Thursday, July 09, 2009

Stirrin' It Up in Flint, Michigan

University of Michigan-Flint professor: Is UAW vehicle profiling legal and fair?

A professor at the University of Michigan-Flint says the decades-old prohibitions at union-owned properties like UAW Local 599 in Flint are outdated because car makers like General Motors and Ford are making parts and vehicles outside the country while companies like Toyota have increasingly built vehicles and parts made by union workers.

Bill Jordan, president of UAW Local 599 (see sign above from the Local 599 parking lot), says Professor Perry's discussion of the gray areas between foreign and domestic vehicles misses the union's larger point about what are often poor conditions for workers outside the U.S. "We have a real problem when people are trying to compete in a market where (in another country) if a worker dies, it doesn't matter. They just replace them tomorrow," Jordan said. "If they would raise their standard of living to match ours ... there would be no problem."

MP: Forget about Mexico, I'm just trying to figure out if Local 599 would really tow a union-made car built in Canada (like a Buick Lacrosse) or a UAW-built car in the U.S. (Toyota Corolla)? And speaking of Mexico, would they really tow a Cadillac Escalade EXT assembled in Mexico?

Hey, I'm all for private property rights and owner-determined rules for their property, I just want to understand the UAW parking lot rules: which cars will be towed and which ones won't?

45 Comments:

At 7/09/2009 12:05 PM, Anonymous geoih said...

What's not to understand. It's like your taxes. You better pay enough to satisfy the enforcers or they'll come and take everything you have. It's up to you to decide how much is enough to satisfy them.

So if you want to park your car in the Union's parking lot, you better make sure your car is American enough to satisfy them. They'll let you know if it is (or isn't) when you come back and the car is still there (or gone).

 
At 7/09/2009 12:58 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I have a Toyota Matrix built on the same assembly line as the Pontiac Vibe. Except for some minor cosmetics, it's the same car. My Matrix would get towed, the Vibe would be free to park.
Point this out to a union thug and his brain might just explode.

 
At 7/09/2009 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think there is a market for stick-on GM badges?

 
At 7/09/2009 3:37 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

What if the tow truck isn't union made? There could be a nice catch-22 here that prevents a tow truck from even entering to tow you...

(also very good point Paul, a rose by any other name...)

 
At 7/09/2009 3:57 PM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Professor, you make a great point. I wonder how many of those get the point are willing to apply it to their own industry or profession? Or how about to the majority of rules enacted by our congress. Indeed, it is impossible for a small business owner to abide by all the rules. Everyone is impacted from every direction daily. It is like everyone is on the take!

 
At 7/09/2009 4:08 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

I thought GM backed out of that joint venture with Toyota.


I have a Toyota Matrix built on the same assembly line as the Pontiac Vibe. Except for some minor cosmetics, it's the same car. My Matrix would get towed, the Vibe would be free to park.

They'd tow both given the exit of Pontiac and the departure of GM from that NUMMI partnership.

As for the border-jumper "domestic" cars, I'd flip a coin.

My criteria for compliance w/ such signs:

Was the design of the car consistent with what the Big Three would build?

Does the car have signs of it being built with non-US labor?

Is the brand known for copying off brands or gentleman's agreement based detuning?

Can the manufacturer in question bring performance to the masses of the US w/o high-rpm/*charged 4-banger engines?

Does the car company in question use perpetual contractors from unstable/despotic/Communist Party run regions of the world?

Does the company in question have a significant presence in states that are south of the Mason-Dixon line?

Does the company court excessive environmentalism?

That criteria should be a good start to pinning it on imports and not on domestics/border-jumper domestics.

 
At 7/09/2009 4:21 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Your point is correct that American-made cars are difficult to determine today. People do not always deal with emotional issues with logic. “Buy American” (whatever that is) is no more ridiculous than any other "rally around the flag" hysteria.

As far as towing cars away, the union halls probably will not tow anyone's car, but you might be asked to leave if the property owner does not want you there (that applies to both people and cars both foreign and otherwise).

If I had a Toyota, though, I would not park it there for safe-keeping while away on vacation :) I still remember the Toyota that GM brought to our plant in the early 1980s to “show us how good cars are made.” GM made two mistakes that day: 1) They brought a “Japanese” car to a GM plant full of WWII veterans on Pearl Harbor Day, and 2) They forgot fork trucks slam into stuff—a lot of stuff. That Toyota might have been built well, but it did not handle a direct hit from a 10,000 lb fork truck very well.

