All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.



Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!

2/19/2014

Making Cars

The only auto manufacturing plant I've worked for was owned by the Japanese.  I've been in other plants.  I've been in GM and Ford facilities.  Although I've not been through all of it, I have been on the docks at Ford's River Rouge plant and seen cars come out the other end at Dearborn.  I have a tremendous respect for the industry and I recognize its importance in the 20th century.  While I don't consider my self an expert on the auto industry, I'm not a novice either.

The headline for this story caught my eye:

VW workers may block southern U.S. deals if no unions: labor chief

The first rule of understanding Labor Unions, is if the labor organizer is saying it, its probably a lie.  If a newspaper is reporting it, its probably a bigger lie.  Earlier this month workers at a VW plant in Tennessee voted to not let the UAW organize in the plant.  That means that the workers believe that they are better off without a union, or at least without the UAW.  No one has explored why this is.  Maybe the workers have seen what the UAW and its policies have done for Detroit and Flint Michigan.  Maybe they don't feel like forking over a couple of hours pay to make UAW fat cats fatter.  Whatever the reason they told the UAW to take a hike.

Since the UAW can't recognize that they are bad for industry, jobs and the economy they are restarting the campaign to unionize the plant by making it appear that the management at VW won't build more plants in the southern US unless they are unionized.  They point to the company culture at VW that utilizes a "Workers Council".  What they don't say is that the plant is perfectly capable of having a "workers council" without the UAW.

We had something similar to a workers council when I was a shop rat.  They called them efficiency committees.  The Japanese management team was very serious about the concept. 

The plant I worked for built window regulators.  Those are the things that make the window in your car go up and down.  I built the right hand side regulator for the Ford Escort. 

My job was running a spot welder that fastened mounting brackets on to the main rail.  My job consisted of place a rail, place two brackets, hit the buttons, watch it weld, put the part in the parts bin, repeat.   We had a very efficient team of warehouse guys that would move the parts bins around and make sure everyone had what they needed.

The warehouse guys would bring me rails and brackets form the stamping department and then take my bins to the various lines where they would finish assembling them.  That was the system.  One of the ladies working the line directly behind me on the plant floor ran out of assembled rails, on two different days.  I don't remember why the forklift guys didn't get the parts moved on time but they didn't and this almost caused the line to go down.  Stopping the production line is one of the cardinal sins of the auto business.

In her desire to not get in deep doo doo for letting the line run out of parts, she came over to me and asked me to carry a bin of parts over to her work station.  A full parts bin  was much to heavy to carry by hand.  Someone quickly found a 4 wheeled dolly and helped me put a partial bin on it and wheel it over to the line.  The line stayed up and the day was saved.  Till it happened a second time.

That's when the efficiency committee was brought in.  They investigated.  They talked to everyone involved.  They checked out if I had made enough parts (I had several bins ready to restock the lines), they checked out what the forklift guy was doing (he wasn't goofing off).  Then they asked her, I can't remember her name, what she thought could be done to fix the problem.  Her suggestion was to place the spot welder closer to the line so they wouldn't have to wait for the fork lift.  Nobody else had a better solution.

You know what plant management did?  They got the engineers looking into what it would cost to move a multi-million dollar welder and redesign the floor layout.  I am convinced that they would have done it too.  Part of the decision making process was to bring the full efficiency committee together to  evaluate the solution.  As they contemplated the situation someone from stamping mentioned that they used roller counters to move the bins around their department (a roller counter is a metal counter with lots of little moving wheels that makes sliding heavy bins easy).  A couple of days latter there was a roller counter installed, with the promise that if it didn't work management would consider moving the spot welder.  It worked.  I went to college in the fall. 

VW knows these types of working groups are good for the company.  VW knows that they can form these kinds of groups by letting people working in the different departments select their co-works to represent them.  No one needs the UAW to oversee the process.  I suspect that is exactly what they will do.  As for the bit about VW not wanting to build another plant in the US, BS!  What company wouldn't want to build its cars in an environment where the workers are happy and don't want some professional agitator messing things up for them?  In case no one noticed, there were tens of thousands of square feet of industrial space available in the rust belt that VW could have acquired cheaper than building a plant in Tennessee.  Labor laws and the labor culture suck in those states.

9 comments:

Susan said...

Even though my grandfather and my dad were longshoreman union guys in the 50's through 1979, I think unions have had their day in the sun.

I think what might have really killed the unions cause was the Hostess debacle last year. That showed the public how rotten the leadership of unions can be.

JN said...

Finally we meet.
I swore as a boy that if I ever ran into the guy that built that right hand side regulator for the Ford Escort...

Anonymous said...

Hello my name is Inigo Montoya and you built my Escort, prepare to die.

WaterBoy said...

I've got no problem with any plant wanting to unionize -- freedom of association and all that. But I also don't have any problem with the plant firing all its union workers, either, for the same reason.

If the people choose not to unionize, the UAW needs to respect that decision. But experience shows that they won't.

My mother was a nurse in Northern Michigan her entire career. Shortly after she retired, the Teamsters were successful -- after several attempts -- to finally get the nurses there to unionize. Less than a year later, they went on strike for higher wages and better benefits, among other things. Four years later, the strike was effectively ended after the non-striking nurses voted to end their union representation (the NLRB had determined that the striking nurses had since been replaced over the years, so were no longer eligible to vote).

Many nurses lost their jobs over this strike, which netted the union nothing in terms of concessions and ended with the union getting kicked out. Hopefully, the remaining nurses learned a lesson and think twice before accepting the flimsy promises of another labor union.

WaterBoy said...

I should add a disclaimer:

I was forced to join a union at one place I worked. It was a closed shop, meaning you had no choice but to join the union and pay the dues if you wanted to work there. When it camed down to a disagreement between me and management, the union rep sided with the management, so I quit the job.

newrebeluniv said...

The news won't mention the failure at VW and the union bosses won't make a big deal about it because they see it as temporary. Only union wins are permanent. A loss just means they will try again in 4 months.

Res Ipsa said...

Hey I just built the welds on the rail brackets, Some UAW flunky at Ford put them on the car. :)

WaterBoy said...

I just remembered that both of my brothers, at one time or another, worked in manufacturing plants that made parts for the auto industry, too. AFAIK, neither of those were unionized though. It would seem that the UAW concentrates most of their efforts on the large assembly plants and leaves the smaller parts plants alone. I'm guessing there isn't enough money to be had in those places...or if they needed to srike, the Big 3 would just go to another small supplier and the stricken one would die, anyway.

ajw308 said...

Maybe the workers don't want to pay dues that support anti-gun, anti-hunting, anti-American, pro-homosexual, anti-military politicians