UAW website

Robert S. Thau (
Sat, 13 Jun 1998 23:08:09 -0400 (EDT)

Jim Whitehead writes:
> The UAW FAQ is interesting for its point-of-view, still very much
> us-vs-them, labor vs. management. Amazed that this kind of viewpoint still
> exists...

For some reason, it doesn't show up in the press --- labor reporting
seems to have quietly died over the past few decades (aside from the
deliberate grenade-lobbing of Roger Moore, whose TV show wasn't
renewed, for some reason, on either of two networks, despite good
ratings in prime demographics for both; this couldn't *possibly* have
anything to do with the political agenda of network ownership).

But the unions are still out there, and they still are very
confrontational at times. This is arguably not the best way for them
to relate to management --- German unions, for instance, which are
generally stronger than their American counterparts, maintain a far
more cordial relationship with management. But that's in part a
choice of management itself (ours and theirs).

German companies, for instance, give the unions a much stronger voice
in the companies' day-to-day operations, up to and including such
matters as work scheduling and plant closures. American management
regards these matters as its own exclusive prerogative, and refuses to
yield to the union on any matter where there isn't some legally
binding contractual clause to force it to yield --- hence, the
notoriously inflexible work rules which bedevil American union shops,
which become the only way for the union to have any control at all
over the workplace.

(I'm going in large part on the reportage from the "Made In America"
report from the MIT Commission on Industrial Productivity... which is
admittedly nearly a decade old. On the other hand, things certainly
haven't changed much *here*).

One final note on evaluating these sorts of attitudes on the part of
union labor. Most of the people on this mailing list have highly
sought-after skills, which give us a nontrivial amount of power in the
relationships we have with our employers. Most factory workers, on
the other hand, do not. So, it can be a bit dangerous to generalize
from personal experience (as opposed to, say, the experience of a
cousin who's actually *working* in a factory, not that I have one), in
trying to figure out what sorts of attitudes are or are not reasonable
for factory workers to have. (And no, it's not just the "union
bosses" that create things like the GM strike --- strikes can't happen
without the workers themselves, who vote to start them, vote to finish
them, and literally put their butts on the line in between).