We talk a lot about brands here at TTAC. For example, Porsche comes in for a bit of criticism for moving away from their image as a maker of purist sports cars. We’ve discussed how brands can be burnished and also be diminished. Do today’s Cadillacs live up to “the standard of the world” and is the Lincoln Motor Company a dead brand walking? Back when GM was busy melting down financially and the future of brands like Pontiac were uncertain, I even checked with a businessman who specialized in bringing back old brands, to see how he would go about reviving GM’s distressed brands. Even a badly damaged brand can be revived. Which brings me to today’s topic, is the UAW’s brand damaged and if so, how can it be fixed?
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.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published a look at the ongoing feud between pro- and anti-union forces at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It paints a picture of a political battle fought mainly by outside forces, utilizing the deep pockets of some of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups.
This weekend was the end-of-summer graduation at Auburn, and like all such events, it brought an avalanche of rental cars to our Loveliest Village on the Plains™. Amidst the ubiquitous Chryslerbishis and engineering-excellence-cum-fleet-staple Camrys, I spotted a couple of newish Jettas and Passats wandering about town, crooked rental bar stickers applied with obvious indifference. I saw one particular rental Jetta sitting in the parking lot not far from the bookstore when I went to pick up some cut-price tomes. Coated in dust and wearing those ugly DUI-style New York plates, it was a forlorn sight. I couldn’t help but think of it as a reminder that the road to hell can be paved with tax breaks as often as it’s paved with good intentions; at least that’s the case if you happen to be governor of Tennessee.
GM has rocky relations with its Korean unions, and the relations will get a lot rockier if what Germany’s Handelsblatt says is true. According to the report, GM is seriously looking into moving most of the production of the Opel Mokka to Europe.
Currently, the hot selling SUVlet is made in South Korea only. Says Reuters:
Selective Solidarity: Ignored By UAW Bosses On A Jaunt To South Africa, Korean Union Threatens Strike Against GM
When there was labor unrest in South Africa, the UAW was quick to spend union dues for a long trip to the scenic South African locale, ostensibly to show their solidarity with South African union brothers who, coincidentally, fought against Mercedes and Volkswagen. Back home, the UAW pulled a whole packet of race cards. It headlines, a bit strenuously: “South Africans have more rights than workers in Mississippi.”
It would have been more a propos if the UAW would have flown to South Korea to show solidarity with workers who are about to go on strike against GM, the company, ooops, that is partially owned by the UAW.
According to media reports, Volkswagen workers received a hefty, inflation-busting pay rise today, giving the impression that VW workers are being especially coddled. Not true. Metal workers in all of Germany received a 5.6 percent raise in May (3.4 percent more from July on, followed by 2.2 percent starting in May 2014, to be exact.) Volkswagen workers received more or less the same.
Now that Opel workers in Bochum refused a plan to keep the factory open, now that an intervention by UAW’s Bob King went exactly nowhere, the question is where to move production of the Opel Zafira when Bochum closes its doors by end of 2014.
In the running: Rüsselsheim, Germany, and Ellesmere Port, UK.
Last month, GM CEO Dan Akerson said that GM might move production away from South Korea if tensions with North Korea escalate. Korea labor unions were not amused, saying that Akerson was using the crisis as a pretext to gain the upper hand in upcoming labor talks.
Last week in Detroit, Akerson told GM’s South Korean union leader that he won’t pull GM out of South Korea. He also said he is unhappy with the Korean union, and that he will bring up the matter this week with South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, when the “Iron Lady” will visit the U.S. this week.
Now, the union is fuming.
Bob King’s attempts to ingratiate himself with German unions, and to make Opel’s Bochum workers reconsider their decision to turn down Opel’s restructuring plan, are being ignored. Actually, it appears as if they had the opposite effect. Days after King’s comment, Bochum plant manager Manfred Gellrich rejected new discussions, saying Opel does not want to “waste precious time,” Reuters says. Over the weekend, Opel dropped another bomb: Bochum will be closed completely. A parts depot that was supposed to stay open, will also close its doors.
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