Monday, September 3, 2018

The Jarlsberg Diaries: Labor Day Memories

stilton’s place, stilton, political, humor, conservative, cartoons, jokes, hope n’ change, ford, steering columns, unions, uaw, indianapolis, labor day

Today is Labor Day, a national holiday on which we celebrate the labor unions which have improved working conditions and pay so dramatically that the actual jobs now go to illegal aliens, because that's the only way for many manufacturers to keep from going out of business.

Not that it's our intention to bash unions today! Over the years, they've accomplished many positive things and put an end to some horrific working conditions. If you doubt us, try looking up some vintage photos of 8-year old coal miners and then try to get their eyes and faces out of your nightmares.

That being said, our personal experience working in a union shop left us with a highly negative attitude. It was in the early 1970's, and we had to join the United Auto Workers to work at a Ford factory in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a summer job to earn college money, and we were moved around from assignment to assignment to cover for vacationing employees.

Our first position was a night shift driving a forklift. The work was simple enough - transporting pallets of materials from one place to another. The problem was that there wasn't nearly enough work to fill the hours. When we asked the foreman what we should be doing to put in 8 hours of productivity, we were A) glared at for being a college-boy asshole and B) told that we should find a place to hide and sleep through the shift like everyone else did.

It seems the other forklift drivers did their work in the first hour, then retreated to hideaways inside stacks of boxes where there were makeshift beds, Playboy pinups, and the all-important alarm clocks which told our fellow workers when it was time to wake up and go home. Our Protestant work ethic wouldn't allow us to do this (not to mention our fear of being crushed by falling stacks of crates "accidentally" tipped by our coworkers) so we were soon moved to daytime work on the assembly line.

This particular assembly line was for building steering columns. Every nine seconds, a unit would roll slowly by and we'd perform one quick operation on it...then move on to the next and the next and the next. There was nothing challenging about getting our contribution done in nine seconds (the union had established that this was exactly the maximum amount of work a laborer could do)...but we soon learned there was a complication.

Every man on the line not only knew how to do his own job, but also his neighbor's job within that nine second window (and without breaking a sweat). And so one man would come in every morning, punch in for himself and the second worker (who was still at home in bed) and do both jobs until lunchtime. Then the second man came in and the first man left for the day - with both time cards punched out at the end of the shift. Management knew this, but didn't dare challenge the union.

The "half day, full pay" scam eventually reached its logical conclusion when two geniuses sharing job duties figured out that neither of them would have to come in if they simply had a third guy punching their time cards in and out. And that's what they did for a long time.

And it worked out great until people driving Fords started dying because their cars suddenly veered out of control owing to the missing part in the steering column.

A massive recall followed, millions of dollars were paid in liability settlements and, of course, the two workers who were to blame were fired.


Yes, the UAW got them their jobs back. So fire up your grills, have a great Labor Day and for the love of all that's holy drive carefully.


Dan said...

Nice crew-served smoker you have pictured. How much brisket can you produce in 24 hours? (I take it your crew is non-union, so production might be pretty good.)

And everyone: Have a good Labor Day.

REM1875 said...

In the interest of full disclosure I am a retired govt union member (health insurance)


1) I have always lived by the rule if my union is for it then I am against it.
2) If it's good for the union then it's bad for the nation.

Rumour has it 40% of the union is like me ..... but then it's a real democracy....
Which is why I treasure the fact that I live in a Constitutional Republic......and not a demonracy.

Jim Irre said...

If you want to see what Orwell's 1984 looks like, look no further than labor unions.

Judi King said...

As a resident of lower MI, I have always been surrounded by auto factories. The union abuse is NOT just a Ford problem, it is in ALL auto plants. I contend that much of the problems we are seeing in this country can be laid at the door of the UAW and other unions. Of course the manufacturers give in to the unions, they are run by thugs.

Unknown said...

