Setting the Record Straight

November 10, 2008

Right-To-Work Hurts Big 3

Automakers: Mind What You Wish For
     How can we lay the U.S. automaker crisis at the feet of the Republicans who were in control of the government for the past 14 years? How about this.
     The Big Three, whose method of operating has been, and is likely to continue to be, one of aiming for instant gratification, were aided and abetted by the Republicans and their decades-long drive to emasculate labor unions in the United States.
    That, of course, contradicts the conventional wisdom that has become a religion among the Big Three (why do we call them that any more—they’re the only three). The automakers have complained and complained the United Auto Workers and its demands on behalf of the union’s workers are what have hurt their industry.
    To be sure, the UAW did overreach in the heydays of the 1950s and 60s and became so strong they also became their own worst enemies and needed to be trimmed back a bit.
    But the UAW would say, and we would agree, that the Big Three were unable to compete with foreign automakers on U.S. soil because the foreign firms built their plants in “right-to-work” states. Whatever union that workers in those plants may have pales by comparison with the UAW.
    How did those right-to-work states come into being? In the wake of the industrial revolution born at the end of the 19th century, labor unions were formed to redress the greedy excesses of their employers who were operating as fief to serf.
    Until the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, workers and their employers thrived quite well with union rights to require workers to support the unions. Soon after the act was passed, taking away those union rights, 12 states enacted “right-to-work” laws and another 10 states have followed as Republican Party policy relentlessly defeated Democratic and union efforts to repeal Taft-Hartley.
    The result has been that average wages for workers in right-to-work states are 6.5 percent lower than those of their counterparts in states that have not enacted the laws. Of course, they attracted foreign automakers, and Toyota opened the first of its 13 U.S. plants in 1989. An overlay of right-to-work states today closely matches the map of what the red (GOP-voting) states before the election just completed.

National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation

National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation

    With the gas-shortage crisis of the mid-1970s and the popularity of more fuel-efficient and safer cars produced by foreign automakers, who also employed features U.S. automakers would have included had they not (thanks to the leadership of Democrat John Dingell) defeated congressional efforts to require them, Americans began turning to the better cars once made abroad, but now made at home with foreign-sounding names.
     As the 1970s crisis waned, Instead of looking ahead as Toyota and Honda did, U.S. automakers went for the bigger instant bucks and began pushing sales of SUVs and huge macho trucks, neither of which got anywhere near the gas mileage foreign makers continued to offer.
     And now U.S. automakers are asking for help from the same federal government they joined their GOP friends in beating on so unmercifully for decades.






  1. I am confused with this article. Are you suggesting that it is the Republican’s fault the American auto industry is going under? If anything it is the companies’ & the UAW’s fault. Politics has nothing to do with it. Your “Right-to-work Vs. Forced-unionism” argument holds no water. Toyota Motor Company operates 12 plants currently in the US, with another set to start production in 2010 (the first manufacturing plant opened in 1972, with the first vehicle production plant opening in 1986 by the way, not 1989). Nine of the plants are located in the “Forced-Unionism States”; (2) ea. in CA, KY, IN, & MO, (1) in WV. The other four plants, TX, MS, AL, TN are in “Right-To-Work States”. They also have an R&D facility in the Big 3’s backyard in Ann Arbor MI. Honda has five plants in OH (Forced-Unionism), & 1 plant each in AL, SC, & NC (Right-To-Work). Subaru has a plant in Lafayette IN. It sounds to me that if anything, some of the blame could be given to Mr. Dingell (who as you pointed out is a DEMOCRAT), & a big supporter of The Big 3. Just because congressional efforts to require certain features were defeated does not place blame on Congress & away from the car companies. As stated, foreign companies employed these features, but not domestic companies. Sounds like a management problem. I live in Michigan, (in Mr. Dingell’s district), I am a union worker, & my family has worked in the auto industry since the forties. I own a Dodge, a Chevy, & a HD & would never consider buying a Toyota, although I don’t believe the auto industry should be bailed out.

    Comment by Nasclark — November 17, 2008 @ 8:28 am | Reply

  2. Nasclark of Detroit:
    Sorry for the confusion. Actually, you and we are on the same page. The Big 3 item was a follow-up to an earlier item warning the auto industry to “be careful what you wish for” (
    The auto industry, along with most of American industry, has worked for decades to tear down union requirements, and foreign automakers took advantage of those in the South, along with much lower wages, to locate their first manufacturing plants in the U.S. as part of a public relations to try to erase their “foreign” labels. As you and your relatives will recall, during the 80s, your UAW brethren were trashing foreign-made cars and even barring them from Detroit parking lots.
    If you go to our whole blog, or to our Web site,, you’ll see other stories on the subject, mostly agreeing with your points: “Is Our Auto Industry Relevant?” (arguing against bailout), and “Help the Auto Industry? Vote Against It” (laying out Dingell’s role [and his wife’s] in helping the auto industry for decades in getting its way in Congress, much to its detriment). And we hope never again to be caught in one of his bear hugs.
    Thanks for your comments.

    Comment by straightrecord — November 17, 2008 @ 10:56 am | Reply

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