Thursday, January 26, 2006


Post and discuss.


Marilynn M said...

Submitted by Marilynn M. in Texas

We need to make it harder for our corporations to move their operations overseas for cheap labor and no labor, or environmental laws to deal with. We should raise the minimum wage in this country to at least ten dollars an hour. Then we should pass a law that American corporations doing business in other countries have to pay at least the prevailing minimum wage in America to the workers in that country. They also need to follow the American standards for fair treatment of labor and environmental laws. They get all the benefits of being an American corporation and use our infrastructure with little of the responsibilities.

We also must have National Health Care. Our corporations have to compete with businesses in countries that have National health care. That is giving foreign businesses an unfair advantage.

We need to stop rolling out the red carpet for them to leave or we aren't going to have any manufacturing or other jobs that can be sent overseas pretty soon.

john Ashman said...

Marilynn, you can't raise the minimum wage dramatically then insist that the companies don't move. I understand the sentiment, but if you punish companies for employing Americans, you'll get less of it. And, they can simply change their base of operations to a country that doesn't try to rule their behavior overseas.

The other thing is, my MRSA plan completely relieves companies from their healthcare burden while providing universal (not national) healthcare. This would make them *more* competitive and *more* likely to move or stay here. Would you support it?

Marilynn M said...

No John, I'm sorry but I don't like your plan. I'm not picking on you I just don't like it. I like what we have. It needs improved, we need to expand medicare. But your plan is too close to GWB's and he intends to destroy our country. He would like nothing more than two classes. You and I won't like the one he wants us in.

Judy B. said...

Marilyn, sometimes a bad president(or in this case, maybe one of his more progressive advisors) comes up with a good idea. Don't just deny the workability of John's idea because it might have some similarity to GWB's plan.

I have some problems with it too, but after getting beyond where I was stuck, it is beginning to make sense. Still needs some refining, tho.

Try to get beyond the 20% automatic deduction and see if you can offer some qusetions about the rest of it.

For those of you who haven't been following this idea unfold, go to SSB, Changing the World thread, last couple of pages...Just skip over the insults...

Marilynn M said...

Judy, I moved to Texas four years ago. I can see where Bush's mind set comes from. This is a state of the have's and the have nots. Rockwall county probably has more multimillion dollar homes than most places.

Everyone wants the biggest house they can get. They have to have it filled with new furniture. They need two new cars in the driveway. It is all about show. Both people work and if they hit a bump in the road they lose it all. Do they learn. Seldom. They just gather up and do the same thing again.

These giant homes are built by eight dollar an hour illegal alien labor. Where do these people live? Why is it okay to use them like that, as long as they don't live in your town?

Use people is the key word. Not careing if the worker has a decent life is disgraceful. Seeing a seventy four old woman having to work as a waitress breaks my heart. Until we start looking around us and seeing how it is for other people things are not going to get better.

Yes, John we can insist our companies pay our minimum wage in other countries. In fact we can't not.

Judy B. said...

Marilyn, I don't know why you moved to Texas...I think you would be real happy in Washington State..
where the majority have a social consciousness, are pro-union,and where we have the three highest elected positions held by women, govenor and both senators..and i think more women in state elective office (per capita)
Besides all that we have the Seattle Seahawks.

Marilynn M said...

Judy, I don't know why I did either. I researched it and it sounded much better than it is. From El Paso to just outside Ft. Worth I thought I was in the Wizard of Oz before the house landed. It got better but never fully Technicolor. It is miserably hot with dirty air. I hate it. We intend to sell our house and head West again.

Marilynn M said...

Judy, I used to live in Renton. I've lived about everywhere. I do love both Oregon, and Washington. Actually I want to live in Alaska. But, I waited too long. I'm too old. I want to live somewhere I can dredge for gold. It's fun and inexpensive. It's like playing a dollar slot machine that is paying off. You don't really as a hobby find that much but it really is fun.

john Ashman said...

"But your plan is too close to GWB's and he intends to destroy our country."

Yes, I'm sure he worked his ass off to become president so he could drive it into the ground. I mean, why else would someone become president? Personally, I'm all for private savings accounts for SS and medicare. Why not? If government is *so* much smarter than us, how come we can manage our money and they can't?