The same emotions that make people fight for their country are the same emotions that make workers fight for their jobs—rightly or wrongly—don’t try to rationalize either one.

 
At 7/09/2009 4:31 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I thought GM backed out of that joint venture with Toyota.

Maybe they did but that's irrelevant. The sign doesn't say anything about only new models allowed to park.

They'd tow both given the exit of Pontiac and the departure of GM from that NUMMI partnership.

So it's retroactive? Wow, those union thugs sure are sticklers.

 
At 7/09/2009 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to figure out what foreign countries Bill Jordan is talking about. Among those countries that send cars to the U.S. are Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Sweden.

Which ones have disposable workers?

 
At 7/09/2009 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a real problem when people are trying to compete in a market where (in another country) if a worker dies, it doesn't matter. They just replace them tomorrow.

What's this thug saying here? Is he implying that the UAW braintrust believes that if an American worker dies, the entire factory should shut down? For a day, a week, a month, forever? If this is the level of rational thinking that guides the union thuggery of the US, I'd opt for the plain hyperbole of alarmists and propagandists.

skh.pcola

 
At 7/09/2009 7:03 PM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Walt Said:

"The same emotions that make people fight for their country are the same emotions that make workers fight for their jobs—rightly or wrongly—don’t try to rationalize either one."

No. I served and serve for the concept of freedom. Freedom includes the right to buy and park a Toyota without being harassed. It is rational to want to be free. The rules posted by the union are rational only from the point of view of protecting the few. They are not rational in context of the "land of the free and the home of the brave".

 
At 7/09/2009 7:19 PM, Blogger jobless said...

Well, since I've seen my mom and dad both loose there insurance, pay decrease and life insurance in the last year. Combined with my losing my job and having to put my kids on food stamps and all of us having no health care because of foreign vehicles.........You guessed the one thing in common, we all worked for GM. So I guess I politely disagree. Maybe Japan University can come over here and take all your U-Mich kids and your job.......then you can worry about feeding your kids and family and see how you feel. Yes the union was out of touch, yes GM did some things wrong, but........Everyone tends to forget about the tax incentives given to Foreign car makers, Purposely adjusting currency, unfair trade agreements, Out of control health care cost and totally ridiculous laws suits against our auto company’s....those are what sunk our company’s. As for the quality fallacies, I was in charge of bench marking and warranty. I saw the raw data daily. Our quality is actually better than Toyota, as a matter of fact Toyota has recalled more cars than GM the last three years. I personally think any buying a foreign vehicle is a traitor and should sent to what ever country they bought the vehicle to go live in. Since I'm jobless, I was looking into UM Flint as one my Masters choices..........but, rest assured I'm not now.

Everyone in the safe "medical" and "college" fields have no idea what it's like to loose everything, hopefully someday you will and we'll stop seeing stupid blogs like this. Support your country and it's people for GOD's sake.

Former GM engineer.

 
At 7/09/2009 7:36 PM, Blogger Angus said...

Well, Japan U might have a hard time, but Japanese, and British and Canadian and Argentine, and Spanish and Italian and Greek and Chinese and Mexican professors do compete for and regularly receive faculty positions in American Universities. We are not insulated from foreign competition for jobs.

I and I am certain everyone else sympathizes with your family's situation. It is a terrible one. Yet somehow deporting people who buy foreign cars does not really seem to be the answer.

GM is coming out of bankruptcy now after about a 50 billion dollar injection of taxpayer money with lower labor costs, fewer brands, and less debt. Let's hope they can make a go of it.

 
At 7/09/2009 7:56 PM, Blogger Robert Miller said...

I didn't serve 21 years in the military so arrogant, ignorant thugs could arbitrarily discriminate and harass people just because their brand of car wasn't started in this country.

I swear to God if I lived anywhere near that factory I'd park my Nissan there and dare anyone to touch it. If I didn't get to teach them the value of the Second Amendment I'd sue them until they were bleeding from the ears. It's time to bring down that sign, but more importantly humilate these dumb pricks. You are my new hero Mark no matter how many green shoots you think you see. I'm going to get you on national TV to talk about this.

Unions aren't about worker rights. That concept died 100 years ago. They are nothing less than organized criminals both figuratively and literally.

I just loved that tow truck comment. I hope the tow truck is driven by a Bangladeshi.

 
At 7/09/2009 8:20 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jack Miller,

It's never rational to get your butt shot at or killed for ANYTHING—humans have an innate/logical sense of survival that precludes dying—even for “freedom.”

