was as cut and dry as the news media made it out to be the arbitration should have done immediate termination. The reality is in most cases management is terrible at documenting any misgivings because it ultimately comes from fellow workers.

          That being said, I am really anti-drug, I don’t even want marijuana legal (because I don’t support unregulated medicinals of that power..but that’s for another day). But I accept that an arbitration board if they had the cold hard evidence and the management had been competent could have had them dismissed.

  • avatar
    slance66

    The history of unions and of workplace safety is no longer relevant. In the early days, there was no OSHA, and companies did abuse workers. Unions helped change that. Good for them. But those safety rules are now in place, union or no union. Wages are also comparable. So let’s look at what unions did wrong, including extravagant benefits that encouraged retirement by healthy workers in their 50’s. Those plans doomed Detroit and bankrupted two of the big three.

    The real societal change though is that workers don’t want to be a collective. They are individuals. So if a 25 year old worker comes in, and is fantastic, why should he be far behind the 48 year old, fairly lazy, fairly sloppy guy who has 25 years on the job? In a union shop he would be…forever. In a non union shop you may be judged on your merits, not just time on the job. My guess is that this close vote saw a lot of younger workers voting no.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      I agree with the bad influences of the system, but wouldn’t condemn individual UAW folks. Most of them are “willing workers doing their best”, as Dr. Deming said.

      I had learning experience in 1969 at the Olds Toronado Plant when I was a co-op student. I witnessed one worker obviously doing far more than the others. I asked the foreman why. He said he’d had 3 workers fail to show up that morning and the relief man was covering 3 jobs. I said, “he must make more money than the others.” Foreman said “sure, 10 cents and hour!”

      I drew the conclusion that one of the dysfunctions in the system was an inability to reward individual achievement. This demoralizes the workforce and actually engendered an attitude of, “they won’t pay me more to work harder, so to feel like I’m doing better, I have to do less.” I always cringed hearing the rare UAW person bragging about how little he had to do, out in public, hoping it was mostly braggadocio.

      I noticed stark contrasts among the GM locations. I see workforce attitude as the reason Lansing has two new assembly plants while Flint has none.

      Thankfully, most are good people just trying to make a fair living.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        Agree. It’s about the perverse incentives the system creates. It needs to be relatively easy to get rid of the few bad apples, and it should be easy for management to provide incentives to employees to go above and beyond and to reward the best workers regardless of seniority.

        Put the right incentives in place and you’ll have great workers and every reason to keep them happy.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          That’s the most ridiculous part of the pro-union view that workers will be screwed with out them. Henry Ford paid workers well because he wanted them to be hard working and stay on the job. He was paying for talent. That’s why any well run business will want to pay their performers well. They also should cull the malingers.

          Unions constrain both.

    • 0 avatar
      CRConrad

      @slance66: Where does it say that a union HAS to protect a “lazy, fairly sloppy guy” over a “fantastic worker”? In your Constitution, or the Bible? Sure, it might so happen that one or several American unions currently do work that way. But that’s not an argument against unions as such.

      It’s more of an argument for reforming those particular unions to work more sensibly. There’s nothing in the physical laws of the Universe that says unions have to work the way the worst unions work.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Golly, had to check and make sure I wasn’t on democraticunderground.
    This boys and girls is a great example of the government funded, liberal mouthpiece, known as NPR.

    Just as how government funding NPR concisely promotes the liberal cause, funding unions does the exact same thing. No surprise then that liberals would get upset when the inevitable happened.

    Apparently even having the largest group of billionaire donors isn’t enough to brainwash the masses in Mr. Kitman’s climate change.

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      “Mr Kitman’s Climate Change?” How about 99 percent of the world’s scientists, climate change. Or do they leave that part out over on Fox News?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        As long as the only accounted scientists are ones that are funded by Soros, UN, etc then yea in sure 99% enjoy their grants more then they enjoy honesty.

        I’ll actually listen to the people who directly study climate, ya know, those without highly partisan donors.

        Or did MSNBC tell you those don’t exist? or hell now that al gore sold MSNBC to oil shiek known for crimes against humanity they’re probably teaching you to just beat your opponents if you come under attack from facts.

        • 0 avatar
          Aquineas

          So it’s the Billionaire Koch brothers vs. George Soros, eh?

          http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-limits-economy.htm

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “The people who directly study climate” are the ones who say climate change is happening. They’re not funded by “Soros, UN, etc”, they’re funded by the usual sources of academic funding, which are a mix of tuition, government grants from several levels of government, and private grants from businesses interested in getting quality research.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            You certainly don’t believe tht do you? The trillions of redistributed wealth in the name of climate change is so little that it doesn’t count?
            The money don’t lie, climate change is nothing more than a way to move around money.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @Hummer- BINGO! Like almost everything in life, its about the money and the politicians who want to get their hands on it.

            Reducing emissions of all kinds is good. Destroying our economy to redistribute money is not.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I have no idea what you’re actually trying to say, although I can see that you’re very worked up about it.

            Climate change scientists say climate change is occurring, and that human activity caused it. *All* of them agree on those points. They don’t all agree about what, if anything, we should do about it. Your “redistribution of trillions” would presumably happen as a result of action to combat climate change, not climate change itself.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            I think he is talking about carbon taxes. That’s where the money is.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            What “Trillions in wealth” is getting redistributed?

            And how are these researchers going to get a taste of that worth having? After all the documents are signe, the Feds will take your house and give it to Michael Mann?

            Climate SCIENCE has nothing to do with “trillions in wealth.”

            Now, the policy response might have something to do with moving money but that’s up to our representatives. If the GOP would get off its collective butt and get working for a policy response, we could, for example, reduce income taxes and replace them with a C tax. Most of the people I know who care about this would be perfectly happy with a revenue-neutral solution. It’s just Denialist intransigence that prevents some meaningful action that still supports free market economics.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Since religion and science have been brought into this discussion, here goes:

    I’m an old-earth creationist who doesn’t buy evolution or global warming. And I’m an engineer who knows the difference between science and rhetoric.

    I’m a Republican who drives a Leaf, and hates Fox News. I don’t watch it because it’s poor, shrill, biased journalism that claims not to be. I sometimes enjoy NPR and CNN, because of their quality – and because their leftist bias is easy to spot when it appears.

    Too bad I don’t fit your comfortable stereotype.

    And since the 20th century was brought up, one very important thing that happened in it was the invention of the internet by you-know-who. This tool allows freedom of information, and the cries of the workers at Chattanooga are… silent. The arguments in favor of their unionization are all based in either the 1930s abuses or future mythical abuses with no basis in reality today.

    The workers rejected the union because most of them are comfortable with things as they are.

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      It’s interesting to me that people who’s jobs are to basically manipulate things we know about reality for design purposes often are anti-evolution/anti-CC.

      For a large portion of their life, being shown that (dx/dt)*position=velocity and the predictions that can be made with that is sufficient for them to be ok with that fact. It’s not even something you can have an “opinion” on. That’s like having an opinion on whether airplanes fly or if humans need air to live. Evolution and climate change don’t get that treatment, however.

      Even now, as an engineering student, it boggles my mind. I used to have a distrust of engineers/designers/students/technical people who did that, but I’ve seen they can make proficient engineers within their area of expertise.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        A different view one might consider: once you have experience working with things that are far too complicated to ever express in a simple, closed form equation, you recognize that other complex issues aren’t so simply cut-and-dried and that there are far more possibilities than simply believing in it or not. Do not fall for the false dilemma fallacy. For every complex, hard to understand problem is a simple, easy to understand wrong answer.

        I for one, have no problem reconciling evolution and religious creationism because my creative mind is not limited to tired dogma. I can read a report and think of many ways and means that could produce similar results, thus rarely will I eagerly declare absolute answers found, but instead over great time and variety of effort, the workspace of truth might be bound. IMO, this ability to see past ‘obvious’ relationships is fundamental to noticing the nuances that lead to discovery of more profound and basic principles, which is why such can be “proficient engineers.” At the other end of the spectrum are those who wholly lack this ability and become nothing more than process monkeys who excel at following directions, but recoil and gag any time a new discovery is made.

        For example, one such immutable fact is gravity. But our theories of gravity are wrong. They work within the scope we need them to (such as putting a man on the moon), but they are still wrong. Quantum mechanics makes no reasonable sense, but it works. Is it true? I doubt it, but it is useful and accurate in all areas we’ve yet tested it (except gravity). Are dark matter/energy real? Well, they lead to a mathematical model that recreates what we have undeniably observed, but that is not the same thing as being ‘real.’ There may be a myriad of mechanisms that can generate those same equations, thus rejection of a theory is not the same thing as rejection of the phenomenon.