"He would like nothing more than two classes. You and I won't like the one he wants us in."

I think he wants to give us all the opportunity to be in the upper class. Look at Cuba, North Korea and China. Aside from a few government officials, there is only one class. The ultra-poor. The more government run social programs we have, the more we'll be like those three countries.

Cheryl V said...

Bush gave a speech at the 3M plant outside Minneapolis promoting tax cuts to businesses to make us more competitive.

He says we need more H-1B visas to bring in more scientists and high-tech workers from other countries.

The truth of the matter is that engineers have an unemployment rate that is higher than the national average.

skids said...

H1-B: "Halve one's benefits"

It isn't about supply, it's about price.

Judy B. said...

Go vote and then come back...

Judy B. said...

From the Nwy York Times

February 5, 2006
Carmakers' Big Idea: Think Small
Dundee, Mich.

THE writer E. F. Schumacher would be proud. Across the automobile market in America, there is an evolving realization that small is beautiful.

No longer do the industry's two biggest companies, General Motors and Ford Motor, dominate the industry — not in profits, sales or buzz. The hottest action is now taking place among the next four companies: Chrysler, a unit of DaimlerChrysler of Germany, and the Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

As G.M. and Ford cut jobs, close plants and pledge yet again to introduce cars and trucks that Americans want to buy, their smaller rivals are in their strongest shape ever. The Next Four are adding jobs, opening plants, filling showrooms with new models — and, most importantly, earning billions of dollars in profits that can contribute to even more growth.

Although all the Next Four are part of big global companies, they have kept their size, costs and dealers in United States relatively small and limited their brands and lineups, even as they explore new niches where they can pick up sales. For them, being small has added up to being almost as big as the two Detroit players.

Last year, the four held nearly 42 percent of the American car market, while G.M. and Ford clung to 43 percent. That is a sharp contrast to 15 years ago, when G.M. and Ford combined outsold the Next Four by two to one.

"It's good to be small, because you can move quickly," said Ron Pinelli, president of the Autodata Corporation, an industry statistics firm in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. He said that "the whole large-company culture is a burden" — one that both G.M. and Ford have vowed to shed.

For inspiration, they can look to Chrysler, which once stood with them as one of the Big Three but is fast breaking away from the Detroit pack. Chrysler is already getting rid of its large-company mind-set — along with 46,000 jobs over the last five years. The latest example of its drive to do less with more is at a factory here in Dundee, Mich., 60 miles south of Detroit, where it is using a small number of workers to build four-cylinder engines for its small cars.

The plant is run by the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance, a partnership of Chrysler, Mitsubishi of Japan and Hyundai of South Korea. The companies will be able to share the half-million engines the plant can build each year, allowing them all to invest smaller amounts, meet their needs for engines and enjoy economies of scale that they couldn't have achieved individually.

To get there, the three have negotiated a relatively small labor burden from the United Automobile Workers union: a contract as thin as a pocket calendar that does not call for dozens of narrowly defined jobs, as is common in many unionized auto plants, but has only one category, called team member, for hourly workers. Everyone learns every job — and a result is a work force that is self-starting and flexible.

Chrysler's efforts, as well as those of the others in the Next Four, show a new way of thinking in an industry that seemed paralyzed by its gargantuan roots.

"What you've witnessed is a globalization — the process of the global economy," said James E. Press, chief operating officer at Toyota Motor Sales and the highest-ranking Toyota executive in the United States.

Toyota itself takes an important step forward this week, when it wades deeper into a market long dominated by Detroit's Big Two: big pickups. Its Tundra, to be introduced on Thursday at the Chicago auto show, is a result of 14 years of preparation for the big-pickup market that began when Toyota introduced its smaller T-100 pickup.

Big pickups are the last market segment in which Toyota does not fully compete. And if G.M. and Ford cannot stop their market-share slide, the big Toyota pickup could push the Next Four ahead of them, said James P. Womack, founder and president of the Lean Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit educational and research organization focused on manufacturing policy.

