Unions Dissolving Rapidly

I knew that the unions, particularly the UAW, had taken a hit, but I didn’t know how big a hit it was:

The union’s membership has been shrinking across the country, hurt by the recession, bankruptcies by General Motors and Chrysler and an industrywide restructuring that has closed dozens of factories with UAW contracts.

Since 2007, the number of auto industry workers belonging to the union has plunged 46% to just 185,522 from more than 345,407. [emphasis mine]

That is an impressive downturn in 4 years. Is it any wonder that the leadership seems to be pulling out the stops to stay alive? I find enjoyment in statements such as the following (which show a remarkable lack of understanding of the marketplace):

“It is critically important for our membership to organize those facilities to keep the companies where we already represent workers competitive,” King [the head of the UAW] said. “We need to make sure that companies compete on the basis of engineering, design, quality and innovation — not on who can pay their workers the least.”

He would like companies to complete on everything but the price of the product–since labor costs are huge piece of every vehicle which comes off the line. And yes, I understand that the UAW claims that labor is about 10% of vehicle costs. However, I believe those would be considered direct labor costs (hourly wages paid to assemble said vehicle). They do not include benefits for current and former employees–which are still labor costs. I think that it would be more in line to look at direct and indirect labor costs of 15 to 25% once everything is factored in.

I have worked in/with more than one automaker’s plant in the south. I have also worked with automaker’s plants in the north. There is quite a difference in the attitudes and the motivations of the employees, in my own experience. I would have to say that the person quoted in the following piece makes a quite a bit of sense:

But the UAW is having trouble making its case to workers who have an intense loyalty to the automakers who brought high-paying blue-collar employment to these small towns and cities starved for jobs.

“I don’t want to give any more pieces of the pie to anyone else. I need it for myself,” said Kevin Carroll of La Grange, Ga., who was unemployed when hired by Kia Motors Manufacturing last year.

The West Point, Ga., Kia plant, which opened in 2009, has had more than 100,000 applications for just 2,100 positions.

See, there is this thing called supply and demand. Kia would appear to understand the concept. Mr. King does not seem to. But that is not all that King does not get. Here are his demands:

King wants Hyundai and the other foreign companies making cars in the South to agree to a set of organizing principles for “fair elections” that would allow the union to make its pitch to employees in a setting that’s free of workplace “tension, fear and discord.”

His proposal includes having the union and management address workers at the same time and in the same manner, whether it is posting notices in the factories or having meetings of similar duration.

“All we want is a fair process, and whatever the workers decide will be the decision. If they decide they don’t want to be in the union, we will accept that and move on,” King said.

Right. The head of an organization which is rapidly losing clout identifies a whole group of businesses which do not currently need the organization–and seem to be doing quite well without it, better in fact than the competition which has been paying dues for decades. This person has decided that these businesses which are doing fine without his organization need to give him time to convince their workforces that they need the organization.

Mr. King, sir? These people have already decided. They have already decided that they don’t want to be in the union. That’s why they are working in non-union jobs in right-to-work states.

Please, Mr. King, how about a little acceptance and moving on?

The sunset is that-away.