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An appropriate Labor Day question Did the union help to kill Studebaker?

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  • Bob Bryant
    replied
    In my lifetime I have been in a variety of employment situations. Sometimes, the person to whom I reported was extremely competent and I liked that situation because it provided an opportunity to learn from that person. There were other circumstances where the person above me was in the position because of their political skills. It was difficult to enjoy that circumstance because subconsciously it was realized how expendable you could be if the boss benefitted. People who can have a negative influence on an organization or its goals can be salaried or union.

    A friend who had come into a local company in charge of Industrial Relations said the mountain of grievances filed by union members was awesome when he arrived. He said the solution was that he quickly satisfied most of the grievances by granting the requests and gave attention to the balance.

    While in Michiana I heard stories about the union's responsibilty for Studebaker's demise. The former Studebaker employees that I observed were great workers. I'll go with a 5.

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  • 8E45E
    replied
    Originally posted by jnormanh View Post
    In spite of the incompetent management, NCR did have top notch scientists and engineers, and a magnificent manufacturing facility full of high and semi-skilled employees. The company grew and prospered, and by the early 1970s had 80% of the world market for business machines, and was second only to IBM in main frame large computers, and closing fast.

    In the summer of 1973 I sat in a top management strategy session. The subject was displayed on the conference table - a simple, solid state, four-function calculator. The executive geniuses evaluated this devise, discussed it's strengths (many), and weaknesses (virtually none), and pondered the way forward. After a bit the VP of engineering pronounced that this new thing would be an absolute flop.

    "Why so"? he was asked.

    "Because our customers will hate it. It doesn't make any sounds. Our customers want business machines that go clunkety-clankety-kaching."

    And that was that. The geniuses at the top of NCR threw away one hundred years of continuous growth and profit.

    I started sending out resumes the next day.

    Two years later the fabulous NCR factories in Ohio, Scotland, Japan and Delaware were smoking holes in the ground. The scientists and engineers were gone, the factory workers fired, the shareholders screwed.

    NCR had everything it needed to overtake IBM, become Apple, Microsoft and all the other high tech companies it wanted to be. It could easily have become the most profitable company on earth.

    No union could have reaped such destruction.

    Yes, the name NCR still survives. An also-ran computer services outfit.
    I suspect there's a bit more to the story than just that; at least as far as NCR's core business of making cash registers. Just two years later, the UPC was established where with anyone who had a product to sell had to print those fine lines on their packaging, and of course companies that would engineer and produce the scanners to read them which would do more than just register the amount of $$$ taken in at the point of sale. An electronic cash register would then have the capability to change the price of a given item in an instant making it come on or off a special price at the beginning or end of the day, do inventory control, inform the merchant what time of the month a given item sold the best, etc., among other functions. From what I remember, NCR was slow to think outside of the box and envision how a 'simple cash register' could do all this and left it to the competition to show that it could be done.

    Think of the sophisticated electronic gas pumps we see today that conveniently accept your money right then and there besides delivering fuel. Unlike NCR, they are still being made by the famous companies that made them 100 or more years ago who saw the changes and opportunities in marketing and took advantage of it.

    Craig

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  • Gunslinger
    replied
    No business has a right to succeed...it has to earn it...union shop or not. Even if they earn it there's no guarantee profitability and success is assured. That's simply the risks of business and the free market. Employees...whether unionized or not...can help or hurt. A lot of that depends on how they're looked at and treated by management. There HAS to be management...someone has to make the decisions and risk company capital. If they succeed all are better off...if they fail...all suffer. No company does anyone any good if they go out of business.

    When I was in Federal law enforcement, I worked for two different agencies over time...neither was very well managed. One was run by a small-time dictator who loved seeing officers screwed unless they were in his favor or brown-nosed him. The other agency was just plain inept...far too many supervisors were promoted simply because they had put in the years and it was "their turn". One supervisor actually got every promotion in his entire career through filing EEO complaints. Another supervisor, at least allegedly, got all her promotions on her back. There's politics in every type of business...the government is worse. When going into the field and donning our body-armor we used to "joke" that we should wear it reversed with the trauma plate in the back to stop the knives from the backstabbers.

    Poor, ineffective leadership brings down companies and unions both. Maybe not necessarily at the same time, but each affects the well being of the other.