But even as the Next Four have grown, their collections of divisions have remained small, avoiding the brand expansion that has bogged down their bigger rivals. "Toyota has really got it right in thinking that a modern motor company only needs three brands," Mr. Womack said, the same number as at Chrysler. Honda and Nissan have only two apiece.

By contrast, G.M. and Ford "have destroyed more valuable brands than any two business organizations in history," Mr. Womack said. G.M. had to retire the venerable Oldsmobile name after letting it become hopelessly old-fashioned, and both G.M. and Ford have spent billions buying foreign nameplates like Saab and Jaguar that have failed to live up to their expectations. And now that the companies' market-share decline is accelerating, he said, multiple brands only make it harder for them to pick up sales, because their message is so diffuse.

But the growth of the Next Four is not merely a matter of selling more cars and trucks. The secret also lies in the way they approach manufacturing.

The Dundee engine plant run by the alliance and managed by Chrysler was the brainchild of Chrysler's chief executive, Thomas W. LaSorda, when he was still in charge of Chrysler's engine and transmission division in 2001. On a scouting trip to Mitsubishi and Hyundai, in which DaimlerChrysler then held financial stakes, he learned that Mitsubishi and Hyundai, like Chrysler, had plans to develop small engines; Mr. LaSorda suggested that they pool their resources. That resulted in the $803 million Dundee factory, which opened last year.

At the plant, the first thing a visitor notices is that it is hospital-clean, nothing like the greasy, smelly engine plants of old. The second thing is that it is largely empty — of people, at least. Although the partnership is intended to produce 840,000 engines a year that could be shared by the three companies, the plant, set to be expanded next year, will have only 250 hourly workers when it reaches peak production.

By contrast, Chrysler employs 750 workers who build 350,000 engines a year at its Mack Avenue plant in Detroit. And in the 1990's, Chrysler employed 2,500 workers at its big engine plant in Kenosha, Wis., said Bruce Coventry, the president of the new joint venture.

THE contrast between old and new is even clearer in the way jobs are assigned to workers at the Dundee plant. During their shifts — 10 hours a day, four days a week — workers might be responsible for 18 to 20 spots on the assembly line, rather than be rigidly limited to one narrowly defined task. Indeed, each worker learns every job on the line, reflecting the plant's philosophy of "anyone, anywhere, anything, anytime."

The workers, who are U.A.W. members, had to go through a rigorous application and training process, and had to be accepted by plant managers rather than just being assigned by the union. Because they are using an entirely new approach, the managers accepted only two workers from other Chrysler factories. Others came from parts makers or other companies with U.A.W. workers. Despite the intensity, Jimmie Pierce, 36, says the job is a godsend to him. He recently lost his previous job when the Lear Corporation, a parts supplier, closed its plant in Romulus, Mich. In his 12 years there, he said, he stuck to his assigned tasks, even if a problem popped up. "At Lear, someone else fixes it," said Mr. Pierce, a second-generation autoworker. At his new job, where he supervises a team of workers, he said that "you think of yourself more as part of a business."

His father, Richard Schubert, has spent 38 years at Ford's Rouge complex in Dearborn, Mich., and is now one of just 5,200 workers left there; it once employed 100,000. But Mr. Pierce says he knows he has no guarantee of a similar career. "Another company might be doing it cheaper or faster," he said. "You have to keep up."

The four-cylinder engines built here in Dundee will help Chrysler keep up with other members of the Next Four, which were developing small cars while G.M. and Ford continued to focus on S.U.V.'s and pickups. The engines made here will be sent to an assembly plant in Belvedere, Ill., where Chrysler is building the new Dodge Caliber, a small car that will replace the aging Dodge Neon. (Mitsubishi and Hyundai have not yet said how many engines they will get from the plant or which vehicles will use them.)

Each member of the Next Four sees an opportunity to capture a piece of a small-car market that analysts predict will grow in the face of high gasoline prices — Toyota with a model called the Yaris, Honda with the Fit and Nissan with its Versa.

That market sensibility sets them apart from Detroit's two big players, said Mr. Pinelli, the Autodata analyst. Last month, Frederick A. Henderson, G.M.'s new chief financial officer, acknowledged as much when he said that a slump in sales of big S.U.V.'s was a major reason for the company's $8.6 billion loss last year.

