Biggest Bullies In The Auto Industry

Posted by: Wed, Apr 2, 2008
Posted in category Big Business, Current Events, Work

On February 26th – 3,650 UAW members went on strike against the company American Axle after renegotiation of their contract failed. These UAW workers are still on strike and continue to hold their ground not allowing American Axle to Bully its employees. The strike has strained GM to the point they cut or entirely stop production in 30 plants. The audacity of American Axle appalls us and many other American workers by only agreeing to a new contract if wages and benefits are cut by 50%! Considering that most of their current union employees have been with them for over 15 years this is a huge blow to an experienced and highly skilled workforce.
American Axle is the leading manufacturer of drive train axles producing over 15,000 a day globally. Yes, I said globally, they currently have 11 plants outside the U.S. and only 6 in the U.S. Straight from the horses mouth, Mr. Dick Dauch the CEO of American Axle stated in The Detroit Free Press that if the strike did not end

“We have the flexibility to source all of our business to other locations around the world, and we have the right to do so.”

How can a company called “American” Axle threaten to take all of their business outside America? That is just wrong! Mr. Dauch whines about not being able to compete in a market where companies like Delphi have been able to cut wages in half. For one, Delphi was in bankruptcy trying to hang onto their company, and for two Delphi has had to hire back some of their “old” workforce at the “old” wage because they are having issues with their new lower wage “unskilled” workforce.

American Axle had a gross profit of $278 Million in 2007 according to the annual report for investors on their website. Ok, $278 Million sounds a far cry from bankruptcy and if Mr. Dauch is so concerned why not give up some of his $1.47 Million salary or his $7.7 Million in stock options? On top of all that American Axle has illegally terminated disability payments and health care for injured workers, as well as compensation, including health care for laid off workers.

The UAW workers face much criticism when it comes to their salaries for manufacturing jobs. For a better understanding, in an excellent article on Dollars & Sense Sue Helper, who is an economist and was an expert witness in the Dana and Delphi bankruptcy proceedings this summer, has this to say:

“People who don’t work in manufacturing may think of manufacturing work as pushing a button every 20 seconds on some machine. You push the same button every 20 seconds for 20 years and it never changes, so there is not much discretion or skill required. A number of things follow from that picture of manufacturing work. One, maybe people who do it should not get paid very much. And two, why should we try to keep these jobs—who cares if China does them instead?
I think that picture does not have to be true, and in fact is not true in much of U.S. manufacturing today, especially in the auto industry. And there are a number of policies that could incorporate workers’ knowledge and skill into the production process further. All of the automakers have adopted in some form or another the Toyota “just-in-time” production system: assembly plants keep little or no inventory of parts on hand, and the lead time to make parts is very small. That means that if a line gets shut down, say, at a supplier, then that’s going to shut down the line at an assembly plant, and can cost that assembly plant up to thousands of dollars in lost profits for every minute the line is not working. That’s a lot of pressure on a worker. On top of that, the quality requirements are quite high. In part because of this problem with the line possibly being shut down, just-in-time increases the stress and the skill requirements for workers.”

Sue sums it up perfectly and we definatley agree with her. Ask your self this….Would you want an unskilled worker making the parts for your car? Would you take more pride in your work if you made $28 or $14 an hour?
The latest blow from American Axle was over the weekend when they placed employment ads to replace the striking workers. The ad said

“Employment offered to applicants responding to this advertisement will be to fill anticipated attrition replacement openings after negotiations or in place of employees involved in this strike.”

I’d have to say this company is pretty cocky to think that someone in Michigan would cross a picket line and take a striking workers job. IT WON’T HAPPEN!

The UAW Local 235 retaliated on Monday morning when regular laid off workers were to report back to work. They walked 60 of those workers to the entrance of the plant, the workers checked in for work and then…declared that they were on strike! GOOD FOR THEM, United We Stand!

Those 60 workers traded a $360 unemployment check for a $200 strike pay check. Would you do that for your fellow co-workers?

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One Response to “Biggest Bullies In The Auto Industry”

  1. Biggest Bullies In The Auto Industry says:

    Apr. 2, 2008

    […] Chad & Stacey had a pretty good blog post. Definitely worth your time. Here is a small excerpt:The strike has strained GM to the point they cut or entirely stop production in 30 plants. The audacity of American Axle appalls us and many other American workers by only agreeing to a new contract if wages and benefits are cut by 50%! … […]

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