By on December 19, 2006

uaw-new22.jpgI wouldn’t join any union that would have me as a member. And yet the United Autoworker’s Union (UAW) wants me. Yep, UAW Local 1981 represents freelance writers. The pen-pushing Local is part of a growing trend within the UAW. As more and more of their members accept buyouts and early retirements, as the UAW [secretly] realizes that they’ve milked their Detroit cash cow to the point of death, the union is pulling a Studebaker. They’re diversifying out of their core business before their core business goes tango uniform.

The UAW was formed in 1935. In 1969, membership peaked at roughly 1.5m members. By 2002, 639k industry workers were paying UAW dues. By 2005, the number sank to 557K members. After the next round of “attrition plans” from GM, Ford, and Delphi, there’ll be fewer than a half million active UAW members left. The exodus occurs against a backdrop of a general decline in the “market” for union representation. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, national union membership has dropped from 20.1% of the U.S. labor force in 1983, to 12.5% in 2005.

What’s worse, some union members are beginning to question the UAW’s efficacy. Speaking to The Detroit Free Press, one Ford employee opting for early retirement noted "it would be belaboring the obvious to say that the UAW's nuclear option of a strike is not as evident as it used to be." If members believe the UAW has “gone soft,” labor leaders negotiating next year’s contract will be between a rock (breakaway dissent, wildcat strikes and a potential fall from power) and a hard place (clinging to contracts that kill the golden goose). Bet on Plan B.

Like many other experts, labor law expert Jim Hendricks doesn’t see it that way. "I don't think they can survive the way they used to. Manufacturers and employers feared this union because of their sheer size and strength." Hendricks thinks the UAW should merge with other unions facing the same problems. While UAW leadership hasn't ruled out the possibility, they seem more interested in conquering new territory on their own.

In the short term, the UAW faces the same problem as The Big Two Point Five: they’ll soon have more retirees than active employees. Like any clued-in capitalist, the UAW’s management knows they have to grow to keep the cash flowing. Logically enough, the UAW has spread their recruitment efforts throughout the rest of the automotive industry, including auto parts and heavy truck manufacturers and auto dealerships (mechanics and back office staff).

At the same time, the UAW is scrambling to organize any group that’s not already represented by some other labor union (and edging into some areas which already are). So far they’ve established a presence in household appliances, brewing, lawn/garden equipment, tools and hardware, firearms, boats, modular housing, toys, musical instruments, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food processing, public radio stations, casinos, aerospace and defense.

The UAW has also cast their net over a wide range of professions: draftsmen, industrial designers, engineers, computer specialists, health care professionals, journalists and writers, curators and librarians, graduate teaching assistants and staff lawyers.

Most promisingly of all– given the taxpayer’s seemingly limitless purse and any union’s ability to use political muscle to wrest financial concessions– the UAW is organizing state and local government employees, such as social service workers. Their latest conquest: Michigan’s home-based child care providers. So far, the UAW reports it’s organized about some 40k care providers.

And yet the UAW claims they’re being selective about potential members. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn stated, "We are not interested in representing workers where we don't feel we can act as a powerful voice for them." Translation? Unless you’re in an industry where the UAW has a chance of establishing a stronghold or getting a lot of (dues-paying) members, fuhgeddaboudit!

With the UAW dividing its attention amongst these diverse areas, how can they successfully address the labor issues of any of their smaller constituent groups? Can an organization where the leadership has focused on workers in one single industry for the past 70 years effectively advocate for other totally unrelated industries? 

The needs and concerns of nurses and lawyers aren’t necessarily the same as those of assembly line workers, and you can’t take the same actions against government entities that you can against giant corporations. Is the UAW equipped to handle this diversity, or are they bloating their portfolio beyond any rational hope of quality, GM-style?

If successful, the UAW’s expansion is a major threat to domestic automakers. It will strengthen the only power that any negotiator ever possesses: the power to walk away. In fact, the more industries with UAW representation, the more the union needs to look tough. Autoworkers, indeed the entire domestic automobile industry, could be sacrificed on the altar of the union’s long term survival strategy.    

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86 Comments on “The UAW: Cut and Run?...”


  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    You have to be big to have your voice heard. I believe that the UAW hung some Ford salaried nurses out to dry in the latest round of buyouts. These are Ford employees represented by the UAW, but not included in the Master Agreement.

    Similar situation over at Delphi. The people represented by some of the smaller unions (IBEW? Steelworkers?) couldn’t even get a seat in the bankruptcy court room.

    The UAW, like the Big 2.5, only understand big. They don’t do low volume well. I’m not sure the UAW can keep track and provide service to day care providers.

  • avatar
    finger

    Q. What did Jesus say to the UAW worker?
    A. Don’t do anything until I get back.

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    The growth of the UAW into non-auto sectors is an outgrowth of their general stength. They moved into nurses, draftsmen and engineers at the auto companies because those workers saw the gains that the assembly and trades workers were gaining. Likewise, other workers in other industries saw those same gains and knew the UAW could help them and asked for their help in organizing their workplace. And, fyi, areospace, heavy truck, defense, and agricultural and construction machinery workers have been a part of the UAW for over 60 years, so those gains are simply the UAW sticking to their core industires. And their largest gains recently have been using their relationship to the big 2.5 to gain card check and neutrality agreements at auto suppliers.

    Union growth has been under attack since 1947 with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act. It weakened the Wagner Act to the point where in one in four organizing drives has a worker fired for trying to organize a union and 75% of organizing drives see employers break other labor laws. Add to the mix of “Free Trade” agreements, and you have an uphill battle that makes it very difficult to have union representation.

    As for risking their effectiveness by branching out into other industries, it all depends on the local leadership that comes out of those non-core shops. They can be just as aggressive, if not more so oweing to the fact that you cannot move a college or a hospital to Mexico, as any assembly worker. But at the end of the day, the region and international are there with the expertise and resources to fight the bosses, whether they are GM, New York University, or the state of Michigan. A boss is a boss and a bad work environment is a bad work environment. Besides, the #1 reason people still choose unions is to have a say in their workplace and unions are still the only guaranteed way of achieving that.

  • avatar
    finger

    A former co worker of mine worked in a couple of GM plants in NY state and told countless stories of union interference in productivity. While he was encouraging his shift to be more efficient and productive, the union was concerned that the line didn’t exceed expectations. And if the line managed to be on a record pace early in the week, you could guarantee that there would be major mechanical breakdowns by the end of the week.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, national union membership has dropped from 20.1% of the U.S. labor force in 1983, to 12.5% in 2005.

    Read the tables closely. In the private sector, unions represent about 8% of the employees, but in the Government Sector 40%. And that is before the airlines are vaporized and the steel companies are sold to foreigners.

    Neither Unions nor management in the formerly unionized private sector of the economy are innocent. They are all going the way of the horse and carriage.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    Today, unions do not necessarily exist to protect and give their membership a unified voice in the workplace. Of course, that is the proclaimed purpose, but in reality, unions only exist now as a money making venture for themselves. Unions are a big business with scores of excessively compensated individuals in leadership and supporting positions. The membership must be maintained at given levels to finance and support this hierarchy…THAT is the number one purpose.

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    Yes, but this past year saw an uptick in union membership of a little over 200,000 new members. This allowed the percent of overall union membership to remain at 12.5% from 2004 to 2005. Steel already took their major employment losses 5 years ago and it is unknown how many will end up being affected in airlines, but other unions, most notably SEIU, continue to have sucess in organizing new workers and hopefully this will offset the losses in auto and other manufacturing industries.

  • avatar

    Hopefully? For whom?

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    Hopefully for those who work for minimum wage with no benefits, no career paths, in jobs where they are abused and degraded. This still exists in the US and is a major part of the service sector, textiles, meat packing, and even on other areas that used to be hotbeds of unionization like coal mines. If it was not for a strong UAW, these practices would creep back into auto like it has in the aforementioned industires. The government is not there to make sure that empolyers pay a fair wage and have a safe work environment. Unions are the best private sector way to ensure employers treat their workers fairly. This is shown where unionized firms have a lower accident/mortality rate than nonunion firms. Likewise, unions also allow for a more equitable distribution of profits. This puts more money into the hands of more consumers and drives our economy. Cutting taxes for the wealthy and allowing employers to pay their workers the absolute minimum is not good for the economy as a whole because people making less money pay less taxes which will then put less money into healthcare for the poor and elderly, schools, and other social services that are sorely needed.

