I’ve said before that the automobile industry is very mis-understood. There is more innovation in this industry than anyone gives it credit for. Today’s post on Unionlabelblog (don’t ask me how I found myself on this page today), exemplifies my point in a strong way. It talks about the problem of unions being at the root of the industry’s struggles. It highlights how Ford’s Manufacturing plant in Bahia, Brazil is one of the most sophisticated and efficient manufacturing plants in the world – partly because of the non-issue of unions, the freedom this gives a company, how it operates, how its people work and are trained.
Now, coming from a family which relied heavily on unions for protection of rights and welfare (my grandfathers, uncles worked in the steelworks, coal mines etc) I know the value of unions but unions need to be modernized and re brand themselves. Of course, people should still have some protection and rights but really, are they as relevant? are they the institution which led to their creation in the first place? I haven’t spent a long times thinking about this but I’m inclined to think the answer is NO. Also in this day and age, technology and transparency has given individuals a stronger voice and issues are judged and “reasoned” by the voices of public opinion so today’s union workers will not loose out in the long term, but companies are released of their expensive burden. The workers will also work under the same competitive rules of today’s economy which requires nimbleness, quick decisions and thinking on our feet. The comparison of UPS (union) and FedEx (non-union) is a great example of how a company can better compete relative to one another.
So, again I’ve made this point about the burden of unions time and time again, the US industry is being forced to carry baggage that its competitors doesn’t have to. The same applies for health costs and retirement costs (side note, but this is why when Boeing workers recently went out on a month strike and argued for full benefits after retirement – I thought it was unacceptable, we don’t live in a society of yester-years, this model and these expectations are not scalable and is now how business is done today). Stepping down the soapbox.