UAW Negotiating New Deal, Ford Workers Threaten to Strike

Can't we just Focus on the cars?

I appreciate and admire all the hard work Americans do.

Every American, heck, every citizen of this Earth, works in some way to meet an ultimate goal. To celebrate that work, we observe Labor Day in the U.S. by, ironically, taking a day off work to acknowledge the sweat that gets poured into making this country work.

American workers are the ones who build roofs over our heads, fix our appliances when they break and assemble the vehicles that allow us to freely roam the 47,000 miles of Interstate highways criss-crossing the States. When workers excel in those jobs, they typically get rewarded. When they can’t perform, they get fired. That’s the cycle, and the way it should be.

Some workers work for large corporations, others work for small businesses and others work for no one but themselves. While I appreciate them all, I just can’t get behind the organized unions that protect workers of large companies. That includes the United Auto Workers. Simply put, I believe unions make it too hard to get rid of problem employees while creating a heavy burden on employers.

I know my fellow CarGuru jgoods completely disagrees because we’ve had the argument before. I question, though, whether or not we need the UAW anymore, and I stand behind that.

The current labor agreement between the Big 3 automakers and the UAW expires on September 14. I, naturally, would love to see it expire without a new agreement in place. I think the Big 3 would be better off handling its employees the way Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and Hyundai do: without representation. Their employees have fiercely resisted the UAW and, so far, are doing just fine.

No new labor agreement is about as likely as a new gas tax, though (something jgoods and I agree this country needs). Negotiators are hard at work right now hammering out a plan to “protect” workers. Ford workers are threatening to strike if those negotiations turn south. Surely GM and Chrysler employees would, too, if they hadn’t given up their right to strike as part of the government bailouts.

It all seems pretty juvenile and I wish Ford could permanently replace those who choose to strike and move on. Thanks to the UAW, that’s not possible. The union is so entrenched in U.S. politics, its leader, Bob King, even flew on Air Force One along with President Obama to his Labor Day speech in Detroit. So the likelihood of the UAW losing its grip anytime soon isn’t good.

It seems to me that when employees build quality vehicles and take pride in putting out the best cars and trucks possible, their job security becomes a function of the company’s success. Artificially protecting jobs through a union is simply archaic. And yes, I understand the history and the economics of unions, I just believe that’s where unions should stay: history.

Would Ford, GM and Chrysler be better off without the UAW?

-tgriffith

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5 Comments

  1. Jim Redd :Think about it… with tech today and things like facebook and twitter and instant news and consumer attitudes, society wouldn’t put up with a company that treated its employees bad.

    Are you kidding? Those mindless droids you mention, staggering around with their faces in their smart phones could care less about corporate greed and abuse. They’re the ones buying those Nike shoes and Kathy Lee Gifford designer close made in sweat shops by children. What’s happening in the middle east is happening because the people are willing to risk their lives to get more freedom, and social media has only helped enable that fight.
    Stupid Americans are only interested in getting the latest gadget or fashion jeans at the cheapest price, even if they are made by slave labor under dictators. At one time, Americans risked their lives and property to secure their freedom from a foreign tyrant, and now they are trading all that to foreign tyrants for cheap toasters and TV sets. And you, sir, will be one of the first to go down, probably willingly.

  2. Much like abortion, gun, immigration, gay marriage, and other social issues, discussions about unions fall into the political sphere and seem to agitate highly intelligent people as we can see here. I would bet that reader Randy has a few gray hairs while readers Jim and tgriffith have few, if any. This is obviously a generational issue and opinions and philosophy will usually determine our attitudes.

    As a graybeard myself, I have struggled mightily on the issue of unionism, specifically work rules and tenure. History is on Randy’s side and economic reality favors our younger folk. Jim and TG rightly question the “usefulness” of unions while Randy obviously remembers well the tragic fight to achieve a middle class life and living standards. The correct solution to the question is relatively simple to address, but much like the issue of regulation, the hard part is determining how much is too much.