I'm as patriotic as the next person, but patriotism is most certainly an induced emotional state full of ritualism and symbolism and not a natural or logical state that one would normally take given free rein.

You have your emotions and I have mine; it’s my position that emotions cannot be rationalized, so I won’t try. People don’t cry when the National Anthem is sung because it’s logical to do so. Don’t take those union signs too literally because they are mainly meant to send a message to the union members who are the predominate customers of the lot: “Buy what you build.” I don’t see anything wrong with that.

By the way: UAW Local 659’s sign is rather small and in the back of the Union Hall. It is not readable from any public roads without magnification. If you can read the sign you are already in the private parking lot supposedly on union business or trespassing. What brand of car was the photographer driving when the picture was taken? If not "American"/union-made, was it towed?

Robert Miller:

You are scary. I’m glad you were on our side. Which law would you cite to sue? None has been broken that I am aware of. It’s private property for union members—as private as your own driveway is to you.

FYI: There are a huge number of union members who are Second Amendment followers who have concealed pistol permits. I would not pull a gun out alone in that parking lot before, during, or after a union meeting to vent your frustrations with unionism.

 
At 7/09/2009 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

watch out for your kneecaps, mark...

 
At 7/09/2009 10:13 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Jobless,

Sorry you're down on your luck, but since you just called me a traitor I have no problem telling you that if you seriously believe GM quality is better than Toyota's then perhaps this is one of the symptoms of why you are jobless.

It's not my obligation to buy inferior products that also indirectly subsidize Democrat victories.

 
At 7/09/2009 11:00 PM, Blogger Robert Miller said...

Walt, you're a very smart man. I really liked your statement about the national anthem. We have fundamental disagreements for which I hold no malice toward you.

I find a distinct difference between pride in country and pride in the products which just happen to be produced within our borders. I would fight and die for freedom and democracy. I would not fight or die to save an auto worker's job. I don't get all misty about seeing a Ford Taurus rolling down my street the way I feel when I see the rare American flag flying in front of a house in San Francisco. The emotions of which you speak are genuine but contrived. I can choose to get worked up about the Oakland Raiders, but the day I threaten someone wearing a Denver Broncos t-shirt is the day I need to see a shrink. There is no difference between that and hating a foreign branded car. Seinfeld said it best when he talked about sports fan and the athlete who gets traded going from idol to bum. You don't cheer for a game, a team or players- you cheer for a shirt!

I literally had some union thug choke me for ordering a non-union Coors beer in his presence. It completely blind-sided me. This man was a fellow soldier and, until that point, a friend. Another military colleague who was a Teamster told me about sabotaging trucks when they went on strike to kill the scabs. I reported a union bus driver who physically threatened two passengers and he's still driving. When I use the word 'thug', this is not hyperbole.

There is a difference between my driveway and a union lodge. The lodge is community private property. Every member is part owner. Any of their guests are welcome. I attended a wedding reception at a union hall. Would or should my Nissan be towed as an invited guest of a member?

This form of bigotry is as senseless and as illegal as racial discrimination. You've just convinced yourself it is akin to patriotism. The KKK thought that too. I'm old enough to have lived through the 'we hate Japanese' days of the 80s. Now it's the Chinese. You can't BS me that your pride isn't camouflaged racism. I called their vehicles 'rice burners' too. Now I have a Japanese motorcycle, car, television and wife.

What law? The law of MY private property. If I have been welcomed onto those private premises, my car, my clothes, my tattoos, and my thoughts have been invited. I can be disinvited, but NO ONE may touch my property without permission. Any place which is lawful and safe to park for any other vehicle is lawful and safe for mine, regardless of make, origin, or bumper stickers. Do they throw out Republicans? Free-Masons? Mormons? Blacks? Chicago Black Hawks fans? You could claim that all these people 'oppose' you and have hurt your lifestyle in some way.

What other spurious and idotic reasons do you dream up to make people feel excluded, unwelcome, intimidated, and harassed? How about if Apple fires someone who has a Blackberry or a PC? Does it matter that your exclusionary sign is inconspicuous if the evil sentiment is there?

If American cars were so damned good, then you wouldn't need to exclude foreign cars. No one would buy them.

Competition makes people stronger. Unions not only make us weaker, they celebrate weakness. It's pretty pathetic.

 
At 7/09/2009 11:23 PM, Blogger QT said...