    Also, I would like to know if the heads of other institutions (businesses, hospitals, colleges) of equal size to unions both in employees and financial resources make as little as union presidents. There aren’t any.

    By the way, I love that someone’s love of cars can create such a wide discussion on politics, economics, and the environment.

  • avatar
    finger

    Likewise, unions also allow for a more equitable distribution of profits.
    Sounds like socialism to me. Scary.

    Also, I am curious if workplace degradation takes place in Toyota and Honda plants here in the US?

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    Yes, but unlike socialism, where the government is involved in mandating economic distribution, the give and take between workers and employers takes place in the market. Workers in unions just happen to have more leverage to charge a premium than a worker not in a union. Socialism requires government involvement, and free collective barganing does not, unless one party violates the laws. This is just like you going to an auto dealership and negotiating a better price for a car. You have lots of leverage going to buy an Expedition right now because Ford needs to sell those. You have no leverage trying to buy a Prius because they are selling like hotcakes. Same principals apply in the labor market. In a tight labor market, you can be paid more and a slack labor market you can get paid less. Unions can mitigate this by smoothing out these fluxuations through binding contracts, just like buyers and sellers of all sorts of commodities do. Now there are all sorts of market distortions, which is what some critics call unions, but employers do the same things through the Chamber of Commerce or National Association of Manufacturers, ect.

  • avatar

    Workers in unions just happen to have more leverage to charge a premium than a worker not in a union

    Which means their employers have to charge a premium to afford the overblown benefits and out of proportion wages. Which makes the union-made products more expensive to produce and sell than non-union products. Which leads to excess inventory because smart consumers vote with their pocketbook, not out of some blind loyalty to a union. Which brings us to the sad shape the US auto industry is in today.

  • avatar
    finger

    Unions were a necessity- about 75 years ago.

  • avatar
    shabster

    Cool……

    Writing about unions is like touching “the third rail.”

    Noyhing like some good back ‘n forth.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Johnahoe,

    “Cutting taxes for the wealthy and allowing employers to pay their workers the absolute minimum is not good for the economy as a whole because people making less money pay less taxes which will then put less money into healthcare for the poor and elderly, schools, and other social services that are sorely needed.”

    This theory is only true if you believe that Unions guarantee employers do not learn to operate more efficiently and thus with less workers or that other non-union competition wouldn’t step in and take the market away with cheaper goods/services, etc. In the end, as is the case with the domestic manufacturing, the inflexibility and high wage guarantees of unionization lead to less jobs and less tax revenue, whereas tax cuts for the wealthy have been shown to create more investment, more jobs, and ultimately more tax revenue.

  • avatar
    jdv

    It seems to me that unions have a history of breaking their industries, because competitors that aren’t unionized have a cost advantage.

    But the historic value of unions has been as a political counter to the big rich money in politics. Unions were a way for the little guy to compete against the big money. Ying vs Yang if you will, and imo the best for all of us is in the middle. Unions helped create the middle class that is the strength of America. A middle class that is now in decline….

    Unions brought alot to us as a whole – while they were destroying their own industries…..

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I’m on strike.

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    The relationship of wages to price increases in autos is not as simple as that. In fact, the increase in wages is very important to the growth of capitalism in the US. The increase of wages leads the company towards increased mechanization, different and cheaper materials, better supply chain management, and other business improvements in order to maximize profits. This is needed for a business and an economy to grow. As union workers get more expensive, profits are squeezed, and management is supposed to improve their business by selling more and better products and improving their business model. Lazy management, like GM, et al, goes to the workers and demands concessions instead. This happens in union and nonunion businesses all the time. The difference is, that in a union environment, workers have a say in what areas need to be cut and can complain that management and stockholders are not also tightening their belts.

    And again, as union workers in one sector, auto, make gains, other workers benefit because they then demand wages and benefits similar to those businesses. And union and nonunion employers respond in order to get the best workers. As I mentioned above, this puts more money back into the economy instead of having it concentrated at the top where it is redistributed less efficiently (there are only so many rich people and they can only buy so many Bentleys).

    And finger, please go down to Smithfield Food’s Tar Hell packing plant and tell the workers who have been abused for over 10 years while trying to form a union that even though they are bullied, fired, paid poor wages and even thrown in a company jail for minor infractions that they don’t need a union becuase their job is great. Or the miners, another of which died yesterdy in West Virginia, that a union is not necessary, that their employer will do their best to make their job safe. Or the people working in sweatshops from NYC to LA that their employers can force unpaid overtime and no benefits. The same goes for migrant farm laborers. The government cannot help these people, the only way for them to improve their jobs is to form a union.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Unwarranted increases in wages lead to cost-push inflation. Of course, it’s not industry-wide inflation, just for the unionized companies. And they end up putting $5k on the hood just to move inventories.

    I have zero sympathy for unions today or the destructive wage price floors they create. Why should I feel bad for a job that can offer you $35k right out of high school, $60k+ ten years down the road, and great benefits? Not to mention the possibility of being in a job bank. That’s better than a lot of white-collar jobs requiring college educations–and far better if that HS grad can save some money on the side. The head start over the college dweebs could all but guarantee future financial security, assuming they’re not brainwashed by the union teat.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Unions ? Just another way of taking money off of your pile and putting it on someone elses. Just ask Jimmy Hoffa (wherever he is)… Short term – unionization sounds like a good idea, but long term your higher than average wages and benefits place you in the unemployment line. I cant tell you how many x-union people that I know, and their stories of how they or others screwed the company. Then they cry about how the company or some foreigners fudged them and caused the shop to close.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    “Unions were a necessity — about 75 years ago.”

    Unions may not technically be a necessity now . . . but that’s only because they exist, or at least have existed in the near past.

    Whomever thinks that human nature has progressed so far in the past 75 years such that the abuses that drove the formation of unions just cannot happen anymore, please raise your hands. Anyone? There must be some optimists out there. Not me, though. Humanity’s ability to screw the other guy will always expand to fill all available space.

    Those here who somehow think that the poor little multi-national corporations need protection from big, bad working Joe down the street need a reality check.

    Just because a particular instance of an institution has swayed into the area of corruption does not mean that the institution as a whole should be disbanded. It means the corruption should be addressed . . . and the rules that enable the corruption to happen. So our congressmen are corrupt . . . do we say “Disband Congress and rip up the Constitution, we don’t need it anymore anyway!”??? Hell no. Fix the corruption.

    Somehow we’ve brainwashed ourselves into believing that the Consumer is King. Thinking this way has really just made the corporations into the Kings . . . and they do everything to make us believe that what’s good for them is good for the Consumer. But consumers must do more than just buy stuff, remember . . . they also have to earn a living in order to pay for it. Somehow that’s gone from the equation now.

    We’re in an odd time right now . . . a whole lot of people are lunching off the gains made by their predecessors, and are able to conveniently ‘forget’ this fact. How many posters here have a degree and a cushy white collar job essentially paid for by blue collar parents who could afford it because the unions (directly or indirectly) forced a high enough standard of living for them? Count me in that group. But we see an ongoing march of stratification where the rich get richer and the not rich get closer and closer to being poor. You better hope that your children (or maybe grandchildren) somehow manage to fall above that line . . . can you be sure of that? How many folks thought a job in IT would be a ticket to the future? Too bad now most IT jobs are outsourced to a third-world country now. What’s next? Seems that jobs either go to third-world countries or illegal immigrants . . . or will pay third-world/illegal immigrant competitive wages here.

    We’ll have CEOs, pop stars, and old money as the only folks with cash. The rest of us will be first-world third worlders. Again . . . not us, since we’re holdovers from the old world. But our children will.

    They’ll have us to thank. Good job everyone.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Ash, I don’t understand your logic.

    A white collar worker is better educated and has more marketable skills. Where is the benevolent company paying him the wage he deserves? Probably hiring someone in India to do the work for $15K a year.