    I think most of us would agree that too much regulation is a burden on business and likely harmful to the consumer. So the answer to this is “smart” regulation. So the soup has to be “just right”. So the correct answer to TG’s question is “smart unionism”. The hard part is how do we achieve it?? Workers at the Big Three, took massive pay cuts to keep their jobs and their companies alive. Ford is seeking “givebacks” to achieve parity with the other two. Problem is that the UAW wants to “get back” what they sacrificed to keep the companies alive. So BOTH sides are right and achieving a “smart” solution will be difficult. To Randy’s point BOTH sides will negotiate to find that smart solution and in the end they will both settle on what they feel is the best deal they can get. If they don’t come to agreement BOTH sides lose.

    Aside to Jim: I think you are giving social media way too much credit for what’s happening in the Mideast and its possible role in identifying dreadful working conditions. Just a reminder, the same social media that you credit for Egypt and Libya, failed miserably in Iran, China, Bahrain, and Syria. I live in Appalachia and can tell you that the miners certainly don’t view their employers as “enlightened” and easy to work with. They would hire illegals in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the fear that the miners would shoot them in a minute. To Randy’s point, do you really believe that miners would have the safety regulations they have without the unions?? To your and TG’s point about usefulness, unions have abused their “power” and go way too far to protect incompetent employees. That is clearly correct and as a former teacher for 41 years, I can attest to your point about a lot of dead wood still working, when they shouldn’t.

  3. You know Randy, I think you just proved tgriffith’s point here. Yes, unions were good in 1901 for the reasons you described. Today they aren’t needed. Think about it… with tech today and things like facebook and twitter and instant news and consumer attitudes, society wouldn’t put up with a company that treated its employees bad. I mean, social media essentially took down Egypt and now Libya. Think for a second that a car company would treat its employees with anything but respect considering how fast consumer opinion can turn these days? A few negative tweets about Ford sweatshops or toxic conditions and the company would be boycotted faster then Mubarack was toppled. Let social media protect the workers… unions aren’t needed.

  4. One of the most disturbing trends over the past thirty years in this country has been the displacement of American workers who are in productive and profitable plants, which are then closed down and the production moved to slave labor countries like Mexico, China and Indonesia. There are literally hundreds of such examples, and there’s a simple reason: greed. These companies reason that even though they’re making a healthy profit, they can make even more by replacing $10/hr employees with $1/hr employees. This thought process is obviously disconnected from any kind of ethics, moral responsibility or community involvement.

    I can’t think of any single industry that is more responsible for creating a middle class in this country or that has been more abused in the past thirty years. People like tgriffith forget that those health care and other benefits that are such an important part of their pay, even that 40 hour week and vacation days, come from these auto workers who faced beatings from police and company goons to establish unions and receive good wages and benefits for their hard work. Take a look at the typical worker in 1901 and you’ll see people who worked 70 hour weeks with no health care or retirement benefits, and if injured on the job (which occured often because of the lack of workplace safety rules) the injured employee was simply discarded and left to fend for themselves.
    There’s a new corporate agenda, and that’s to return us to the days when employees did not have a living wage, any benefits at all, no recourse to employer abuses, or a safe working environment. These corporations also want to pay no taxes, not be subject to environmental, employment or trade regulations, and to be able to maximize profits even at the expense and lives of the workers who create that profit in the first place.
    One only has to look at companies like Nike to see every greedy executive’s dream– A plant filled with children working in toxic sweatshop conditions for little money and no benefits, no environmental regulations, and under the protection of a murderous government regime that is responsible for killing tens of thousands of it’s own citizens.
    So I’m not going to preach the evils of unionism, because any intelligent person should have learned from history that the evils of capitalism are far worse.
    People like triffith are doomed to repeat this history because they never seem to realize that sooner or later Mr. Corporate Evil will come knocking on their door as soon as the company they work for figures out how to replace them with someone in India, China or Indonesia.

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