BMW to UAW: You Suck

28 Feb

This commercial from BMW is an awesome F*CK YOU to the UAW and all unions.  While the Big 3 were all in bankruptcy and getting federal bailouts, BMW spent a billion dollars expanding a plant in South Carolina.  Last I checked, most of these employees are non-union.  Oh yea, and BMW – a luxury automaker – is actually profitable, and still was, even during the crisis. GM, Ford, Chrysler, friends (or frenemies) of the UAW?  Saved only by the largess and questionably-legal bailout actions of the Government*.

Apparently, some workers at the plant want to unionize.  Their rationale is, as almost always the case, retarded. Ok, perhaps that’s too harsh.  At best though, their rationale is painfully ignorant of things everyone should have learned by high school, if not earlier.  Ultimately, as always, the rationale comes down to whining about how the firm has reduced benefits, asked more from their workers, etc.  Big deal, it happens in every industry, especially when sales are down and unemployment is up.  If you don’t like it, quit.  There’s millions of un/under-employed people who’d LOVE to get paid $25/hour and get full benefits to do your job!

This one comment on the BMW forum thread illustrates some of the main the reasons why I am absolutely, positively anti-union (so long as a country has decent employee protection laws), emphasis mine:

I’ve worked with union workers over the years; my dad was a in a trade union all his working life. However, I’ve seen the downside. I’ve been to a place where it takes three people to change a simple part, because it required a plumber (for a simple air line), a mechanic (for two screws) and an electrian (for one electrical connector). This is not an exaggeration, but something I personally witnessed. Or, I’ve been yelled at for moving a pallet truck that someone left in front of the machine I needed access, so I broke union rules and moved it five feet. Also, I’ve seen companies unable to get rid of or even punish unproductive or damaging employees, again because of the unions. All the while watching unskilled labor getting paid significantly more than me. So don’t mind me if I don’t shed a tear for you. I live in a right-to-work state too, but I believe in earning my keep.

I’m not saying ALL or even most union employees are lazy and overpaid, but I, too, have witnessed hundreds if not thousands of times union employees slacking off, to put it mildly.  Union rules and collective bargaining (etc) create perverse incentives and not only allow, but mandate waste and inefficiency, like in the above anecdote and my painfully countless personal experiences.

Critics (almost if not all of them union and union-affilianted) of right-to-work laws say unions protect workers rights and result in employees/members getting better wages/benefits and that their work is of higher-quality than that of non-union labor.  The first assertion is true, but it just as much – if not moreso – a criticism of unions than an endorsement.  Unions artificially drive-up wages and benefits while decreasing employment.

I think claims that union employees producer higher-quality work on a timely-schedule without cost over-runs versus non-union labor are probably grossly over-stated.  If I hire and train an employee, how does his membership in a union in any way, shape, or form affect how good he is at his job?  Is the argument that higher-paid union labor with better benefits work harder than non-union labor that supposedly has lower wages/benefits or something?  I don’t think I’m buying that…

Last I checked, the BMW Spartansburg plant employs thousands of non-union employees who all work there voluntarily, as in, they agreed to do the job, the pay, the benefits etc that came with it.  No one is forcing them to work there for whatever they’re getting paid.  And the pay/benefits aren’t that bad from what I’ve read.  $24/hr to work on an assembly line with no college education (plus any overtime) in that area isn’t that bad, especially considering the lack of required education/experience/skills and the investment therein and the fact that you probably drive a BMW for alot less than non-employees.  BMW also gives employees at the plant some pretty good benefits, standard fare for non-union employees:

  • Comprehensive medical, prescription, dental and vision plans
  • Short-term and long-term disability benefits
  • Life insurance
  • 401K Retirement Savings Plan
  • BMW Pension Plan
  • Associate Car Use Program

If they don’t like how much they’re get paid in cash or benefits, they can ask for more.  If they can’t get it, either stay and deal with it or try to get another job that’ll pay and give them the benefits they want.  If they can’t get a raise/get more benefits at their job nor find another one that’ll give them what they want, then guess what: They’re not worth any more than they’re already getting and should be thankful to have a job at all!.  If you want to make more, go get some more skills/education and stop your fucking whining about how management is screwing the “hard-working” employees.