    The philosophy in this country (or at least evident on this board) is to drag down the guy who’s getting more instead of pulling up the guy who’s getting less. And just ignore the ‘masters of the Universe’ on the top who are the real ones who benefit from this strategy.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Meat packing plants are not today’s Big 2.5 plants and offices. Currently things are way out of whack. Yes, yes – management signed all those contracts the last 20 years therefore management is responsible for the current pickle.

    The issue with Big 2.5 wages/bennes/hidden costs is what if everyone could get compensated like this with a high school education? On top of an absolute job guarantee – no one ever gets fired. It simply doesn’t work. Who wants to (ever would) pay $10 for a Big Mac? And the bigger point is – what is the incentive to better myself (ie higher education.)

    The poor worker might be getting bent over all over the place (he’ll find little sympathy here, obviously), but if he was compensated/protected like the Big 2.5 UAW represented employees how would we ever improve as a nation? Our rates of high school and college graduation are frickin’ embarrasing, considering we’re the wealthiest people on the planet. Why would anybody bother when they’re making $100K working for Ford with absolutely zero responsibility.

    I cleaned grease traps for $3.35/hour in the early 80’s, I was dues paying UAW in the late 80’s, and fought the war on the other side (white collar) for another 15 years. Farago doesn’t have enough storage space for me to go into what I’ve seen in the UAW represented plants. If you knew you would never buy another UAW built vehicle.

    Meat packing plants are not auto factories. A day care strike is not an autoworker strike. I’d like to hear Mikey’s opinion here if he’s around…

    P.S. Johnny, if you and the rest of the writers would go on indefinite strike (not that we wish this) TTAC would cease to exist. See how that works?

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    Johnahoe,you have made many points & I personnaly agree with all of them.However,you’re going to find that many of the arguments you encounter against unionization are from college educated people who view a union as nothing more than a shelter for the uneducated & lazy.Has this been the case in the past? sure.But many need to recognize that the UAW has changed with the times as well.The international would be fools not too.

    I’ve worked in non-union sectors before and have seen people that were not “value added” to core buiseness or simply put–lazy.They still retained there employement.I think anybody here could say they’ve witnessed this,now or in the past.Can the company they work for with a workforce thats non-union remove them quicker ? Yes.I wont argue that point.

    One aspect I will totally agree with Johnahoe is that regarding workplace health & safety.Be it in a coal mine,assemble line or where-ever,theres going to be an eventual issue with how to preform the job with the intent to making it safer.Thats not where it ends.The same philosophy pertains to work-throughput & quality.Management & union employees inside most G.M. plants regularly meet to discuss where they are at and how to get there.In the end it gives the guy working on the “line” a chance to highlight any given area where improvement is needed.If its plausable its given consideration.Contrary to some folks belief,these are not “bitch sessions” but an oppertunity to advance.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Yes I’m sure when a few scattered freelance writers go on strike, the world will be brought to its knees.

    Well, I’m no fan of monopolies, and monopoly labor is probably the worst kind. I’d normally say it won’t do anything for freelance writers, but, come to think of it, if you threaten Detroit automaker execs that you’ll strike from hacking out stuff, they’ll probably give you a golden pension, a job bank, free health care for life, and keep a few unproductive factories open for your benefit.

  • avatar

    While I’m enjoying this discussion on the merits of unionization, I’d like to bring the debate around to the current situation.

    Do you agree with Mr, Williams that a diversified UAW is a threat to the Big 2.5?

    Is it possible UAW management sees the writing on the wall and figure it’s time to get out while the getting’s good, knowing that they can’t back up and the companies can’t go forward with their current contracts?

    Do you think the UAW can make genuine concessions in ’07?

    Will there be a schism if the union management agrees to go backwards?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  • avatar

    Jonny Lieberman: I’m on strike.

    If you’re a writer on strike, then you write that you’re on strike, are you a scab guilty of breaking your own strike?

  • avatar
    Dizzy

    It’s pointless to even comment about the UAW.

    There is no better predictor of industrial bankruptcy/closure/reorganization than whether the work force is unionized.

    Period.

  • avatar
    finger

    And finger, please go down to Smithfield Food’s Tar Hell packing plant and tell the workers who have been abused for over 10 years while trying to form a union that even though…

    And who or what exactly forces these people to work under these conditions? Why can’t the laws of supply and demand apply to the workplace?

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    I think that a diversified UAW is a threat in that more members means more resources and, more importantly, more clout at the ballot box. The more workers that are educated as to economic realities is never a good thing for any employer. But as to wheter graduate students will flock to the barricades set up outside Toledo North and be effective in pushing the companies, I’m not sure.

    UAW leadership would never forsake the auto industry. There is no “getting out” because as long as there are still members there, those members will still vote into office leadership from that industry. Look at the Steelworkers whose membership in the steel industry is not the majority of their members. But they are still there and still effective in a very rough industry right now. The UAW still draws 60% of its members from assembly and parts, so they are not going anywhere.

    I think there will be some changes to the contracts that many will consider not going far enough, but they will cut deep. The plants that the 2.5 want to close will close and that, in and of itself, is a huge concession. I also think the jobs bank will be gone too, supplanted with a Toyota-style revolving door of temporary workers who are laid off and then re-employed much like the workforce before the jobs bank, but that is speculation. But healthcare and retiree benefits are sure to be a big issue and I would not be supprised to see co-pays go up again and other such things.

    The UAW has always had its reform or internal groups, from the communists in the early days to the anti-Reutherites to New Directions and Soldiers of Solidarity. And that’s a healthy part of a functioning union democracy. But people seem to be more resigned to the realities of corporate controlled globalization and the buyouts can only sap more of that militancy. Will there be wildcats? Maybe. But I would be greatly supprised if there was a CAW-style defection. There will be lots of grumbles, but in the end, the UAW will still be there. Hopefully they can move forward and organize more workers in the auto industry becasue that is the only long-term recipe for survival.

  • avatar
    shabster

    Finger is correct.

    Just flippin’ quit.

    Nobody is forced to work at Smithfield’s. If you don’t like the package that Smithfield’s offering, then quit.

    BTW, I enjoy many Smithfield products.

    Hal.

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    Finger, people work under those conditions because they have few other options. With little education or skills, those are the kinds of jobs that they can get. But I know some would say why don’t they go back to school and get an education? Because to many, that is not an option. School, even community college, is out of many of their price range, especially if they have families both here and in other countries that they are supporting. No one should have to work under those conditions, especially when they are patently illegal.

    Labor markets have many similarities to other commodity markets, but like other markets, they have distortions. A prime labor market distortion is immigration, especially in meat packing. This does draw down wages in a given area or industry. Companies get used to using this cut-rate labor pool and will not raise their wages.

    And Dizzy, Boeing and Caterpillar are doing quite well right now and they are two UAW employers…yep, not in bankruptcy or reorganization. Same for Southwest (not UAW but union). Why? Because they have industry-leading product.

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    Hal, then why should Smithfields be allowed to break the law? I’m not allowed to, as I’m sure you are not allowed to either. They make a profit and they should share that profit with their workers since it is their workers who slaughter the hogs. Do you think your company should continue to profit and then decide to not only give you a raise but then ask that you take a pay cut? No. And what if you have few options as to other employment? That’s when you fight back.

  • avatar
    Luther

    In a global economy, Unionization will guarantee unemployment and of course Taxpayer Teat Sucker (gov’t employment) unionization will guarantee higher taxes. (ie School Tax) Watch the now-in-power Dumobrats try to put the “Global Economy” genie back in the bottle with protectionism. Prepare for Smoot-Hawley-Tariff-like capital flight/unemployment/inflation. (I really dont think they are dumb enough to do that but I would not be surprised if they try. They will try to destroy the economy for the next 2 years and then try to blame it on the Repulsicans in order to get Hillary elected in 2008. It will be Theatre of the Absurd which makes for great TV.)

    The Rich (as well as the poor) get richer by satisfying [fickle] consumer demand. There is nothing more heroic/noble than working to become rich. Nothing.

  • avatar
    pauln

    From the dictionary:

    hero: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

    noble: implies superior moral qualities and an exalted mind, character, or spirit that scorns the petty, base or dishonorable

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    Perhaps the UAW is diversifying (sp?) because they have learned the lessons of history better than the Big 2.5 have…

    http://www.gladwell.com/2006/2006_05_29_a_risk.html

    As for finger, Shabster and Luther, I find it interesting that your ire is directed towards people who just want to make a decent living, while your definition of nobility is reserved for the Rebecca Marks, Ivan Boeskys, Andrew Fastows and Jeff Skillings of the world…

    http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/B000EUKRC2/ref=s9_asin_title_2/103-3213184-9171048

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    Do you agree with Mr, Williams that a diversified UAW is a threat to the Big 2.5?

