Big Three Back-and-Forth

Whether or not you agree with Michael Barone's main point that unions are to blame, it is undeniable that unionization leads to an adversarial management-worker relationship ["Who Is at Fault for the Decline of the Big Three?" usnews.com].

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Whether or not you agree with Michael Barone's main point that unions are to blame, it is undeniable that unionization leads to an adversarial management-worker relationship ["Who Is at Fault for the Decline of the Big Three?" usnews.com]. I never really got it until reading Barone's article, but the difference between Toyota and GM is really the relationship between management and employees. Companies that take care of their employees and have good working relationships ultimately outperform those that do not. When you ask a Toyota worker about management, the response is that they work together as a team. Management just happens to be the leader of the team. But management is also open to new ideas and innovations workers devise. You can't tell me this happens at the Big Three. I'm all for protecting workers and improving safety and quality, but unions are a relic of an older time that are holding back the Big Three. If unionization is so superior, why is it that Toyota and Honda sell more vehicles, produce higher quality vehicles, and have higher resale values? Clearly unions benefit workers but not necessarily consumers. Now that they've hit on hard times they want us, the consumers, to bail them out. I'll be damned if my hard-earned money is going to pay for a retired UAW's pension.

Comment by Sam of OH

The demise of the Big Three has nothing to do with the economy. Their troubles are not due to the UAW, either. The Big Three are in trouble for one simple reason: For the past 25 years, they have built products that have been, across the board, inferior to their competition. The UAW did not lose market share for the Big Three. What the UAW did do, however, is help prevent the Big Three from responding the way they needed to (although denial and bureaucracy play a huge part as well).

Comment by Jack of TX

First of all, we did not "lose control" over our economy; as a free market, it is not controlled anyway. Secondly, most U.S.-owned plants overseas don't export back to the U.S.A. but serve their domestic market. Outsourcing jobs overseas has occurred, but unions have only hastened the process. You cannot have work rules, above-market wages, etc., and not have foreign parts suppliers be cheaper. Ironically, the Japanese exporters have outsourced production of some of their cars to the United States in the form of transplant factories. So any unionist argument about how we have "lost control" is completely wrongheaded. Unions have hobbled their employers and then wonder why the foreigners keep taking the market share? It's like the cook at the restaurant who spits in the food and wonders why there are not many customers or tips.

Comment by Aaron of CA

Barone's analysis provides a far too narrow and antiseptic view of unionism. The Wagner Act (which sanctioned collective bargaining) was hardly a response to Taylorism. Rather Taylorism (developed long before the New Deal) was symptomatic of a larger economic and corporate milieu that emerged in the post-Civil War period and tolerated, among other things, the employment of middle-school-aged children in mines and factories, justified under the banner of freedom of contract between laborers and employers. This history also included the use of hired thugs and federal troops to repress union organizing through violence in the name of free enterprise and property rights. The Taylorist idea of treating workers like dumb animals was a reflection of this wider environment rather than a prime cause. All of the above notwithstanding, adversarial unionism is, as Barone argues, counterproductive. However, this legacy owes much to the conservative Supreme Court's invalidating the early New Deal programs under the NRA that were attempting to organize the economy on a more cooperative (i.e., corporatist) basis.

Comment by Richard Harris of NJ

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