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  • jnormanh
    replied
    It's easy to come up with stories about union workers who were incompetent, lazy, and even dishonest. The same exist in non-union shops, in schools, hospitals and everywhere else.

    However to blame them for the downfall of corporations is preposterous.

    I never belonged to a union, but starting in the mid 1960s I worked at the huge NCR factory in Dayton, Ohio, and my job often put me on the shop floor. The percentage of union workers who were goof-offs was small. Most of those men and women did an honest day's work at the best of their ability.

    NCR corporate management was, however, something else. They arrived late in their chauffeur-driven limos, spent hours in the free, gourmet executive dining room, afternoons at the Executive Country club, and used the fleet of Gruman Gulfstreams for personal travel.

    In spite of the incompetent management, NCR did have top notch scientists and engineers, and a magnificent manufacturing facility full of high and semi-skilled employees. The company grew and prospered, and by the early 1970s had 80% of the world market for business machines, and was second only to IBM in main frame large computers, and closing fast.

    In the summer of 1973 I sat in a top management strategy session. The subject was displayed on the conference table - a simple, solid state, four-function calculator. The executive geniuses evaluated this devise, discussed it's strengths (many), and weaknesses (virtually none), and pondered the way forward. After a bit the VP of engineering pronounced that this new thing would be an absolute flop.

    "Why so"? he was asked.

    "Because our customers will hate it. It doesn't make any sounds. Our customers want business machines that go clunkety-clankety-kaching."

    And that was that. The geniuses at the top of NCR threw away one hundred years of continuous growth and profit.

    I started sending out resumes the next day.

    Two years later the fabulous NCR factories in Ohio, Scotland, Japan and Delaware were smoking holes in the ground. The scientists and engineers were gone, the factory workers fired, the shareholders screwed.

    NCR had everything it needed to overtake IBM, become Apple, Microsoft and all the other high tech companies it wanted to be. It could easily have become the most profitable company on earth.

    No union could have reaped such destruction.

    Yes, the name NCR still survives. An also-ran computer services outfit.

    Leave a comment:


  • Roscomacaw
    replied
    Bob, I'm glad you got a chuckle out of that bit about the guy coming in only on Thursdays to collect one days pay.

    I don't know what management's mindset was at M-D aircraft, but I saw some truly mind-boggling things while I was there. There was one older fella who was in the carpenters shop. He had health issues, but felt he couldn't jeopardize his paycheck by taking time off. As a result, he'd sometimes flat out go to sleep during working hours. His fellow woodworkers knew of his trials and just let him be. Besides, it wasn't like they were overrun with jobs to do.
    Anyway, one day someone was passing thru the maintenance building and spotted this guy snoozing while reclined in a chair. There was NO doubt he was asleep - he'd even snore a bit now and then. So this observer calls security and several company security guys are there in their scooter in no time flat. They come in and stand around this snoozing fella and just watch. They don't call to him, prod him, nothin' - just observe. One of the security guys gets down on one knee and leans in close to hear this fella's breathing. Then they take a flashlight and try to determine if his eyes are open even a tiny bit. They must've watched this guy for ten minutes or so before the fella finally woke up a bit in re-situating himself in his chair. Of course, it's then that he becomes aware that there's 3 or 4 officers gathered around him and he tries to regain his consciousness and composure. He manages to ask "What's up guys?" To which one of them answered that someone had reported him for sleeping on the job.
    The fella countered that he was just trying to relieve some back pain he'd gotten in lifting something heavy earlier that day. The security guys all agreed that they didn't THINK he'd actually been asleep all that time, but they'd observed, just to be sure. They further advised that he visit the plant clinic to get some help with his pain. The whole episode was like a comedy skit. The only thing that changed was that the fella was more selective about just WHERE he'd choose future napping spots.

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  • John Brayton
    replied
    I guess I would say 1. My wife and I owned and operated a construction business for many decades....some times we paid our labor too much and sometimes too little (had to do with market demand). But never did we blame our labor for the success or failure of our company....it was OUR company! When we retired the business most of our employees had to find other jobs.....we continue to be happily retired and working on restoring our Studebakers.

