Union Stifles Modern Auto Innovation

Promoted. They are the past. We are the future. -Patrick

Where is the most innovative, cost effective, and modern auto manufacturing plant in the world? It sure as heck isn't in the USA. Why isn't it here, in a country that has traditionally been at the top of the game for innovation?

The one word answer: Unions.

The state-of-the-art auto manufacturing plant in question is in Bahia, Brazil. Sadly, it is a U.S. carmaker that invented and operates the plant. It is a Ford manufacturing facility that is renowned for being one of the "most advanced automobile plants in the world." According to the Detroit News, "(i)t is more automated than many of Ford's U.S. factories, and leaner and more flexible than any other Ford facility. It can produce five different vehicle platforms at the same time and on the same line."

So, why didn't Ford build it here?

Ford sources said it is the sort of plant the company wants in the United States, were it not for the United Auto Workers, which has historically opposed such extensive supplier integration on the factory floor.

Once again it comes down to unions being the stumbling block to improvement, innovation, modernization, and the future. Unions stifle business and eliminate the ability of a company to be flexible enough to be able to change with the times. Unions have us stuck in 1950, death to a vital business atmosphere.


The work force in Brazil is maintained and trained differently, too. Here we have the problem of workers finding their particular jobs eliminated and the workers having no other skills with which to find new work or to take a different job in the industry. Whether it is putting bolt A into slot B, or affixing a bumper to a car frame, U.S. workers are trained for one job and one job only per union rules. This leaves the worker vulnerable to being phased out leaving him untrained for any other job. In the Bahia plant, however, workers are trained for several jobs.

Unlike many U.S. auto plants, where workers' responsibilities are strictly limited to specific job classifications, workers like Silva dos Santos are encouraged to learn as many different skills as possible.

This makes the workers there more flexible affording them more skills that are useful to the employer as well as offering more stability for their own employment.

And what is a result of this innovation and hard work in Brazil? An economic boom for the nation.

The land is not the only thing Ford is improving in Bahia, according to the state's senator and former governor, César Borges. He estimates that some 50,000 jobs have been created in the area because of the Ford plant and says the state's GDP has almost doubled since it opened.

This is what is being denied to the United States because of unions and government interference.

Despite initial skepticism, even the unions in South America are realizing the boon that this plant gives them.

"In the beginning, we were very concerned about the new plant in Bahia, but now we recognize the importance of that plant in keeping (Ford's other Brazilian plant) alive," said union leader José Lopez Feijóo. "The Bahia products were vital to reviving the Ford brand in the country."

Too bad our unions in America are so destructive, unnecessary and backwards. Too bad our economy is being destroyed in part by union foot dragging.

There once was a time that the USA was a world leader in manufacturing and innovation. Thanks to Democrats and unions that time has long since passed.

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more than forty percent down in sales?


The problem with these companies is that they produce crap

I would look at management for the reasons. I don't think the UAW had much to do with GM/Ford/Chrysler not creating a hybrid while Toyota was cleaning their clocks.

I want to see these companies survive, but get real, they didn't make cares people wanted to buy.  They fought the CAFE standards for years and then the price of oil went way up again.  Oddly enough people stayed home in droves rather than buy those gas guzzlers.

As much fun as it is to try to blame the UAW, I think it is more accurate to look at management who did not chose to really sell cars that people wanted to buy.


well, some of this is right, but

even Toyota, with no UAW to contend with and supposedly brilliant management, is sucking wind these days.

Detroit gets hassled for fighting CAFE standards and building SUV's but Toyota dropped billions on new US plants to built the Tundra and Sequoia, which get 13 mpg city. The foreign makers went where the profit is; which is more expensive vehicles. Sadly for Toyota, their monster trucks are sitting on the lot like everyone elses.

And Toyota found even giving away zero percent interest on the Camry and the Corolla their sales were down 30% last month.  