        • 0 avatar

          > Quantum mechanics makes no reasonable sense, but it works. Is it true? I doubt it,

          The causal explanations are merely for our human benefit; just because our monkey brains aren’t able to grasp the model/math doesn’t imply much, much less that another deemed it so.

          God of the evershrinking gap is generally a poor approach to faith compared to religion as culture.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Coming from somebody who burned out of Pitt as an engineer (and then went back for a doctorate…cause that was fun to explain to the board.) I can firmly say: Engineers are NOT scientists. They are engineers, they solve a problem laid out in front of them and design within their framework of knowledge. They’re generally not a very exploratory or inventive lot, they’re the kind of people who went to school to learn science to be ‘practical’ and to get rich doing it. It doesn’t make them bad people but it also means I’m less inclined to listen to them when they’re off-topic.

      I think you said you were an electrical engineer? (We have a few engineers who post here). Regardless, when you say you don’t believe in evolution or global warming you fail miserably at understanding science. It isn’t that perhaps evolution is wrong (because we haven’t been around to witness the cell mutation level evolution) but that the only feasible alternatives we know of are directly related to religion and the idea that a deity came down and made the earth. As a practicing catholic we accepted evolution nearly 70 years ago at the church level and my grandparents believed in evolution.

      Global warming has 99% acceptance within the greater scientific community. In fact the only naysayers are the ones who work or are funded by the corporations that most benefit from continued behaviors. So I respect you may (and probably are) competent in your field but sometimes things are best left unsaid.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        “Coming from somebody who burned out of Pitt as an engineer …”

        “… They’re generally not a very exploratory or inventive lot, they’re the kind of people who went to school to learn science to be ‘practical’ and to get rich doing it. ”

        Wow. Washed out as an engineer; went back for that Poli Sci degree; and now think the “Science” in your degree makes you a bigger scientist than engineers, and an expert on them as well.

        It’s a good thing we have you Poli Sci majors out there designing cars and pretty much everything else we use instead of engineers; since engineers are neither “exploratory” or “inventive.” Come to think of it, I can’t remember a single scienctific discovery by a poli sci major; just the drug infested musings of lots of blowhards like yourself.

        I no longer find your writings infurating, instead I find them amusing; like Elmer Fudd had he gone to college and got a Poli Sci degree.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Burned out =/= washed out. I left with a 3.2 GPA but I realized I hated everything about mechanical engineering because I was going to end up working for some tolerance tester doing 8-hours a day checking on issues. But once again, thanks for playing.

        I honestly don’t care that you’re trying to ‘troll’ me because imbeciles like you never actually understand the power that the social sciences have. You assume we write without reason or logic because ultimately our views conflict with your held beliefs (even if we have mountains of evidence to the contrary). There is a reason why there are few conservatives in the social sciences, they can’t cut it when faced with their policy failings.

        As a general rule though I don’t let internet detractors make my framed diploma feel any less special. So don’t feel bad if I don’t give a damn about your piss ant views.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          Xeranar, I’m glad that you found a field more to your liking, but, based on your posts on this site, you are in no position to lecture anyone else for relying on “beliefs” as opposed to “research.”

          You would also find it helpful to actual learn how the Toyota Lean Production System works.

          Then we’ll progress to the actual quality differences between Japanese vehicles and their American counterparts in the 1980s.

          (I’m also still waiting for the actual proof – not your opinion – that Japanese quality was no better than American quality during that time.)

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Oh dear Geeber, until Pch101 and my article talked about ‘lean production systems’ you had no idea they existed. So while don’t you crawl back into whatever quasi-intellectual hole you came from? You were arguing not more than a week ago that pay should be based regionally even as the economy is based nationally.

            If you want to debate quality we can but you need to make a statement I’m willing to contradict. The original statement was that detroit was making cars that lasted 3-5 years and Japan made a car that lasted 15+. I called that exaggeration out and pointed out that while Japan may have had marginal quality over the domestics it wasn’t the killing blow. If I could be bothered to do dig through my library I could find you a half-dozen authors who discuss social trends and how Volvo, Saab, and later the Japanese rode that social wave.

            In many ways this is just a discussion on the most basic level, I appreciate you pulled a 25-year old book out to prove your point, always nice to be something I’ll most likely never read.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            I hate to break it to you, but I knew about the Toyota Lean Production System long before you ever brought it up (and your link mentions nothing about the Toyota system).

            On the contrary, you have established in your posts that you did not know about it, and still don’t understand how it works.

            And it will help your credibility if you can accurately restate the positions being put forth by other posters. I said that a lower pay level doesn’t necessarily translate into a lower standard of living, given that one must also take into account the lower cost structure of an area. If you can buy a house for a lot less, and taxes are less, then a lower paycheck may provide just as much purchasing power as a higher paycheck in another city or state. At any rate, there is no proof to support your original contention that workers in the transplant factories are exploited serfs laboring in conditions straight out of a Dickens novel.

            And if you don’t want to read The Reckoning, that is your choice. Unfortunately, your ignorance of the book and its contents shows up repeatedly in this type of discussion.

            As for what you said about the reliability of Japanese cars versus American cars, there’s an old saying.

            When you’re in the hole, stop digging.

            You made an assertion, it is wrong, and no amount of back-tracking or “This is what I really meant” will change that. (And I’m still waiting for proof from you that American cars were just as reliable as Japanese cars in the late 1970s and 1980s. Remember, you were the one who originally complained about people relying on “anecdotal evidence” to prove the opposite. So, where is your proof?)

            For starters, I’d suggest that you spend less time worrying about “social trends” and more time studying old issues of Consumer Reports.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Geeber has been posting here for years. If he didn’t know about lean before coming to this website, then he would have surely heard about it from those of us who did talk about it.

            At this point, you owe him an apology for the strawman argument.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            I appreciate your sentiment Pch101, but I feel quite comfortable giving Geeber all he deserves. If I failed to pin him on a lean production he certainly pinned himself with the arguments over studebaker (again, not a union-destruction but actually a failure to adjust to markets), the regional theory of wages (this is bantered around by libertarians and is akin to the ‘buying power’ argument that hinges on keeping the dollar strong and imports cheap), and generally using any method to excuse his notions on economics.

            If I straw maned his argument, so be it.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I generally don’t agree with Geeber on political matters.

            Nonetheless, the guy has been posting here for years and has made it clear through his comments that he is better acquainted with the implications of the Toyota Production System than are you.

            Ironically, I would presume that most people who are famiiliar with lean would be far less inclined to froth at the mouth about unions, as anyone who knows about TPS would also know that the improvement comes from the process, and that the process is bigger than any one line worker. (What TMC managed to do in Fremont with the UAW provides a great case study of how good management and better product can turn a losing facility into a winner.)

            And yet you’re shouting about this stuff as if the production method makes no difference, which ironically plays into the hands of the would-be union busters who blame line workers for what are clearly management failures. Did you consider how your position hurts the laborers who you wish to defend?

            Your angst is misplaced. You should be focusing on the engineers and managers who actually had the gall to offer us some of that garbage and then expect to profit from it, while cutting jobs after their initative to sell us second-rate products failed. Instead, you’re blaming those who had the good sense to read statistical data and figure out that the Japanese really did build a better car.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Pch101, thank you. While I don’t always agree with your views, your posts are always well-written, logical and concise.

            Xeranar, what’s amusing is that you display many of the worst traits of GM management and its apologists on this site.

            When a spiffy new GM car failed to make headway against the Japanese because of various flaws, instead of honest introspection, we got ranting about Consumer Reports, Toyota buyers, currency manipulation and the UAW.

            Now, when the UAW has lost a very closely watched election, we get ranting about Fox News, the Koch Brothers and the old Confederacy (apparently, Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest and William Quantrill’s Raiders are still running rampant south of the Mason-Dixon Line).

            You skipped Sarah Palin, so I guess her celebrity is fading.

            Both of these articles are disappointing, but since Kitman is a professional journalist, his article is at least readable. The opposing viewpoint, however, is simply terrible – a meaningless diatribe that didn’t even begin to address this contentious issue.

            Since I’ve began posting on this site, I’ve learned a lot from posters, especially Pch101. I’ve come to moderate my views on the UAW. Yes, a lot of the union bashing is simplistic and inaccurate.

            But that doesn’t change the fact that both the union and the Big Three developed some very bad habits during the lush years of 1945-1975. The Japanese have shown that there is a better way to produce vehicles that satisfy people’s needs and wants.

            At this point, there is simply no debate that the Toyota Lean Production system has been a tremendous benefit to car buyers AND workers AND supervisors.

            I would suggest you read the book A Savage Factory by Robert Dewar. He was a foreman in the Ford Sharonville Transmission plant during the 1970s. He was also sympathetic to the line workers.

            He paints a tale of workers at war with plant management, and both united against corporate management in Dearborn.

            Interestingly, he was sympathetic to the union, but it doesn’t come off too well in his book (although management comes off even worse).