"If they would raise their standard of living to match ours ... there would be no problem."

The wording is really special. Note: It's not workplace standards but standards of living. How is it possible for China to raise living standards to US standards when its workers make about $3,000 per year?

 
At 7/10/2009 12:06 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

Special note to my fellow veterans: Most of us fought for the freedom to choose. The problem for us is to reconcile the suffering of our fellow countrymen who work in industries who are wiped out by barrier schemes of "trading partners". I believe we need to continue to fight for our fellow citizens and the citizens of other countries being denied U.S. goods and services.

The U.S. economy is down for a long slow count because of the Smoot Hawley non-tariff barriers so effectively put in place by those regimes we do the most importing of manufactured goods from. The UAW parking lot situation would not exist in many countries because U.S. produced cars rarely make it past the government bureaucrats in most countries.

 
At 7/10/2009 9:24 AM, Blogger QT said...

gettingirrational,

Funny, Ford doesn't seem to have much trouble getting past those same bureaucrats.

If you can prove that GM and Chrysler are well-managed, highly efficient companies, I am willing to agree that the U.S. should be fighting for these jobs.

Perhaps, you can see efficiency in GM's failed 8 brand strategy, or a jobs bank that pays workers 95% of their salary not to work, or the value in throwing away billions to buy stakes in Fiat, Subaru, Suzuki, & Saab in a failed global alliance. Perhaps, you can see entrepreneurial brilliance in negotiating a stake in Fiat and then paying $5 billion to get out the deal as required by a put option that GM's Rick Wagoner had insisted be placed in the contract.

Chrysler's record is equally abyssmal.

What value does the public get for the billions in tax payer dollars and future tax hikes?

 
At 7/10/2009 9:34 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Robert Miller,
Yes, our hall is rented out, too. I assume the rule about American-made/union-made vehicles in the parking lot is clearly spelled out in the rental agreement. If so, and both sides willingly sign the agreement, I don’t see a problem. Although it could happen, I have been to numerous functions at the union hall and never have seen any cars towed except non-running cars that the owners have had towed to a repair shop to be fixed. The sign is mainly meant as a non-subtle reminder to our membership to support the products that supply them with a job.

I guess if the “foreign” car stipulation costs money, and an undue financial cost to the Union coffers, the Union would have to re-examine how strongly they feel about the rule. It was voted in by the membership, and a proper motion made by the membership at a posted union meeting, seconded, and voted in favor of removal of the sign and rule would change it. Whether I personally agree with the sign is irrelevant in our democratic process—and I don’t.

I hate bullies and thugs, too. I don’t think the majority of business owners or union members are thugs. A few people give everyone an undeserved bad name. All folks in the armed services are not Rambo—are they?

A lot of places deny entry to their competitors’ products or have rules for entry. Did you take your Coors beer into a Budweiser Brewery or try to bring it to their company picnic? If you think about it, many rules are kind of nonsensical. Why should I have to wears shoes and a shirt or be denied service? And what counts as a shirt and shoes—a ripped up t-shirt and a pair of flip-flops? I have never been big fan of stupid rules.

 
At 7/10/2009 9:51 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

QT,

The Japanese transplants have a jobs bank and we currently don't. They keep the workers on the payroll when production is not running to perform non-production related duties such as training. Our jobs bank was supposed to copy the Japanese loyalty to their fulltime workers with lifetime employment and training opportunities. We were told to be like them, so we tried, and we were vilified for it.

Management bastardized the jobs bank and created the "rubber rooms." None of the contractual language that created the jobs bank spoke of getting paid to sit around in a room that was either too hot or too cold with the black-and-white TV with no antennae turned all the way up so conversation was difficult or impossible. No one wanted to be in those rubber rooms, and the money was hard-earned by the harsh conditions.

 
At 7/10/2009 10:22 AM, Blogger Paul said...

"We were told to be like them, so we tried, and we were vilified for it."

You were vilified mostly because the cars are inferior products. The jobs bank wasn't the element to copy.

 
At 7/10/2009 10:52 AM, Blogger Robert Miller said...

Our jobs bank was supposed to copy the Japanese loyalty to their fulltime workers with lifetime employment and training opportunities.

Job security is an illusion. Anyone who makes this promise to you is a liar, exploiting you for your gullibility or trust.

I've worked in or with Government long enough to know that bureaucrats are lazy and incompetent precisely because it's so hard to fire them. "Job security" breeds complacency and, worse, defiance to authority which expects to get full value from the wages they pay. When your marginal revenue product is below your wage, you are a THIEF.

