Decline of U.S. auto industry linked to efforts to reduce worker leverage

Decline of U.S. auto industry linked to efforts to reduce worker leverage


[Music] the economic crash in 2008 and the auto bailout presents this puzzle if you go back to 1960 this is the largest richest industry in the richest most powerful country in the history of the world how did we get here how did we go from that in half a century to completely collapsing if not being bailed out by taxpayers we come up with our own theory for why the US auto industry’s lost so much domestic market share and declined and it has to do really with the structure of production that the US auto companies use versus the structure of production that the foreign automakers use and the relationship of that structure to innovation so the foreign automakers use a structure of production that we call flexible production an interesting thing with flexible production is on the one hand it facilitates innovation so you know the ways it does this are brings everybody together through geographic concentrations we have designers and assemblers and rank-and-file workers and management and components plants designers all in the same area so if you need to tweak a component part to fit this new innovative way of building an engine the designers can go to the workers that build the component plant and talk to them now it doesn’t quite fit when they’re assembling it well the rank-and-file workers that are assembling it are right there and they can go talk to them say what’s the problem and so through trial and error they can perfect the innovation and they can do it quickly because they’re all in the same area and all this facilitates innovation but it also facilitates worker power it makes organizing much easier right mobilizations about cheesier for workers when everyone’s together rather than happen to mobilize across the nation to the US did this exact thing before World War two and there was geographic concentration all in southern Michigan which is why it builds up Flint in Detroit and you know all of those areas that we think of as kind of the the Rust Belt that built cars and had industry so the u.s. abandoned flexible production and put in there dispersed parallel production because of the leverage that it gave workers [Music] there’s been studies looking at innovations by era and it’s just an amazingly innovative period with just model turnovers and new ways of building engines and then after they dismantle the system and move to what they use today you see innovation just plumbing [Music]


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