There’s a disturbing trend occurring across America. It seems as though there is a move toward mass industrial suicide being executed by unions and their members these days. Despite unemployment being around 9.5% nationwide and likely to see double digits, more and more often it appears that unions and their members are opting for pink slips and plant closures rather than agreeing to concessions that just might save their jobs.
Is it that there is a big game of chicken being played between labor and management around the nation? Are workers being told by their union leaders that it is better to be unemployed than to work with “the boss”? Or, have unionized workers adopted a mass nihilistic
philosophy toward work? And, if the latter is the case, who is at fault when the companies involved are in entirely different industries and different geographical regions?
The Union of Ailing Workplaces (UAW)
In Huntsville, Alabama, members of the United Auto Workers have rejected their employer’s request
to re-open their contract to obtain cost-reductions to make their plant more competitive. Their decision comes just a few days before their employer, Continental, an automotive parts supplier decides whether or not to keep the plant open.
Continental has said it would consider closing the plant and relocating product lines to lower-cost facilities if cost reductions aren’t made to make the operation here “globally competitive.”…
Continental last month told UAW representatives that the company’s automotive business has been hurt by a slowdown in the automotive industry, and UAW sources say the company was looking for some $60 million in cost savings a year at the plant.
According to Continental, the Huntsville plant has the highest manufacturing costs of all Continental’s North American plants that make electronic parts.
The Huntsville Continental plant has about 550 hourly employees who are union members, nearly 100 salaried employees who are union members and about 300
salaried, nonunion employees.
On the Heels of the Machinists’ Mass Suicide at Mercury Marine
A mere four days ago, 850 members of the International Association of Machinists voted to reject
their employer Mercury Marine’s request for givebacks, despite the clear message from their employer that the company would move work from its Fon du Lac, Wisconsin plant to its Oklahoma plant.
Unless the union and its members change their minds by August 29th, job cuts will be starting soon. However, according to Phillip Gruber
, Midwest Director for the Machinists union, it would appear the decision to see the company move rather than accept concessions is final.
Union officials say the company’s latest proposal is a “suicide offer.”
Which option would you take?
“Mercury Marine never intended for this offer to be accepted,” said IAMAW Midwest territory vice president Philip Gruber. “Despite progress on every major issue and a commitment by the IAM to continue bargaining, the company balked in the final hours and added terms and conditions that assured members would reject the offer … Mercury Marine has been threatening these workers and this community for weeks. Some companies may hint at dire consequences as a bargaining tactic, but rarely do we see such extortion in plain view. It’s unethical, it’s
un-American and I respect any worker who stands up and refuses to be bullied.”
Sounds like ‘case closed’ for Mercury Marine’s Machinists.
Just last month, the same Machinists’ union was given an ultimatum
by its largest employer, Boeing, that the union must ensure labor peace (through a long-term no strike pledge) or it may move part of its 787 Dreamliner assembly out of Washington state.
Last year, the Machinists union engaged in a long, “costly and damaging
” strike at Boeing, idling 27,000 union workers and shutting production down for 52 days
(and which followed a three week strike in 2005
). With Boeing locked in a competitive battle
with European-government backed Airbus, it appears the company is no longer tolerant of having an unpredictable workforce.
However, when the company signaled its desires to have longer-term labor peace, the union establishment in that state essentially gave Boeing “the bird” by saying
giving a long-term no strike pledge is“…something that we would probably never do.”
As of Wednesday
“the plane maker has notified the South Carolina Department of Commerce that it will seek a permit to add a commercial aircraft assembly line in the state.” [In Charleston, South Carolina, the employees at Boeing’s recently purchased plant currently have an election scheduled to determine whether they will decertify the Machinists union.]
While Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx stated that no decision has been made on whether the company will move some of its assembly to South Carolina yet, he also added, “Production stability will be a factor [in where the new production line is located], but that doesn’t mean that we have a preference for a non-union facility.”
It does appear, however, that the writing is on the wall for many of the Machinists in Puget Sound. Their last long strike may just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and their resistance to ensure labor peace will cost them dearly.
Bad Leadership or Bad Decisions?
With the seemingly disparate decisions being made by these unions and their members likely to result in the loss of thousands of jobs, the question becomes: Are these union workers being deceived by their union leaders into believing that their employers won’t actually close their facilities? Perhaps time will provide us with the answer but, if this is indeed the case, then there is ample evidence that should demonstrate to them the folly of following their union leaders lockstep to the unemplyment lines.