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!