Labor always has been and always will be the most flexible input of production. When demand for a product falls, employment falls. Wages should fall too but, since they don't, the drop in employment is even more severe.

Your union brothers and sisters are out of work because those with seniority wouldn't budge on wages. It's always the newcomers and those denied jobs who bear the brunt of collective bargaining.

When graduate students at the University of Wisconsin unionized, the number of Teaching Assistants went flat even though the student population kept rising. The losers in that were the students crammed into classrooms and the grad and undergrad students who got rejection letters from UW. The latter are the invisible victims of the union.

Let's discuss collective bargaining. I was part of a bargaining unit which I refused to join. One of my fellow instructors was the union president. I asked him about the nature of "collective bargaining." He said, "We present our requests to the [employer] and they're supposed to listen and reach a fair agreement with us."

Then I asked, "Well what if the budget of the [employer] is already constrained and they refuse to grant any increases in pay?" He responded, "Well, they have to give us something. We need to meet somewhere in the middle."

In other words, unions always expect something more. "Bargaining" is, except in emergency circumstances, always in one direction: MORE. Even when unions agree to wage cuts, they are always temporary and they demand that wages "catch up" after the recession has passed.

So union wages, benefits, and protection from being fired is a monotonically increasing function. But when wages go up so do taxes, insurance, and pensions. Every dollar of wages results in multiple dollars of costs to the firm. Those firms are destined to fail, and the unions killed them!

Trade barriers by other countries didn't sink your firms. Ford, Toyota, and Nissan aren't whining about barriers to foreign entry. GM sold a huge number of cars last year and still lost money. That tells me instantly the cost structure is too high.

Your pensions are absolutely outrageous! It's like having three work forces only one of which is actually working.

Sorry - you fools bargained yourselves right out of a job and I don't have the slightest bit of sympathy for you. I hope your pension fund fails and you end up eating cat food and living in a refrigerator box as a frail old man.

 
At 7/10/2009 11:00 AM, Blogger QT said...

Walt,

Didn't say you still had the rubber room. GM no longer has employees reporting to 2 different lines of management either. Nor was the deal with Fiat made last week. These are examples of bad management that have been ongoing for 30 years. Hey, I used to work for Nortel...doesn't get much worse than that.

Ford also makes mistakes. Trying to sell right hand drive models to the Japanese who drive on the left side of the road is included in the book, "A short course in international marketing blunders".

When you look at the last bail out of Chrysler, it was justified on the basis of enabling U.S. manufacturers to successfully compete with transplants. What happened, Chrysler increased its marketshare at the expense of GM & Ford and is no more viable today than it was in 1980.

 
At 7/10/2009 11:25 AM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Walt said:

"It's never rational to get your butt shot at or killed for ANYTHING—humans have an innate/logical sense of survival that precludes dying—even for “freedom.”"

So Walt, the 416,800 US military personnel who died in WWII were not rational. I guess Hitler was the rational one. How about the 10,700,000 Russian military who died? Hitler was rational and those 10 million plus died because they were foolish idiots.

There is evil in this world and there are times that it must be confronted. Bigotry, hatred and discrimination to preserve undeserved extra dollars per hour in a pay check are in the same class with executing Jews.

Do your job well and sleep well. Make a good product at a reasonable price and you will live well. Economic freedom lowers the risk of War. Confrontational signs increase the risk.

 
At 7/10/2009 12:15 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jack Miller,
People who serve their country have my deepest admiration and respect. People who decide to die for others are very noble, altruistic and even to be revered and honored but that choice is not logical or rational. It goes against everything innate to man to be the cause of their own death. Just like all animals, our will to live is rational; therefore, our will to die, for whatever reason, is not.

Robert Miller,
I feel sorry for you. You are a very bitter person who is carrying around too much hatred for your fellow man. I don't wish harm to anyone for any reason. You need to lighten up a tad :)

 
At 7/10/2009 12:18 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

QT, Can't live in the past. You can only learn from it. Failure to change and adapt to the times is the biggest failure of all companies--union or not.

 
At 7/10/2009 12:40 PM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Walt,

No matter how many times you say it ain't so, it does not make it so. People have a desire to live but they also have free will. Two of my grandparents and my father chose their time of death. Certainly, the situations were emotional but these folks rose above emotions and acted rationally. My grandfather preferred a few days at home in his own house than a few more weeks in a hospital room. My father gave his doctors two weeks to get an oxygen tube out of his throat. At the end of the two weeks he pulled the tube out. He was given pain medicine and allowed to die in peace. He was brave and heroic and rational.