And THAT's how the Japanese ate the Big 3. One group had a work ethic, the other had an avoid work ethic.

Oh, and you're a traitor if you don't drive an imported car!

Unknown said...

I mean, if you DO drive an imported car. More coffee please!

Fish Out of Water said...

I can second from person experience, much of what the post covers. I would also suggest reading the book, The Savage Factory for more insights into UAW chicanery.

One of the bigger canards the UAW foists upon its membership and the unknowing/uncaring public is that automobile assembly is skilled labor and thus commands the compensation the UAW demands. From my own experience in working on an auto assembly line for 3 months (in Japan), I can say that work on an assembly line requires a degree of fitness, some agility, the ability to stay on one's feet for long periods of time and most important, a high tolerance for tedious, repetitive work. Again this work is NOT skilled labor.

Unions or at least their current business model is archaic. Again, from my personal experience with my college job, I had to join a union (Retail Clerks),which NTW got me nothing except exceptionally small pay checks when the time came to pay the monthly union dues. The message that was constantly pounded upon by the union to rank and file was self-aggrandizing 'Us vs. Them'. And while this was decades ago, I still see the same message on UAW FB pages particularly on those FB pages set up for companies unions (the UAW) have tried and tried to "organize" and have always come up short. There seems to be a message in these failures which organized labor still doesn't recognize.

Last, and I'm not certain where I read this, but certainly would like to see this happen, is a proposal that once an union "organizes" an plant or other business, that the union must undergo a recertification process after a certain number of years, instead of once they're in, they're status quo we have currently.

M. Mitchell Marmel said...

My family has avoided Fords since the mid 1950s, when my parents were on honeymoon driving from Philly to San Francisco in their new Ford. The St. Louis Ford dealer assured them that the oil warning light they saw was just a bad sender. They wound up stuck in Amarillo, TX for three days until a replacement engine could be sent and replaced (under warranty, of course). After that, they swore off Fords...

Geoff King said...

I too have a bad taste for unions. Many moons ago I worked for a vending company in Saginaw, Michigan. We had the contract for 85 vending machines in a GM foundry. Being a GM plant in Michigan, it was a union only shop. All I did was drive an electric Cushman golf cart around to the several break areas in order to fill the candy/coffee/cigarette machines. I was required to join the Teamsters Union in order to drive such a powerful rig.
I did that for several months quite efficiently. Even though it was not part of my job description, I also repaired the machines to the point where the actual technician never had to show up.
Then contract time came around. A gal with no real attributes other than senority bumped me out of my job and the only one with less senority than I was a delivery driver at less than half the pay. I gave my two weeks notice and was delighted to hear that the technician was now having to spend most of his days following that gal around fixing everything she screwed up.

Jack said...


Thanks for your revelations. I had no idea that auto unions were so bad.

I hope that you will consider the larger picture of child labor in those days of yore; In that era, lots of children had no parents and no futures. Working in the mines wasn't particularly worse than anything else. There were many other situations in which children worked and risked their lives. It was just the way things were.

Unions really advocated for things that were on the way simply because society was becoming richer and could afford to be magnanimous.

Schools were not the snappy things we have today. OOPS! There's a larger picture to see here, too; Though schools are cleaner and more vibrant and more universally available, society makes up for that with squalor in the home. Consider the "After School" and its kids who have no home at all. Add to that the problem of entire schools in the Drug-Addiction parts of every city and town. There are things the teachers won't talk about unless you gain their confidence and take the time to chat.

Fish Out of Water said...

@Wiegman: Yes, labor conditions were horrible and yes, unions at that time were a force for good. But instead of declaring victory and moving on, unions offer nothing now.

AmyH said...

