Raving Liberal – Unions are the root of all evil (and other conservative pipe dreams)
As the big US auto companies go to the government with their hats in their hands I hear the Republican chorus begins their timeless mantra “It’s all the Unions fault! Blame it on the unions. Unions are the scourge of commerce! Etc. etc. etc..
Being the name of this site is CONSPIREALITY, I am going to forgo the usual patience with this line of utter nonsense and cut to the chase. BUSTING unions is the root of the US auto industries problems. That and good old fashioned American short-sighted, stock price obsessed bad management.
Let’s start at the beginning. After world war two, the US middle class reached the height of its power. This was a result of socialism, and nothing else. Everyone was put to work and corporations were prosecuted for profiteering if they charged too much for anything. It was effectively a socialist economy for several years and it created a new and enriched middle class. It is the ultimate Irony that the very era the Conservatives herald as the golden era of American lifestyle; the 50’s was purely a product of the very political system that they insist will destroy our country. But I digress..
So along with this powerful middle class came powerful unions, and big international business concerns didn’t like those pesky organizers forcing them to treat their workers right (remember, just a decade or two before WW2, workers worked 6 day weeks and children were commonly employed) so what did they do? They invested in Japan. After World War 2, Japan and Germany were completely rebuilt anew, but where did these devastated economies get their money? US and European banks as well as the US government. And what did they spend it on? Automated production facilities. Robots. High Tech Metallurgy. World class camera lenses from captured Zeiss lense formulas. And then these countries proceeded to begin to kick the antiquated US auto industries ass with better cars. By the 1980’s the difference was so significant, that Japan literally captured nearly 50% of the US market in only 10 years. Why? Because their new high-technology production lines were simply better than the outdated US operations. They made less mistakes. And their material science was newer and better. But these countries were rebuilt with US Dollars with at least one express purpose, to create such extreme competition that they would crush the US Labor Unions for good and take us back to stock-holder friendly Asian labor law standards.
Then in the 90’s the US Auto Industry had a stroke of genius. They finally got the message through to Americans that buying Japanese cars– even if they were better– was destroying our country, and the “Buy American” movement took hold. In just a few years the Japanese — seeing their hard won market share steadily eroding– again demonstrated their consistently superior strategic thinking and moved all assembly of their cars destined for the American market to the U.S. They bought troubled U.S. plants and gave American’s jobs, and the “Buy American” movement fizzled as quickly as it started..
Now one might think that this story would suggest that US auto workers are demonstrably inferior to the more modern Japanese operations, but since 2000 the quality gap has all but disappeared. Yes, Japanese cars are still slightly better on average, but they are also MORE EXPENSIVE, and while people are often willing to pay more for them, the quality gap has really disappeared. The US Auto workers, with less sophisticated equipment produce comparable automobiles to the Japanese and do it economically. So why is the US auto industry failing NOW? BAD CHOICES by their short-sighted, short-term bottom-line fixated management.
The US auto companies have followed the Japanese and German lead for decades, and the only time they have actually succeeded in creating a trend was the SUV, the incredibly stupid idea of putting every Nordstrom’s shopping, latte swilling yuppie in a gas guzzling, 5000 pound TRUCK. And it worked for them for a while, but drunk on their success they failed to see the writing on the wall—namely, that gas prices were going to go up and the era of the truck could not last.. I have a dear friend who in a drunken rant several years ago said something so prophetic, that I have never forgotten it. He said (and I quote), “You know what’s wrong with America today? “There’s too many people driving Trucks WITH NOTHING IN THE BACK!” (Emphasis added to idicate when his voice rose to a yell!) A modern prophet indeed..
So now the Big 3 are going under, but it is not because of the Unions. The U.S auto industry operationally — with unions – has managed quite well to rise to the competition of their better equipped, higher-tech Japanese and German invaders, even given the fact that those countries buy no cars from the U.S. NADA. Not because they are inferior, but because they are nationalistic in the extreme, and practice unchecked import restrictions and impediments.
You see, the Military Industrial Complex, those phantoms the last true Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about, cannot continue to pump wealth from the working class up to the investor class when there are healthy unions forcing them to consider the welfare of their worker bees.
While it is just one facet in the great economic puzzle, like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, the death of US unions will spell the end of the American lifestyle as we know it. Unless our country begins to cater its policies to support the working class, this country will decay to a level we can now only imagine… Unions are not the enemy, as misguided as they can be at times; they are an anchor of civility in American life.
And just in case you were wondering, I have never been in a Union.