I have said enough, but please think about what you are saying. Please stop saying that all the people who died to protect your right to be free were not rational.

I was one of the lucky ones who saw little action while in Viet Nam. I did not go to Viet Nam to die but went there with a clear head about the possibility. The professors point remains valid. A sign that discriminates against American made cars because of the nameplate on the side of the car is bigotry.

 
At 7/10/2009 2:30 PM, Blogger Robert Miller said...

Walt, you do wish others harm.

You wish harm on consumers, entrepreneurs, owners of land and capital, and on other workers by reaching into their wallets and stealing their money. You don't see yourselves as criminals, but you are.

That is what unions do when they collectively bargain. They manipulate markets in order to achieve personal gain at the expense of everyone else. If suppliers did this to you, you'd be screaming bloody murder!

You even hurt yourselves and you don't even realize it. Losing your jobs is the wage of your sins.

I do wish harm on criminals who are ripping me off through higher prices for goods I buy and through my tax dollars. You think you deserve it - we do not agree. Keep your hands out of my wallet and treat others with respect, and I'll stop wishing you harm.

Here are some figures on salaries and benefits for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers who recently threatened a strike which would cripple the daily commute for thousands of workers:

The current labor contract rolled over for four years accounts for $116 million (46.4%) of the projected $250 million four year deficit.

The average salary and benefits for union members is $114,466 for FY 09 and $116,237 in FY 10.

BART Employees in most major Job Categories are some of the Highest Paid Transit Workers in the Nation for their Work Classification

Classification, % above Average

Utility Worker, 26.8% (2nd highest paid)
Track Equipment Operator, 42.3%
Transit Vehicle Mechanic, 38.1 (Highest paid)
Station Agent, 32.4%
Train Operator, 24.4

Retiree Health Benefits – Maximum Monthly Benefit – Employer Paid

BART: $1868
Alameda/CoCo Transit: $635
VTA (Sta Clara): $527
Alameda Co: $500
Richmond: $246
Port of Oakland: $1322
Oakland (SEIU): $425
San Francisco MTA: $1359

Retirement Benefits
(Employer Paid Contribution)

Port of Oakland: 8.00%
Concord: 8.00%
BART: 7.00%
VTA: 7.00%
Oakland: 5.00%
CoCo County: 3.3%
San Jose: 0%
SF MTA: 0%
Richmond: 0%
Fremont: 0%
Alameda County: 0%
Alameda/CoCo Transit: 0%

I have a PhD and get paid less than some of these high school dropouts. My company matches only 5% of my retirement contributions.

 
At 7/10/2009 4:03 PM, Blogger QT said...

QT, Can't live in the past. You can only learn from it. Failure to change and adapt to the times is the biggest failure of all companies--union or not.

Walt,

Isn't living in the past exactly what GM has been doing for the last 30 years. Why has it taken this long for GM to even consider streamlining its brands to match its dwindling marketshare?

Those of us who work in small business learn from failure on our own nickel. There would likely be a lot more respect for GM and the UAW if they did the same.

Robert,

Every time we have a government audit, the auditor arrives in either a new Mercedes or BMW parking it next to my husband's 10 year old Honda Accord.

 
At 7/11/2009 6:15 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Which ones have disposable workers?

I'm sorry, not to suggest that I support the unions, here on this in any way, but WTF makes you think that the US citizen, or the USA in general in any way owes "jack" to the workers of other nations?

I object to such rules based on the harm they do to Americans not to those of other nations.

While I harbor them no ill will, and certainly see no reason to harm them overtly, I also don't owe them jack shit. I might choose to do something beneficial for them, but the best way for them to cause me to do that is to make it worth my while.

Such is the Invisible Hand.

 
At 7/11/2009 6:24 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Well, since I've seen my mom and dad both loose there insurance, pay decrease and life insurance in the last year. Combined with my losing my job and having to put my kids on food stamps and all of us having no health care because of foreign vehicles.........You guessed the one thing in common, we all worked for GM.

You know, I feel for your troubles as a human, but, sorry, you need to blame your unions for making GM cars uncompetitive in price and uncompetitive in quality by limiting the ability of GM to fire underperforming employees. You also need to blame the unions for standing by and ignoring CAFE standards which screw up the market forces, instead of fighting them tooth and nail.

