Friend’s of ‘Bama

UAW Government Motors stay open, non-union shops were shut down and workers refused the right to transfer.

Even General Motors Co.’s Lordstown, Ohio, complex, long known for its money-losing small cars and its bad labor climate, is running 24 hours a day, with more than 4,000 workers churning out hot-selling Chevy Cruze compacts.

But here in Moraine, the GM assembly plant closed for good. Despite being one of GM’s most productive and cooperative factories, Moraine was closed following the company’s 2007 labor pact with the United Auto Workers union. Under a deal struck by the UAW during GM’s bankruptcy two years later, Moraine’s 2,500 laid-off workers were barred from transferring to other plants, locking them out of the industry’s rebound.

The trouble with Moraine: Its workers weren’t in the UAW.

“We did everything we could to keep that plant open and keep our jobs,” said Mitchell Wood, a 44-year-old father of two who used to attach tailgates onto sport-utility vehicles at Moraine. “But in the end, we didn’t have a chance, not being in the UAW.”


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18 responses to “Friend’s of ‘Bama

  1. Will

    Not surprising, really. Being in a union = more bargaining power, in this case bargaining to stay open. Organized labor helped make this country great–why should corporations be the only ones allowed/encouraged to “organize” (like-minded individuals pooling their resources toward a common goal, at the most basic level, never mind that most corporations today seem to be run like private fiefdoms, but whatever…)?

    • Just as the teacher’s union has made our public education system the inspiration of the world, as the French unions have brought prosperity to their land, labor unions made this country great. Pardon me if I’m skeptical.

  2. Ask the airlines and the steel industry how the whole union thing worked for them.

  3. Mr. 85 Broad St.

    I remember that plant from a business school case about its dysfunction and the poor quality of the Chevy Vega that was made there. Nice to know that the UAW has kept things the same 30+ years later.

  4. Anonymous

    I worked in a UAW factory that built the electronics for GM cars. I was installing computer systems in the factory and was not a UAW member – I was an electrical engineer for an outside company. We had to be escorted in and out of the building for our personal safety.

    We used to joke about the hours we put in – because the union labor would stop working at 4:00 so they could get on line to punch out at 5:00 sharp. They would start at 10:00 after they punched in at 9:00 sharp. They had 2 thirty minute breaks plus a 45 minute lunch break. They essentially worked 4 hours per day and were paid for 8.

  5. Chief Scrotum

    Dont really think the cost or destructiveness of unions even comes close to the cost of bailing out banks, aig etc. Seems if you look at the poor management of auto, steel etc that may have more to do with their demise than some dopey welders and their henchmen. Throw in perverse gov’t incentives and its a recipe for disaster

    • Long ago an auto executive said they were in the pension/health care business and no longer in the car business. Part of that was indeed due to the manufactures seeking short term labor piece at the price of fatal consequences. Sounds exactly like the mess states like California and Illinois have gotten into with the same result: bankruptcy.

  6. Balzac

    The key here is liberty. Like-minded individuals pooling resources is fine, provided it is a voluntary choice. But if you’re a teacher in the Greenwich school system, or anywhere in CT, you have no choice: you SHALL be a dues-paying union member, as a condition of carrying out your chosen vocation. And while no business is allowed to hold its product off the market (restraint of trade), the unions operate under a unique exemption, because witholding their members’ labor is often the very point of their activity. Is it OK for unions but not for companies? Furthermore, the company in many jurisdictions is legally prohibited from choosing to hire replacement workers, when the union workers strike.

    Try a thought experiment: if it turned out that labor laws had been established in a way that tilted the management/labor relationship too much toward labor, what outcome would you predict? Highly-unionized sectors such as autos, airlines, steel, coal mining in Appalachia (not Wyoming) would have economic difficulties and bankruptcies, as unions extracted the companies’ economic values for the members’s short term benefit. Sound familiar?

    There are many valid reasons why unions now represent about 8-10% of wokers, down two-thirds in 50 years. Americans are concluding that unions have little to contribute.

  7. HG

    Will, your argument assumes the “bargaining power” arose from being in a union and bargaining labor for wages. Didn’t part of it arise because of the vagaries of the bankruptcy process plus another part of the so-called bargaining power arose due to the unusual situation where “management” (the President), who normally bargains for the cleanest, lowest-cost business exiting bankruptcy was more interested in votes than the post-reorganization margins of the business? If the company I worked for wanted my vote I bet I would have more “bargaining power”

  8. Anonymous

    Organized labor has destroyed every industry it has infected. They are cartels that use monopoly power to exact income they do not deserve.

    Government has no competition and no adversarial relationship, so government unions only organize against the public interest.

    The only exception from the above is for “company towns” where the employer has monopoly power. But that rarely exists anymore.

    Read Friedman’s classic “Capitalism and Freedom”.

  9. Will

    To quote Matt Rock:

    “The recently-sparked but age-old debate in regards to unions has always played out a bit like a scene from Monty Python’s classic film, The Life of Brian, where the Romans could easily be substituted for Unions. John Cleese’s memorable line at the end of that scene pretty much sums up exactly how many union debates typically end: “Okay, well, apart from the eight-hour work day, and the forty-hour work week, weekends, sick days, vacation days, paid leave, maternity leave, workplace safety regulations and health standards, social security, the minimum wage, pensions, worker insurance plans and benefits, child labor laws, the retirement age, unemployment insurance, disability pay, overtime pay, laws regarding discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and the downfall of the Polish Communist Party… what have the unions ever done for us!?””

    Seriously folks, unions are no better/worse than corporations, governments, institutions, etc. I’m certainly not saying they’re perfect, but they are no less “legitimate” than anything else. Like the others, they have their place. The reduction of unionized workers in this country over time is not indicative of unions’ “usefulness”, but rather of corporate and government efforts to be rid of them. But believe what you will…

  10. Anonymous

    Wow, Monty Python as a source. How utterly obtuse.

    The wane of unions is due to popular demand. Most people understand the damage they have done. Ideologues and apparently, stupid people, do not.

  11. Will

    Dear Anonymous Coward,
    Please go fuck yourself.

  12. Pingback: Labor and employment roundup

  13. If Unions want to compete in the marketplace, we ought to have the Unions bid on Labor Contractrs.

    GM needs workers for a new factory asks for Union bids. UAW comes in and says our Union Members will work for X. United Factory Workers submits a bid says our members will work for Y. United Service Workers says our workers will work for Z.

    If the winning Union can’t supply enough workers at their bid price, they are held in breech and contract terminated. Next lowest Union wins.

  14. Will

    Don, I see nothing wrong with that idea. Treat unions the same way corporations are treated in this regard–let them compete with each other.