Birmingham News Bashes UAW

For anyone who missed it, last week the United Auto Workers made its first move in a bid to unionize the Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama. They said about 300 workers showed up to the initial pitch in a motel in Lincoln.

Admittedly, the UAW faces a similar uphill battle in this effort to the one they faced when they failed to unionize Mercedes five years ago (the Mercedes plant is currently the target of a unionizing drive by the IAM). Unions have a tough time at auto manufactures in Alabama for a simple reason; auto plants in Alabama pay a lot more than other industries do. The bottom line is wages, and as long as wages stay high the unions are going to face uphill battles.

That being said, this Birmingham News’ editorial (which, incidentally, strikes the tone of a whiny high school broadsheet) misses the point entirely:

One of the reasons Alabama is so successful in attracting manufacturing plants is because workers care about salary, benefits, safety and respect – not the sort of petty issues a union must emphasize these days to gain any real traction.

The fact is, those are exactly the issues that unions emphasize; salary, benefits, safety and respect. Yes, in Alabama the auto companies have so far ponied up the salary and benefits (in no small part because they’d like to keep the state union-free). However, working at a plant where you can be fired to make way for a supervisor’s nephew, where your shift can be changed repeatedly without regard to your personal needs, or where safety takes a backseat to productivity isn’t going to be pleasant, even if your wages are relatively high.

I love how completely naive the commentator is about management:

Honda management is taking the right approach, too. Instead of worrying too much about union meetings, spokesman Mark Morrison stayed on the high road: “We can’t allow outside influences to cause us to lose focus on our mission of providing a quality product for our customers. The Honda philosophy is based on mutual respect for individuals.”

The views of this utterly naive journalist aside, Honda isn’t in the business of providing happy jolly world for its employees. Honda is in the business of making money, and if it feels it can make more money by tromping on its workers, it will do so. Once the union drive starts in force, I fully expect Honda to respond with the same dirty, underhanded tactics that have kept plants all over the country from unionizing.


via – Left in Alabama

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4 Comments on “Birmingham News Bashes UAW”

  1. I recently visited a Toyota plant in Kentucky. I work for a unionized manufacturing company. The auto plant was not union. They were paid as well as us, had better benefits than us, and the safety and attendance records were astounding. 96% of the workforce was from kentucky.

    It’s hard for union people to get it, but you have to offer more in the way of representation than to bury your head in the sand at every opportunity. The Japanese automakers are very successful at keeping their shops union free, and you can’t do that with a disgruntled workforce. Good luck with your union drive, but don’t hold your breath

    I have to posts tagged journey to excellence if you’d like to hear more about the toyota plant.

  2. Michael Says:

    I have nothing to do with the union drive; just keeping everyone informed. 😉

    Your point is taken about Japanese automakers; traditionally they have been better employers than American companies. However, that is changing, and even in Japan management has come under fire for unfair practices.

    Yeah, I would definitely like to hear your experiences with Toyota. Post a link and I’ll check it out.



    it was an impressive display of manufacturing capabilities. I’m not sure if i mentioned it in the articles, but it takes 2 full years to become a permanent employee…this certainly enables them to ensure the employees they keep will be motivated.

  4. Michael Says:

    An interesting read, thanks for the link.

    I would make the point, though, that one of the reasons foreign automakers have kept wages and benefits high is they don’t want their employees to unionize.

    Still, what do I know? Maybe this plant just has an especially enlightened management, and union representation really isn’t needed. It’s always possible.

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