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French official visits Mississippi to back union at Nissan (Read More…)

By JEFF AMY - The Associated Press
July 26, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A French parliamentarian is visiting Mississippi as part of an effort to pressure Nissan Motor Co. to allow workers at its Canton plant to organize a union.

Christian Hutin, deputy chairman of the Social Affairs Commission of the French National Assembly, is meeting Tuesday with workers, lawmakers and other supporters of the United Autoworkers efforts to unionize the plant’s 6,200 employees.

The French government has an ownership stake in Nissan’s business partner, the Renault Group, and pro-union advocates hope French officials can lobby the company.

It’s part of a continuing worldwide effort by the UAW to push Nissan to be more accepting of the union.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel has said the union has collected the required 30 percent of worker signatures to force a union vote at the plant. The union has never sought such a vote, although UAW recruitment efforts have ramped up this year.
The French government owns almost 20 percent of Renault, which in turn owns 42 percent of Nissan. The two companies have operated a worldwide alliance since 1999. French government efforts to increase its voting power over Renault last year caused strains until the government and the two companies agreed to limit that power.

Hutin and the union say Nissan unfairly pressures workers to vote against a union, something the company denies. Hutin said he agreed to come to Mississippi after several delegations of union supporters visited France. He sought a meeting with Canton plant manager Steve Marsh, but was turned down.

“Perhaps he’s afraid, I say,” Hutin told a group of workers, union leaders and Democratic lawmakers at the Mississippi Capitol Tuesday. “He has something to hide. It would be bad PR on their part to communicate the truth.”

In June, Hutin wrote a letter co-signed by 35 French and European policymakers asking Renault-Nissan to remain neutral in union organizing efforts in Canton.

Nissan denies any improper pressure, though the company opposes a union at the plant. Nissan spokeswoman Parul Bajaj said the company respects labor law and that employees are free to support or reject the UAW.

“Nissan not only respects labor laws, but we work to ensure that all employees are aware of these laws, understand their rights and enjoy the freedom to express their opinions and elect their representation as desired,” Bajaj said in a statement.

 

Posted by Admin on 07/27 at 09:15 AM
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What Saved Hostess And Twinkies: Automation And Firing 95% Of The Union Workforce (Read More…)

Tim Worstall JUL 6, 2016

Unions fight for the working man and act as a counterbalance to the power of the capitalists. And there’s no reason why someone should not be able to avail themselves of such union protections–the right of association is as important a freedom as the right to free speech is. However, it’s also true that unions, just like any other form of human organization, can become stultified. They can become the problem rather than the solution to anything.

That was the case at Hostess, the producers of Twinkies. They went bust, twice, as a result of heinously bad union arrangements:

“Where the company just five years ago had 8,000 employees — 75 percent of whom were represented by unions — the company now says in filings that it has a “streamlined employee base” of roughly 1,170 workers. That workforce is the shadow of a once-vast empire, which shortly before its troubles totaled 22,000 workers across more than 40 bakeries.”

It wasn’t just one union that was part of the problem:

“Tuesday’s announcement is the latest chapter in the snack maker’s tumultuous century-old history. Hostess says it traces its beginnings to 1919, and it grew by absorbing competitors. In the process, it ended up with 372 separate bargaining contracts for workers, 5,500 delivery routes and a vast production system.”

The most recent investors who bought it out of bankruptcy did not in fact buy “the company.” They bought just some of the assets. This meant they could dump that entire union-based labor negotiation system:

“By buying the Hostess assets out of bankruptcy, Apollo and Metropoulos took them on free of employee benefits and other labor obligations that had weighed down the company.”

They then rationalized the production system. This is pretty much the same as stating that they automated it–or at least used different technology which amounts to the same thing. And yes, we should consider a method of organizing things to be a technology.

They went from local bakeries and delivery routes to a much more concentrated production system and delivery into warehouses. The cakes would then be delivered to retail outlets by the logistics system which delivered other products. This was aided by product changes to extend the shelf life–meaning there was extra time to use the warehousing system.

“Apollo and Metropoulos rode to the rescue the following year, paying about $410 million for the brand. The new management has slashed jobs and transportation costs and boosted distribution since taking over.”

Slashing jobs is what has been important. As we must keep reminding ourselves, jobs are a cost of doing something, not a benefit. And we need to recall this when we talk about the minimum wage. We will be raising the cost to people of getting things done. Businesses will either therefore do less or they will employ fewer people to do them. In this case, Hostess decided to change the technology to rely less upon human labor.

It is a good thing that Hostess and Twinkies survived (and vaguely interesting that they will float upon the stock market again), but the important point of the story is the decimation of the labor force.

Employing people is a cost. And when that cost rises, fewer people are going to be employed.

 

Posted by Admin on 07/06 at 08:24 AM
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