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    why they hate us, answer # 4,336..., 2007-04-28 23:39:22 | Main | within prayer distance of striking hopeful..., 2007-04-29 15:51:35

    business end to blame for ultimate oblivion brinks:

    The stuff about blaming the UAW for GM's Q1 loss to Toyota is kinda silly, e.g.:

    the most egregiously overinflated and overwrought labor contracts in history with the United Auto Workers union -- which ultimately led the domestic automakers to the brink of oblivion in just 20 years.

    The general argument seems to be that Japan doesn't have to cope with any of these entangling union deals, as though Japan is some union-free capitalist class paradise, but Japan has 7% higher union density than the United States.

    Toyota does have 8 or so plants in the US. During the old gung-ho Jap-scare of the 80s the US started making demands that Japanese automakers open plants here or face countermeasures against protectionist Japanese industrial policies. Between the freshly Reaganite anti-union NLRB and by locating new plants in depressed southern states most Japanese firms have had little trouble keeping the union out: they generally beat out union wages (particularly considering the lower cost of living indexes in said depressed areas) and don't bear any of the cost of retirees. The higher wages are the direct product of past UAW bargaining - Toyota pays higher wages than they would with union employees to keep them non-union, they don't want any part to bear regarding the cost of private risk pools - the latter is the product of our own dunderheaded stupidity.

    Then there's the question of who's to blame for those "overinflated and overwrought labor contracts". 60 years ago it was the UAW that was rejecting private pension offers:

    In the nineteen-thirties, unions had launched a number of health-care plans, many of which cut across individual company and industry lines. In the nineteen-forties, they argued for expanding Social Security. In 1945, when President Truman first proposed national health insurance, they cheered. In 1947, when Ford offered its workers a pension, the [UAW] voted it down. The labor movement believed that the safest and most efficient way to provide insurance against ill health or old age was to spread the costs and risks of benefits over the biggest and most diverse group possible.

    Toyota is saving on their Japanese labor costs because they've got a national plan covering them, and don't have to renegotiate it everytime there's a new contract. The non-union Toyota employees in the US are up a creek when they're let go for an injury, layoff, or retirement, but that's not Toyota's fault (and there's obviously not many layoffs at present). That's US federal policy, shaped by the continued resistance of corporate interests against nationalized risk pools for healthcare and full retirement. What partial benefits we do have have from social security has been under attack by business interests for decades, with no end in sight of phony crisis talk. GM's continued resistance to standard OECD practice is entirely ideological and economically incoherent. GM preferred "overinflated and overwrought labor contracts", and they got them good and hard.

    Nor is it the UAW's fault that GM dropped out of the Toyota-GM joint hybrid project and decided to continue building gas guzzling hulks, talking about how hybrids didn't make "environmental or economic sense" as late as 2004. You can place some blame on high oil prices and smug hippies for GM's loss of market share, maybe, or UAW resistance to higher CAFE standards ("technologically infeasible", the UAW agreed with their bosses, while Toyota engineers had to continue meeting high Japanese efficiency standards), but that choice was ultimately up to GM management and their faith in an infinite horizon of $1.50 gas.


:: posted by buermann @ 2007-04-29 14:17:52 CST | link





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