    IMO,no.Its an ability to branch out.As most corporations do or has done in the past.I cant see the UAW casually watch blue-collar unionized jobs steadily decline without eyeballing an alternate.The medical field is one area they’ve shown much intrest in.The needs and concerns of nurses and lawyers aren’t necessarily the same as those of assembly line workers, and you can’t take the same actions against government entities that you can against giant corporations. Is the UAW equipped to handle this diversity, or are they bloating their portfolio beyond any rational hope of quality, GM-style?

    Great question.Perhaps they have seen enough first hand how a bloated mis-managed entity has operated for years.Leasonds learned are not always confined to those that make the mistake.Ask the Japanese automakers.Its important to note that the UAW’s drive toward new areas to represent has been really methodical.

    And yet the UAW claims they’re being selective about potential members. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn stated, “We are not interested in representing workers where we don’t feel we can act as a powerful voice for them.” This is an area where I can cleary see a shift in ideaology.Is it an attempt to through away the mantra of collective-bargaining?Or a thinly vieled attempt to combine bargaining and introduce servicing.Allegence to just one union that can be replaced with another is growing more common-place.The Teamsters & UAW have played tit for tat over certain areas for awhile.Brewers come to mind & the occasional Freight moving companys.We could be seeing a time when unionized workforces can pick which International that represents their cause, whatever it may be,during negotations.If one International was felt to fall short of expectations during and-or after they ratified there contracts,maybe the membership which views this as a service simply seek a more suitable one.We could all relate to this theory in our everyday lives.Who stays with crappy service or product?How hard is it to change the mindset of those offended by services or products so future services rendered could possibly become theirs again?This is the quandry the big 2.5 find themselves in.Its seems to me that the UAW is seeking ways to not put themselves in this situation and branching out to other non-traditional fields to represent.

    As I stated above,sometimes the one making the mistakes is not the only one to learn from them.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    Dear Hal,

    Smithfields co. is the perfect reason why many turn to unions.Blatant disregard to another person is shameful in itself.Disregarding a persons right concerning safe working conditions,immigration status,education or amount of money made per-hour is elitism at its worst.

    It would be great to see Smithfield help its employees in a wide range of services.But I highly doubt that day will come.Enjoy you’re pork bellies my boy,cause they wont see a penny from me.

  • avatar
    John

    When UAW membership plummeted, did the UAW management count plummet as well? This isn’t meant as a loaded question but I could imagine a reluctance to lay off excess personnel.

    John

  • avatar
    Luther

    Nobody is forced to work at Smithfield’s. If you don’t like the package that Smithfield’s offering, then quit.

    Union people speak as if they are locked up in some Juvy detention Center that they cant escape with talk of sweatshops/poor working conditions and the like.

    UAW negotiations in 07 will be VERY entertaining…..

  • avatar
    Johnahoe

    John, the UAW did not have to lay any staff off, but they did merge regions, close sub-regional offices, and reduced staff through attrition. The AFL-CIO, however, after the split with Change to Win, did layoff quite a few staff people.

  • avatar
    vitek

    So, will it be pattern bargaining for the UAW in 2007? If not, what. And who will be their strike target, errr…pattern maker?

  • avatar
    mikey

    I was hired in 1972 at G.M. as an 18 year old high school drop out.About day 2 on the job a big rough looking old guy[about 35] comes up to me and says I’m the comiteeman[union rep]He says to me if ya gotta a problem with your job tell your foreman.If you gotta problem with one of the guys talk to me first.Do your job, keep your mouth shut,in 90 days you won’t
    hafta worry about f—all the rest of your life.Have you got that boy?
    Yeah I got it. The world has changed a lot since 1972
    like sid vicous I could write a book on what I have seen
    But hafta to say that crusty old comiteemans words has certainly held true for me
    2 kids educated in white collar jobs.And a midle class lifestyle
    no you won’t see me union bashing

  • avatar
    finger

    I guess membership has it’s privileges…

  • avatar
    shabster

    In the 50s, 60s and 70s, the Domestics had a virtual monopoly in the US market. The Asians and Europeans were insignificant.

    The Domestics had a good thing going and generally made a lot of money. That’s a good thing – I like to make money too.

    The unions demanded and received, fantastic compensation packages. The Domestics were able to keep labor peace by giving in to many of labor’s demands. It was cheaper to give the union what it wanted, than to be hit with strikes.

    The Domestics were able to get away with being so generous by passing onto the cutomers the costs of the new labor contracts.

    Sorry kids, the party’s over. The Domestics are trying to operate in the 21st century with outdated 20th century labor contracts.

    Job banks!! Pleeease! Job banks aren’t realistic anymore. It must have been nice while it lasted, but job banks are a luxury that can’t be sustained any longer. Very few industries have job banks, ’cause it’s a crazy expensive proposition.

    As difficult on labor as it may be, reality is such that the gravy train is dying – quickly. The market place will pay for cars assembled, based on Toyota’s and Honda’s labor costs, but the market place is clearly not willing to pay the premium for cars assembled by the Domestic’s labor costs.

    This is sooo obvious:

    A) See the Asian brands incease sales and profits.
    B) See the Domestics’ sales plummet and losses mount.
    C) See the give-backs that Ford and GM got this year from labor.
    D) Does anyone really think that the unions are not going to take further hits during the next round of negotiations with the Domestics?

    It doesn’t matter what I think, or what GM’s management thinks, or whatever…

    The US market place is going to force the UAW’s members to work for a smaller package.

    Merry Christmas!

    Hal.

  • avatar
    finger

    To me, it is very simple. Unions do not emphasize excellence, productivity or pride in one’s company. They promote mediocrity, mistrust of employer and a “whats in it for me” attitude.

  • avatar
    BarryO

    Too bad the big 2.5 don’t have the freedom to shop for another supplier…of labor.

    Too bad the UAW doesn’t have another union to compete with for the affections and money of their membership.

    Kind of like having only one alternative for cable.

    And as far as Smithfield goes, why does anyone need a union to enforce safety rules and create a better workplace? Where’s OSHA? Department of Labor? Department of Justice?

