It’s Never About The Money–UAW Wages Aren’t Why U.S. Cars Suck

Interesting article in The Truth About Cars on how Ford still has an $8/hour fully-loaded disadvantage to the transplant (Japanese and non-union) automobile manufacturers.

The union wages and union rules are red herrings. Yes, they make for good talk and for interesting arguments. But how much a union employee is paid-or an over-priced executive, for that matter-is not the point.

What matters is that the employees simply reflect the behavior that they see from the company. When the company prays at the altar of Wall Street, and cuts corners wherever possible while rewarding the executives and a few select Goldman Sachs bankers, what will employees do? They can keep arguing with their neighbors about the sub-standard quality of the vehicles they are asked to assemble–and are probably embarrassed by–or simply say “screw it” and meet expectations.

And the death spiral begins.

Stop worrying how much you pay people. Build good things. Do good, meaningful work. Fire Wall Street. Win.

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2 Responses to It’s Never About The Money–UAW Wages Aren’t Why U.S. Cars Suck

  1. strategicguy says:

    Hey Mark –

    You know I think the world of you, yet your thinking is completely off-base on this.

    For starters, every public company has a financial and legal responsibility to deliver returns to its shareholders. It is going to influence decision-making and areas of investment. You know that.

    Second, the personal motivation to do an exceptional job needs to come from within, as much as it does from financial compensation. It’s called taking pride in a job well done.


  2. markpilip says:

    Actually, I think we agree more than disagree on this one. I actually think the vast majority of employees–UAW and non-union– want to do the best job possible. Just like most people everywhere.

    But it’s demotivating as an employee when you have to design or build something to a price point that you know is non-competitive. At some point, it becomes “if they don’t care, why should I?”. The US auto companies have been focused too long on bean counting and not making cars.

    And yet when they TRY to make a good car–design and build–they actually can do so. I think the Cadillac CTS, particularly in V trim, is quite competitive with the rest of the world. It’s just that you’ve got to want to do it.

    I place the blame on the US’s car problems squarely on the management of those organizations (I won’t dignify their efforts with the word “leadership”) dating back to the ’60s. They clearly didn’t have pride in a job well done and that attitude rolled down hill.

    I’m no fan of the UAW, by the way. But the one thing I recall from HR101 in college was my professor telling us: “Management gets the union they deserve.”


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