My SO is in a union (USW). Its the same one his uncle is a part of at BP. Uncle gets gloves, jackets, hats, bags, gift cards, etc every quarter from the union. SO has received 1 bag in the 11 years. He also gets 2 copies of their quarterly magazine. Not a single person has noticed that 2 go out to the same person at the same address. Both copies go directly to the recycle. This last contract negotiation time was a joke. Union reps sat down with company reps. Company reps said "here is the contract, take it or leave it, no negotiating." Union reps said "ok." Majority of the guys said "ok" and signed yes to the contract. No strike, just sign yes. It came back & bit one
of them within weeks, though he said "no" to the contract. He went out for back issues (already had spinal fusion) and at the 6 month mark was out of a job. Thats right, no Long Term Disability. Short Term to a short Long Term and at 6 months, fired. No benefits. Union also takes (and has for 4 years now) 2% of their Overtime pay. Union doesnt work it, but they get paid for it. He is so sick of the majority that just bends over & takes it. I dont believe Unions are out for "The Little Guy" anymore. I would never join a Union and am so glad Indiana is a Right To Work State. I dont tell SO this though. Hes still very Union. But, so was his father (steel). This is all he knew. My dad wasnt (Amoco Research). I see both sides, but I think unions need to be taken down a few notches.

American Cowboy said...

My own story about unions that shaped my opinion for the rest of my life (up until now).

When I was just barely older than a cub I decided the solitary life of a (real)cowboy was not going to be for me! I did like building things, so I was going to go to town and be a carpenter.
The only hitch was that I lived in a closed shop state. So I ambled on down to the union building to inquire about getting work. I was informed that I could not work unless I joined the union. "Okay," replied A.C. "Sign me up." Of course they would not. I had to pay initiation fees, and one years union advance they said.
Well A.C. did not have that kind of cash in his pocket so I told them, "Get me work, and take the money out of my pay, a little at a time until it is paid."
"No," was the answer. The union expected their money up front.
A.C. told the man behind the desk, "So I cannot work unless I pay you in advance, and I cannot pay you without work. I guess you just slap a fellow on the ass with a tape measure and give him a hammer and call him a carpenter!" A.C. strode out and never looked back.
I prefer the last five decades of mountain solitude with just a few good horses, the cattle, and my ever present heeler dogs to city life anyway, especially seeing what city life is now. And I still hate unions.

Fred Ciampi said...

And Stilt, you missed three very important reasons folks are driving Toyota cars and such: Quality, quality, and quality. Look up W. Edward Demming, father of quality control and assurance. He was a physicist who wrote the book on quality. He tried to sell Detroit on quality for automobiles but they weren't interested. Mister Toyoda of a certain Japanese auto company heard about him, sent him a plane ticket, and the rest is history. (I drive a Toyota).

I knew a fellow who worked (?) at Ford and was responsible for putting three screws into a flange at the bottom of the steering column. Sometimes he would put just two. I asked him why. He just shrugged. And, because his task was so technically complex, he was the only one who could perform that task. Sometimes if the fish were biting he would take the day off and go fishing. That would shut that particular line down because only he could put those three screws in. And the list goes on and on.

Here's a blog I wrote a while back about how the unions have outlived their usefulness;

Anonymous said...

Had unions guaranteed the best labor; expert, efficient, hardworking, honest, employees, companies would be asking for union labor. Had unions guaranteed to solve employee problems, dealt with drugs and alcohol problems, harassment issues, companies would be asking for union contracts. Union leaders, instead of making union membership a thing to be desired, made it only about money and power for themselves.

Bruce Bleu said...

Stilton, I worked for the UAW too, (United Aerospace Workers... same acronym, same uselessness, same corruption... as is the United Agricultural Workers). Laziness and the sowing of discord between hourly and management is rewarded by this "tits on a boar hog" organization. All the union reps drove Cadillacs and spoke with a Sicilian accent, (nudge nudge, wink wink). I loved the work I did in the aerospace industry, but the unions (was in the I.A.M. too) were WAAAAAY past their "use by" date and had become nothing more than a corporate shakedown mechanism and organized crime.