GM's problems did not happen overnight -- they've been looming one way or another for the last 20+ years. And the unions have been a major part of that problem, and at or near the heart of the vast majority of the problems.

It was never a question of "if" -- it was a question of "when".

And, as far as what society owes you, what the community owes you, as to what investors owe you, I'd suggest you seek out the excellent movie Other Peoples' Money, especially the incredible back-to-back monologues at the end, the first a humanist argument, and the other a rationalist one.

 
At 7/11/2009 6:36 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> It's never rational to get your butt shot at or killed for ANYTHING—humans have an innate/logical sense of survival that precludes dying—even for “freedom.”

Walt, that's got to be one of the more boneheaded claims I've ever heard.

People die for causes ALL THE TIME. And Freedom happens to be one of the most noble of them.

It's not rational to put yourself in danger for any momentary thing, no -- but there are ideals and ideas which do, indeed, matter beyond the moment -- that deal not with the "Now" but with the long-term state of humanity and with one's own genetic survival, which makes such an act rational in a larger, time-binding sense.

Yes, indeed, I might die fighting for freedom, and cease to be. But my own genes may survive, and those of my friends, my family, my nation, survive -- not just minimally but BETTER as a result of my sacrifice towards that goal.

As a singular, selfish human it may not make sense. But some of us are able to see beyond that short term, beyond our own petty interests.

And when your society stops having individuals making that valuation, it is doomed. It is only a matter of time before it is destroyed from within or without.

Rationalism is an important aspect of life, but not all decisions are, or should be, rational in the sense you mean.

> “Buy what you build.” I don’t see anything wrong with that.

I do. "Buy the best thing for your interests". That means more than just the singular one of "what pays your salary". More critically, it encourages the builders themselves to make the best damned product possible.

One of the key flaws to modern social institutions is that few people approach their job as though they, personally, were going to put their name, visible and up front, on the things they produce.

If you make a product, and you're not utterly proud of your construction, if you aren't personally looking constantly for ideas and ways to do it better, you should find another job. And I'm sorry, I know what union contracts entail -- it's an effort to remove all such responsibility from whatever is made, to remove all connection between quality and performance and one's state of employment.

Yes, that's generally human nature... and unions are enablers of the worst of those qualities.

 
At 7/11/2009 6:46 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> How is it possible for China to raise living standards to US standards when its workers make about $3,000 per year?

1950: How is it possible for Japan to raise living to US standards of ca. $10,000 per year when its workers make less than US$2,000 per year?

See Graph

Give it time, industriousness, and good economic policy. You'll be impressed, QT.

 
At 7/11/2009 6:52 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> The U.S. economy is down for a long slow count because of the Smoot Hawley non-tariff barriers so effectively put in place by those regimes we do the most importing of manufactured goods from. The UAW parking lot situation would not exist in many countries because U.S. produced cars rarely make it past the government bureaucrats in most countries.

Such barriers are stupid for EITHER side. Unlike unilateral nuclear disarmament, unilateral elimination of trade barriers DOES make sense. I'm not going to take the time to justify that statement, as it's not something that fits into a few thousand characters. What happens is the barrier nation is basically subsidizing the foreign use of their employee's labors... that is, they are taxing their employees to provide cheaper goods to *foreigners*. Right. Taxing. Think about that. Where does the money to subsidize such come from? Taxes. Who pays the taxes? The employee-citizen of the barrier-using nation.

Trade barriers are flat out stupid. They benefit the fat cats who own a business, not the workers.

 
At 7/11/2009 6:56 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7/11/2009 6:59 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> No one wanted to be in those rubber rooms, and the money was hard-earned by the harsh conditions.

Hey, Walt. I'm unemployed. I'd be quite happy to have a job "getting paid to sit around in a room that was either too hot or too cold with the black-and-white TV with no antennae turned all the way up so conversation was difficult or impossible."

You guys hiring?

:-/

If not, perhaps the workers might take their complaints to the law firm of Whine, Moan, Bitch, and Kvetch to see if they can do something for them.

 
At 7/11/2009 10:00 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

@ OBloodyHell

" What happens is the barrier nation is basically subsidizing the foreign use of their employee's labors... that is, they are taxing their employees to provide cheaper goods to *foreigners*. Right. Taxing. Think about that. Where does the money to subsidize such come from?"

