So it’s nothing short of remarkable that the union couldn’t make the sale. The failure reflects how well the plant’s workers are doing without a union, to the tune of $27 an hour including benefits. The defeat also speaks to the harm the UAW has done to itself by driving GM and Chrysler to bankruptcy and pushing companies like Caterpillar to move new production from union plants.
These columns have long argued that a company organized by a union usually deserves what it gets, but most workers understand that the modern union offer is often a Faustian bargain. The UAW may be able to negotiate a near-term increase in pay and job security for current workers. But the price—in addition to the steep coerced dues—is usually a less competitive company that means less security and fewer jobs in the long run. The best proof is the UAW itself: It has lost 75% of its members in 35 years as its demands and work rules made their employers less competitive.
The other issue in the campaign was the effort of the UAW and Volkswagen to create what is called a “works council,” a committee composed of both union and nonunion employees who negotiate with management on day-to-day work issues that arise in the factory. Such councils are standard arrangements in German factories, as well as in other countries in Europe. They allow for settlement of issues in a manner that creates labor peace and promotes better conditions in the workplace, without the threat of a strike. But according to American labor law, they cannot be established unless an outside union like the UAW legally represents the workers. Because Volkswagen wanted one, they chose to support the UAW organizing effort.
When it comes to wages, it turns out that at the Southern plant, a starting worker earns $19.50 an hour without a union, while his counterpart working in Michigan earns only $15.50 an hour. So wages do not compel a worker to support unionization. The foreign- owned plants, it seems, pay better than the American auto manufacturers.
Intelligence has since been democratized. Smart has been redistributed. Anyone can get an A for effort. And the impulse of manufactured intelligence is not smart people, but people who make us feel smart. That is why Neil deGrasse Tyson, another obsessively self-promoting mediocrity like Carl Sagan, is now the new face of science. Sagan made science-illiterate liberals feel smart while pandering to their biases. Tyson does the same thing for the Twitter generation.
Self-esteem is the new intelligence. Obama’s intelligence was manufactured by pandering to the biases and tastes of his supporters. The more he shared their biases and tastes, the smarter he seemed to be and the smarter they felt by having so much in common with such a smart man.
We’re used to it by now, of course. Calling climate realists “Nazis” and comparing them to the Klu Klux Klan is just part of everyday conversation with these people. If you challenge them on a point of logic or science, they never respond directly. Instead, they personalize their rejoinder by accusing you of being anti-science — or worse.