  • avatar
    finger

    I think that Smithfield needs to correct their labor situation in order to save their bacon. The CEO is a real ham. Anyway, what is their employees beef? Are their complaints legit or are they being pigs? The union leader is a turkey. There is way too much pork in their budget anyway you slice it.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Is the diversified UAW a threat to the big 2.5? Only to a limited degree, in terms of education. For example, if may opine regarding an earlier post that called unions the start of socialism; that's nonsense. The Libertarian party, about as far away from socialism as you can get, believes in unions, as I understand. (While I have oftentimes voted Libertarian, I am not a dues paying member of that party, or any political party, for that matter.) The late George Romney, in an interview with AutoWeek in the late 1980s, said that he had to deal with charges of being a socialist – or at least a sympathizer – when he instituted profit sharing at the defunct American Motors Corporation. I myself have been a member of the National Writers Union, still based in New York City, and affiliated with the UAW. When I say that education was, and is, a part of the process, it came in the form of a UAW magazine entitled Solidarity that I used to receive, circa my first membership stint, from February 1999 to February 2003. The Writers Union had limited power, largely because there was little legal recourse, when payment disputes arose; and membership dropped, from 1999 to the present. There is, as Frank Williams detailed so well in his piece, strength in numbers. Most disputes were settled, because a publisher or his or her editor, didn't want the bad publicity. For example, when I joined, I had been writing auto reviews for Avanti News Features, a small operation ran by Hawke Fracassa (actual name) and his wife, the late Anne Fracassa. Hawke was working as an editor for a Detroit newspaper, and in retrospect, was trying to keep on tops of things, but failing miserably. I was supposed to get clips and a nominal five dollars for each review run. I started getting e-mails from readers of weekly papers on the East Coast, about my work; but I wasn't getting clips or any money. Shortly after I joined the Writers Union, what was called a "grievance officer" in the city where I lived, wrote several letters to Hawke Fracassa. The first few responses were acromonious but the tone changed, as Hawke heard from other writers that press fleet operatives were not giving Avanti contributors, because there were no clips to show. (I maintained my press fleet contacts, because manufacturers on the East Coast, saw my work.) Finally, to avoid any censure at the Unions' web site, Anne mailed me a small packet of clips (others were ones I got from calling the newspapers and sending them mail orders to get clips sent to me). And her husband, sent a check for, as I recall, about $195. An editor I had began to work for at an auto trade magazine, who had written a letter on my behalf, to the grievance officer, told me that he felt there were more clips, I just hadn't seen. I agreed but walked away, glad to get something; and remained a believer in the Writers Union, for years. However, there was – oftentimes is, of course in unions – a power struggle over control of the Writers Union. Jon Tasani, who with a team of lawyers presented a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, opposing the NY Times practice of paying its contributors any extra money for using their work on-line, was the president of the union, almost since its inception in the 1980s. However, others began to believe he was too much of a demagogue, and finally in 2002, he was replaced. Thing was, the union began to loose membership, medical insurance it offered was rescinded by the supplier (due to the middle-age and beyond, of most Writers Union members) and more importantly to me, there was less effectual use of the grievance officers; partly due to the retiring of that role, by people such as Jerry Richards, the retired teacher and writer who had helped me so much. I let my membership lapse. However, in 2005, when I had a book contract deal go bad, I rejoined, on a trial membership for six months. I had two different grievance officers, on the East Coast – I live on the other side of the country – try to help as they could. But I never got the rights back to my own book and the publisher, Sams Technical Publishing, found another writer to finish said book. (I was allowed to keep $1,000 for the photos I supplied and the 18,000 words. How much was used, I don't yet know, since I haven't bought or seen anything but an excerpt of that book.) The Writers Union is now half of what it was when I first joined. It had about 7,000 members when Jon Tasini ran it. Last I heard, it was down to about 3,500. Would I recommend joining? Well yes, but don't expect miracles. And oftentimes, you might still have to go to an attorney. Does the Writers Union and others help the UAW have more actual clout? Sad to say, I think not. Maybe if all members of the Writers Union and affiliated unions bought only GM, Ford or Chrysler products, maybe so – and even then, to a limited degree. As I recall, much like the rest of America, most writers and editors I knew in the time I belonged to the Writers Union, drove Japanese cars. I think that, in the final analysis, the negotiations between the UAW and the big 2.5, this coming year, will be determined by microeconomic forces, beyong the control of most of us who call ourselves "workers" and not "management." And to be fair, even management can only do so much. It's hard to fight against the historical imperative.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    When I was in college, there was a teaching associates (TA) strike. Very few TA went on because they believe that it is their duty as graduate students to learn and they picked the school because of the reputation rather than cost.

    On the strike day, only 1/4 of the TA striked, but you see 3x as many UAW professional strikers raising signs along busy intersection in school. Not a single person pay any attention to them.

    The strike went nowhere and was only for a day.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    The arguments from the rabid free-market capitalists here strike me as naive at best and frankly disgusting at worst.

    You are certainly astute enough to realize that a good idea (the banding together of relatively powerless workers into an organization to give them some leverage against the rich and powerful that would otherwise own them) has turned corrupt and in its present form may actually harm the people it’s supposed to protect.

    But obviously you aren’t honest enough to see that another good idea (the free exchange of goods and services between parties without interference) has also turned corrupt and in its present form is also harming the people it’s supposed to serve. If you can’t see that the current system is skewed, then there’s no reasoning with you.

    You use the concept of a ‘free market’ to assuage your conscience, if you have one. “Let Acme Inc screw over the employees that it doesn’t kill . . . it’s a free market, and they can get other jobs if they don’t like it.” Nice. Real nice.

    On a Pareto chart, you often can’t even see the second-worst thing because it’s completely dwarfed by the first-worst thing. Once that’s gone, though, your second problem may suddenly be seen as a big one, too. I’m afraid now that global communism and it’s rash of dictatorships seems to be nearly gone, history will show that the type of unbridled, screw-the-other-guy, me-me-me capitalism currently practiced in the US will show itself to be the ‘second-worst problem’ that’s been hidden all these years. If I was a conspiracy nut I’d even say that our current ‘war on terror’ was in part engineered just to try and put it back in second place.

    And in an attempt to stay slightly ‘on-topic’ . . . I think that the UAW and it’s remaining members would be much better served if they stayed focused on the auto industry, but expanded their reach offshore into countries that don’t currently have unions. By changing the focus to China, Mexico (?), or Eastern Europe, they could both expand their reach and also help their domestic members by partially ‘taking the pressure off’ in lower wage countries.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Luther: Nothing is more noble to you.

    I can lots of much more noble stuff than working hard — like not crossing picket lines.

  • avatar
    finger

    “I’m afraid now that global communism and it’s rash of dictatorships seems to be nearly gone, history will show that the type of unbridled, screw-the-other-guy, me-me-me capitalism currently practiced in the US will show itself to be the ’second-worst problem’ that’s been hidden all these years. If I was a conspiracy nut I’d even say that our current ‘war on terror’ was in part engineered just to try and put it back in second place…

    Did you say “if” you were a nut?

  • avatar
    shabster

    Dear Ar-Pharazon:

    – You probably have more education than I.
    – You seem to have a better grasp of the English lanuage than I.
    – You have some interesting ideas in your comments.

    However, a person’s gotta face reality.

    Does anyone truly doubt that the UAW is going to make serious concessions in the next contract?

    Anyone??

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Shabster, thanks for the comments. I sure hope they make concessions . . . they’re crazy if they don’t. Honestly, I’m no big fan of the UAW, but I also don’t see them (or more broadly unions in general) as being some type of great Satan. They were started for a purpose, they served it well, a huge portion of the people in this country benefitted from them directly or indirectly, and their reason for being has not really gone away.

    finger . . . note I said conspiracy nut.

    Someone once said something like “democracy is a terrible system, except in comparison to every other alternative”. Same may be true about capitalism. Capitalism is supposed to be based on rational self interest. I’m afraid that it has devolved into being based on greed . . . which is close but not the same thing.

  • avatar
    jdv

    “There is nothing more heroic/noble than working to become rich. Nothing”

    /dumbfounded
    /pity

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Al-Pharazon: Thanks for your thoughful commentary. I have had many careers, including blue collar (union and non-union), management (with unions and without), and spent some time in the board room. I’ve met thoughtful, caring folks on both sides, and greedy jerks as well. Humans at work.

    Characterising the union situation in black and white makes for fun reading, but fails to propery encompass the range and complexity of the issues. A company (GM) watches its market share cut in half in a twenty years period, and agrees to job banks? There’s plenty of blame on both sides of the table.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    It seems to me that the UAW has been in fall back and try to defend a new line in the sand mode for a long time, just as the 2.5 have been.

    The semiconductor and software industries in the US grew big and fast and pay their workers extraordinarily well, all without the help of unions.

    The only growth sector of the economy which remains union dominated is government employees, and that is a matter of politics and the lack of competition.

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    I think that part of the problem with unions is due to their previous success. All of the things the unions were created for, and in my opinion did an excellent job of getting, i.e. sick time, vacation time, decent working conditions, decent pay, etc. have been enshrined into law. So what is left for the union to fight for, ridiculous job rules, the jobs bank, unreasonable salary, pension and health care benefits? Someone on here, in another Death Watch I think, stated that the most useful place for a union today is in China. That is a very insightful remark. The Chinese worker is today, where the US worker was before unions. I would never advocate the elimination of unions, in many cases they function as a guarantee of protection for workers. But I think that, in some cases and specifically in the UAW’s case, they have simply been so successful that they have priced their members out of the market.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Luther: Nothing is more noble to you.

    No Jonny! Wealth creation is to the benefit of all of humanity. It can be nothing else. As is said “Wealth is the abundance of good”. Satisfying consumer demand thru value production benefits human well-being and is made even more heroic/noble simply because consumers are a demanding pain in the ass. I know I am. Observe how demanding we posters are when we “nit-pick” automobiles. If consumers were not so demanding then 2.5 would not be in such financial trouble and they would still be building crap. 2.5 are making “heroic” efforts to build better products now for the benefit of all of us which IN TURN will benefit 2.5 (Make them “rich”). I am sticking to my statement: There is nothing more heroic/noble than working to become rich… BECAUSE it is to the benefit of human well-being.