Fred Ciampi: I took courses from Demming's protege and learned about Statistical Process Control in the '80's. It was an excellent education. I happen to drive a Tundra, my son has had several Toyota's and about 7 Lexii.
In the I.A.M. a 15 minute job took 3.5 hours because the various people had to wait for another trade to take out a friggin screw or move a friggin pipe to get to the discipline below., so an ET, electrician, mechanic and plumber were needed to open a box and tighten a wire... AHHHHHHH!

Emmentaler Limburger said...

Unions. Unions are anathema to freedom. They are anathema to progress. And they are a millstone around the neck of the economy.
I have a long and illustrious history with unions. In my youth, I worked for a grocery chain. I devised, back in the 80s, a system for returnable 2L bottles that prevented the constant issue of the bottlers dinging the stores for putting too few in a bag (should be 40), and quietly walking along when there were too many. (Yes, yes - that liberal ecologist's dream law of returnable bottles DOES in fact cost the retailers money - not just for errors in returnable counts, but to employ folks to handle the returns. But I digress.) They shipped me from plant to plant do organize their bottle rooms. But the Great Scott chain was unionized, I had to be a union member. And, they couldn't, by union rules, just move me where they needed me - I had to remain in each store for a minimum amount of time (I think it was 60 days). Being the college-bound "brainiac”, I inspired jealousy and loathing in most of my fellow "baggers", but in the store management who would never see much better than they had. This caused my scheduled hours to, in many months of my employment with the company, to be less than what the union demanded for making my life such a panacea. Seeds of distaste planted.
From there, I went on to the Ponderosa steak house chain, also a union shop. AFL-CIO. Paid dues there, but my work-a-holic work ethic gave me many hours, and I never had a problem paying the dues. My fellow high school-aged employees like my "take no guff" attitude, and elected me their shop steward. Whoopee! Well, the union took care of all of us. The owners of the area franchise had been taking our dues, but not paying them to the union for years. To save us from this evil, the union sued the company to recover these dues, forcing the company into bankruptcy, and costing all of their good, dues-paying members their jobs. Except me. They had their eye on me, and pulled me in to be a regional rep for other area restaurants. There I saw the inner workings of a union. The disdain - the contempt - they had for all the "rabble" that paid their salaries was a real eye-opener. I didn't last long in that job.
Now, 40 years later, I work for one of the big three, and have for almost 30 years. I've worked in many of their plants, including some in Canada, as a manufacturing engineer. During this time, I’ve noted that for every gain the union makes for its members, the "at will" salaried staff has experienced a loss; every concession asked of the union was imposed upon the "at will" salaried staff long beforehand. And the things I've seen - the things I continue to see - in the assembly plant are incredible - from folks who spend their days sleeping, to those who expend more effort to avoid work than the work itself would have taken. In one plant I’ve been in, there is guy who is so huge, he can barely walk. He is a skilled tradesman – a pipefitter (industrial plumber) – and cannot even climb a step ladder. Doing so is part and parcel for his job – yet they cannot get rid of him. The union prevents doing so. Note that I don’t want to paint the wrong pcture: there are a LOT of very good people trapped in the union shops - but there definitely are very many more who would be on welfare if the union wasn't able to force the company to keep them on their own roles - and this marks the difference between good employees, and good union members.
At one time unions were instrumental in protecting the working people from big business, though much of what they claim to have been their accomplishments were not of their doing. Even so: those times are long gone, and unions – these little pockets of socialism - have become big business themselves. The fox is officially charged with protecting the henhouse…

TrickyRicky said...

I worked one college summer at the Safeway distribution center in Denver. I pulled orders in one section of the warehouse all night, built pallets, wrapped them, and delivered them to the dock where the forklift guys loaded trailers which delivered the groceries to the stores. This was a Teamster shop, and I quickly learned how that worked.

