Union, United States, United Auto Workers Union discussed on The Indicator from Planet Money

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Make sure you include the slash indicator because then then they'll know we sent you that's right and we will deliver that love right back. Ta So please make sure to donate before the end of the year. And thanks again N. P. R. Everyone is Cardiff in Stacey. The indicator is taking a week off. But we'll be back with all new episodes next Monday December thirtieth however while we will not actually really be working. We're still going to focus on work We're going to revisit some of our favorite stories about one topic that we talk about a lot on the show. They were not giving our listeners. A break we might now know break now right for you guys. That's right right. Even busted the Air Horn for jobs. Friday who knows who knows exactly basically all this week. We're you're going to revisit stories about a topic that we talked about a lot this year on the show the labor market. We're calling the series the work week and we're going to cover everything from gender segregation into whether the unemployment rate is really to be trusted. Our first episode originally aired in February of this year back in Nineteen thirty seven General Motors signed the very first contract with United Auto Workers Union. It was the culmination weeks of drama. GM did not want its workers to unionize so workers staged a sit in strike inside the jam. Factory production ground to a halt and historic strike began when GM workers barricaded themselves in the automobile assembly plants for forty four days later provided their entertainment slept in an ATM while the work stoppage cost gm one million dollars a day. Officials did try everything to stop the strike. They even turned off the heat in the factory. Sorry and remember. This is winner in Michigan. At one point a riot broke out and this standoff was just captivating the world what observers described as the most lucile battle in American labor history involving nearly one hundred thousand men as practically shut down the entire industry from Michigan where the strike started. We bring you these picture of a riot in progress. What happens when a crowd of strikers goes crazy when destruction becomes the order of the day in the end though? GM's CEO signed a contract with the United Auto Workers Union and that handshake means the strike. The Nation is over. Lieber Lieber and the auto industry would never be the same Chrysler and Ford followed suit signing union agreements of their own. This is the indicator from planet money. I'm Stacey Mac Smith Breath and I'm Cardiff Garcia today. On the show with this major union victory meant for workers what it meant for the auto industry and why unions over time Kinda lost their Mojo after long weeks of idleness. It home today and back to work tomorrow this message comes from. NPR sponsor state farm. Why do you need state farm renter's insurance because it helps protected the stuff landlords don't like your furniture that gets drenched by a broken pipe? State Farm Renter's insurance finding agents or get a quote at State Farm Dot Com support also comes from capital one. Where you you can open a savings account in about five minutes and earned five times the national average? This is banking reimagined. What's in your Wallet Capital One? NA member KNBR FDIC that moment when the auto industry shook hands with the union US business was forever changed without question a historic store milestone Harley. Shakan is a Labor economist at Berkeley that modest contract one page was labour's MAGNA CARTA ARTA in the decades after that contract was signed the UAW bargain for things like pensions and health care benefits and paid vacation and famously high salaries race. That's according to Gary burtless economist with the Brookings Institution. US auto workers were among the princes of industrial labor. In the United States. They received very high Wages very good fringe benefits. A union job became a ticket to the middle class and those high union wages spread out across the economy. People had more purchasing power our the US economy grew companies got wealthier. More of them. Unionized Unions were riding high and everybody wanted to be a union worker. Yeah more and more workers started started unions in their industries. Union spread across the country and by the mid nineteen fifties more than a third of all. US workers were in a union. That is today's indicator more more than a third and then the oil crisis descended. It was the early nineteen seventies gas prices spiked and suddenly everybody wanted a small fuel efficient car. US automakers were not so good with the small fuel-efficient cars and foreign competitors like Volkswagen and Toyota started to get a foothold in the US market market a market that the big three US automakers had just totally owned before then and consequently the big three lost. A lot of sales lost a lot. aww profitability and without those huge profits for GM and Chrysler just could not afford to pay such outsized wages to their workers. Suddenly Americans Americans were actually buying a lot of foreign cars and those foreign cars cost less partially because they weren't dealing with the high salaries and benefits that the big three we were dealing with the good deals. That Union negotiated when times were good started to drag on. US automakers manufacturers and their unions could not turn on Don John. They couldn't change the arrangements. They were less nimble exactly They were less nimble in responding to the demands of the market after that Labor in the US. Just kind of lost it's Mojo all over the country says Gary and this happened for a couple of reasons first. Companies across the US watched watched this thing unfold in the auto sector and they thought we don't want to deal with that they started fighting unionization like never before sometimes intimidating workers or firing workers who who tried to unionize even though that was not legal and also lobbying hard against unions pushing through legislation to weaken them companies in all kinds of industries. We're also seeing more competition petition. From overseas just like the automakers had experienced and companies were starting to equate unions with an inability to compete. And so they fought unions much much harder harder using much stronger methods. Someone say coercive methods at the same time says Gary workers themselves started to back away from unions Indians and from trying to organize employees in the companies. They worked for this happened. Both because companies could be so vicious to workers who tried to unionize and also because in some cases unions were seen as cumbersome to workers with these sort of onerous regulations that would just drag a company down industry in the United States is very dynamic. We always have companies companies that are growing expanding Becoming more profitable and at the same time we have a businesses like sears. WHO's operating model has proven to be less less successful and it happens that in a lot of the shrinking industries unions have been very important and businesses have been much more fierce in resisting unionization than their counterparts were in the nineteen fifties and sixties when it was very plain that unions and very successful ospel unions in many growing industries were not an impediment to companies being very successful and expanding? But nowadays I think in many workers minds and in many businessmen's minds The notion that you would both unionized and growing and flourishing seemed to be incompatible politically in time after the oil crisis the way people and company saw unions had just shifted today says Gary there are more retired members of the united auto workers than working working members right now. The market is strong. The unemployment rate is low and companies are having to compete for workers that gives workers more leverage to do things like unionize is still so scary. That is just not happening. At the rate you might expect in fact last year. Union membership dipped to its lowest level since that contract was signed between the U. A. W. The U. N. G. M. in the thirties according to the Labor Department just over ten percent of. US workers are unionized. And in fact Cardiff probably say that united both in New York full disclosure Yup so a lot of workers and NPR in Sag after and q the old-timey audio this episode was originally produced by Dr Rafi on the update was produced by Lena Sons. Gary are in turn. Is Nadia Lewis. Our editor is Paddy Hirsch and the indicator is a production of N._p._R...

Coming up next