Contrary to what you're hearing out of Detroit, the auto manufacturing business in the U.S. isn't so bad. That's because foreign auto company plants, mostly in the South, are thriving. This is largely because such plants are free from the union albatross that hangs around the neck of the big three auto manufacturers.
As it stands now, the American workers in these foreign auto plants are extremely happy with their jobs, observes this Bloomberg report:
Hyundai’s lower wages and benefits have given it hourly labor costs of about $44 to $48 an hour, compared to $52 an hour at Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s U.S. plants and about $58 an hour at the U.S. factories of General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and Chrysler Group LLC, according to Sean McAlinden, chief economist with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
While Hyundai officials declined to speak about specific pay, workers said the hourly rate is generous for the area.
Montgomery’s median household income in 2009 was $42,346, about $9,000 less than the national median and $6,400 less than in Michigan, according to the U.S. Census 2009 American Community Survey.
Wanda Carter, a Hyundai hourly worker, said she doesn’t see a need for a union at the Alabama plant.
“Hyundai does the best they can do to work with the Hyundai employees,” said Carter, who declined to give her age.
She wasn’t alone. Workers at another potential UAW target, Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said they were excited just to have a job in the auto industry. There isn’t any talk of forming a union, said Terry Young, a line worker.
“You don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth,” said Young, 34.
Of course, the fledgling United Auto Workers is happy about this state of affairs one bit. After receiving a generous taxpayer bailout that protected their jobs (even as it cut pensions for non-unionized workers at GM). So now Bloomberg reports that the UAW is going to take $60 million to try and unionize employees that don't want to be unionized:
[UAW President Bob] King has said the union has set aside $60 million from its strike fund to organize the U.S. workers of an Asian or European automaker this year. He’s said the campaign will aim to put public pressure on the companies and accuse them of violating workers’ human rights if they try to block organizing efforts.
“If a company makes the bad business decision to engage in anti-union activity, suppress the rights of freedom of speech and assembly, we will launch a global campaign to brand that company a human-rights violator,” King said in a Jan. 12 speech in Detroit. “We do not want to fight, but we will not run from a fight.”
Not that unions need another excuse to crank up the hyperbole and kill jobs. Hyundai is an ascendant brand in America and probably would not welcome a messy PR battle. But if you unions can't get their way, they'll do what they can to punish Hyundai and other foreign auto manufacturers.