            Around 2009 Mr. Dewar wrote a follow-up article for this very site. He had returned to his old plant, and was astonished at the transformation. He found a clean plant filled with workers (all still unionized, by the way) and management working TOGETHER to produce higher quality products.

            When he asked what had happened, he was told that the company had pensioned off the hard liners in management and on the line, and worked to implement as much of the Toyota Lean Production system in the plant as possible. The transformation was amazing – Mr. Dewar couldn’t believe it.

            Why had the company done this? Because Ford was getting its clock cleaned by the Japanese, and would have gone out of business if it had persisted in “business as usual.”

            As for regional differences in pay – apparently every industry must be run by libertarians, because I have yet to see a company or a profession that doesn’t feature differing pay scales based on the cost of living in a various area.

            On that issue, we’re back to square one – you still haven’t shown how the workers in the transplant operations are being exploited or underpaid.

            As for the demise of Studebaker – I pointed out that management made mistakes, too. But the South Bend union was very militant, and one of management’s biggest mistakes was essentially giving the union everything it wanted. Even some of the UNION LEADERS of the local later said that they couldn’t believe that management gave in so easily on various issues.

            As the old saying goes, be careful what you ask for – you just might get it.

            Sorry, but you didn’t “pin” me in any way in those discussions.

            Although if you want to argue to my boss that I should be making as much as people in my profession who are based in New York City or Los Angeles do, please feel free to do so. My wife will be exceedingly grateful.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          Social Science is a misnomer.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @X:

        You took the bait. Thank YOU for playing.

        Mechanical engineer, in my case, with a lousy GPA. Savor that, since credentials are important to you. The MBA merely made me a better engineer, since I didn’t want to become a manager.

        Global warming is merely a way for politicians to exert more control over my behavior and wallet. Unions do the same thing. Nobody really cares about CO2.

        For being an open-minded person, I’m surprised at your putdowns of others less educated than you, and who hold different opinions. And yet you wonder why the UAW is derided in the US – it’s because they respond to opposition in the same way you do.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          “Mechanical engineer, in my case, with a lousy GPA. Savor that, since credentials are important to you. The MBA merely made me a better engineer, since I didn’t want to become a manager.”

          Same here; though I went into computer programming to make those obscene bucks X cries about.

          Typical college liberal. Tries to stomach punch everyone from his soapbox with his holier-than-thou education (facts optional); then cries like a baby when someone knocks him off his soapbox with a strong dose of reality.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            What am I crying about? I’m writing comments in a little box with little regard for backing up my views because frankly I don’t have the time to burn four hours posting my extensive collection of articles and paperwork.

            Please, you’ve not ‘won’ anything or any more ‘right’ than before. If anything I like to post here because I get a ton of practice dealing with conservatives this way so I know what to expect when I go deal with my classes. I can’t dismantle a kid without knowing their plan ahead of time. You simply telegraph the basic moves and I setup my paperwork to be prepared for their responses.

            I almost never talk on the UAW because I’m not an expert but the general arguments are more apt.

            As for the argument over global warming, SCE, you initially said you didn’t believe, now you said nobody cares. Those are two different arguments and in the end your view is shaped less by facts and more by strong assumptions: That people want to control you. That is a ‘scheme’ to control you. Those two assumptions alone place your argument in a very precarious view.

            As for those who have lesser degrees, I could care less, but don’t expect me to listen to you outside of your realm of expertise. You want to explain how the mechanics of something work, awesome, but don’t try and explain economics to me because you’re effectively a layman and worse yet, one with an obtuse agenda that skews their views.

            What I find most interesting is how you hate me because I chose to educate those around me. You took private sector jobs, I work for the public. You call me a fool or ‘parasite’ and I call you an exploiter. So in the end, why don’t you stop trying to claim I’m close minded because I debunked your views some time ago? It’s a really crappy meme of the conservative because I don’t care to hear your bile.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “obtuse agenda that skews their views.”

            Which also describes yourself.

            I suggest taking a step back on some of the personal attacks and keep sharing good information such as the Lean Times article you posted earlier.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            “What am I crying about? I’m writing comments in a little box with little regard for backing up my views because frankly I don’t have the time to burn four hours posting my extensive collection of articles and paperwork.”

            The problem, X, is your attitude — try reading your own postings some time. You don’t want to be bothered to research anything (quite funny coming from a college prof – I give you an “F” for homework); but you want to bully everyone around with your credentials and self-rightous opinion.

            “I almost never talk on the UAW because I’m not an expert but the general arguments are more apt.”

            I am not going to be bothered to do MY homework; but I estimate that you have replied at least a dozen times to the three union articles that have been recently posted; claiming to be learned expert nearly every time.

            “As for those who have lesser degrees, I could care less, but don’t expect me to listen to you outside of your realm of expertise. You want to explain how the mechanics of something work, awesome, but don’t try and explain economics to me because you’re effectively a layman and worse yet, one with an obtuse agenda that skews their views.”

            As none of us are workers at VW Chattanooga, we are ALL bolivating from our personal experience and knowledge base, with zero knowledge of what is going on in the minds of the workers there. What makes you both amusing and annoying at the same time is the way you claim almost papal infalibity about your opinion by hiding behind your degree in your ivy tower, instead of bringing facts and reasonable arguments to the table. It gets old, especially when the widely held reality (for example, Detriot build quality in the 1970s-1980s) runs counter to your opinion. And your only response is to run down the sources presented to you, rather than presenting counter sources of your own. Hence, I give you a “D” for your postings.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Half the time I’m writing in my office or sitting on my phone waiting for class to start when I write. It’s not like I have a great deal of time to sit here and hammer out extensive views on matters. I thought it was hilarious you did the whole “I’M grading YOU!” schtick, it isn’t the first time I’ve seen it. I am a vicious, vicious, poster. If you think I’m using my credentials to gain credibility, well it is a comment box. Do you want me to scan my dozens of books to verify a point you resist acknowledging?

            How about this, what if I told you I don’t support neo-classical economics? What if I told you that these inevitability arguments and the nature of keeping wages low especially in the car industry are in fact ways for large corporations and their handful of supporters to gain power? What if I advocated that we should instead revoke the right of stockholders and make corporations self-contained services that run like a business but turn their annual profit over to R&D and pension funds? Would that sit well with you or would you need me to dig out the books to have you accept that as a far more equitable solution in the face of modern capitalism?

            As an aside ‘wide held reality’ is not a phrase you can use. Widely held belief is, this is actually where auto journalism kind of breaks down as TTAC has repeatedly tried to be the contrarian. I never argued that the domestics in the late 1970s and 1980s were perfect, I argued that it they weren’t as bad as people exaggerate. Once again, I would point out that it took until the 1990s for the Japanese to overtake them as the number 1 sedan choice and even then domestics were still outselling the Japanese collectively (The Taurus alone was doing 3/4ths what the Camry did). The whole idea of ‘accepted reality’ versus ‘actual reality’ is hard to get at when dealing with something that is essentially monitored by writers and not historians. What little I’ve read of the later (post-1970) auto industry by actual historians is a similar story, but they accept that the Japanese weren’t so superior as they were viewed as superior due to their foreign nature and difference in size and style.

            But again, we’re armchair reviewing here. Also what sources? Geeber used one link to a book I can’t read that was written by a journalist during the height of Reaganomics. I’m not saying his sheer facts weren’t correct and Ford had a quality control problem according to Hertz but pretty much everything else could be interpreted differently. As for outside sources? Where? who? TTAC and the B&B don’t post links, just anti-union jargon meant to mean something. Geeber has been notorious about just counter-posting my views.

          • 0 avatar

            > I never argued that the domestics in the late 1970s and 1980s were perfect, I argued that it they weren’t as bad as people exaggerate.

            This is what I could find:

            http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Car_Maker_Quality_Ratings_in_1980_by_Overall_Reliability.gif

            The japanese were certainly a cut above. There’s bound to be some hysteresis in market share that causes it to lag quality.

            But in any case, don’t the anti-intellectual contingent get you down even if it sometimes makes one question democracy.

          • 0 avatar

            > Typical college liberal. Tries to stomach punch everyone from his soapbox with his holier-than-thou education (facts optional); then cries like a baby when someone knocks him off his soapbox with a strong dose of reality.

            I see this sort of mentality pretty frequently in society, and while it’s not a surprise coming from the unwashed masses it is from people who should know better.

            Put another way, if someone can’t sit in class and listen to a relative expert without mouthing off about their own possibly contradictory beliefs, how can they ever be expected to graduate from much?

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            I thought a college education was about the open and robust exchange of ideas, not just sitting in a class listening to someone pontificate on a subject without considering any differing viewpoints.

            If someone can’t defend his or her views against a college student, and tries to categorize any questions as “mouthing off,” then his or her views apparently do have much in the way of facts to support them.

