Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

“Technology, you’re not ever going to stop that”

There’s no doubt about it, capitalism is messy business. As the world changes, companies are built and destroyed. The knock on a lot of union “leaders” is that they fail to adapt with the times, or worse yet, they fight progress. In other words, they’re dinosaurs.

Exhibit A in this debate is usually the United Auto Workers. They helped cripple the U.S. auto industry with unreasonable wage, healthcare, and work rule demands.

The good news: one auto union leader is working with companies to overcome the hurdles of Globalization. The bad news: It’s in Brazil. The Detroit News reports on one union leader who:

made his own pilgrimage to Ford’s Dearborn headquarters. He negotiated a five-year deal that allowed Ford to eliminate several hundred jobs and consolidate two factories in exchange for guarantees for workers who remained. The union also dropped its opposition to Ford’s plan for a new factory in the state of Bahia in which suppliers would run their own assembly lines alongside Ford’s.

The president of Ford’s Brazilian operations, Marcos Oliveira , said the union’s help was instrumental in turning Ford’s operations in the country around. “(Feij√≥o) faced the same reality that we faced as a company. It was a matter of survival. We all had to do our part.”

Don’t bet the farm on seeing much more cooperation from American UAW officials, some of whom are starting the process of strike votes during this round of negotiations. That’s the real problem: supposed progressives fight actual progress.

But while national-level union officials fight trade agreements and bludgeon companies, some at the local level are more practical. After three dozen employees were laid off from a plant that found technology to make its products more efficiently and reduced labor costs, the local Teamsters rep said:

“This company has a brand new facility, state of the art … Technology, you’re not going to ever stop that.”