GM still sold more vehicles in North America last year than Toyota so the problem isn't either firm was making products for which there wasn't a market. They both had significant markets.  GM's problem is in spite of their market share they couldn't sell cars profitably---whether they got good or bad fuel economy.

Even the most beautiful fuel efficient car is pretty useless to the manufacturer if they can;t make a profit selling it. 

prius' and other hybrids are still blowing out

whenever they can get them in.

demand makes prices go up, yes?

But I hear you -- GM and company are Incompetent, deserve to fail -- but we have to save our production capacity.

I figure we ought to break em up into twenty pieces, each with new management, and give those pieces the money to keep going till they can get on their feet. Even if that's $100 billion, at least it goes towards real jobs and real innovation.

Unlike MOST of the over 10% of our GDP we spend on health care....

Have the Big 3 heard of right-to-work states?

...there are 22 of them as I understand.  Why do they continue to operate in closed shop union states?  I have little sympathy for them.  The problem is - cowardly management.  We need bold, brilliant and radical leaders in corporate America.  My opinion is the Big 3 are hurting themselves by crawling to DC and begging for $$.  They're losing massive amounts of respect.   They should go ahead and go broke. Declare bankruptcy of some sort.  Then announce that they'll be closing down all their plants up north and moving them to the south.  Where all the right-to-work states are located.  And the poor pensioners just need to get in line w/all the other creditors.  I feel for these folks but to think you can retire at 55 is living in fantasy land.  Who wants to retire anyway? What a bore.  DD

Installed base

Too much of the business is simply "planted" up north; especially subcontractors who might walk off in sympathy strikes. Perhaps a decade or so ago GM could have slowly shut down its MI operations and left enough capacity running  in TN, LA , TX and OK to hire strikebreakers and keep running the business; that ship has sailed. 

I wonder if going ahead...

...and simply allowing themselves to sink to a level where they could declare some sort of bankruptcy protection would change that.  If they had some governors/senators/congressmen from these right-to-work states, simultaneously jumping in and helping.  Trying to get those re-located factories into their states, it might be do-able.    I know the uaw is powerful but they're also very unpopular outside these old rust belt states.    What do you think? DD

Here's a great article


This article is a little dated but it basically says that starting with a "clean sheet" is an advantage (and this is a GM article).

It looks like starting fresh is a big advantage. There couldn't be a better time to do it than now.The more I hear about these union contracts, the more I wonder how the Big Three were able to stay in business at all. The unions have now pushed the envelope to the point that we, the taxpayers, will have to foot the bill for their ridiculous contracts. These unions are not protecting workers, they are creating permanent entitlement programs that will finally have to be addressed. I say move 'em south!

interesting speech here:


I'm not entirely clear why we want to sheer wages of working class folks. After all, if you look at the NEW and UNPRECENDENTED concentration of wealth in the elites, middle class income starts at $250,000 and goes up from there.

Where are conservatives, and what the fuck are they doing about this?

Or are they conservatives that would like to quench our grand experiment, in favor of the old brutish regime of feudalism?

Cause from my vantagepoint that's what it looks like.


Not specifically about GM -- though they're fucking fools and I wouldn't listen to a word of the people who could run GM into teh ground.

RTide! You naughty!...

...you must find a substitute for th F word.  You'll get booted!  Remember, we're a bunch of self  righteous Evangelicals around here.  For us that language is reserved for driving in heavy traffic. Then it can be justified.  Don't want you to get booted RT!  Naughty!

Regarding shaving wages. It all depends on what part of the country you live in.  The cost of living is much less expensive in the south.  Dramatically.  A wage of $250K annually?  Wow down here your livin' large.  5000 sq ft mansion, 3 car garage, 2 H3 and Escalade in your drive and a state of the art bass boat. Trophy wife, etc.    But in lower Manhattan, $250K isn't enough to get by.  See my point?  Move 'em south.  Maybe you need to head south too RT?  DD

*snickers* glad this isn't red state

and you make me laugh, which is good. Otherwise a liberal gal like me gets too irate, and then look at how many blue words I use! (intemperate exlamations are quite practical for displaying emotions, though they do absolutely nothing for the persuadability of my comments)

I understand that the cost of living is dramatically less in the South. But that does not change the fact that the South is considerably less prepared than the "gas taxing North" for high gas prices (more than 10% of income spent on gasoline, even before the prices double??).