There was a lunchroom, which was simply an area halfway to the high ceiling accessed by a steel staircase. The break area had a bunch of tables, coffee machines and the like, all underlain by a nondescript linoleum floor. About a week before I hired on an employee had wadded up a bunch of newspaper on the floor and lit it. Before being extinguished, it melted a large hole in the linoleum, with the steel decking showing through below.

The fired employee was back to work within the week. It turns out he was the shop steward.

Navyvet said...

In my early working days, where I had to work two jobs to make ends meet, I was forced, repeat forced, to join unions. Even as a part time musician later, I was threatened until I paid the shakedown money. No one of these unions ever did a damn thing for me except steal my money and demand that I donate wasn't enough. All the "shop stewards" were crooks and thieves.
Yes, unions did some good things in the 1930's, since then they have put more people out of jobs than are countable.

Anonymous said...

America works less when we say “Union yes!”

Boligat said...

My brother told of working for the Postal Service. He walked a route delivering mail. Then he figured out that he could complete his route quicker by walking a little faster. Then he figured out that he could cut the time in half if he walked really fast or even trotted. So he did that and then went home. Then the union rep told him to cut it out because that made all the other carriers look bad. So, he still did it, but instead of going home he went to his car and read, relaxed, napped, etc. until it was time to go home.

Fred Ciampi said...

When I was working as a welder (I have 50 welding certifications) and going to college studying to be a welding engineer, the shop steward told me I was working too hard and making him look bad. I replied "the only person who can make you look bad is you". He didn't like me very much after that.

Judi King said...

Again, as a Michigander, I know many people who work or have worked at one auto plant or another (mostly GM). I have pretty much heard most of the above horror stories of unions. You forget they also send out their union news which tells them which Democrat to vote for. I have seen such a paper personally.
They may have had a purpose in the 30's, or whatever, but those problems would have self corrected on their own when employers figured out they wanted better employees and offered more attractive wages, etc.

james daily said...

I guess the statue of limitations has run it course on this one but it still bothers me.
At the post office that was at the air port, one could go in and fill out his paperwork, pay his fee and the clerk would send that to get your passport. He was selling passports. After getting caught, no charges, they just moved him to another job.

Sortahwitte said...

During my working years I belonged (made to) the ITU(International Typographical Union), the OCAW,(Oil, Chemical,and Atomic Workers Union), which rolled into the AFofL. At no time did I pay my dues voluntarily. At no time did those unions represent the guy with a legitimate grievance. They made a cause of representing the screw-off, the one that couldn't set an alarm clock, the one that called in sick every Friday, the one that abused the sick policy, and the medical benefits. And the vast majority were dims that turned out the vote for whoever had a democrat next to their name. The companies were not lilly white in all this mess because they hired these manipulators in the first place. I believe the unions had a place in our working history, but if a brontosaurus walked down our main street, he like the unions, has outlived their purpose.

NVRick said...

@Fish Out Of Water:
The same can be said of the civil rights "movement" (appropriately named).
Once we got past the sixties and early seventies, the country as a whole was lurching towards racial equality. The "movement", however, needs to keep the discrimination pot on a continual simmer, with a healthy boil from time to time to reinforce the need for such leaders as Al (not so)Sharp(ton).
As opposed to tin foil hat conspirators that claim cancer cures are withheld to keep big pharma in business, Al, Jesse and the ACLU actually depend on racial tension to feather their nests.

mamafrog said...

Yeah, like others I have a love/hate with unions. Worked so many retail jobs that didn't have one, and it might or might not have been an improvement. I live in Oklahoma which is "fire at will", and have been several times. When I lived in Washington state I got paid to take stay home and take care of a disabled family member. Yes, I was doing it anyway, but I actually got paid to do it. Union job, so many stupid, useless classes on how to get along with everyone and be PC, and very few on how to actually do anything useful. At least I could take them online and just half ass my way through. The best part was it gave me excellent insurance and a living wage, the bad part was their constant bull shit about who to vote for that they supported. (Ha! Couldn't control me there at least.) My grandmother helped the newspaper workers in OKC unionize back in the 30's. It allowed her to support five kids on a decent wage but you can guess what it's like now.

