To the Japanese automobile manufacturers, unions are the plague. And the United Auto Workers (UAW) admit to having a tough time getting new union members when they visit Japanese manufacturers’ plants (called ‘transplants’) in the U.S. “People just aren’t interested,” said one union organizer.The Japanese auto makers in the U.S. seem to be winning their battle with the UAW because the people they employ seem convinced that the benefits are good and that the union couldn’t do any better. Moreover, these auto makers tend to build plants in the U.S. in areas that have a low average wage for laborers.
Worse, conditions are better in transplants in some areas. An example of a happy plant of workers is in the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. The workers are now being paid more and getting better bonuses than UAW workers average at domestic plants.
Yet the UAW continues to try. It attempted to organize the workers at the Subaru plant in Lafayette at least three times. The result? Nada, nothing. The plant will be producing Camrys (pictured) in a joint venture with Toyota in April.
Our take? The strength of the UAW has ebbed substantially. In 1979 the union had a membership of 1.5 million. By 2005 it had plunged to 600,000. Unless the transplants do something real stupid like slashing wages in half or eliminating medical benefits, we see union membership continue to dwindle.