    In a free-market, the customers (All of us) are kings. In a Gov’t regulated-market, the politians/corporations/labor unions are kings.

    (King = Coercive Slave Master.)

  • avatar
    mikey

    Shabster asks does anyone think that the UAW is not gonna take big concessions?
    Good question I can’t speak for my American co workers. I do know in Canada [CAW] trend has been.We trade concessions for buy outs.
    So far we have given up our sweepers our truck drivers transfer rights and 1500 jobs.Thats the price we paid for the Camaro and the flex plant all of wich is in the planing stages
    We have an 800 member contract/temp work force lower wages no benifits or senority rights
    In return we got 1500 or so 70,000$ buy outs for 30 year plus employees.And we got to keep our full benifit wage and vacation package.85+% voted in favor
    The alternative was axing 3500 and going back to 1979 senority to keep a job
    Now I think with 2007 contract in the USA [ours is 2008] a very similar scenero will take place.Fear is a great motivator.We, all of us humans are basicly me’ me types when your looking down the barrel of a gun,and somebody offers you a way out that don’t cost you anything you jump at it right?
    Thats whats gonna happen this fall.Your gonna say goodbye to job banks.The big 2.5 is gonna have 2 tier or maybe 3 tier wage and benifit packages.The remaining guys will keep thier wages and benifits for now.Sooner or later the numbers game will catch up with the older workers.The big 2.5 will offer more buy outs.Us old guys will ride off into the sunset and every body wins no strike is gonna happen in the car buisness for a helloffa long time,

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    But Luther, labor unions build wealth.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Yeah Johnny and I don’t see nothing wrong with wealth. 23.9
    billion wall street paid in christmas bonuses.
    The BMW dealers in NYC are also having a great year.
    I think I see a conection here.
    So the auto workers make obcene money?
    Its not like they hoard it all,they spend it just like the wall street boys do,only they buy Impalas and pick up trucks and ATVs and thier kids education.

  • avatar
    Luther

    But Luther, labor unions build wealth.

    Agreed Jonny… But the Goverment-gun-backed Wagner Act allows them, by “law”, to be wealth destroyers… ie consume more than they produce. They have literally priced themselves out of the market and made themselves uncompetitive. The free-market sets prices (Including wage prices) with supply and demand pressures and prices change minute-by-minute. Being “locked in” to yesterdays higher price guarantees loss/unemployment. We will see if the UAW concedes to global market pressures and work flexibility in 07. The same pressures we non-Union people face everyday.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Thanks to global free-markets, there are huge profits in global investing/finance. I am thinking I am in the wrong line of work.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Not only does the UAW face competitve pressure from $6 an hour Chinese workers, Chinese workers face competitive pressure from automation equipment/robots. Robots win everytime. The market just cannot sustain $65 an hour (Total Comp.) janitors.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Luther, your sentiment may be correct in a ‘perfect’ world. But that’s not the world we live in, not even close any more. Who really ‘works to get rich’ in today’s America? Pop stars, athletes, CEOs and the old money who simply move it from place to place. What ‘wealth’ do they create for society as a whole? None and none. Oh wait . . . maybe it’s the two garage dudes who ‘invented’ youtube. That’s value for the masses.

    Hence my rant on the fact that our capitalism is ‘broken’. It’s the rare person who gets rich by actually adding exceptional value to the rest of our lives. See previous article on the scientist who is producing novel concepts in energy utilization . . . compare his contribution to society and his wealth to that of say . . . Diddy. Or George Clooney. Or Terrell Owens. Or Donald Trump. It’s shameful.

    That’s why folks scoff at your statement. Your idea may be great, but the reality of it is a bit different than you intend, I think.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Ar-Pharazon: But obviously you aren’t honest enough to see that another good idea (the free exchange of goods and services between parties without interference) has also turned corrupt and in its present form is also harming the people it’s supposed to serve. If you can’t see that the current system is skewed, then there’s no reasoning with you.

    Just because a system isn’t producing the outcome you desire, or isn’t benefiting the people you think it should be benefiting, does not mean that it is corrupt.

    Up until about 1980, when the Big 2.5 constituted an oligopoly within the North American market, the ones who benefited were labor and management. Both white-collar and blue-collar employees did very well, especially relative to peers of similar education and experience.

    The people who didn’t do well were the customers, who, after 1970, were offered products with ever-escalating price tags and ever-declining quality. In the 1970s, the question wasn’t whether new vehicle prices would rise, but by how much they would rise. As for quality? Compare a 1975 Chevrolet to a 1970 Chevrolet for workmanship and reliability.

    The foreign namemplates came in and forced Detroit to clean up its act. This has meant wrenching changes for both management and labor, but it has been a boon for the people who really matter – customers.

    Sounds as though the free market is working they way it is supposed to be.

    For years, both management and labor thought that the customer existed for their benefit, which is wrong. Management and labor exist to provide a product that customers want. If they don’t do that, they have no reason to exist.

    Management gets it, but I’m still not sure that the UAW does.

    Ar-Pharazon: You use the concept of a ‘free market’ to assuage your conscience, if you have one. “Let Acme Inc screw over the employees that it doesn’t kill . . . it’s a free market, and they can get other jobs if they don’t like it.” Nice. Real nice.

    Any company that regularly allows employees to be killed will not last long. Only the lowest quality employees will want to work there, which means it will have a tough time providing a quality product or service to customers.

    This is a strawman argument.

    Ar-Pharazon: On a Pareto chart, you often can’t even see the second-worst thing because it’s completely dwarfed by the first-worst thing. Once that’s gone, though, your second problem may suddenly be seen as a big one, too. I’m afraid now that global communism and it’s rash of dictatorships seems to be nearly gone, history will show that the type of unbridled, screw-the-other-guy, me-me-me capitalism currently practiced in the US will show itself to be the ’second-worst problem’ that’s been hidden all these years. If I was a conspiracy nut I’d even say that our current ‘war on terror’ was in part engineered just to try and put it back in second place.

    Except that global capitalism is working to improve living conditions worldwide.

    Incidentally, if you want to see the “me-me-me” attitude in action, come in to my office and read some statements and review some of the actions of public union officials. They are very good at talking about helping working families, which really means helping public union employees, which almost always means higher taxes for EVERYONE to pay for the benefits and pay they enjoy.

    The UAW got what it could while the gettin’ was good. No problem with that. Who doesn’ t like more money and benefits for less work?

    But now that competitive pressures are forcing companies to revamp their operations for improved quality and efficiency, the UAW will have to change, and, like any large organization, it does not like it.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Any company that regularly allows employees to be killed will not last long. Only the lowest quality employees will want to work there, which means it will have a tough time providing a quality product or service to customers.

    Oh, you’d be surprised, Geeber
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9C0DE4DD133EF93BA35752C0A9659C8B63

    After you’re done reading this, look up Tyler Pipe, and thier parent company, McWane, Inc.

  • avatar

    Ar-Pharazon: Hence my rant on the fact that our capitalism is ‘broken’. It’s the rare person who gets rich by actually adding exceptional value to the rest of our lives.

    As sad as it seems to us, I dont think “value added” was ever a factor in determining wage prices. In our capitalist system demand for services, not some vague notion of societal benefit, has always determined what someone gets paid.

    Obviously, it doesn’t always work out this way, but you can’t base a pricing system on subjective measures like “benefit to society.” It seems to me that regulating wages based on what someone considers value is inherently not capitalist.

    For the UAW this is simple, they negotiated their contract at a time when demand for their services was high, and now its not.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The era of industry based unions is coming to a close. American unions should adopt the German model of having company based unions. They have sufficient leverage over management (as all off their employees are members) and can conduct negotiations with a little more sensitivity to the companies financial situation. After all, its a fine line between getting a fair deal and sending your employer into chapter 11.

  • avatar
    geeber

    quasimondo: I read The New York Times article, and the one year for profitability it lists is 1996 – or a decade ago. The article claims that profits in 1996 were double compared to the previous five years. Which avoids mentioning the fact that the economy was booming in 1996, while the previous five years would have included the recession years of 1990-91. Almost anybody can take advantage of a recovering economy.

