By on February 11, 2017

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk knows a unionized workforce would add another variable to his lofty, carefully crafted production plans, and an unpredictable one at that: labor strife.

Until now, the electric automaker’s top boss has fended off the possibility in a progressive-sounding way, but a simmering unionization movement, which reared its head this week, shows no signs of abating. Since the appearance of a scathing blog post written by a Tesla assembly plant worker, Musk has found himself on the defensive. A paid union agitator, Musk claimed, wrote the post to rile employees. Then the UAW jumped into the fray.

Now, it’s one big battle. Musk likely wishes a recently introduced bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act was on his side. (Read More…)

By on November 21, 2015


A week before Thanksgiving, the United Auto Workers and all of the domestic automakers know they will enter the holiday season without having to worry about a strike.

According to the Detroit News, the UAW announced late Friday that their members at Ford approved a proposed contract by a narrow 51.4-percent margin.

That news followed closely the union’s announcement that its International Executive Board considered ratified its contract with General Motors. It will go into effect starting next week. That deal had been delayed because, although the overall vote was in favor of the contract, almost 60 percent of skilled trade members of the UAW at GM voted against it. (Read More…)

By on July 15, 2015

The United States International Trade Commission issued a split 3-3 ruling on a petition regarding Chinese tires filed by the United Steel Workers under U.S. Antidumping and Countervailing Duty (AD/CVD) laws. That means that — in all likelihood — the United States will put tariffs or other controls on tires imported from China. Counterintuitively, not one of the nine domestic American tire companies that produce 100 percent of the tires made here supports the AD/CVD petition. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2014


Over at Bloomberg View, Megan McArdle, in a post titled “Employees Are Not Your Customers” happens to use one of the more enduring myths of automotive history to prove her point. That myth is that Henry Ford started paying his famous $5 a day wage in 1914 so his employees could afford to buy Model Ts. She was using the story as an example to make a specific point so Ms. McArdle doesn’t tell her readers the real reason why Henry started paying a more livable wage. That gives us an excuse to learn some history. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2013


Following labor unrest and increasing costs at their operations in South Korea, General Motors has begun to reevaluate GM Korea’s role in the giant automaker’s production plans. Currently GM Korea, formerly Daewoo, builds about 20% of GM’s global production. The already announced shifting of production of Opel’s Mokka small crossover to the Zaragoza facility in Spain starting in the second half of 2014 may portend other changes in GM Korea’s role. Both foreign and domestic Korean automakers have expressed concern over rapidly rising wages in that country. The strong Korean currency, the won, coupled with those rising labor costs have made Korea one of the more expensive places for GM to build cars. (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2012

The major Indian news operations are pretty much flooding the zone in covering the riot and lockdown at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant. Besides whatever labor unrest there was at play in the Manesar factory riot, internal politics within the state of Haryana or competition with Gujurat state may have had something to do with it, with accusations of conspiracies and outside influences. Here is a rundown of the news. (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Sergio Marchionne was successful in getting the majority of the unions at his Naples plant to sign a new work agreement. This was supposed to herald in a new era in Italian work practices and pacem in terris. Well, it seems that Fiat wants to press the issue home to the unions. Reuters reports that Fiat is so determined to teach Italian unions at their Pomigliano plant that their working practices are not sustainable, that they are now going to some extreme lengths. Fiat is now going to set up a new company to manage the plant near Naples. Doesn’t sound extreme, right? Well, there’s more. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2010

Fiat is determined to drag their Italian operations into the 21st century, says The New York Times. Lacksadaisical attitudes produced some novel ways of shirking work. Some examples include calling sick at Fiat (remember, you get paid in full even if you call sick) and using that time to work another job or faking a doctor’s note. The latter is particularly used when a local football team is playing. Well, no more, according to Marchionne. He wants to impose foreign style work standards to encourage more pride in Italian workers’ jobs and improve the competitiveness of Italian factories. Some have an opposite view. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2010

Many of you don’t know this, but during my days at university, I supplemented my meager grant money (in the days when European governments gave grant money to students) by gambling said grant. The extra money came in useful for text books, science equipment, drinking lager till my head span, etc. The fruit machines and betting on horses was fun enough, but where I really excelled was poker. Texas Hold ’em, to be more accurate. I learnt many of life’s lessons that way, but the one which stuck in my mind the most was this little nugget: “When you play a bluff, be prepared to have that bluff called.” Words which certain Italian unions should have heeded. (Read More…)

By on July 1, 2010

Sergio Marchionne’s turnaround of Fiat was a weird one. He turned around a company, which most people thought had died already. Sergio’s turnaround was helped by GM’s unwitting “re-capitalization” of Fiat, too. Recently, worker relations in Italy have been strained, to say the least. If you thought the situation with the UAW in the United States was bad enough, in Italy, things are spicier than Mamma’s Arrabbiata sauce. The Financial Times UK reports that Sergio Marchionne has finally lost patience with unionized Italian workers and has threatened them to change their mindsets or else be out of a job. The end of September is their deadline. Mr Marchionne wants Italy to help drag Fiat (and Chrysler) into one of the top five car companies in the world. But to do that, he needs concessions from his Italian workers. Big ones. (Read More…)

By on March 24, 2010

Media from Associated Press to The Business Standard of India are abuzz with reports that Fiat (the company) is planning to cut 5000 jobs and will be spinning off its car division this summer. The stock market seems to like the idea: Fiat’s shares rose 4.15 percent. (Read More…)

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