            I’m also waiting for proof that Xeranar is an expert – relative or otherwise – on this subject, beyond his repeated insistence that he is one. That doesn’t cut it.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Xeranar: I never argued that the domestics in the late 1970s and 1980s were perfect, I argued that it they weren’t as bad as people exaggerate.

            You specifically argued that the Japanese were not superior in quality compared to the domestics.

            To refresh your memory, here is what you posted yesterday (February 18):

            “There is ZERO supporting evidence that Japanese cars were inherently better built in the era we’re talking. They had roughly the same rust and failure rates (arguably slightly higher durability because they sold in fewer numbers to more careful individuals).”

            Xeranar: Once again, I would point out that it took until the 1990s for the Japanese to overtake them as the number 1 sedan choice and even then domestics were still outselling the Japanese collectively (The Taurus alone was doing 3/4ths what the Camry did).

            And, for the fourth time, I will point out that higher sales are not necessarily an indication of higher quality.

            The Taurus relied heavily on fleet sales to maintain its sales totals. In those days, the Camry and Accord did not. If you want to compare sales, compare RETAIL sales, as that involves buyers paying with their own money for the car. And then we’ll compare the level of incentives needed to move each respective car.

            You also have to consider the dealer coverage of various makes during that time (many rural areas did not have any dealers handling Japanese makes), along with the antipathy of many older Americans to the Japanese based on what had happened during World War II. That had nothing to do with the relative merits of each manufacturer’s products.

            Xeranar: The whole idea of ‘accepted reality’ versus ‘actual reality’ is hard to get at when dealing with something that is essentially monitored by writers and not historians.

            Consumer Reports was published in the 1970s and 1980s, and it was conducting reliability surveys of various vehicles sold in the United States, including those by Honda, Toyota and Nissan.

            When searching for the answer to this type of question, which can be quantified through surveys, any historian worth his or her salt will want to review survey results gathered by generally accepted methods.

            Xeranar: What little I’ve read of the later (post-1970) auto industry by actual historians is a similar story, but they accept that the Japanese weren’t so superior as they were viewed as superior due to their foreign nature and difference in size and style.

            You need to read more.

            Xeranar: Geeber used one link to a book I can’t read that was written by a journalist during the height of Reaganomics.

            Again, Reaganomics has nothing to do with this. The book was not about that subject; therefore, any reference to Reaganomics is irrelevant. The book did not promote Reaganomics; it was not about Reaganomics; it was not about President Reagan. You have admitted that you did not read it, so I’d suggest that you stop criticizing it. You know nothing about it.

            Xeranar: Geeber has been notorious about just counter-posting my views.

            I’m engaging in robust debate, which I thought that the academy at one time encouraged. Apparently your positions cannot withstand vigorous debate.

            Solution – do more research before posting.

          • 0 avatar

            > I thought a college education was about the open and robust exchange of ideas, not just sitting in a class listening to someone pontificate on a subject without considering any differing viewpoints.

            You’re thinking of upper grad school where the facts become more ambiguous and nuanced. 4 year programs teach material that’s well worn enough that whatever “differing viewpoints” are by pedagogical design. You can always question the teacher at any level of course, but it’s not really a debate of equals.

            > If someone can’t defend his or her views against a college student, and tries to categorize any questions as “mouthing off,” then his or her views apparently do have much in the way of facts to support them.

            Until you reach the point where real ambiguity exists, it’s no different than elementary school. What most people whining about liberal economists don’t realize is that econ doesn’t actually get into anything normative/prescriptive until much later and these policies are very much up for debate; but the problem is they lack the basic logical reasoning taught at lower levels to argue their beliefs (or any beliefs) effectively. You can argue someone has a “bias”, but there a difference between an informed position justified by facts and reasoning underneath than the typical arbitrary one. That’s why Xeranar for example can correct for new info like car reliability and make his position stronger, whereas we can all see that’s not what’s going on with others here.

            > I’m also waiting for proof that Xeranar is an expert – relative or otherwise – on this subject, beyond his repeated insistence that he is one. That doesn’t cut it.

            Xeranar is an expert on PolySci (incl econ side), and less so on car specifics. Even then his claim that the japanese hit their peak later on is substantially correct, though this doesn’t nullify the fact that the quality differences were quite noticeable much earlier on: http://www.autooninfo.net/1990AutoManufacturerQuality.aspx . Another nuance is that had he made the same arguments for europe where reliability which results from build consistency matters less, the overall position would’ve been more correct.

            For those who can’t be bothered to learn enough of every subject to judge specific expertise, the best advice is to study the structure in which experts write (and thus think); people don’t get there without clarity of thought and recognizing those patterns is an 80%effect/20effort solution.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Agenthex: You can argue someone has a “bias”, but there a difference between an informed position justified by facts and reasoning underneath than the typical arbitrary one. That’s why Xeranar for example can correct for new info like car reliability and make his position stronger, whereas we can all see that’s not what’s going on with others here.

            He never proved his original contention, and when shown that it was, in fact, incorrect, then attempted to say that wasn’t what he said. His position is most certainly not getting stronger in that aspect of the debate. He never supported his original claim, and when confronted with real evidence that refutes it, dismissed it out of hand without providing any counter evidence.

            Agenthex: Even then his claim that the japanese hit their peak later on is substantially correct, though this doesn’t nullify the fact that the quality differences were quite noticeable much earlier on: http://www.autooninfo.net/1990AutoManufacturerQuality.aspx .

            That’s not what he argued. He claimed that there was no proof that American quality was inferior to Japanese quality in the 1970s and 1980s.

            Your graph is from 1990. It shows that the Japanese still beat all three American manufacturers that year, when the reliability ratings of both used and brand-new cars were compared.

            The sources I referenced showed that American quality was already lagging by the late 1970s. He has not refuted that American quality was lagging Japanese quality by the late 1970s, and neither has the referenced source.

            There’s nothing wrong with supporting the union. As I’ve said, I would have loved to have read an article that interviewed real workers (even if they didn’t give their names), or at least interviewed some local reporters have some understanding of the dynamics inside the plant.

            Unfortunately, what we got were two opinion pieces that relied on name-calling and hyperbole that could have been culled from the comments section.

            And Xeranar’s comments haven’t been any more enlightening, especially for someone who claims expertise on the issue. At the very least, he should take a cue from Pch101, who provides logically thought-out arguments in an easily understandable manner and avoids the name-calling.

          • 0 avatar

            > That’s not what he argued. He claimed that there was no proof that American quality was inferior to Japanese quality in the 19780s and 1980s. Your graph is from 1990.

            I linked the 1980 graph somewhere above, but it’s all on that same site. CR stat plotting is wonky but even roughly comparing 75/80/90, it’s evident that while a significant gap did exist earlier on, it widened massively by the 80’s (as reflected in the ’90 graph). I didn’t care to read most of that subthread, but one of X’s contentions was it grew in that period.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @X:

          When I say global warming is merely a way to exert more control over me and my wallet, it’s because I’ve never seen a ‘solution’ to it which doesn’t involve those elements.

          Our Secretary of State just announced that climate change is one of the greatest threats we face, alongside WMDs (I wonder what the CIA and Pentagon have to say about that). This is newsworthy because such an utterance is not only debatable, but well beyond his purview.

          My left-wing and right-wing friends wonder why I drive a Leaf; saving the planet is not one of the reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Global warming is a crock! Just like Global cooling was during the 50s.

            Back then crazy scientists were promoting the self-serving lunatic idea of bombing the north and south poles with soot to warm up the planet.

            The planet can take care of itself and has done so for at least 5 billion years without any help from us, in times and eras that saw much greater pollution and greenhouse gases than humans can ever hope to create.

          • 0 avatar
            jetcal1

            @ Xeranar,
            I rarely post, yet you have provided a fair amount of incentive to post. And I never make it personal, in this case, I would like to thank you for playing.

            Have a good day sir.

          • 0 avatar
            mypoint02

            “When I say global warming is merely a way to exert more control over me and my wallet, it’s because I’ve never seen a ‘solution’ to it which doesn’t involve those elements.”

            Exactly. I’m not a “denier” per se. But I am very skeptical of the whole climate change movement because, like you, I just see it as a new way to extract more of my money in the name of a noble goal. What gets me is that no one can really say what that goal is. How do we define success? If this really isn’t some scheme to exert more control and raise revenue for government, prove me wrong.

          • 0 avatar

            > If this really isn’t some scheme to exert more control and raise revenue for government, prove me wrong.

            Generally the simplest way to reduce pollution levels (eg NOx, CO2, etc) is to regulate output levels. Reducing pollution is not all that controversial of a stance. In this case the business interests argued for a “market-based” method of regulation, which are the emissions exchanges instead of a fixed cap.

