Unions. I really hate em.

Friday, 21 November 2008 02:25 by The Lunatic


GM has been in trouble a long time, no doubt about it. It's easy to blame management for their slow change to smaller cars, corporate inefficiency, etc.  But face it: it's the unions that are mostly to blame for GM's downfall.  Or, if you prefer, it's managements fault that they didn't have a backbone - and they let the unions walk all over them.

I have many issues with the whole philosophy of unions. Yes, there have been times when they've been helpful - when working conditions were abysmal, unsafe, the pay was equivalent to slave labor, and there weren't any other options for workers. But for the most part those times are long past.

Let's look at unions from a couple of different angles.

I have absolutely no compassion for any company that mistreats employees, but I don't consider providing only a basic health plan as "mistreating" anyone.  Many of the benefits issues that unions get all bothered over are rediculous. If you want better benefits, get a different job!  If you want better pay, go to school and learn some math and become an engineer. If you aren't happy, you can walk out and quit ... but PLEASE don't stop someone else from coming in to do your job if you don't want it.

That brings us to negotiation tactics.  Just the fact that any union would consider a strike as a negotiating tactic is an indication of how misguided they are. It's just plain wrong, and it should be illegal.  Really, it's just as terrible for the workers as it is for the company.  The only ones that benefit from a strike are the competitors. As much as the unions have always encouraged everyone to "Buy American", it was the labor problems in the 70's that really opened the door to the Japanese auto manufacturers. Consumers want the best product at the best price.  When a union goes on strike, they cut off the supply of a product and the consumer is forced to buy from someone else - in this case, they started buying Japanese cars ... and hey, they weren't that bad!  The quality was better, the price was lower, they were better designed, and more reliable. It's actually nice buying a car built by people who take pride in their work, who are more concerned with minimizing mistakes than getting another coffee break.

It will be just swell when all the UAW workers are standing in line waiting for a welfare check next year, smiling and saying to each other: "Wow, we sure showed them - didn't we? High five's all around!!!"

The latest machinists strike at Boeing was probably the best news that Airbus has had in a long time.  Perfect timing for Airbus, in fact. I am stunned, absolutely stunned, that a union would do this - Boeing is locked in a battle for it's very survival with an entrenched competitor, late with their newest plane, and the union pulls this kind of crap which costs the company billions of dollars - hundreds of times more than what the workers will ever get in return.  Such a horrible waste. This is a time for everyone, from the janitors to the CEO to be focused on getting the product delivered to the customer. If they can do that, they might survive.

And if you haven't been paying attention, there's a huge difference between generic labor that can be done by almost anyone, and highly skilled labor like software engineering.  I know I'll get lamblasted for this statement, but assembly labor is a commodity. For most of these jobs, someone can be taught how to do it with just a few days training. To build a car, you need parts and you need labor to make the parts and put them together. 

What a union does is create a monopoly on the labor supply.  This is an issue I have a BIG problem with.

If an auto manufacturer needs a part that they don't want to build themselves, they will hire an outside vendor to supply the part.  Part of the due-diligence is usually to get multiple quotes in order to ensure they are getting the best price, and they will make sure that the supplier can deliver on time and meet a certain standard of quality. All well and good.

But with labor, the union creates a single source supplier, with no guarantee of quality or performance.  And then they strong-arm the company into paying WAY more than what the labor is really worth. If a vendor that supplies parts tried to pull this kind of crap, they'd be accused of price fixing and violating all sorts of trade laws. How come we put up with this illegal behavior when it's sanctioned by a union? It's extortion and racketeering at it's worst. Am I right or am I just a Half Baked Lunatic?

Here's an idea ... what if a company wanted to open a factory, and they asked three different unions to bid for the job of supplying labor.  The winning bidder would need to guarantee a fixed price for the work, and only supply quality products (meaning, if a worker was "defective" they would be replaced free of charge). And if it doesn't work out, then the company would be free to change suppliers. What a great idea - you see what competitive bidding can do?  I don't see how ANYONE could have an issue with this!


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Comments (2) -

December 7. 2008 11:40

So whom do you hate more - unions or execs in big companies? Seems like these days it is hard to like either.

Mike Galli

December 8. 2008 00:17

Good point. However, I have noticed a big difference between "hired" company CEO's and company founders. I have a LOT more respect for a company founder that builds a company from scratch than I do for a CEO that comes in expecting the board to give him/her millions of dollars no matter how well the company does. Might be a good subject for a new post!

The Lunatic

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