    Leave a comment:


  • Andy R.
    replied
    Originally posted by 62champ View Post
    One would think in this modern age, in this Nation where freedom is held in such high regard, that workers would have to right to organize themselves if they wanted. The reality is that union busting is still alive and well.

    Former co-worker at the high school I worked at had a son (late-20s in age) who had worked for one of the big casinos here in Pennsylvania for four years. Got all kinds of accolades from supervisors and customers and enjoyed his job. One day at lunch, a co-worker was complaining about the unusually long hours he had been working so Mike said something about maybe they could organize themselves to try and make things a little more bearable. Guess he said it loud enough where someone overheard him.

    Next morning Mike was called into his supervisor's office and handed his pink slip. When he asked why, he was told there were a number of complaints about his customer service recently. When asked if he could see these complaints he was informed that would violate the privacy of the customers. He was escorted off the property and told he was not allowed there again - ever - even as a customer. Sad part is he had to call a friend to get a ride home - in the forty-five minutes he had been there his car had been towed.

    Have meet people who were very pro-union and very anti-union (someone called me a "leech suckling off the taxpayers tit" once when a guy heard I was a public school teacher). Usually the people in the middle are the most reasonable about the whole subject.
    I think your son's termination may have been illegal. It sounds like a clear case of retaliation. Though the supervisor cited customer complaints, I'd imagine those would be discoverable (and likely disproven) if a formal complaint was filed with the Local, State or National Labor Relations Board, if he so wished to pursue it.

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  • BobPalma
    replied
    Originally posted by Roscomacaw View Post
    It wasn't a terrible arrangement, cause he wasn't bilking the company nearly as much as if he'd come to work all five days.
    As sad as is that commentary, Bob; it's the funniest thing to date in this entire thread. BP

    Leave a comment:


  • JimC
    replied
    I don't think they're necessary or evil. I'm not currently in a union job, and I have the best benefits I've ever had in my life, even better than my brief stint with a union job . Our company asks a lot of us, but they give us a lot. It's great. I believe there are some terrible managers out there, and a unified collective might be the only way to keep those places in line. But the days of needing a union for every job, in my humble opinion, is over.

    Regarding Churchill's very adamant claim that the union had nothing to do with the closing of the doors, I wonder where in his life he was during the time of that interview. Was he managing others? Was there a union beneath him? Was there a potential that he could be in a position to manage unionized workers in the future? If so, it was in his best interests to paint the union as a bunch of saints. The thing about unions is that they stick together. Say bad things about the South Bend autoworkers union, and the next union you encounter will treat you like a hostile manager. If I were in his shoes, I'd have stood on a soapbox and declared the unions not to blame, even if in my heart I knew they carried some of the burden.

    This has been a really interesting thread. Lots to ponder. Thanks to everyone for not letting it get too emotionally charged so it could keep churning!

    Leave a comment:


  • Chris Pile
    replied
    SOOooooo.... would you say unions are a necessary evil?

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  • Roscomacaw
    replied
    OK - I've worked in Union jobs and non-union operations. The last unionized place I worked was McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, CA. There were numerous unions there, but the primary one was the IAMAW. As well, there were different unions for the various maintenance disciplines - of which I was a member of the IBEW (electrical workers).
    We IBEW folks pretty much agreed - for the most part - to whatever the IAMAW got when it was negotiations time. And we electrical types tried our best not to overstep the realms where wheelwrights or carpenters laid claim to. And that seemed only right. We respected their realms and they respected ours. That's the way it's set up to work.
    Now, did we have some "dead weight"? You bet! Primary amongst our IBEW sinkers were two folks who NEVER should have been hired in the first place. That THOSE folks were hired was MANAGEMENT'S failing. That's it - clean and tidy. Those two spent their days sitting at their assigned desks, and were NEVER given an assignment as an electrician. The reason was that they'd proven themselves to be totally inept as electricians - beyond the tasks of replacing light bulbs (which one of them was PERMANENTLY assigned to do - in drop lights!). And if you're wondering just HOW this dips*it duo ever got hired as electricians, I'll explain.....
    One of them was married to a gal who was an influential Rep with Lufthansa Airlines (read that - a customer of what M-D was producing). The other was there 'cause of her gender and skin tone. The extent of her electrical abilities was actuating a light switch.
    And there was another member who only showed up on Thursday. Thursday was payday at M-D, so Mark always showed up to get his pay for the prior Thursday. It wasn't a terrible arrangement, cause he wasn't bilking the company nearly as much as if he'd come to work all five days. The powers that be didn't try to fire Mark because it was just easier to let him collect for a day, each week. And in case you've wondered, he spent each Thursday reading the paper and snoozing in his private little hide-away. Everyone knew where he was and just left him be.
    Alot of us knew of guys who were only there in the morning to clock in and have coffee. After that, they'd leave for the day - the time clock system automatically assumed they'd just forgotten to clock back out at 3:30PM!