            So basically they’re now arguing against the thing they argued for as business-friendly, as business-unfriendly.

            As you can see, these are not honest people many shockingly expected them to be.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            The pentagon seems to view it as a “threat multiplier” that exacerbates existing regional tensions and the CIA … well, they don’t seem to make all their views public.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            @SCE – I’m still trying to figure out where your wallet comes into effect here. In fact most of the global warming studies indicate it has to be handled at the industrial level with developing nations pitching in. If you’re arguing that we need to off-set our carbon emissions by investing in more expensive technology that will be passed to do then we’re having a discussion.

            If we switched every house in the US to solar and wind and kept only a handful of coal/gas plants to run heavy industry we could severely cut our carbon emissions and in effect make day-to-day power cheaper. The best approach to this would be to increase the taxes enough to roughly over the Trillion dollars needed (obviously not all at once but small corporate tax hikes for the time needed so that we don’t incur further debt) would make the US practically energy independent.

            As for our secretary of state saying climate change is one of our greatest threats I have to seriously say you’re substantially out of line. If the climate change models are accurate (or even mostly accurate) we have at most 20-30 years to resolve our issues before we face catastrophic levels of change that will cause epic changes. The secretary of state can be briefed on the matter and push for initiatives.

            Personally, I can’t get a solid bead on you. Then again I don’t know you personally so some of this may simply be anti-authoritarian views being exemplified.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            HDC: “Global warming is a crock! Just like Global cooling was during the 50s.”

            Try to keep your Denialist memes straight, will ya? Global Cooling didn’t come along until the ’70’s.

            Better yet, you could go back and look up what the science actually had to say about “Global Cooling” back in the day. You know, not just the sensational “Time” magazine article, go get the real deal. Let us know what you find.

            SCE,

            Those crazy radicals at insurance companies also take ACC pretty seriously.

            On the other hand, a couple of forward-thinking state legislatures (NC and VA) have taken the bull by the tail and faced the situation. They have banned sea level rise. Or at least they’ve banned their climatologists and others from discussing it, which is just as good.

            As we can see, it’s the *scientists* that are politicizing ACC and not the politicians.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            KixStart, we studied Global cooling in my 5 and 6th grade at Huntington Elementary, and that was in ’57 and ’58.

            Alarmists with an agenda. They pop up on every topic imaginable. They said California would break off and fall into the Pacific when I was a kid. It hasn’t happened yet.

            People have committed suicide over the second coming of Christ except he never showed and they died for nothing.

            Global warming has proven to be a crock so now the alarmists have retitled it Climate change. That’s a pretty wide area that can cover just about any disaster including rocks falling from space.

            Sorry Kix, nothing to worry about here. Feel free to do want you want but I’m not buying it. I’m not that gullible.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “KixStart, we studied Global cooling in my 5 and 6th grade at Huntington Elementary, and that was in ’57 and ’58.”

            You may have studied the Ice Age but you didn’t study any Anthropogenic “Global Cooling” or hear any “alarmism” from scientists about it. The expectation at that time was that there would probably be another Ice Age. I don’t know for sure (and I’m not looking it up right now) if Milankovich Cycles had yet been discovered.

            The “Global Cooling” meme of the Denialisty movement came out of research associated with the idea of “Nuclear Winter,” was under study by some scientists and was sensationalized by a Time magazine cover back in the ’70’s. It was all about the particulates, which are now under much better control.

            Climate Science, in particular the idea that CO2 affects climate, goes back about 150 years and the current projections of CO2-driven warming, which are coming true, right before your eyes, were initially done in the ’30’s.

            The science is quite solid. If you disagree, I look forward to seeing your calculations published somewhere. Let me know when that happens.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            What is coming true? All I ever hear are explanations about how whatever has actually happened is proof of alarmist predictions in spite of manifesting in a manner having nothing to do with the last round of dire warnings. The moment has passed. The totalitarians will need another excuse if they want hearts and minds instead of having to just use force.

          • 0 avatar

            Climate moves in at least decade denominated timespans. The science-illiterate crowd can verify this by at least reading the wiki entry before contributing their uninformed opinions. Also, just because they have no reason to plan ahead much in their own lives doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to the rest of humanity.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “What is coming true? All I ever hear are explanations about how whatever has actually happened is proof of alarmist predictions in spite of manifesting in a manner having nothing to do with the last round of dire warnings. The moment has passed. The totalitarians will need another excuse if they want hearts and minds instead of having to just use force.”

            What “totalitarians” are these? Democratic, Libertarian solutions to the problems of abating ACC are most welcome. Science isn’t totalitarian, it’s more of a meritocracy that’s driven by people who ask, “why?”

            And what “alarmist” predictions did not manifest? The basic prediction goes back to the ’30’s and it did, in fact, come true. Global temps have risen by about .6C in the last 50 years. Nobody said that we’d see a .1 or .2 or .3C increase in lockstep on top of the unusually warm El Nino year of ’98. That was a very interessting outlier, which is something we expect from a system with a lot of variables and influencers. But, decade by decade, we have gotten warmer.

            We’re going to get warmer still. We’re already seeing accelerated species extinction. If the theory is reasonably correct (feel free to show how it isn’t, if you can… you just have to show *better* than the current theory, you dont’ need to be perfect, so get on with it), we’ve already got the next degree or two “baked in” by 400PPMV CO2 as the temperature rises towards a new equilibrium. So, what we can do now is try to not bake in another 1 or 2 or 3… degrees.

            As it stands, the Arctic is headed for an ice-free Summer in my lifetime; it’s already at record low ice volume. It appears that wet/dry weather patterns are changing and it would seem that we’re seeing more extreme weather. Exactly what direction the climate takes in each region of the globe is unclear but here’s the fun thing: Rapid Change is Bad. Plants, animals, farmers are all tuned to the climate they have now. They’re going to have difficulty adapting to the climate of the future.

            Now, we can sit idly by and let the problmes become worse or we can do something about it.

            Your “totalitarians” crack, by the way, is BS and fairly stupid BS at that. Nobody ever won political power by warning people about environmental threat, especially one that won’t have prompt casualties. Every bit of environmental advance that we’ve achieved has come after measurable harm (or at least ugliness) was acutally achieved.

            If you want political power, you demonize a minority group, gather money and/or start a war.

            By failing to think, the garden-variety Denialist is just ensuring that the guys who make and have money today will make and have more money tomorrow.

    • 0 avatar

      > I’m an old-earth creationist who doesn’t buy evolution or global warming. And I’m an engineer who knows the difference between science and rhetoric.

      O Rly? “I understand what this ‘science’ is up to so I don’t buy it”.

    • 0 avatar
      CRConrad

      @SCE to AUX: “I’m an old-earth creationist who doesn’t buy evolution or global warming.”

      You don’t “buy” scientifically proven fact, but you do buy some religious mumbo-jumbo story that purports to “explain” the same thing?

      You’re a troll, then, is that what you’re trying to say?

  • avatar
    AlternateReality

    The Boy King approves of your offering, Kitman. Stand by for your ceremonial patting on the head; the line forms behind Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz.

    Incidentally, the entire “unions were needed in the 30s, so they’re needed now” argument falls down on its face with the advent of smart phone cameras and local news channel “investigative reporters” eager for a sweeps story on the horrors of human indignity. But the issue is much simpler than even that.

    Like it or not, China sets the rules now, not the U.S. That country has decided that human beings are essentially chattel to be exploited. That’s neither right or wrong in the context of this discussion – that just IS, and like it or not they’re the ones writing the new rulebook. Better to exist in the reality of the now, rather than your fawning misperceptions of a romanticized past.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    As I stated before the UAW lost , time to move on, each side spent money, each side lobbied, and one side won, no one is stating the workers in Tenn didi not have a fair vote that I can find anywhere. Regarding the UAW, I would be more on their side if they opened the vote up each contract and let workers vote out of the union, does this happen? From a far it seems the UAW is split in two the full pay and the half pay depending on their tier, not really sure how that is all for one but I assume the UAW felt that was what they had to do. The union owned some of a Big three I think ( in the form of health care trust, I think) and sold it to Fiat, why not hold on to it? The ball shifted from the Co to the unions in the past and now it seems it is drifting away form the union now. Where I work if management wants to change something they just do it, cancel a pension plan and replace it with a 401k, done, cut health care and raise rates, done, no raise this year done, if I find something I like better than I leave done. The days of lifetime jobs with a pension are gone.

  • avatar
    AlternateReality

    As I can’t edit my above comment, let me add that I would suggest Kitman and all other UAW apologists focus on the fact that, at least for now, even the most “exploited” non-union workers enjoy a standard of living far exceeding that of their ChiCom counterparts. Enjoy that while it lasts; hopefully the Chattanooga vote extended the timeframe a bit longer before all their jobs inevitably flow to the Asia-Pacific.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Today I read a quote attributed to Lincoln. He held that most men could survive being confronted with adversity. The real problem he felt was that they could not readily survive being given the exercise of power. Whether he said that or not is truly moot. I do, however, feel that it’s true and no matter what view you hold I think it has led to so many abuses in the past.