Please, if you work 40-hours/week , if you take a cigarette/coffee break 10 times a day, if you have an hour for lunch, if you check Facebook/Twitter/whatever a dozen times a day,  if you spend more time in the break room or around the water-cooler than you do at your desk, then you’re probably not working that hard at all (unless your job involves doing such things).  Instead of whining about people who DO make more than you, do the work, get the skills/education/experience/network you need so you can get there yourself!  Otherwise, shut up.

Unions encourage people to do the least they can get away with doing until it’s time to collect their pensions (that’s probably unfunded, screwing over younger workers paying into it), which are not-unlikely to be over-inflated because of manipulating later-years wages upon which pension payouts are often based.  I know of union employees whose pensions are based on their final-year’s salary, so they work a ton of overtime that year et voila, artificially over-inflated pension!  I don’t think most union members do this, but the fact that they can get away with such things is yet another mark against unions in general.

Here’s an interesting question: why don’t people in the Financial Services industry unionize?  Why isn’t there a Back & Middle-Office Employees Union?  How come there’s no Financial Analysts & Investment Bankers Union?  What about a Hedge Fund Employees’ Union?  How come there’s not even a Bank Teller & Clerk Union?  Perhaps its because many if not most if not all people in Financial Services understand it’s a meritocracy (well, to some degree), and people are more attracted to higher wages/benefits that come with raising up the ranks than those that are the result of union extortion/blackmail, er, I mean, collective bargaining.

I’ve read the academic research and the “studies” from both sides here, and while these arguments presented herein are admittedly oversimplified, I think one would be hard-pressed to challenge most if not all of them, although I appreciate constructive criticism and discussion.

*I’m not solely blaming unions for ruining the Big 3, not hardly, management decisions since the 1950’s ranging to making promises they had no way of keeping (ie defined benefit pensions), letting the bean-counters run design/engineering, etc all contributed as well, each in no small part.

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3 Responses to “BMW to UAW: You Suck”

  1. AndyWEllis March 1, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    Anecdotally, I can state some firsthand observations concerning the BMW plant, its in my hometown.

    The plant has clearly provided a lot of jobs. Without exception, each job at BMW has not only been superior in terms of wages to other local, comparable offerings; but also, the employees seem highly satisfied.

    The economic landscape in SC is fairly bleak, however a car manufacturer of all entities is the bright spot. It has provided new jobs directly, but it has also encouraged the influx of other, smaller businesses in the Greenville-Spartanburg area.

    I can’t say that I’m well-versed in the situations surrounding the rise and fall of the Big 3, but even if an irrefutable argument were to be made for unionization of workers at some point, that argument would now be obsolete.

    I feel comfortable saying that the model is obsolete because Spartanburg and especially surrounding communities used to be subject to monopsonies in labor markets. Rundown mill villages adorn the hills of quite a few river banks in Spartanburg county, and collective bargaining would probably have been a great boon to the workers at some points (and maybe was eventually utilized). On the flip side, conditions were such that with the passing of NAFTA and the CBI in the 90s, most textile jobs that remained were quickly lost altogether to developing countries (Milliken being an exception).

    My point is that even with a relatively poor job market, job markets in the US are still competitive enough to allow for self determination; particularly when coupled with all of the many laws and regulations in the US about requirements in a work place*.

    I’m always wary of people who have less banding together and placing demands on people that have more. On a national level it results in entitlements that are out of control and many people receiving lots of government services without paying a dime to support them. The people need a way to stand up for themselves, unions often abuse the power of the mob, I don’t have a great solution. However, on an individual company level BMW has done an exemplary job running an efficient business while existing as an economic boon to a region.

    *I’m very well aware that Unions were instrumental in lobbying for the laws and regulations I reference, I just think that their legitimate goals are now mostly accomplished (and have been for some time).

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bill Auction Results, Updated Calendar and Fed OMO’s « Stone Street Advisors - February 28, 2011

    […] interesting article by @The_Anal_yst caught my eye during lunch: BMW to UAW: You Suck. Must read, given the union vs. nonunion “tensions” occurring as of […]

  2. Bill Auction Results, Updated Calendar and Fed OMO’s | Stocks! - February 28, 2011

    […] interesting article by @The_Anal_yst caught my eye during lunch: BMW to UAW: You Suck. Must read, given the union vs. nonunion “tensions” occurring as of […]

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