Sociology Prof's Solution To Detroit Meltdown: Unionize Toyota!

Only a professor, preferably a sociology professor, one with way too much time on his hands, could have come up with this one.  His solution to the Detroit crisis that has the Big Three automakers on the brink of bye-bye?  Unionize their foreign competitors manufacturing in the USA!

Now why didn't we think of that?  Because we're not Jonathan Cutler, associate professor of sociology at Wesleyan University.  His notion in a nutshell, contained in his Los Angeles Times column of today [emphasis added]:

[N]ot to tear down the historic and heroic gains won by prior generations of UAW workers. If there is hope long term -- for the unionized Big Three companies and for the UAW -- it rests in dealing with the unfinished business of the 1980s: unionizing the unorganized transplants.

Let's count the ways that won't work:

  • As he acknowledges, most of the foreign manufacturers were smart enough to build their plants in right-to-work states.
  • But even if starting tomorrow the boys of the UAW went to work 24/7 to unionize them and, against all odds, were successful, a labor lawyer friend tells me it would take six-to-twelve months just to be named the bargaining representative, at which point contract negotiations would only begin.  
  • But Ron Gettelfinger, the president of the UAW, testified to the Senate this week that without immediate help, GM could be out of business by the end of this month. GM and perhaps the other domestic manufacturers would be long gone by the time the union was able to oppose an onerous contract on its foreign competitors.
  • But even if we could all clap our hands and impose union contracts on the foreign firms tomorrow, that would do zero to reduce the legacy costs for the tens of thousands of retired Big Three workers that are killing Detroit.

Bottom line: Jonathan Cutler's concept has zero chance of success.  But a sociology professor can dream, can't he?

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.