The Chinese economy is basically a command economy with most of the largest industries controlled by the national government. The rest of the economy for manufactured goods is made up of local governments owning majority control of the factories.

The workers are at the mercy of the the party bosses at the national and local level. The outcome is low factory pay and few foreign made goods to choose from for factory workers. This is an absurd situation for the average Chinese citizen and the economy of the U.S. This is not free trade and the sitution is getting worse with Chinese stimulus going to even better credit terms for party cronies (The economist, Michael Pettis, has written about this at SeekingAlpha.com)

 
At 7/11/2009 10:10 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I don’t want anyone to think that the way I define irrational is being irresponsible. I don’t mean anyone disrespect—especially veterans who have given their lives for our freedoms.

My undergraduate degree is in philosophy and writing. My life interests goes beyond just making cars :) I am using the term “rational” as the analytical philosophers use it. Given no outside interests or guidance, even a newborn will fight to live—it’s innate. Patriotism or nationalism, on the other hand, is taught or introduced by others to children when they are growing up. That can be good or bad—even evil.

The U.S. teaches good (at least I believe so, Hitler taught evil. Therefore, patriotism reduces to a right or wrong which is an unverifiable emotive statement whose truth value cannot be determined. As such, both the people who fought for their country and the ones who did not can both be “right” if their used their beliefs and values to guide their actions.

I am sure the ethics camp of philosophy has a different definition of rationality, but I think I will leave with this statement because we are getting a bit off tangent here.

 
At 7/11/2009 10:56 AM, Blogger Jack Miller said...

Walt, What is rational is for consumers to buy the best products available at the best price, no matter where the product is made. OBloodyHell is on the money, if China wants to exploit its workers so that Americans can live better, so be it.

While there is a modest case to be made for "shock absorbing", temporary, minimal tariffs if a certain sector is seeing a dramatic shift, one that might be caused by government subsides, tariffs are generally a bad idea; if the Chinese poke themselves in the eye with a stick, it does not mean that we should reciprocate by poking ourselves in the eye. While the theft of property is a different matter; land that is most suitable for growing oranges should be used to grow oranges and land most suitable for growing wheat should be used to grow wheat. If the Chinese have people willing to assemble well made cars cheaply, let them. If US Auto workers feel that working in auto plants is so onerous that they cannot work without health care subsidies transfered from lower paid folk, then the autos should be made by other workers. (Unless of course these folk can buy off the politicians and get them to spend billions bailing them out.)

There are plenty of more productive jobs Americans can do to repatriate the dollars spent to buy foreign made cars. The fear that the Chinese will not reinvest their dollars in America is a silly straw man, dollars are much like checks, they represent the right to trade for goods but have no "real or intrinsic value".

By the way, an investment boom cycle is just getting underway. Trillions of dollars will be spent every year for the next several years on digital communications and all the devices and equipment needed to power this rapidly growing part of the world economy. (The demand for electricity is so strong that China will build as much nuclear power over the next 12 years as what the USA has in total!)

The long held dream of being able to "speak and it shall be written" is now a reality. Sure, voice to text and text to voice has been around for many years, but, heretofore only in the sense that there were hundreds of autos produced before Henry Ford produced the Model T. In 2009, millions of phones have been sold that can convert a text message into a voice message and vise versa. The art of communications has entered a new age.

 
At 7/11/2009 2:01 PM, Anonymous robert berlin said...

the last i knew the union parking lots are private property so should'nt they be able to exclude whomever and whatever they damned well please. its' nice to see that someone is standing up for what is left of the middle class. this is after all something bigger than the downfall of the domestic auto ind. it really epitomizes the downfall of american manufacturing begining with the loss of our steel ind., textiles, clothing, electronics, etc. is'nt it time that we as americans began to support each other and help ourselves by helping our own economy? without fair trade (which we obviously don't have) it's time to help our own.

 
At 7/11/2009 11:30 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Give it time, industriousness, and good economic policy.

They'll still be cranking out junk by the end of my natural lifetime.

The difference is that at that time, we'll have finally taken the step to reform immigration law, education and industry to be pro-citizen.

 
At 10/29/2010 6:11 PM, Blogger Samuel said...

hmmmm they need to understand that people buy those cars which work well for them, which have good safety, MPG, appearance etc depending on those they do their decisions so if you wanna to see only American cars then start building some extraordinary cars so that normal user do not look for any other country made car.
Even Honda, Toyota having the their our American plants where they build & assemble their cars.

Joshua's Law

 

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