Do We Still Need the United Auto Workers Union?

For some reason, few things get under my skin like talk from the UAW.

This month the union, which represents some 120,000 hourly auto employees at Ford, GM and Chrysler, will attempt to unionize workers at Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

Rather than acting as a powerful advocate of U.S. labor laws, the UAW reminds me lately of a group of 8-year-old boys who aren’t getting what they want.

The UAW has attempted to organize workers at foreign automakers’ plants before, without success. There’s really one simple reason for that: Workers at those plants are happy, paid well and treated with respect. I would bet that Ford, GM and Chrysler workers today would feel the same without UAW involvement. There’s no need for a therapist when the marriage is fine.

UAW boss Bob King

Rather than acknowledging defeat, the union decided to throw a series of tantrums. When Toyota closed its only unionized plant, NUMMI, which was a joint-venture with GM, the UAW threw a fit and picketed Toyota dealers.

The most child-like trait of the UAW’s leadership, though, is this: They’ve built a wooden fort with “Keep the foreigners out” signs plastered on the sides.

Metaphorically anyway. But they might as well have, because there’s a strict “no foreign-built cars” policy in the parking lot at UAW headquarters. MSN has a story on the topic that says,

“The only cars that you can actually park in their parking lots have to have a VIN number starting with a one or two,” says [Sean] McAlinden, executive vice president of research and chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research, and a former UAW worker. “They look at it from the guard shack.”

Yeah. Real mature, guys.

My take: I think it’s time for the guard shack to come down. The UAW is an antiquated organization that should have died when GM filed for bankruptcy.

Am I wrong here? Does the UAW serve a greater purpose that I am missing?


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  1. The uaw is getting thier pay off. You guys think short term again and take theat 5k from the tax payers and you will be where you were three years ago in three years. NO JOBS FOR ANYONE! But hey, you got your 5k this year. Your children and grandchildren will not have a job. Enjoy that 5k, take a nice trip, buy something you have always wanted, in a few years you will be in the unemployment line trying to make ends met. Oh and be sure to pay democrats and Obama back and vote for Obama, you were bought for 5k.

  2. I am writing a research paper for my 12th grade history class, where we have been discussing the auto union and how it’s changed in the past few years. I am trying to acquire additional insight from someone that has worked under the union. If you are this person I would most appreciate having a conversation with you. Either by email or by phone whichever works better for you. It would be very helpful if that person could contact me at or I could ask questions right here on this blog. thank you in advance for your assistance. Sincerely,

    Ajanay Squire

    The Beacon School, NY

  3. While Randy’s story is persuasive, he really makes the case to fund your own retirement with a 401K. That way nobody can take it from you or renegotiate it. These union pension funds are all underfunded, because the unions negotiated deals they knew were unsustainable.

    We have a powerful incentive for German/Japanese companies to locate here and build a non-union factory. They can’t do that in their home country. If that incentive is taken away, how many plant closings are we going to see here?

  4. @ randy
    Thank you, Randy. You certainly make a point and offer a valuable first-hand perspective. Most stories I hear are more in tune with the comments so far; that union representation creates lazy workers. In situations like yours, though, I can see how representation would force an automaker to keep its end of a deal. I’m not convinced the rust belt workers should organize, and I can only assume they haven’t had the need because, thus far, they’ve been treated right. Should they organize now out of fear that may change?

  5. Let me tell you a little story. When Delphi came out of bankruptcy, they did it primarily by dumping their pensions on the PBGC. I spent 26 years with GM and Delphi in engineering positions after going to college and ended up with a pension half of what it was supposed to be. My counterparts who dropped out of high school and got unskilled jobs in the factories represented by the UAW were also had their pensions dumped on the PBGC, but because of their contractural agreement with GM, had their pensions “topped off” by GM to what they would have gotten if Delphi had not defaulted their pensions. Therefore, I would have been much better off if I had just stayed at that summer job at the factory and also saved the $40,000 plus it cost to get that college degree. The only difference? The UAW. Right now I simply can’t believe that ANYONE is stupid enough to work for one of these rustbelt companies without union representation, especially salaried workers.

    Now to answer Jeremy’s contention that “good workers” don’t need a union, I was a good worker for all those 26 years and always received the highest ratings and many, many awards and company recognition. I also didn’t have more than one or two sick days each year for all that time. One hallmark of our company was the constant promises and back-patting from our management, which in the end doesn’t mean squat if you don’t have it in a contract.

  6. Bilking donut eating union people …… get paid more, do less, and do not further educate themselves. Fat, dumb and happy

  7. Agreed….Unions do not protect good workers at any rate, they only protect poor performers. If you are a good employee and you do your job well, what the heck do you need the union for? And if you aren’t a good employee or you aren’t doing your job well you are driving the cost of “union built” products higher with your innefficiency.

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