Toyota's San Antonio truck plant

In recent weeks, as the CEOs of the Detroit automakers lobbied for a federal bailout to get then through the current financial crisis, one of the many criticisms that came up was the UAW "jobs bank." The jobs bank was devised back in the 1990s when the automakers were relatively flush with cash, but were still closing some older plants or reducing production at facilities that built vehicles that weren't selling. The UAW fought for and won a system whereby the workers at those plants still got most of their pay for a time and were placed in a jobs bank. As openings became available at other plants, people in the jobs bank got priority over new hires. In some cases, jobs bank employees were also getting re-trained. The non-union Japanese factories would never do such a thing. Or would they?

Last summer, as sales of the big trucks plummeted when gas jumped to $4 per gallon, Toyota made the decision to completely shut down the two factories building the Tundra and Sequioa for three months. What they didn't do was follow those actions with traditional layoffs. Temporary workers were released, but permanent workers still reported to the plant every day for training. When there was nothing to train them on, some were sent out to work cleaning local parks. Even after production restarted at the San Antonio plant, the line speed was cut in half. All the while, these autoworkers were not building trucks but they were collecting pay checks. Sound familiar?

[Source: The New York Times]


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