Unions, specifically the UAW, are known for the capacity to force businesses to accept their terms of agreement. In the Detroit area unions have the power due to their support for both local and national political campaigns. With the damaged American automotive industry a strike may actually put a few companies out of business.
Unionization started when German immigrants came to the country in hopes of securing worker rights. Prior to this time, workers could be fired for any reason. Job security wasn’t the norm. Workers would drive themselves hard so that they could provide the basics for their families. Of course the basics back there meant a roof over your head and food.
For years, in recent time, workers would sit around on the assembly line reading their newspaper and demanding a shop steward every time they got in trouble. Those written warnings would just keep piling up and the only way to get fired was to kill or maim someone.
Workers are no longer worried about the basics but prefer the 100K a year income they earn with nothing but a GED. They want full medical coverage, overtime, high wages, and as little work as they can possible do. They believe that it is ok to take advantage of the automotive companies has turned into a sense of entitlement.
The automotive industry is on a quick decline and companies can no longer afford to pay executive salaries to entry level workers. The problem is that the workers have become accustomed to 300 K homes, new vehicles, money to waste and retirement in style. The need for companies to reduce costs and the desire for employees to maintain their standard of living has caused serious divisions throughout the ranks of the automotive industry.
There is a possibility that strikes and bankruptcy will become the norm in the automotive industry. Workers cannot afford to take a pay cut due to their lavish lifestyles and companies can no longer afford to pay their workers 3 times what they are worth. Eventually the government is going to have to step in and make it easier for companies to adjust their wage and benefit structures.
Currently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) makes it difficult to adjust wage and benefit structures once it has been put into a contract. Furthermore, the pressure of employees and their debt forces union leaders to prefer lay-offs over wage reductions. In the end, we are finding that companies have to do more with less and paying the same wages. This puts them in a weakened position.