    I am neither Republican nor Democrat but I think that the political givings of most of these unions suggests that there is a mix of power here that is unhealthy. Unions equal democrat political donations and I don’t think that is what union dues are intended to do. SCE to AUX also had it right that there is no apparent abuse of workers in Tenn.

    Misuse of power by elites have led to most of our sordid episodes in history. Who really knows who is abusing who in this case. I expect to hear way too much hate here so I don’t intend to subscribe to this thread.

    @Derek: This article is a lot like scraping a scab off a wound. The opposing POV will do the same.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Mr. Kitman, I’ve enjoyed reading your columns about cars for many years. But when it comes to writing about unions and The South, you sound like some bullethead with the madness that you’re saying. You make as much sense as a Floridian writing about igloo design.

  • avatar
    TW5

    The peak of manufacturing/union prosperity occurred when the US had one international economic competitor, who refused to sully itself with capitalist jobs. Today, US unions are so badly outgunned by labor competition, they travel around the country and the world, trying to raise wages in other markets. It’s not a noble pursuit.

    Looking back at the Cold War labor market with nostalgic longing is the worst kind of economic blindness, and it stops US labor from moving forward. Furthermore, the cost of housing, fuel, schooling, healthcare have all skyrocketed. The solution to these problems is not more income-effect inflationary pressure.

    If life is going to improve for laborers, the US and states will have to use macroeconomic policy, like property tax surcharges for luxury real estate to drain foreign investment and reduce profligate middle class borrowing. Creating fuel-efficient vehicle subsidies, regardless of whether or not they are hybrids, because they reduce the trade deficit (strengthen purchasing power). Shifting more farm subsidies to local agriculture to avoid shipping cost inflation, and improve diet and overall health (reduce health expenditures, hopefully).

    These kinds of macroeconomic changes have nothing to do with shady-ass unions, known for their abject incompetence, corruptibility, and their self-defeating goal of increasing income-effect inflation everywhere they go.

  • avatar
    Clueless Economist

    Since the Dems and UAW are for workers and choice, I assume you will now promote overturning the law that prevents the workers at VW from having a works council. If no then you are hypocrites.

    Chattanooga VW workers to UAW: Go destroy somewhere else. We aren’t buying what you are selling.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I am not surprised to see you echo the Dems and UAW point of view. But your last line is spot on. That’s exactly what the workers communicated to the Dems and UAW.

      However, we both know that this is not the end of the issue. The Dems and UAW are regrouping for their next assault as the comments roll in to this article.

      My own stance is that the workers should decide for themselves what works best for them and I am an Independent, fyi, with equal disdain for both political parties.

      • 0 avatar
        Clueless Economist

        I was actually being sarcastic. I was mocking the UAW’s and Dems’ hypocracy on worker choice.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I was fully attuned to your sarcasm and also realize that a defeat no matter how narrow, is still a defeat.

          And that’s why I added that this battle lost is not the end of the war to unionize the RTWs in the South.

      • 0 avatar
        Bunter1

        If you note that his handle “Clueless Economist” is paired with an avatar picture of Paul Krugman you should get a feel for CE’s style.

        Chuckle.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Bunter1, actually I trusted that I was addressing Paul Krugman since it is illegal in these United States to use an avatar picture of someone else as your own, without their explicit permission.

          There’s plenty of precedence in law already established.

          BTW, I have caught Paul Krugman on a few TV shows and his comments make sense to a lot of people of all political persuasions.

          I don’t always agree with with him, but that’s life. It is rare to find people who agree on everything unless they are part of the same admiration society.

          As far as politics go, the current administration’s policies work for a lot of people, but for others, like myself, not so much.

          So the same can be said of organized labor and unions. They work for some, and not for others.

          The workers at VW have spoken, but that’s not the end of it. The fight will go on. Stay tuned!

          Next up, the NEW, IMPROVED, BETTER THAN EVER UAW, with an entirely new message designed to win over the hearts and minds of RTW-states labor.

  • avatar
    Johnnyangel

    TTAC is known for its right-wing commentariat, so I can only imagine the s**tstorm has yet to really begin. Personally, I’m not vitally interested in the Chattanooga UAW issue per se. (I *do* wonder why right-wingers are so in favor of corporate welfare, of bribing corporations to relocate auto plants, of what has been called the “world’s largest socialist economy,” a.k.a. our “defense” spending establishment. I *do* wonder why they’re so much against an increase in the minimum wage, which would truly inject money that gets spent into our economy, unlike the “trickle-down” lies they perpetuate.)

    Rather, I’m interested in seeing more contributions by Kitman, probably America’s best auto journalist, and who seems to be published now all too little outside the Car Talk site and his Automobile column. (Other work, like his one-time column for CAR magazine, great article there on the history of leaded gas, etc. etc. is much missed.)

    Kitman’s work fosters the ever-faint-but-spluttering hope that being a car enthusiast is not incompatible with being politically liberal. Indeed, I think he wrote a column on that very topic last year.

    Please bring on more!

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Among the things you believe that are not true is the idea that a minimum wage increase is anything more than a political tool. Only 1.3% of workers are paid minimum wage. A small increase for that tiny slice is insignificant, and may actually reduce the number of minimum wages jobs further.

      • 0 avatar
        Johnnyangel

        The point of my post was to praise Kitman’s work, not to be part of the problem (political debate on TTAC). But since it took just a few nanoseconds after I poked my head over the foxhole for the typical right-wing talking points to surface, I will point open-minded readers to this analysis:

        http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/01/10-ripple-effect-of-increasing-the-minimum-wage-kearney-harris

        To summarize, it’s estimated that an increase in the minimum wage would directly or indirectly benefit at least 16 million workers.

        As for “political tool,” it’s laughable that ventures are always labeled “political” when they come from the left, whereas they’re claimed to be some sort of Darwinian reality when they come from the right. Just as it’s those evil people on the left who are always the “class warriors.”

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          Yeah, the liberal think tank writes:
          “we find that an increase COULD raise the wages of up to 35 million workers…”

          History has shown that its more likely influence will be to reduce the number of minimum wage jobs and have little to no effect on the others who presumably are paid market rate, since it is already above minimum wage.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          The biggest problem with raising minimum wage, is the idea that all jobs could continue to exist at that rate.
          If I own a golf course and employed 30 people last year, an industry still reeling from the economic down turn, and the cost per person, the majority being high school a college kids living with parents.
          The average hours worked per year being about 2,000, my cost goes up $6,000 a year, that is substantial, and even then doesn’t take into account the insane cost of overtime which many thrive on.

          Where the hell am I suppose to materialize $180k in an industry doing poorly? Cutting people is the only option, which in turn affects the quality of the course, which in return affects the income from customers coming.

          But wait!
          There’s more!!
          Every single business I buy from, fertilizer, fuel, drinks, equipment parts, irrigation parts, miscellaneous items and much more are also affected by this and will inevitably cause a MINIMUM increase of 10% on everything I buy.

          Where is the incentive to be an entrepreneur? At the end of the day I’m wasting my time.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            You would only see an inflation of prices if those companies also relied on minimum wage labor. If they are not paying minimum wage (because the work requires skill/experience, or they hire illegal labor & ignore wage laws), then price increases are not guaranteed. The same would also be true if your suppliers can keep their costs down and productivity up by dumping their worst workers.

            Since so few jobs in the economy are minimum wage, there likely would not be an increase in inflation, but it’s hard to deny that there would be a reduction of the number of minimum wage jobs available.

          • 0 avatar
            wmba

            “Where is my incentive to be an entrepreneur?”

            If the business you chose to start has such poor gross margins that you need slave labor rates for your hired staff to make a go of it, it wasn’t much of a business idea to begin with. It really is that simple. Other small perturbationd could also derail it.

            We get the same moaning around here from small business owners, usually retail, who bemoan the idea of having to pay an extra 37 cents an hour to their employees this year. But my designer wallpaper shoppe was doing so well until the government made me pay $10.02 an hour. Yup, you were just coining it at $9.65!

            Wallpaper store, golf course it doesn’t matter. If there aren’t enough customers you’re in trouble. Expecting your workers to fund your bad business and building it up at their expense to make you remain solvent is not their problem. It’s yours.

            Come up with a better idea.

            Now institutions like WalMart that pay nothing and force their workers to get government supplement to put food on the table are the other extreme. They milk society for their corporate gain, which I find despicable. I won’t shop there. In Quebec, one store unionized and Walmart closed it down. Nobody cried. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Ok, lets break down this argument…

            Let’s say you own a golf course and have 30 employees. Now most businesses keep labor to about 30% of their total output (atleast that what business school tells us.) But lets say you’re just a total pushover and let your labor run about 40% (you’re nice, you give overtime and some benefits).