I'm more upset by the dramatic relocation of wealth from the so called middle class into the elite's hands. It means a more pyrimidal society -- and when we see a diamond society turning into a pyrimidal one, it dramatically increases the odds of Revolution Rebellion and Riots.

So I'm looking for what conservatives would do to protect our national security (besides installing gattling guns on the Roosevelt's estates, as the rich did in the thirties)

so you're a girl!...

...some of the single guys will pay much closer attention to your posts, I'm sure.  Not me. I'm married, happily and only interested in that great mind of yours that you keep so well concealed most of the time. Ha! 

In Houston we love high gas prices. It equates to high paying jobs.  But thats sort of a fluke.   but its the "high paying" jobs that we're being con'd out of in this nation.  I agree.  The Middle Class is diminishing.  And both of our political parties are to blame.  Especially the dem's but also the pansie Repub's who have lost all their fight.  We could be doing our domestic drilling thing with that $500-$700 billion folding back into our own economy. But we're not. Why?  Radical greenies (like Rising Tide - oh you thought I didn't know?)  The dem's love 'em and the cowardly Repub's are scared of 'em.  And, you'll be happy to know, I am one conservative who is actually "for" the Corn Ethanol Program.  Why?   Not because of the lower greenhouse gasses.  If it were up to me we'd be burning 100 octane leaded.  No but because the ethanol program has driven up the price of grains 300%.  And who is the worlds largest export of grains?  Ha! You guessed it the USA.  So as a result we're bringing in boatloads of foreign capital which is keeping us from going under right now.  And providing high paying Agri-Business jobs.   Hey RT, I go into this on my blog in detail.  Stop by and honor me by making some comments:  (  link )  Gotta' run.  DD

you wonder why I don't bother to mention it much? ;-)

Happily married myself, for as long as it lasts (financial crisis is killing everyone these days. Just look at Tanta).

We need productivity increases most of all -- The Best New Infrastructure Ever, 'green' industry (we've been doing the science for how long? gotta get it in production, and quick). I swear, the econ geeks think that will pull us out of the recession too. 70% of our economic spending comes from consumers -- with that tanking, we're gonna need a whole big boatload of money from the government. Or so the Keynesians say. The Friedmanian thing got tried by King Henry, though, and it failed, so we'll go the old - fashioned FDR way. Might just work. Nobody knows.

Why are you calling me a radical greenie? I'm a conservative green, I'll have you know. And I'm for us selling our oil when we can get the best price for it -- which will be in twenty years. That's using mine kidneys. Besides, ain't it a matter of National Security that we have some oil to run those crazy nuclear subs? (that is, until my friends get the nuclear fusion reactor up and running! then, by all means, drill away! I kid, I kid, it probably won't be a good idea to put it in tanks...)

Speaking of National Security -- you do realize that ethanol usage DRAMATICALLY affects tortilla prices, right? With the economy tanking (meaning that Mexicans are headed back to Mexico, I kid you not -- and the ones that aren't, are not sending as much back home), we have a serious risk of Mexico going all failed state on us.

You prepared to deal with a few million Mexicans in American refugee camps? If you are, and think that the ethanol can support that (I'll want to see your numbers on that one!), then by all means ethanol will be the way to go.

Also, a good deal of the increase in grain prices is because India and China are hoarding their own rice, refusing to export it (It's why I've got thirty pounds at home. When wallmart and costco started the rationing, I stocked up!)

A conservative greenie?...

