My compadre tgriffith is at it again, whacking the UAW. He did it just over a week ago, and I thought he had gotten it out of his system. Like many people, he doesn’t know his history or his economics.
Let me acknowledge first that I am a union guy and worked seven years for a large building trades union in Washington in the ‘90s. I wrote a highly praised book about our union and its innovative practices. I know something about the history of the labor movement.
The UAW is probably a dying union, and that is nothing to celebrate.
Unions are about jobs and worker protections—nothing else. If you think there are plenty of jobs for auto workers and that they don’t need to safeguard those jobs from being cannibalized, then I wonder what kind of world you’re living in.
The UAW certainly has the right to organize non-union plants, something our moribund labor laws, at least for now, still permit. They don’t have much of a chance to win over the transplants (Toyota et al.) because of several factors.
Unemployment is high, meaning jobs will go to the lowest common denominator. The South, where most of these plants are located, has been anti-union for many years, and right-to-work laws are common.
As the U.S. has become ever more strident in pushing a far-right agenda of free markets, limited government (and guns for all), unions have lost their power to make a case for their existence. Not that they haven’t bungled the job by being chauvinistic and greedy (as in the Job Bank program).
I won’t rehearse the recent history of the UAW, forced since 2005 to give back enormous sums to keep the Big Three afloat. President Bob King now wants some share in the “amazing turnaround,” and can you blame him? But he’s also thrashing around and threatening to expose Toyota and Honda as “human rights violators” if they don’t permit fair bargaining—and a vote.
Unfortunately, you can’t make the union movement into a civil rights struggle, even though companies around the world violate and ignore labor laws every day. The issue is economic fairness, as it has always been. Our buddy tgriffith needs to study up on the history of the auto industry and some of the many ways it has manipulated both competition and its people. The UAW is just one of the casualties.