2012 December 11 Tuesday
Union Weakening Legislation Passes In Michigan

Union dues won't be mandatory in Michigan any more.

LANSING, Mich. With Democrats and labor leaders vowing retribution at the ballot box and beyond, the Republican-dominated Michigan Legislature on Tuesday approved sweeping, statewide changes to the way unions will be financed, substantially reducing their power in a state that has long been a symbol of union might and an incubator for the American labor movement.

The UAW is down to a third its peak size for two reasons: more robots and more imports. That cuts the number of UAW member voters and hence UAW voting clout. Ditto for all the other private sector manufacturing unions. Gutted by foreign and robotic competition. Though they made their decline faster than it needed to be.

Did the people of Michigan come to see the UAW as part of the problem? High union salaries mean no union salaries when plants close. Did excesses of a very powerful union turn non-auto workers against unions? I've heard enough stories from engineer friends who worked at car companies and their suppliers to know that the UAW slowed the rate of technological progress and quality improvement in manufacturing plants. The feather-bedding at its peak was ridiculous. A former Ford factory worker told me how he could rush thru his quota of seat covers and leave hours early. An electrical engineer friend working for a company that did only a small part of its business with GM described to me how when GM still had a factory in Van Nuys he had to talk a UAW guy thru a parts change in a factory assembly line station. Something he could have done in a few minutes required 2 UAW guys plus him and much longer to boot. Another guy I used to work with described how he had to drive prototype parts from a lab to a factory to try and back to a lab to adjust due to UAW rules. At the factory of course he had to get a UAW guy to bring in the part and try it. Toyota factory engineers and workers innovated right past that nonsense. GM and Chrysler went bankrupt.

At this point I would not recommend anyone with less than a masters in engineering or computer science go into a manufacturing career. All the technically skilled workers who can adjust and configure automated lathes and mills will eventually find themselves totally automated out of jobs. The pay will be low. Factory work isn't going to come back to America for humans to do. We'll only get it back when robots can take over the the work.

What will less intelligent workers do in the future? I'm not seeing a big place for them given technological trends.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 December 11 09:10 PM 

Mike M said at December 11, 2012 9:56 PM:

"What will less intelligent workers do in the future?"

Same thing they've always done - join unions. I guess the productive citizens in Michigan were tired of these moochers and their thuggery. Unions and their members are a drag on our economy. Their "work" (and I use the term loosely) is typically sloppy and these slackers are employed because of their strong arm, criminal tactics and not for any skill or talent that benefits society. They're on par with affirmative action employees - worse that worthless because they occupy a position that otherwise could be filled by a productive, honest citizen.

bob sykes said at December 12, 2012 5:13 AM:

You got it right. Jobs did not go the China. Workers were replaced by automation. Over the last 20 to 30 years, total industrial output in the US doubled in real terms, but "worker" productivity tripled. The trend continues. Cheap energy will bring back the factories, and robots will staff them.

Every industrial country in the world, including China, is losing industrial jobs. Only dirt cheap assembly line jobs will survive. And the workers will live like Indian peasants.

On the plus side, violent criminal gangs like the UAW will be contained if not eliminated.

On the negative side, violent criminal gangs like the NEA, AFT and SEIU will hang around.

dchamil said at December 12, 2012 6:10 AM:

The UAW has created many jobs. It has created them at competing, non-union auto plants.

Black Death said at December 12, 2012 8:40 AM:

I live in Michigan, and I've watched this drama unfold. In the last election, the unions put a number of pro-union propositions on the ballot, and they all failed, mostly by about 60-40. They also targeted Republican House Speaker Jace Bolger, who, despite their efforts narrowly won reelection. So it's payback time. Good! Governor Snyder has always been lukewarm about right-to-work, but looks like he's had enough of the unions too.

This can only help the state's economy. Unemployment in Michigan has been above the national average for as long as I can remember, and this may bring in new jobs. None of the foreign automakers who have built plants in the US have put them in Michigan - they've gone mostly to right-to-work southern states. Maybe this will reverse the trend. The UAW is a dinosaur that would like to keep what's left of Michigan's industrial economy mired in the past. This law might help end that.

D.H. said at December 12, 2012 3:39 PM:

Its not a well developed idea, but I think unions are a manifestation of a social organization that has always existed. I see isomorphisms between them and criminal gangs, armys, the Russian revolution, the Nazis, some governments and even feudal lords and peasants. What I see that they have in common is strong leaders willing to do violence that extract sustenance from the lower caste members who can't leave and have to go along or else risk violence. I think this kind of organization will exist any time conditions are right. A lot of unemployed people with prospects for things only getting worse seems like the right conditions.

James Bowery said at December 12, 2012 10:37 PM:

"What will less intelligent workers do in the future?"

Be one of the growing number of blocs that vote Democrat because they are dependent on government largesse to have the time to "community organize" to get out the vote and obtain benefits to support creation of more "humans" like themselves both through reproduction and immigration.


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