Another hybrid like the Duck Goose, huh?  Well we eat a lot of rice at our house, too.  So much that we can't hoard it.  We buy it at the Hong Kong Mkt in 25 lb bags.   Jasmine. Ahhh! 

Being from Tx and having suffered as a result of illegal immigration, I love the idea of Mexico paying more for corn.  We need to stick it to 'em.  Some of the richest people in the world live there and these need to pay the Mexican gov't more taxes.  If I lived in Mexico I'd be a bleeding, taxing liberal.  They need a dose of that down there.  We're over amped with it up here trying to provide a safety net not only for our poor but also for the poor of other nations!  Not fair. My site!  Visit my site>>  Darvin Dowdy

conservatism is environmentalism

seriously. it's keeping something for the grandkids.

BTW, if you hunt, NW PA needs you BAD. The deer are eating the forest up there -- ain't a pretty sight.

50% of american wealth is owned by the top 1% of Americans

we're turning into mexico, man. I think it's high time we did something about that!

And that top 1%...

...is funneling $$ through the US Chamber, to GOP ( and dem) candidates who support the porous southern border. Keeping the flow of cheap illegal labor.   Are we becoming Mexico or is Mexico becoming us?  Meanwhile the Middle Class is being factored out of the equation.  6.7% unemployment now, huh?  DD

bit of both, I fear. I HATE sweatshops.

people die there (which is a great handle to use on cityfolk, and liberals in general).

11.1% unemployment by the U6.

You attack the lowest guy on the totem pole

... and say, "There's our problem!"

You're an idiot. 

Chrysler has pretty good plant in Belvidere, IL

Don't knock some of those workers in the midwest.  My sister worked in accounting of a non-union factory that decided to build a plant somewhere down south for cheaper taxes and labor.  The adventure failed because workers didn't show up when the weather was nice.  You can't get much work done without laborers.

You should read about some of the retooling that was done at the nearby Belvidere Assembly Plant.  I'm not sure how to post the link - but I'll try.


...The plant, which was extensively retooled in 2005, has become a flagship for Chrysler Group’s adoption of flexible manufacturing. Flexible manufacturing is allowing the Company to bring its new vehicles to market more quickly and the Belvidere Assembly Plant to manufacture multiple products on one assembly line...


cerberus financial good for something?

just why are we bailing out the bank?

We shouldn't

Cerberus has very diversified holdings and should not be bailed out. Chrysler should be allowed to reorganize.


You guys should listen to your own propagandists.


Yesterday, Sean Hannity had a guy from GM on to bounce the Conservative talking points of "CAFE killed GM!!"  "The UAW killed the Big Three!!"


But the GM guy was having none of it.  He said that what is causing problems to the Big Three is



2.  Legacy costs, meaning older car companies have retirees who worked and contributed to growth and earned their pension benefits.

3. HEALTH CARE:  Much of the competitive edge of foreign companies is due to the fact that the COUNTRIES pay the health care costs there, and GM pays them here.

4.  TARIFFS and SUBSIDIES: The Japanese do not allow GM to sell cars in Japan without assessing a heavy tariff.  And the Japanese Govt helps Toyota and Nissan and Mazda with subsidies for health care, training, and capital development.

There's nothing Conservatives hate more than organized Labor.  Never understood why.  In the History of this country,. all Unions have done is unite workers so they can negotiate for their rights with business.  And it produced a healthy, strong, middle class, a skilled worker class, and a decent life for milions of Americans.  And Big Business in America has STILL made money hand over fist.

Right-to-work?  Hah!!   Right to starve. 

Wages and benefits to workers in these states lag far behind those of Union states.  Profits?  Ummm not so much.

I agree completey

Fiscal conservatives don't hate organized labor.  All Republicans should support an individuals right to freely associate and to bargain for their labor.  This present anti-union propaganda is not shared by all Republicans, but is formulated by the party's corporate masters.