    No mention of profitability since…it’s entirely possible that initially profits soared when changes were made (plus, as I noted, they were made in a booming economy). But what has happened since? The figures are rather conspicuous by their absence.

    And if the article is accurate, Tyler is not attracting first-rate employees with those working conditions…it can’t, as they will find work elsewhere. Quality WILL suffer.

    And searching the net for even more information, as you suggested, I found an article in the April 22, 2003 edition of the Tyler Morning Telegraph with this quote:

    McWane Corp., parent company of Tyler Pipe, and the United Steelworkers of America on Tuesday announced a joint agreement establishing a top-level safety task force, calling it a major element to increase workplace safety.

    USWA President Leo Gerard announced the agreement reached with G. Ruffner Page Jr., president of Birmingham-based McWane. The announcement quoted a passage from the agreement to say, “Production and quality are important, but safety and health are more important. If a job cannot be done safely, it should not be done at all.”

    The union referred to a New York Times series earlier this year about workplace injuries and fatalities at McWane plants. Tyler Pipe is the largest plant with the greatest number of safety violations.

    Page told the Tyler Morning Telegraph the agreement “is signaling another stage in McWane’s efforts to improve its safety performance under an initiative that began back in the mid-’90s. McWane entered into this joint agreement voluntarily and is looking forward to success on the plant floor.”

    He and Mike Wright, USWA director of health, safety and environment in the union’s Pittsburgh headquarters, said the local plants have safety and health committees, but this joint task force will include senior members of the union and management. “Mr. Gerard agreed to encourage participation by union members,” Page said. “The nature and scope of a senior committee is yet to be defined.”

    Tyler was already unionized, or is at least working with the union on safety issues (note that it specfically refers to the Times articles, which were published four months earlier, in January 2003). Apparently the union couldn’t do anything to prevent the series of injuries highlighted in the article you posted.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    As with most things in life,it’s all cylical.The auto industry,union contracts,ect.They have a way of balancing out.Someone asked earlier,which of the Big 2.5 is the UAW going to target?I believe each will recieve their own contract relating to the severity of operations/ loss of market-share,money.

    For both the Companies & which ever union:Some days your the bug,some days you’re the windsheild.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Do you agree with Mr, Williams that a diversified UAW is a threat to the Big 2.5?

    The biggest threat to the Big 2.5 is its mismanagement at the top. It’s the same management that squanders its precious R&D funds developing Saabarus and Saabilacs that disappear into the ether, while having the audacity to think that a Malibu stands half a chance against an Accord or Camry, or that a Cobalt has any place on our highways and byways next to the Civic and Corolla.

    Let’s not forget — every competitor of the Big 2.5 is unionized. The Germans and Koreans, in particular, have unions that make the UAW seems like a Pop Warner team compared to the NFL. Yet somehow, these foreign rivals prove time and again their ability to design and build products that Americans want to buy, and they turn a profit while they do it.

    Americans are buying non-domestic cars because they don’t like the local alternatives. GM and Ford only became dominant players in the first place because the US market was more isolated during earlier times, while two world wars did a fine job of setting back the competition for decades. Had they needed to compete in a global market from the onset, the story might have turned out to be quite different.

    Toyota invented Total Quality Management; the original Model T’s were built without a QC group ever being involved on the line. Once the US market opened up and rivals got stronger, the beginning of the end was already upon us. The Big 2.5 lose on branding and on product, bungling both to the point that their cars could be built for free by a team of automotive Peace Corps volunteers and they’d still lose money.

    Enough of this pointing fingers at everyone and everything else: Big 2.5 management needs to learn what we all learned as kids — when you point a finger at someone else, three are pointing back at yourself. Build cars that people actually want, and they might begin to make money again.

  • avatar
    OctaVentiConPanna

    Luther Where do janitors make $65/hr in total compensation?

    ———

    Also, let’s not forget that in Fremont ,California, they build Toyota Corollas and Tacoma trucks with UAW labor. The plant can afford to pay their workers over $70k this year and operate in an expensive area of the country because they’re able to sell lots of cars and trucks.

  • avatar
    nino

    My union story:

    Four guys standing around debating for half a day on whose responsibility and job description it was to move an A/C flex duct on the ground blocking a doorway. The discussion came to an end when I kicked it over to one side so I wouldn’t trip over it.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    nino . . . what, no grievance filed?

    Pch101 . . . this points out the fact that it’s not unions per se, but rather the situation here in the States that unions are fighting to support. In those other highly unionized countries, the government picks up the costs of health care and retirements. It’s not so much the unions here as the fact that they’re preventing the companies from jettisoning their healthcare and pension responsibilities.

    I also disagree with your statement regarding US folks purchasing foreign vehicles and prior protectionism. If you think many in ‘the Greatest Generation’ would have bought a Japanese or German car, you must be good at ignoring the elephant in the room. They would not have, for rather obvious reasons. In fact, I think that pre-Baby Boom generations would not have done this because for them the norm was to love their country and try to support it, as is currently the case in much of the rest of the world. Only the ‘me’ generation here in the US (i.e., the boomers) — with marching in the streets and taking over the college campuses as part of their ‘good old days’ — have refined the art of hating your own country to such a high art. The rejection of all things domestic and fawning over the ‘other’ is a direct outgrowth of this and I believe is one of the rarely stated drivers of the trend away from domestics. Yeah . . . not denying the past quality problems . . . but that doesn’t explain the whole story, nor the continued progression in spite of (what apparently many here argue) a turnaround in product.

    In short, the darn hippies just ‘made it cool’ to hate America and American things.

    I honestly looked forward to a move away from this mindset as the boomers kids rebelled against their parents (as teens normally do) . . . a resurgence in pride. Darn that chimp GWB as he seems to have set my dream back at least another whole generation.

  • avatar
    nino

    nino . . . what, no grievance filed?

    Please.

    I’ve butted heads with unions a few times and I always came away from it not understanding why there was such an insistence to do anything but get the job done. I can really understand why there is some resentment towards them.

    But I don’t agree with your statement that what you purchase makes you a patriot or not.

    One of the truths of this country is that we reward ingenuity and hard work. We didn’t build this country on mediocrity and “just good enough”. Why is it that now we’re supposed show support for our country by foregoing the strife towards excellence and just settling for good enough?

    If you want to argue that American companies could use a little help in being the best they can be, I’ll cede you that point. However, it sure is tough to swallow when American companies like GM are building parts and assemblies for their “American” cars in a Communist stronghold like China.

    How do you think the post WW2 generation would feel about that?

  • avatar
    geeber

    Ar-Pharazon: Pch101 . . . this points out the fact that it’s not unions per se, but rather the situation here in the States that unions are fighting to support. In those other highly unionized countries, the government picks up the costs of health care and retirements. It’s not so much the unions here as the fact that they’re preventing the companies from jettisoning their healthcare and pension responsibilities.

    When people say that “the government” picks up the tab for health care, they forget that “the government” is funded by taxpayers. It must raise revenue to pay for that healthcare, and anyone who studies other countries with nationalized health care would discover that one of the recurring problems in those countries is…how to pay for soaring health care costs.

    This summer I spent time in Ireland, Great Britain and Germany.

    In Britain, a friend who is hardly a conservative (she hates Bush, blames the U.S. for global warming, etc.) was complaining about the shoddy care provided by the British National Health Service.

    In Ireland, we heard people complain about the taxes they pay to support nationalized health care…and yet people still purchase private insurance to supplement the government-backed plan, because they want to ensure quality care.

    In Germany, my aunt told us that companies are still responsible for providing health care to their employees. (They may receive help from the government to do so – I didn’t think to ask that question. But I do know that many Germans purchase private health insurance to supplement their standard coverage.)

    The government – i.e., the taxpayers – does assume all responsibility to provide care for the unemployed and elderly. Which we have here in the U.S. – Medicaid for the poor and Medicare for the elderly – except that there is no way that the UAW will allow its retirees to depend soley on Medicare, as it is not nearly as generous as the UAW-negotiated plan.

    Before you say that the government should provide benefits to everyone as generous as the UAW plan – this country would be bankrupt if it did so. Diverting all of the money spent in Iraq and at the Pentagon, and then taxing the Donald Trumps and Paris Hiltons of the country at 99 percent of their income, would hardly make a long-term dent in the problem.