    OK, so now WHOSE fault is it that these glaring goof-offs were allowed to persist? Was it strictly their faults or was the blame seated somewhere farther up the ladder? We were making about 20 bucks an hour with great bennies (this was the late 80s). You'd think there'd be some real savings by dumping this trash. But they didn't.

    I've told the story a number of times, about when the plant Prez called for everyone to save ONE dollar to help put things back in the black. Even tho - as a union member - I'd have been black-balled for blowing the whistle on a extremely wasteful situation I knew of (knew of cause I had been assigned to carry it out!). I took that chance - thinking if I pointed out a way to save THOUSANDS of dollars every year, it would be appreciated and my company would edge closer to solvency. LOL! What an innocent rube I was. All I could figure was that SOMEWHERE along the way - SOMEONE was benefiting from the wanton waste I was assigned to exercise. I say this because the end results of my revelation was that my whole department got called on the carpet! Yeah - there's way more complexity to a worthless worker than just his lackluster performance. The ultimate blame may well lie with management. And again - I point to Harold Chruchill's OWN words. I find it interesting that so many of you can pontificate AROUND his statement - as if he hadn't said it at all.

    And BTW...... the last punch-clock place I worked - had it been unionized, I might have retired from there. But it was "good-ol'-boysville" there. If a drug-addled supervisor wanted a pal of his to have your job, he'd find a way to get you canned. Hell, I wasn't just repairing equipment there - I was designing it - making my plant engineer superior look good. But my immediate super wanted his buddy to have my job, so they fired me very unjustly. No union - no justice in that instance.

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  • 62champ
    replied
    Originally posted by Gunslinger View Post
    ...they only cared abut what they could get for their own benefit.
    Hit the nail right on the head with that - there would be a lot fewer problems in all aspects of life if people focused less on the "me" and more on the "us"...

    Leave a comment:


  • Gunslinger
    replied
    Both my mom- and dad-in-law are retired public school teachers. My dad-in-law served as head of the teachers union for a while. He said he was shocked that previous union officials who eventually were promoted higher into the board of education structure seemed to forget where they came from and became very pro-management.

    He was also surprised that some of the rank-and-file members of the union cared little about what it cost the taxpayers or the students themselves...they only cared about what they could get for their own benefit. While this wasn't universal on either side of the aisle, there were such extreme factions.

    Neither side had clean hands.
    Last edited by Gunslinger; 09-07-2013, 01:35 PM.

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  • 62champ
    replied
    One would think in this modern age, in this Nation where freedom is held in such high regard, that workers would have to right to organize themselves if they wanted. The reality is that union busting is still alive and well.

    Former co-worker at the high school I worked at had a son (late-20s in age) who had worked for one of the big casinos here in Pennsylvania for four years. Got all kinds of accolades from supervisors and customers and enjoyed his job. One day at lunch, a co-worker was complaining about the unusually long hours he had been working so Mike said something about maybe they could organize themselves to try and make things a little more bearable. Guess he said it loud enough where someone overheard him.

    Next morning Mike was called into his supervisor's office and handed his pink slip. When he asked why, he was told there were a number of complaints about his customer service recently. When asked if he could see these complaints he was informed that would violate the privacy of the customers. He was escorted off the property and told he was not allowed there again - ever - even as a customer. Sad part is he had to call a friend to get a ride home - in the forty-five minutes he had been there his car had been towed.

    Have meet people who were very pro-union and very anti-union (someone called me a "leech suckling off the taxpayers tit" once when a guy heard I was a public school teacher). Usually the people in the middle are the most reasonable about the whole subject.
    Last edited by 62champ; 09-07-2013, 05:37 AM.

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  • Jessie J.
    replied
    My post disappeared.

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