However, once the present economy fails to support either private or public union contracted wage levels, public funds should never be used to meet those wage levels without the express consent of the taxpayer -- never.

ex animo


Starving at $35 an hour?

"Wages and benefits to workers in these states lag far behind those of Union states.  Profits?  Ummm not so much."

How much is enough for this type of job? They pay about $35/hour in the right to work states $85/per hour in the Union shops. Including benefits.

I'm curious. How much should a skilled laborer make in the US? Besides free healthcare, how many weeks of vacation, how many holidays., and how many dollars per hour is a fair wage?


and you wonder why GM and Big Auto want Universal Health Care?

it's to remain competitive in a global marketplace.

but lord forbid that we actually try to make something in America, huh, conservatives?

It's the UAW not Unions in general.

The problem is not unions in general.  The problem is the UAW.  The UAW has been a shortsighted, stiff necked union for years, especially under the "leadership" of Gettelfinger.

But there's been a lack of vision on either side in bargaining these contracts.  Remember that everything in the contracts was agreed to by the companies.  While I wish that the union was more forward looking in shaping their demands, the companies could have brought forward looking proposals to the table and haven't.

There are many dynamic, forward thinking unions in this country. 

The attitude of most conservatives towards unions in this country shows how much our politics are shaped by temperment.  Unions are supposed to bargain hard to get the best deals for their members.  Business leaders who are tough, even ruthless negoiators are seen by conservatives are folk heroes.  Why don't you admire workers who have the wherewithal to do the same?

Likewise the wholesale distaste for unions and the naive belief that their day is past.  Right now the institution that poses the greatest threat to American capitalism is investment banking.   Corrupt, mismanaged and overcompensated,  yet I be mighty surprised to hear Patrick saying "They are the past.  We are the future." about investment banks. 

And Warner, spare us your concern trolling for SEIU locals.

I disagree

You said, "The problem is not unions in general. "

Yes. Yes, it is. They are unAmerican all the way down the line.

However, I'll certainly grant that private business may involve themselves with unions and that workers have every right as Americans to join them.

But unions should absolutely, positively be OUT of government worker's lives. Unions are entirely antithetical to good governing and government workers at every level should not be allowed to unionize. Ever. Under any circumstances.


 I definitely think there

 I definitely think there needs to be limits on unions.  But as for all unions being bad, its not always the case.


The UAW is an example of unions abusing their power.  My father has worked most of his life negotiating UAW contracts on the side of the Big 3. Trying his hardest to get them to agree to less pay increases when their productivity literally decreased consistently.  He would show me charts and tables my entire life and you could see production just falling and pay increasing. 

Its also good to point out, the UAW even has the janitors in their plants in on their Union.  My father said some of these janitors can set it up so they are making 70k a year.  

Another example of UAW idiocy.  I used to live in cincinnati.  My dad worked for a ford joint venture plant.  He pointed out to ford that the UAW leader for the plant was screwing over the company, barely working at all and still getting paid a lot of money.  Ford's reaction? They considered firing my father just for pointing this thief out.  Thats how strong the UAW's control over these companies is. 

As the person who mentioned the GM guy talking to hannity.  He isn't completely right.  There are two reasons these companies are failing.  First, is the UAW.  Second is healthcare.  When these companies couldnt stop making money for decades they paid their employees more than they deserved.  Now, they are locked into those ludicrous payments and benefits until most of the employees die.  This is what is putting them in the red the most.

Fuel efficiency/hybrid technology reasoning is garbage.  We didn't need great fuel economy because gas was cheap.  Nobody cared about hybrids until gas went up... for a 3-4 year period.  Now its back down and people already dont care.  American cars were built big because thats what we wanted. The big 3 couldnt adjust fast enough when gas went up fast enough so the japanese took advantage.  Now, gas is cheap, but it doesnt matter because everyone is getting destroyed by the market right now.

the unions are at the table now, so is GM

I'd rather throw the lot of them down the rabbit hole, but as long as they're willing to get their ACT together (and yeah, that includes taking some sort of reduction in benefits), then maybe we ought to keep production capacity in this country.

