Sept. 2010: Chrysler UAW workers are caught drinking, smoking weed at a public park during lunch break. Chrysler and the union issue canned statements denouncing the behavior. UAW statement ends with: “(UAW) strongly opposes the use of controlled substances or alcohol use on the job. This type of behavior jeopardizes the health and safety of all employees. We also recognize that, unfortunately, these behaviors exist in our society.” Did you catch the forgiving tone of that last sentence?
July 2011: It happens again, this time at a UAW hall parking lot, on lunch break. More canned statements. Chrysler fires them.
August 2012: Court forces Chrysler to re-hire the same guys, for the same jobs. Look for the union label at a Chrysler dealer near you.
Does this sound like Tesla’s cup of tea? No. It’s not Toyota’s either. Even before the Chrysler incident, Toyota ditched its ties to the UAW at the first opportunity, when GM went bankrupt and left Toyota as sole operator at the NUMMI plant in California. Nissan and VW recently rejected unionization efforts too. UAW membership is way, way off its peak despite recent incremental gains. Like Detroit itself, it’s a heap of rusty bolts.
The UAW unwittingly creates an ironclad case for automation. Speaking of which, shouldn’t Tesla’s X-Men robots work with only the most upstanding human role models? The robots may be physically strong, but they’re young and impressionable. Subject them to the wrong human element, and soon they’ll be standing against the back wall of the Fremont plant, texting and sipping coffee. Or worse.