While the United Auto Workers strike against General Motors Co. plants stretches on, it's been business as usual here at Honda Motor Co.’s Marysville assembly.
Celebrating its 40th year of production this month, the non-union plant has never had a work stoppage as it has pumped out two of the most popular vehicles in America: the Honda Accord sedan and CR-V SUV.
Honda Marysville is not alone.
Dozens of so-called foreign "transplants” — from Asian mainstream manufacturers to European luxury makers — have followed Honda’s model across the United States in recent decades. The influx has transformed America’s auto landscape with a cheaper, more flexible, non-union workforce model upping competitive pressure on unionized Detroit.
Today, the Detroit Three automakers are an island of UAW production surrounded by foreign transplants that now make up 48% of U.S. vehicle production, according to the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. That's up from just 17% in 2000. Non-union employment rose from 15% of the industry at the century's turn to 39% in 2013, according to the most recent Automotive News analysis.
“Unions are not dead,” said East Lansing-based economist Patrick Anderson, who noted the strike is costing GM $25 million per day in lost profits. “But confrontational, obstructionist bargaining as a success strategy is dead. Unions are here to stay only if they are interested in the welfare of their employers as well as their workers.”
The UAW says that non-union plants are at a disadvantage because union wages are better, the shops are safer, workers' rights are better represented and disciplinary actions are covered by a grievance procedure. But UAW efforts to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the United States have failed repeatedly, despite promises of contract protections and generally higher pay.
In response to inquiries from The Detroit News, the union said: "As a matter of policy, the UAW does not comment on organizing plans and strategies." Still, compensation in UAW-represented auto plants trends higher nationwide than non-union shops.