Unions may talk a tough talk, but it's in their best interest to keep the company running. As It Should Be.


They are unAmerican all the way down the line.

However, I'll certainly grant that private business may involve themselves with unions and that workers have every right as Americans to join them.

But unions should absolutely, positively be OUT of government worker's lives. Unions are entirely antithetical to good governing and government workers at every level should not be allowed to unionize. Ever. Under any circumstances.


That's laying your cards on the table.

I'd love to see you deliver that speech to NYC police and firefighters.  And the families of those who died trying to save people on 9/11.

Please explain the logic

Behind this argument? What makes unions "unAmerican"?

What is the reality here?

Anyone happen to have some sort of example of these union members workday/workweek?

Do they work more than 8 hrs a day? Could they if they wanted to? Could they work 60-80 hr's a week if they wanted to and could the Company say NO? These are damned good wages for being a cog in a machine.

they had a post here from a auto worker

the company is allowed to force someone to do overtime, on two hours notice (that's probably an entire plant sort of thing, just guessing).

That info is correct

Overtime is based on need.  Very little overtime is voluntary because of the assembly line.  Usually the whole plant or at least a whole department has to work for the assembly line to run.  I remember when my husband was working they had to do up to 75 cars per minute.  That is less than 1 second per car to finish their job.  Not everyone can handle the fast pace.  He saw many new hires walk off the job the first day - some even at their first break.  He still has problems with his hands from some of the jobs he did during his 30 years.  No, he never did sue or even take off work for those injuries.  The only time he was off on medical leave was when he ruptured a hernia pushing a car when the line broke down.  He received S&A for that but nothing else - probably because he was never a whiner like so many others.

What is normal for labor cost?

I'm watching C-Span where they have live coverage of the autoworkers/House discussion.  Someone said the cost of wages plus benefits of labor is 10% of the cost of the autos.  What is normal to pay for labor in manufacturing?  If he said what the management cost was - I didn't hear it.  Gettlefinger seems to be willing to go back to the bargaining table if everyone else is willing.  He thinks all involved should be willing to make concessions.   He also said that the union made many concessions during the last two contracts.  I know that is true.  Retirees now have to pay part of their medical premiums and the insurance doesn't cover near as well as it used to.  My husband and some of his friends were amonng those that took the 30 and out retirement from Chrysler during a time of high unemployment in our area so younger workers could get decent jobs to support their families.  Our medical covered everything when he retired.  They currently don't pay any of our office calls, we have a deductible that office calls doesn't go towards, plus we have to pay a small amount towards the premium.  Hubby and his friends had to go find jobs to make up the difference.  But, praise the Lord, at least some of those "kids" that replaced them are still working - for now at least. 

The "gap" between entry level jobs at the big 3 and the foreign automakers has shrunk, too.  The "cushy" jobs (fork lift drivers and other material movers) that used to go to seniority workers is now the starting level jobs starting at under $15 dollars an hour.  I don't think they receive benefits until they move up to the assembly line jobs.  A GM retiree friend of our family got a job at a Wal-Mart distribution center driving fork lift starting at the same wage as a new hiree at the big 3.

I live in an area that is near the state of the art Chrysler Belvidere [IL] Assembly Plant and the dinosaur GM Plant in Janesville, WI.  The GM Plant is the oldest operating plant in the country and was already set to close down at the end of the year.  The Chrysler Plant in Belvidere was completely overhauled in 2005 and is the largest Chrysler Plant in the country. 







source of the unions?

It is my understanding that the leftist illuminati are the ones who were helping the unions and allowing them to get to the size that they are. One of the most logical solutions seems to be, at this time, to take away the power from the unions. Why hasn't this been discussed in more detail? 

There's no banning of trolls here huh?

I think any mention of "illuminati" should at least deserve some looking-into, no?