Class Warfare Blog

February 2, 2014

Lessons We Won’t Learn

Adam Davidson (of NPR’s Planet Money) wrote an interesting column entitled “Building A Harley Faster” in the N.Y. Times (Jan 28, 2014). He described the turnaround of a Harley-Davidson plant in York, PA which facing hard economic times from the Great Recession, focused ever harder on their human capital, instead of exporting the jobs to Mexico or some other low wage state or buying a bunch of industrial robots. Harley’s point was their reputation was based on creating middle-class American-made iconic products which wouldn’t go over well if made overseas or by robots. Consequently they doubled-down on their highly-trained unionized workers and it paid off quite nicely.

Davidson went on to add this: “I also wondered, . . . if Harley would have been able to turn it around without experienced union workers (emphasis mine). It reminded me of the notion of “beneficial constraints,” in which government policy, notably in Germany, creates powerful work councils, which force manufacturers to pay and treat workers well. This has, arguably, turned much of Germany’s manufacturing sector into the equivalent of the York plant. German companies have no choice but to focus on making high-quality precision goods that merit the higher costs that can cover a more expensive work force. Motor-vehicle workers in Germany make around $60 an hour, well above hourly U.S. auto wages. It did strike me that while only 10 percent of American manufacturing workers are in unions, more than 30 percent of the IndustryWeek Best Plants finalists have been unionized.”

Here we have another example where the general public blithely ignores what is in front of its eyes. The best plants in the U.S. tend to be unionized, therefore unions are bad and the source of our poor productivity? In California, there is a lawsuit against teacher tenure as being an unfair impediment to hiring quality teachers; like the “right to work” (aka unions are banned) states and the states with weak tenure laws show so much better performance than those which are unionized or have tenure. (They do not; in fact, the non-unionized states show weaker educational performance than the unionized ones.)

Why is it that ordinary people are so biased against ordinary people? Companies with bad management do not eliminate managers, they replace them with better ones. Unions are representatives of workers. Where they work well, they help increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, help with employee training, etc. When then didn’t work (at least in the opinion of the plutocrats) they were done away with, instead of being replaced with ones that worked better! When that wasn’t possible, the plutocrats shipped the jobs overseas. And ordinary members of the public either sat on their hands or applauded.

Effing amazing! Wake up people; you can’t find the American Dream while you are asleep!



  1. Meanwhile, China grows by leaps and bounds and is poised to become the world’s next hyper-power.

    Unions are antiquated and harken back to the 1930’s when manual labor was still king.

    The 21st century is all about knowledge and information, not manual labor.

    So while has-been nations like Germany and has-been companies like Harley Davidson misuse and waste labor, the free market with its base of knowledge and information, is ready to vault any person, company or nation into unimaginable wealth.


    Comment by silenceofmind — February 2, 2014 @ 11:33 am | Reply

    • You logic is astoundingly bad. You start by associating all labor unions as being “manual labor.” You say manual labor is no longer pertinent in the 21st Century. tell the plumber or elelctrician who comes to work on your house that. Or how about the guy who picks up your garbage? And, you say this to a former Teacher’s Union President.

      Do you know who the #2 world leader in exported manufacturered goods is? (Hint: China is #1.) Wait for it . . . Germany.

      So, you know eactly … nothing, but have an opinion anyway? You must be a politician, a Christian, or both.


      Comment by stephenpruis — February 2, 2014 @ 2:46 pm | Reply

      • I’ve never hired a plumber or an electrician who belonged to a union.

        Unions are nothing more than organized crime syndicates who launder campaign cash for the Democrat Party.


        Comment by silenceofmind — February 2, 2014 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

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