I have been thinking about the issue raised by Pete below based on a blog we ran on signs at auto assembly plants around the country banning non GM, Ford or Chrysler products. I noted that Ford owned Jaguar and that Chrysler was owned by Fiat and that GM was manufacturing cars in Brazil, Mexico, and dare I say it, China. Half the parts in these cars are made overseas by non union workers. But none of this seems to carry much weight with the UAW.
Let’s see if I can parse this situation a bit. GM and Chrysler were in such bad shape, financially, that had not the US government bailed them out, they both would have been bankrupt, closed, and the union members would have lost their jobs. Now why is that? From what I can see, it’s mostly because of the long term benefits paid to UAW workers, long after they stopped working. All three companies owe many billions in unfunded retirement and medical benefits to millions of retired workers. I’m not begrudging these benefits however the companies that are giving them must be able to pay for them. That is a problem. I understand that management agreed to the benefits, and probably shouldn’t have, but no matter what the reason, there simply isn’t enough money. There is also the issue of work rules. Just as you can’t park your Toyota in the lot next to the plant, you can’t flip a light switch unless you are an electrician, or turn off the water unless you are a plumber. (Well, it may not be that bad, but people tell stories like this all the time.)
In come the Japanese companies who make excellent vehicles, pay the same wage rates as the big three auto companies, but are more conservative in their benefits and liberal in their work rules. Their cars are great, their employees happy, and they are profitable. And they are built right here in the US.
There was a time, 70 years ago, that working conditions in factories weren’t the best. Unions sprang up (can you say Norma Rae) and workers rights were protected. Businesses today seem to have learned their lesson. The adversarial relationships between worker and management seem to me to be a tad out of date.
This childish notion that people who don’t buy cars made by a certain company need to be pilloried in the town square, or made to park down the road is absurd. It is a philosophy of the playground, of bullies that have never grown up. It would seem to me that if you can’t convince someone that it’s in their best interest to buy a product from the company that employees them with intelligent reason and adult discussions, then you have already lost.
What if the union member had welcomed the reporter, taken him on a tour of the plant, showed him all the benefits of the cars that were made there, and then ended with “Next time consider a Chevy. They are really a great car.”
I don’t know if the reporter would have bought a Chevy next time, but I will tell you that there is no way in hell he’s going to buy one after the treatment he got on that hot day in June when he had to park on the side of the highway instead of in a nice safe parking lot.