            Now we’ll use both models to try this out. Your average worker works 2000 hours a year @7.25 for 14.5K a year. Now at that same 2000 hours costs you 20K annually at $10 an hour. But this is where the percentage of your whole intake comes in!

            So we have 30 workers @14.5K a year which equals 435K. And..600K for the $10 workers. Still assuming your at 30% you annually gross 1.45 Million & @40% 1.0875 Million. Now your $10 workers @30% is a gross of 2 Million & @40% 1.5 Million.

            So in order to make the exact same amount of profit to maintain those ratios you would need to bring in .55 Million & 413K more. Now lets go further into this, I looked up greens fees in Arizona and they seem to hover between 50 and 100, so lets average out to 75 per person. You would need to an additional 7300/5500 people to play your course OR raise prices $25 dollars to keep making that same amount of money. Course the reality is in the short term you’re not going to raise green fees $25 immediately, instead you’ll eat that $10-15 the first year and simply raise it every year until you’re back to the same margin.

            As for the increase in prices on everything else…That seems unlikely? Odds on most of your items you’re buying are made by above minimum wage workers who wouldn’t immediately raise prices to offset that. In the mean time you’re still making atleast 200-400K cash money from your business at a minimum. If you can tell me of another place to make that kind of cash for being little more than an exploitative cancer on society (or…you know what we call an owner) then you got me.

            I’m not even a business school teacher and I just did a simple micro-economic example.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          You should reread the Brookings article. It’s only making the argument that minimum wage is a relevant policy debate with real economic impact, not a political abstract.

          It does not endorse raising minimum wage, which is unsurprising since most economic studies indicate that minimum wage is a complicated new problem, not a simple solution.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2013/ted_20130325.htm

        Actually 4.7% were paid at minimum wage.

        http://nelp.3cdn.net/24befb45b36b626a7a_v2m6iirxb.pdf

        20% of our entire workforce makes less than $10 per hour.

        Now just reported today by the CBO if the $10.10 minimum wage was instituted the market would contract slightly (possibly) but would increase wages to a point where the people who did have those jobs would make enough to support themselves and possibly another so the slight loss in the short run would be off-set in the long run. Never mind that 2/3rds of minimum wage employees are at massive corporations that made record profits and thus could easily afford the increase.

        Lean systems I may not be an expert on but wages and economics is well within my wheelhouse.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        @doctor olds: “…minimum wage. A small increase for that tiny slice is insignificant, and may actually reduce the number of minimum wages jobs further.”

        Turns out you were shown wrong in this only last month or so.

        The proof is available on-line, in a column on the New York Times website by none other than that “Clueless Economist”, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman (the real one, not the TTaC [im]poster).

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          I was most certainly not shown wrong! It is all theoretical at this point and no one can prove anything! The spin you buy doesn’t make sense if you really understand what creates employment and determines wages.

          • 0 avatar

            > The spin you buy doesn’t make sense if you really understand what creates employment and determines wages.

            Are these the “job creators” I’ve been hearing so much about?

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            Yeah, because that “spin” is only spun by a Nobel laureate, so of course he knows dick-all about economics.

            Also, I’m so freaking naive and uneducated the wool is easily pulled over my eyes… Hey, no, wait — I may not have a Nobel, or even a Ph.Dr, but you know what? My three semesters of economics and one of BA make me feel I actually understand and agree with professor Krugman’s columns.

            Thank you so much for your conclusive proof that I must be mistaken in this.

            Or not.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          There was also a recent article on Slate, probably by Weigel, discussing the difference in consumer power of a few millionaires vs a thousand Joe Blows being a more powerful incentive to innovation.

          Increasing consumer buying power, even at the expense of the stockholder class, probably increases our economic vitality.

          I would also argue that there’s a societal well-being effect here. Working for nothing is pointless and working at a job that doesn’t allow for independence and a future is nearly pointless. If we can ensure that people who work will be working for something worthwhile, we encourage enthusiastic participation in the workforce.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This story really has very little to do with Chattanooga and completely revolves around the authors personal vendetta against ideals other than his own.

    TTAC is very left of center, what better place to post something that gets majority support, doesn’t even have to have a topic, sensible idea, or even a complete thought. All it needs it some conservative bashing and the author feels better about their lack of moral courage to learn the other side of the argument.

  • avatar
    AIM

    Which will last longer, the pause in global warming or the pause in the UAW’ s relevance? The first is at 17 years and counting.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    I got part way through and hit a nest of ad hominem attacks and “straw man” arguments and decided this is not worth my time.

    Come to think of it, Kitman was part of the reason I stop subscribing to Automobile.

    Cheerio,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    kol

    I never thought much about automotive unions until my mother was hired at the Honda plant in Batesville, Indiana. She was part of the first batch of hires for the plant’s opening.

    She was very excited; I practically grew up in Hondas, and the extensive training promised that everyone would work together as a team, that there’d be ample opportunity for growth and training.

    Then she started working, and all of that went out of the window.

    For awhile she worked in the paint department. Her supervisors failed to consistently provide protective face wear for her department. She asked about it several times, but eventually got fed up with the lack of action and transferred to a different department.

    In her new role on the interior assembly line, however, she found a different problem; an automated machine would often break, turning the normally bearable job into a back-breaking workout.

    She also found that her one hour lunch break was useless, because the walk to the lunchroom was over twenty minutes each way. She hardly had time to go there, grab lunch, and head back.

    So she and other workers started to pack their lunches and eat them in the nearby lockers. The supervisors noticed this, declared it was not allowed, and started to reprimand anyone they caught. This led to workers eating their lunch in bathroom stalls.

    As for the raises, promotion opportunity, and team attitude promised, well, it never appeared.

    Now I just roll my eyes whenever someone implies that modern workers don’t need representation. Business is business; it wants to make as much money as possible, human beings be damned. Without something in place to check it, it becomes unreasonable.

    Fortunately, after three tiresome years, she was able to find a new job in a union shop, and no longer has to breath harmful chemicals or eat lunch on a toilet.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Some evidence of human contribution (the true current science) is not the same as “humans caused it”. The scientific models used to support this claim are in fact being refuted by data as the years go by.

    I happen to be old enough to remember when “climate scientists” were sure we were facing a new ice age, a far more serious concern for humanity than a few degrees of warming in 100 years!

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      Right on Doctor Olds! I grew up in a country where in the mid 1980s school children were taken out of schools and made to go out in the streets in nice patriotic uniforms and scream out loud ” The Imperialist West is killing us, Global Cooling is coming!! Nuclear Winter is here!! Somehow it rimed. Almost thirty years later, the message is being recycled and the uniforms are different.

  • avatar
    KrohmDohm

    The American car industry was at it’s most prosperous when there was ZERO competition from overseas. Japan and Germany were in recovery from WWII. Korea and China didn’t have a car industry. UAW workers were for too long grossly overpaid. They weren’t middle class anymore, they were at minimum in the upper-middle class and beyond. Stories of employees with more than one home and several cars do not reek of typical middle class. The UAW abused their power and gouged the Big 3 for decades nearly squeezing the last living breath from their Golden Goose. You aren’t representing your employees well if you are a party to driving their employer into bankruptcy.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I’ll just say this:

    Promises made when the US had absolutely no industrial competition (due to war damage, communism, or both) were not and are not sustainable. To the extent that unions try to live under that fictional regime, they are lying to themselves and their membership, and need to die off until they face the reality of the global labor market.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    “But the list of mean, corrupt and otherwise heinous acts committed by manufacturers through the years in the name of unfettered profit is undoubtedly greater. ”

    I get it. Profit seeking is mean. Pfft.

    This is one of the better examples of someone rationalizing irrational behavior I’ve seen on TTAC in some time.

    “The other guy is worse” is pretty weak sauce coming from a UAW apologist. There are no good guys here. The UAW and management share blame for the loss of jobs, but this guy thinks it’s much more the fault of management than of unions.

    Give. Me. A. Break.

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      Have you ever heard of “The Gilded Age?” You should have learned about this in High School, and again in college, if you happened to attend. I don’t know that I’m pro-Union now, but I’m definitely a supporter of what they accomplished back then. Back then Unions were definitely needed, because corporations did pretty much whatever the heck they wanted in the interest of “chasing profit.” There’s a line to be drawn between the blind pursuit of profits at all costs and the social, environmental, and ethical concerns that such profit is achieved. Historically, it’s been shown that (typically big) business will (and do) cross it whenever they’ve been given free reign.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “Back then” are the operative words. Back then, worker safety laws, child labor laws, workday laws, etc were new. Now that they are law, the usefulness of a parasitic union like the UAW is clear.

