Keen observers of the progress of unionisation in the USA have been following with interest the story of VW's Tennessee workers rejecting unionisation despite management neutrality on the issue. The Union of Auto Workers (UAW) - whose stranglehold in Detroit has worked out so well for that city - tried and failed to persuade Tennessee that their interests were aligned, despite VM management being studiously neutral on unionisation.
In Germany, for instance, auto workers at VW plants get paid an average of $67.14 an hour. That's more than double the average hourly rate for an established unionized worker in Detroit, and it's more than three times what the non unionised workers in Chattanooga can hope to earn.Wow. Because, of course, the cost of living in German cities is totally comparable to the cost of living in both Detroit and Tennessee. I wonder why Ms. Walshe didn't bring up this point in the article? Amazingly, she doubles down on it in the comments:
I'm not sure what the rates are in other countries, but I do know that the cost of living in the US is comparable to Germany so salaries ought to be comparable too.Ah, "the US". Because 330 million people spread across 3.8 million square miles and 51 different states is just one entity for comparison purposes, despite Germany being 80 million people and less than 5% of the area. Heck, even in the single state of California the differnce in cost of living between the Bay Area (San Francisco to San Jose) and Fresno is huge. A $40K annual salary would be pretty comfortable in Fresno, but practically poverty-level in San Francisco. Contrast Chattanooga, with a median home price of $114K, with Kassel in Germany (home of a VW plant) where you'd be lucky to get a garden shed for that price.
That German earnings figure is extremely suspect even in isolation; as commenter GregUS notes:
Are you seriously claiming that assembly line auto workers make $67.14/hour? This works out to $140,000 per year, which is about the average salary of a primary care physician in Germany (€110,000/year).German workers are also nearly twice as productive as USA workers, so even if they are paid higher it would seem reasonable for VW to require USA productivity to rise before paying US workers more.
I particularly like Ms. Walshe's spin on right to work states:
It's true that with Tennessee being a so called "right to work" state, where wages are generally low and poverty is high, $19.50 an hour probably seems like a pretty good salary."Right to work" means (in essence) that you are not obliged to join a union or pay union dues if you join a unionized workplace. This would seem a no-brainer to most UK workers, but in fact state law bans this practice in about half the states. The non-right-to-work states are CA, OR, WA, MT, CO, NM, MN, WI, MO, IL, KY, OH, WV, PA, NY, VT, MD, NJ, NY, NH, ME, MA, NH, DE, CT, RI.
Let's compare this with the top 20 states with highest unemployment, in descending order. States in bold are non-right-to-work:
RI, NV, IL, MI (just changed to Right to Work), CA, DC, MS, KY, TN, AZ, GA, CT, AR, NJ, OH, NY, OR, MA, PA.See a pattern here? Of course, I can't claim causation with this superficial evidence - but at the very least, it seems that states without the right-to-work law seem to be more likely to suffer from unemployment.
Sadhbh Walshe is desperate to have us believe that the only thing standing between Tennessee auto workers and prosperity is them needing to join the UAW, but it seems that even compulsory unionization is more likely to cause unemployment than raise wages.