Pat Cummings said...

M. Mitchell Marmel: We were fortunate with our Fords (2 of) not to wind up stuck, but one vehicle, an Explorer, had 15 recalls in our first year of owning it. We traded it for a Ford van, but when the "FORD = Fix Often, Recall Daily" symptoms began again, we swapped it for a different make ASAP.

Fred Ciampi: W. Edward Demming was the pattern for the American engineer hero in an excellent novel, Miss One Thousand Spring Blossoms. I recommend it (as fiction) to anyone who likes fiction centered around engineering concepts and engineers as heroes.

EOCostello said...

(1) As I recall, there was a plant in Ohio (Lordstown?) that was quite conceivably the most dysfunctional auto factory in the US of the 1970s, which was saying a good deal. Even to the point of deliberately sabotaged cars going out, which no doubt did wonders for customer relations.

(2) In a similar vein, there was a song I vividly recall (from the days when I listened to 1050 WHN, in its country music days). "One Piece at a Time," a song about an auto worker that took home parts in his lunchpail, and made a car at home. A symptom, I wot, of what was wrong with labour-management relations in the auto industry at the time. Right after that, of course, le deluge .

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Readers- Wow! I had no idea what kind of response today's post would generate. Fascinating to read the many experiences you've all had!

I will admit that on moving to Texas decades ago, the only car I could afford was a Ford Granada. It was a POS the day I bought it, and every day thereafter. When driving it, you had to crack the windows owing to the smell of raw gasoline - a problem we were never able to get rid of. The day I dumped that giant, stinking crapmobile and replaced it with a brand new Honda Accord was genuinely one of the proudest moments of my life!

M. Mitchell Marmel said...

For those unfamiliar with the tune:


Jim G. said...

Hey Stilt,

I'll be 65 on November 12th. I worked in grocery stores in high school. I'm pretty sure I had to pay Union dues back in the 60's and 70's. But then I joined the Navy. The government has it's own special union(s). Can't fire anyone.

President Trump is now going after them, but the Deep State will fight him.

Pray for President Trump.

I do every day!

Jim "Cool Breeze" Gould

Anonymous said...

Ron in Ohio Sez;
Stilton, I certainly know whereof you speak. A few years before you dated your own excursion into the East side, Shadeland Avenue, Indianapolis Ford plant, I was assigned to work there, out of a work trailer, as a shave-tail draftsman for Kirk & Blum's Indianapolis office

I had to go out in the plant and assist in taking measurements to install ventilation and pollution control systems to reduce the "Blue haze" and oily residue over the whole automatic cutting machine area. When I started there, I would go home smelling of cutting oil and very oily myself. When we finished the job, I went home clean.
When I started I thought that it was the UAW that prodded Ford for the clean-up since I had many friends that were UAW Chrysler & Ford workers in Indiana. When I left that job my whole opinion of the UAW changed. I saw ineptness, laziness and downright hatred to help anybody non UAW to do their job.

About 30 years later while experiencing a downturn in engineering work in the Detroit area I took a temporary job delivering machine repair parts to all of the big-3's manufacturing plants. I saw, first hand, that the UAW's ineptness and hatred of anyone non-union had only increased.

But, I gotta' say, After spending most of my engineering career in the automotive field, I still will NOT and NEVER own a Jap car no matter its perceived quality. My 21 year old Cadillac DeVille is living proof of why. Only last year did it turn-over 100,000 miles and it never had a headlight malfunction or replacement - I was the project engineer on those headlights for a respected supplier - Non UAW.

I could go on and on with UAW horror stories that I experienced first hand in all of the big-3 and many of the supplier's facilities. My only joy with the UAW came when the big-3 experienced sales problems and the UAW wouldn't give any concessions to help retain their own members. Around Detroit they became known as the, Unenployed Auto Workers union.