    We cannot afford it. Costs are already soaring for Medicare and Medicaid. Imagine making the benefits richer, and extending them to everyone.

    Ar-Pharazon: I also disagree with your statement regarding US folks purchasing foreign vehicles and prior protectionism. If you think many in ‘the Greatest Generation’ would have bought a Japanese or German car, you must be good at ignoring the elephant in the room. They would not have, for rather obvious reasons.

    When the Greatest Generation began driving, American cars WERE the best all-around purchase. That is the obvious reason. Now many of them continue to purchase Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns and Mercurys because they remember those marques’ glory days, and sheer force of habit.

    Ar-Pharazon: In fact, I think that pre-Baby Boom generations would not have done this because for them the norm was to love their country and try to support it, as is currently the case in much of the rest of the world. Only the ‘me’ generation here in the US (i.e., the boomers) — with marching in the streets and taking over the college campuses as part of their ‘good old days’ — have refined the art of hating your own country to such a high art. The rejection of all things domestic and fawning over the ‘other’ is a direct outgrowth of this and I believe is one of the rarely stated drivers of the trend away from domestics. Yeah . . . not denying the past quality problems . . . but that doesn’t explain the whole story, nor the continued progression in spite of (what apparently many here argue) a turnaround in product.

    Please…the domestics lost a generation of buyers by building junk, and now they have to win them back. People forget that those Baby Boomers started out with Mustangs, Chevelles, Fairlanes, Camaros and Barracudas. Lee Iacocca specifically designed the Mustang with the Baby Boomers in mind, and he obviously succeeded, given the car’s spectacular sales numbers. The switch to the imports really began in the early 1970s, when the Japanese at the low end and the Germans and Swedes at the high end began moving ahead in vehicle design, while the domestics stagnated and let quality slip.

    Many of these buyers are perfectly happy with their Toyotas, Hondas, BMWs and Hyundais, and don’t want to look anywhere else. And why should they? yes, domestics are better, and some of their products (Fusion, Mustang, Edge) are very nice. But lots of the much-ballyhooed product is still a notch or two under the best of the foreign competition.

    Can we please stop acting as though everyone has some sort of obligation to check out the offerings from Ford, GM and Chrysler before purchasing a new vehicle?

    The simple fact is that satisfied customers have little reason to look elsewhere. Honda, Toyota, BMW and a few other foreign marques have done a better job of providing customers with vehicles that meet their needs and desires.

    That is not anti-Americanism – it’s How to Run a Successful Business 101.

    Ar_Pharazon: In short, the darn hippies just ‘made it cool’ to hate America and American things.

    I honestly looked forward to a move away from this mindset as the boomers kids rebelled against their parents (as teens normally do) . . . a resurgence in pride. Darn that chimp GWB as he seems to have set my dream back at least another whole generation.

    Left-wing hippies and alleged right-winger George W. Bush are bashed in the same post by the same person.

    The times are a-changin’…

    Sorry, but George W. Bush can be blamed for lots of things, but the lack of sales appeal of American cars when compared to their foreign competition isn’t one of them.

    Last time I checked, Bush did not design the Aztek or the new Sebring; he did not tell Ford to let the Taurus rot on the vine and then release the Freestyle and Five Hundred/Montego with an underwhelming engine; he did not tell GM to keep all of its divisions and feed them badge-engineered versions of the same vehicle; he did not style the Cobalt to look like a warmed-over Cavalier.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Ar-Pharazon:

    In those other highly unionized countries, the government picks up the costs of health care and retirements. It’s not so much the unions here as the fact that they’re preventing the companies from jettisoning their healthcare and pension responsibilities.

    I don’t see how that explains why some folks in Big 2.5 management chose to beat the hell out of most of the lineup with a big fat ugly stick. These cars are simply not desirable because of design, engineering and content, three areas over which management maintains control.

    Here’s an exercise for you — go through GM’s 2005 annual financial statement, remove the healthcare costs in their entirety and see what you get. Do that, and you’ll find that GM would have still lost money, even if had **zero** healthcare costs. The healthcare costs are just an excuse to blame the workforce, since blaming the yen, the Japanese, the price of cheese and the full moon are no longer in fashion.

    Only the ‘me’ generation here in the US (i.e., the boomers) — with marching in the streets and taking over the college campuses as part of their ‘good old days’ — have refined the art of hating your own country to such a high art.

    Interesting. That must explain all those Republican soccer moms driving Honda Odysseys and Toyota Siennas.

    On a serious note, if that’s the mindset in Detroit, then I hope that they enjoy filing Chapter 7, because that’s what is going to happen if they believe that contempt for the needs of the customer is patriotic. Successful companies build products that people want, unsuccessful ones don’t.

    I would hope that someone in a Big 2.5 design studio could put down their flags just long enough to create an attractive, appealing, reliable, and enjoyable car that many people, whether right and left, Republican and Democrat, fascista and communista, could all see a reason to buy. It doesn’t matter who I vote for, you still won’t find me in an Impala.

  • avatar
    Luther

    America did have a “You” Generation at one point in time. It was pre-1865, in the South, and had to do with skin color if I recall right.

    If you are not selfish (self-interest is a better term) then you are someone elses slave. Note how the Government, Broadcast Media and all Collectivist/”Socialist” attempt to convince you that sacrifice to others (Them?) is a virtue…Hmmmm… Makes me feel like a CopperTop battery.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    I was going to compose some long diatribe, but I realized that it’s just not worth it.

    Any philosophy can be made to look good on paper, when divorced from the real consequences of implementation. If you think that a decade of stagnating or decreasing real wages for all but the top 5% is a good thing, so be it. If you think a disappearing middle class is a good thing, so be it. If you think these things are unrelated to ideas like ‘real Americans buy what they want’ and ‘what this company needs to do is declare bankruptcy so it can invalidate it’s contracts and pension liabilities’, so be it.

  • avatar
    geeber

    So…just buying a Chevrolet instead of Toyota will miraculously reverse all of those trends, because it will strengthen the UAW?

    The union-bashing does get tiresome. Eliminating the UAW will not singlehandedly make GM, Ford and Chrysler competitive again.

    But union bashing soon leads to the appearance of its opposite, but equally inaccurate, sibling – laying at the foot of the union virtually every good thing, except for the debut of the miniskirt, that has happened in America since 1935.

  • avatar
    nino

    It’s not a question of bashing the union, but an issue of trying to get everyone to try and be reasonable. What history has shown us is that while management of the big 2.5 have been hugely unreasonable, the UAW has had faults of their own in this area. The hope is that both sides will come to a reasonable understanding. I’m not holding my brath.

    But the notion that buying a domestic car over an import is the patriotic thing to do to support the US auto industry, is something that’s been bugging me.

    This country’s consumers MAKE IT A POINT to not have to pay more than they have to for anything. The trade deficits we have with most every country in the world is proof that from T-shirts, to shoes, to TVs, to pretty much everything else, US consumers want to pay the lowest prices for the best quality and be damned if the average worker in Myanmar is working for a slave wage. We import $600 million dollars worth of Christmas decorations each year from China. Why is it that patriotic buying is only applied to cars?

    In a utopia, US consumers would buy the best products in the world at the best prices from American companies that employ American workers being paid a living wage, the fact is such is not the case. When even companies like GM are outsourcing the manufacture of major sub assemblies to China, it is a hollow argument that buying an American car somehow shows support for this country.

  • avatar
    nino

    And I don’t believe for one minute that the UAW is responsible for what has befallen the US auto industry. Like Henry Ford, I also believe that workers need to be paid a living wage so that they are able to buy the products they produce. But like skyrocketing CEO salaries, paying an employee $100,000 a year to push a broom (that’s a metaphor) is equally unreasonable. The fact is that business in the US only reacts to crisis.

    The idea here has always been to get as much as I can and everyone else be damned, regardless of the consequences. Even if you were to implement drastic strategies that would make imports uncompetitive on price, history has shown us that all the domestic manufactures would do is raise their prices to just under what the imports sell at. That goes for all industries, not just automotive.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Government to the rescue……

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/suprynowicz/suprynowicz55.html

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