The smaller players believe that they "can't just develop one killer car line or a new truck line," Mr. Pinelli said. "You have to develop one hit after another." Whether large or small, automakers agree that future success depends not only on megahits, but also on a constellation of smaller stars that is continually culled and refreshed.

That is what Nissan has tried to do since 1999, when Carlos Ghosn took charge after Renault assumed management control. In that time, Nissan has produced a steady stream of new models, each aiming at a specific market niche, whether the Murano crossover for families looking for lower fuel bills but plenty of room, or the latest 350Z sports car for young adults and empty nesters. The popularity of these cars has increased Nissan's global sales by one million vehicles (to more than 3.5 million) and lifted Nissan's sales in the United States to one million in 2005, both goals of Mr. Ghosn's turnaround plan.

STILL, not all of Nissan's vehicles have sold well, particularly the Quest, which tried to be a sexy minivan for soccer moms. That proved too narrow a niche, so Nissan has moved swiftly to restyle the vehicle; the new version will be shown in Chicago this week. The results of that effort will help Mr. Ghosn decide whether to expand Nissan's plant in Canton, Miss. — and in turn, may determine whether Nissan will contribute to further growth by the Next Four.

Such a quick restyling is something that a smaller company, particularly a profitable one, can accomplish more easily than a bigger competitor, Mr. Pinelli said. Unlike G.M. and Ford, which have to supply large numbers of dealers and must pay workers whether or not their plants are operating, Japanese companies do not have to feed as big a network, and their union-free factories mean that they can more easily adjust their production as circumstances warrant.

As G.M. and Ford have learned the hard way over the last few years, sales are one thing but profits are another. Here is where small becomes big. Collectively, analysts have estimated that the Next Four earned $22 billion in profits worldwide for 2005. By contrast, G.M. and Ford together reported losses of $6.6 billion worldwide.

One member of the Next Four, Honda, forecast last week that it would earn $5 billion worldwide for its fiscal year, which ends in March. Much of that will come from the United States, Honda's largest market. In an interview at the Detroit auto show last month, Honda's chief executive, Takeo Fukui, said the company eventually would like to increase production in North America, where it already builds 80 percent of the cars that it sells on the continent.

For now, however, Honda is importing the new small Fit model from Japan, where it has been sold for the past several years. Mr. Fukui says he is banking on renewed interest in fuel economy on the part of American consumers, who began buying Honda's cars during the energy crises of the 1970's.

Mr. Womack, the manufacturing expert, said Honda's clear identity as a maker of fuel-efficient vehicles helped it to grow faster than G.M. and Ford, which have to produce multiple versions of many of their vehicles in order to supply each of their nameplates. "As the cost pressures mount, the easy way out is platform-sharing," Mr. Womack said, referring to the practice of using the same basic design and many components in several different models.

But unlike the Next Four, G.M. and Ford have trouble making each vehicle seem different when they share a platform. "Customers respond, of course, by keeping their wallets shut," he said.

Despite the difficulties they face, G.M. and Ford have noted the small-is-beautiful approach of the Next Four and are trying to adjust. Ford, for example, said last month that it intended to build a plant in North America that will operate with sharply lower costs — although it is not saying whether the factory will hire U.A.W. members. And Ford's chief executive, William Clay Ford Jr., has vowed that the company, helped by new products like the Edge crossover vehicle, will end its market-share slide in 2006.

The Big Two are still a step behind the Next Four, though, and that gives hope to workers at the plant here. On the factory floor, the operations manager, Garrett Francis, said he saw the Dundee facility as a chance to secure Chrysler's place in the new auto industry and to break free of its Detroit past.

Mr. Francis, 31, the son of a mechanic, helped to start a Chrysler-BMW engine venture in Brazil that has served as a model for this plant. Having transferred the approach here, he said, proves that "it can be done, and it can be done in Southeastern Michigan."

His colleague Mr. Pierce, meanwhile, is eager to show his father, the Ford worker, how it is being done. "I can't wait to bring him down here," he said.

Anonymous said...

go vote