Anonymous said...

I worked as a federal employee for 40 years, 31 in supervision or upper management, and retired last fall. I dealt with AFGE (part of AFL-CIO) all too often. Under Obozo's regime, they had the keys to the operation. Nothing could get done without their blessing. The union reps were untouchable and any actions against them had to be approved at the highest level in central office-read Obama appointee. One rep verbally threaten to kill me and the rest of management. His comments were overheard by a few employees. After a lengthy investigation, his only punishment was to get moved to another office. Once, I was negotiating with them for a new build out for a small office of about 35 employees (yes, the contract gave them that authority) and the union pres demanded that the taxpayers build a plumbed, private room exclusively for the use of lactating mothers, in case there ever was one. It stalled the negotiations and we went to impasse. They held up construction for months. They served three purposes-a stick in the spokes of management, to protect the dregs who could not or would not do their job, and as a money laundering scheme for the democrats.

When DJT issued his EO that gutted the union's power, virtually all of management, no matter their politics, cheered.

I love your work, Stilton.

Rod said...

@ EOCostello: The initial "Line" for the GMC Lordstown plant was the new Chevy Vega. My only union job ever was working in a shop in Youngstown (then reputed to be the murder capitol of the USA)... fabricating major infrastructure components for the new plant I had a skill that was in demand. After extracting "special" working fees from me I was good to work as a Journeyman. The wages & OT for that summer in Youngtown paid for my next year at university. Union didn't care; they took the dues and filled the position; and I needed the money. When I showed up the Shop Foreman said, "I thought they were sending me a man" but after working for a day for free he grudgingly admitted, "Yeah, you're OK; I couldn't do it any better than that" and I got the job. And I only got shot at once that summer. But that same summer I missed the bad hurricane in Mississippi (Carla?) and Woodstock. It was an interesting time and I made friends while there. Working men & women all.

John the Econ said...

I love bashing unions. That doesn't prevent me from recognizing and respecting much of what they did achieve in the first half of the last century. But by the 1950s, most of what they had fought for had become law leaving them with little else to do other than agitate for higher wages and less productivity in order to continue the justification for their existence.

Your experience with the UAW is a perfect example. By the 1960s, the UAW was largely running almost all of the domestic auto manufacturers, and by the 1970s the quality of their product clearly reflected that. That opened the door for competition from Japan, which was building solid, efficient, and reliable cars that people were interested in buying instead of the mediocre scaled-down land yachts that domestics thought you should have to buy.

Since I've been self-employed almost all of my adult life, most of my personal experience with unions comes from those that existed at some of the companies that hire me. Ironically, in most of those cases I was hired by union people to solve problems that were of no interest to other union people to solve, largely to make things efficient enough to make for more nap time. (I largely flew under the radar of "official" attention)

Buy my favorite union story has to do with my sister in high school: She was working at a local unionized store during the holidays. As a "temp", the union allowed this. After the holidays, management was impressed with her and wanted to keep her on. A union rep came by our house to extol the benefits of union membership and to sign her up. After doing some quick math regarding amortizing the "initiation fee" and other costs in addition to what they'd be taking each paycheck, I pointed out that she'd actually be making less than minimum wage with the union. When asked to explain the benefit of this, the union rep could only offer meaningless babble, which was even less meaningful to a teenager looking for a part-time job. Needless to say, she quit the job.

John the Econ said...

I enjoyed reading the experiences of you all above. Each story reminded me of another problem that unions have created, which I think is a detriment to the workers:

By making a job only about how much money can be extracted from the employer, they strip workers of the meaning of work.

How is it possible to have pride in what you do if everything about your job is doing less of it or doing it crappy, or not doing it at all?

Working in this environment only breeds cynicism and contempt. It's hardly any way to live a good life.