        Don’t whitewash the decades of money grubbing, waste and head in the sand thinking that went into UAW actions.

        The Big 3 weren’t innocent, but the UAW was a willing participant and enabler of the eventual outcomes for those companies.

        • 0 avatar
          Aquineas

          I’m not attempting to whitewash anything; earlier in this discussion I’m basically arguing against the UAW in its current state. But Unions would have never come about if there hadn’t have been a need in the first place. From my perspective, the debate now is, how relevant are they at this juncture?

          I’m not ready to dismiss them completely, because I think the callous greed which led to their existence exists in abundance even now. But they definitely have accrued their own history, which it will take time to erase. I basically think we are saying the same thing, with the key difference being I’m not ready to yet take the point of view that they’re completely useless.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    As mentioned by another commenter, Kitman wrote “The Secret History of Lead” for The Nation (www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead), an important piece of journalism that ought to be better known. I suppose it’s possible to still be in favor of giving corporations completely free rein (and even subsidies) after reading that, but you’d have to be quite the ideologue to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnnyangel

      Ah, thanks for mentioning that the lead story appeared in The Nation, from where it is accessible today. I first encountered what may have been a shortened version of the story in Britain’s CAR Magazine, which, atypically for a buff book, made it its cover story.

  • avatar
    sideshowtom98

    Union representation in this country is at an all time historical low of 11%. It is only 7% of the non government (private sector) workforce. It has shrunk every year for decades. If unions had anything to offer the workers, this would not be the case.
    Its very simple, unions have a product no one wants to buy! Not the workers, the employers, not the Non Democratic politicians, and not the public.

  • avatar
    lon888

    You mean the world isn’t 6000 years old? I have this book…(eye roll)

  • avatar

    The main argument against unionization in this country is that the wages are too high. By “high”, what’s really meant is that “they shouldn’t get that much because the work is so easy” or “I can do that for less”, which elicits the question of why those making these claims don’t act like the free market capitalists they desire to be and work there. Or even better, implement the same collective bargaining strategies where they work and maximize their own income per individual self-interest without getting their hands dirty in a car factory.

    Their subsequent silence on this makes evident that the basic rules of free market capitalism they adhere to was meant for the employers, and not themselves. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “What we do know is that the company certainly knows how to sweet talk Tennessee politicians, having received the most generous state grant of any American corporation looking to set up shop anywhere ever – a package that included $577 million in tax breaks, over $40 million in training assistance and over 1,500 acres of land, gratis. All for 1,550 jobs, in a city which can’t afford to update a sewage system that is 100 years out of date, causing the town to reek many days of the year. That’s close to half a million dollars per job.”

    I do have to pay you a complement Mr. Kitman. This is an excellent observation and one we have been discussing recently.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Jamie: Excellent! Well said! I was a union member for 30 years- retired to a non union job: HORRIBLE. I work at Walmart: bad wages, bad bosses, and no recourse. “You can quit!”. Yes, but since unemployment here in Oregon is 40%, then what? Of course, Walmart gets a HUGE government subsidy: foodstamps (since pay is so low), Section 8 Housing, Medicaid- all paid for by the taxpayers, while the Walton family rolls in the dough! Yes, unions aren’t perfect. But the alternative- corporate rule and wage slavery- is hardly preferable. Thank you for speaking the truth. Too bad the Fox News drones won’t hear you.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’ve never been, when things were better how were Oregonians previously employed?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Wal-Mart’s success comes from the fact that people don’t want to pay more for products. My company is an infrastructure supplier to WM, and that company uses our product to save it millions in transaction costs and errors, about which they are relentless.

      The antidote to ‘corporate rule and wage slavery’ is to have a marketable skill which can be sold for more than minimum wage. No adjustment to this fact is possible without a union.

      Raising minimum wage will merely raise the tide for everyone else, while minimum wage remains the bottom, but now cost of living will have risen accordingly. The CBO today estimated that the President’s plan to raise the minimum wage could cost about 500,000 jobs.

      I can tell you that if I had a business with minimum wage workers, I’d be screening new hires more closely for a better skill set and/or behaviors if the minimum wage rose substantially. When there are some college graduates making $10/hr, I wouldn’t be hiring just anybody for that rate in my company if that became the new minimum wage.

      • 0 avatar

        > The antidote to ‘corporate rule and wage slavery’ is to have a marketable skill which can be sold for more than minimum wage. No adjustment to this fact is possible without a union.

        It’s not only possible but the common case to subsidize & protect everyone’s inflated wage via gubmint immigration policy:

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/australian-supplier-association-warns-of-33000-jobs-lost-in-wake-of-producer-exits/#comment-2794273

        The labor market in the real world don’t work like how conservatism in this country like to preach it.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        SCE – Your argument is a failure on its face and here is why. First off in a capitalist society we’ll always need more janitors than rocket scientists. Because we don’t actually live in a capitalist society we’re thankfully able to vote democratically on elected officials who can choose to change our economic system as capitalism is not a constitutionally mandated requirement. But lets get to the crux of your argument.

        If you’re really in the management of your company you would understand that most companies (and according to your fancy MBA) that labor shouldn’t run more than 30% of your annual cost. Some companies run higher but the average is around 30%. So the bottom line would be in simple ratios this: Minimum wage doubles prices rise 30% in response. If a corporation is greedy they rise 60% to extract double the value of labor. Prices will not double due to doubling minimum wage. In fact the basic argument is that you can’t raise the floor to extreme levels without shedding tremendous jobs immediately but if the minimum wage was tied to inflation and calculated at a reasonable rate before that (most economists put it around $10-15) we wouldn’t need to constantly keep wondering why people need welfare because the roles would decrease, people could afford to work less if they chose to, and the world would in fact be a better place.

        So…Did I make up for my shortcomings on knowing about lean production by just proving your economic view wrong? :)

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    “Because the harder the workers get stomped on, the sooner and clearer the need for unions will be. Because left to its own devices, big money always races to the bottom. It is the nature of the beast.”

    The fallacy in this argument is that the primary mission of the UAW is to help its members. That’s certainly up for debate and has been for a long time. The major unions became a huge target when they decided that they were going to be the fundraising and activist arm of the Democratic party. Tennessee voted nearly 60% Republican in the last Presidential election. When you get into something as contentious as politics and funnel ~95% of the dues money that is (in most cases) involuntarily withheld from worker’s paychecks to one party (the opposing party in this case), why is it surprising when the UAW faces so much opposition?

    For the record, I think the idea of a works council is a good idea. I think that giving workers a seat at the table and being invested in the success of the company is a benefit to them and the organization. But the UAW’s reputation precedes themselves. Besides the politics, it was only a matter of time before a contentious relationship between the UAW and VW developed. It’s in their DNA. Southerners are not stupid. Remove the UAW from the campaign for a works council and I bet it passes easily. Better yet, change the antiquated labor laws in this country to allow the workers to form a council on their own. I agree that workers need protection, but forced unionization and everything that goes along with that is not the only way to attain it.

    • 0 avatar

      > The fallacy in this argument is that the primary mission of the UAW is to help its members.

      On the one hand, some like to argue that UAW wages are too high, and on the other they argue that UAW isn’t helping its members. So is the real argument here that UAW members don’t really like money?

      Ok, maybe the real issue is that they don’t like unions fundraising for politics. But OTOH anti-union companies (ie all of them) stuff orders of magnitude more money into politics with full support of that same crowd. Wait a minute…I see what’s going on here.

      • 0 avatar
        mypoint02

        I wouldn’t have as much of an issue with unions fundraising for politics if a worker could opt out of it. No one should be forced to contribute their hard earned money to support politicians they don’t agree with. And before you say that they can, I mean all of their money back – not the token amounts that are refunded now. My wife was a union member a few years ago and the opt out amount was less than $10 out of nearly $1000 annual dues and the process was onerous enough that no one would bother for those few dollars.

        Also, those “anti-union” companies you refer to spread their contributions far more evenly than you think – in many cases no more than 60/40 either way – see opensecrets.org. Only the unions and trial lawyers put all of their eggs in one basket, then wonder why they’re a target when the opposition is in charge.

        • 0 avatar

          > I wouldn’t have as much of an issue with unions fundraising for politics if a worker could opt out of it.

          Union fees in general are not unlike taxes. You don’t get to pick and choose whether to pay when within the domain of the benefits.

          > Also, those “anti-union” companies you refer to spread their contributions far more evenly than you think

          Consider the position when you’re the smaller entity up against a much wealthier foe who pays both sides off. Splitting your eggs does nothing at; you lose whichever wins. However if you can be more influential with one to the exclusion of the other (bringing votes, etc), the game is still on. The UAW aren’t stupid.

  • avatar

    Well at least the comments were a little more sane than i was expecting.


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