One of the aspects of my work is that I love is that I'm proud of what I do, and that people are willing to pay me well to do it. At the end of a long day of work, I not only have an enhanced bank account, but I also have a sense of pride and achievement. That's something that is sorely lacking from the examples above. That's sad, and explains a lot of the pathology that exists in America today.

Colby Muenster said...

Not trying to be a know it all here, but it's W. Edwards (with an s) Deming, and yes, he offered his methods to Detroit, they told him to go eff himself, but the Japanese jumped at the opportunity. This was back when "made in Japan" was a bad thing. The Japanese proceeded to kick Detroit's ass, and the big three are still playing catch up. Then the Japanese moved on to electronics. Anybody remember when TV's were built in the USA?

I was blessed to grow up in a right to work state (Wyoming) and currently work in NC, which his also a right to work state. Never had to deal with the union crap, thank God, but I've witnessed it in all its glory when visiting union factories. A union shop in Ohio is the only place I've ever seen a leather recliner next to the operator's machine. The guy would fire his machine up in the morning. By 10AM, he made his ridiculously low quota, shut the machine down, and watched TV from his recliner the rest of the shift. Think cars are overpriced? Gee.... I wonder why....

Fred Ciampi said...

Colby, thanks for the correction;

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@M. Mitchell Marmel- Good one!

@Jim G- I'm very much in favor of the disempowerment of unions that we're seeing in this administration. Allowing workers to be "pro-choice" in this instance is a good thing.

@Anonymous- Yep, it was indeed the Shadeland Avenue plant I worked in. It was huge, so there were vast areas that I never spent time in (I'm glad to say). As far as Japanese cars go, I've had tremendous success with them. My daughter is still driving our 25 year old Toyota Camry and it runs great.

@Anonymous- Great story (as in interesting and entertaining). That obstructionism is pretty much the hallmark of too many unions.

@Rod- Speaking about the friends you made brings up a very good point that I don't want to ignore: I have nothing but respect for people doing hard work in factories. Not everyone has a shot at doing something else, though I hasten to add that these days a lot of kids graduate from college having no value to the job market at all. In the various factories where I worked, I met a lot of really nice people. My father-in-law worked at a Bendix factory for many years. As far as I'm concerned, "working class" is considerable praise these days.

@John the Econ- Following my factory days, I've been self-employed for most of my life. It's been a much better fit, even though I've generally worked harder (and sometimes for less) than a union would allow.

And you make an excellent point about the way trivialization of work, under unions, can rob a person of their sense of achievement. One of the jobs I had at that Ford plant was waiting for a steering column to come my way, at which point I had to take a plastic replica of a key assembly and briefly stick it in the hole where the key assembly would eventually go. That was it - I just poked it in and pulled it out to see if it would fit. I was so bored, and felt like such an idiot, that I eventually created "tools" out of bent metal and tape so that I could do the push-pull with the plastic thingy, then reach into the hole with my "tools" and execute several absolutely meaningless gestures. Needless to say, at the end of each excruciating day I wasn't exactly filled with pride at my contribution to the automotive industry.

John the Econ said...

@Stilton, we're quite alike. (No surprise we get along so well) In my younger days when faced with less-than-stimulating jobs, I'd always be looking for ways to make them more interesting, if not somehow more efficient.

The sad thing about what you an others have pointed out here is just how much we all are missing out because of all of this wasted time and human capital. Imagine how much cheaper and better our automobiles might be if these imposed inefficiencies were eliminated. There'd be a lot less talk about trade imbalances and "outsourced manufacturing jobs" for one thing. And workers would have far better job satisfaction, knowing that most of their time on the job was actually worthwhile.

American Cowboy said...

Union Motto:
All we want is MORE money...for LESS work...and MORE time to NOT get it done!

BTW, did I say I still hate unions? (grin)

Geoff King said...

And here's a blast from the past:

Geoff King said...

And, of course, SNL's take: