Times are tough here in Mississippi, with an unemployment rate still above the national average. But since peaking above 12 percent in February of 2010, job creation is starting to pick up and unemployment has now dropped below 10 percent. One of the areas seeing increased job creation is our thriving auto manufacturing industry. Global auto manufacturers have unveiled plans to open more facilities in our Magnolia State, which will provide thousands of new jobs.
But these plans to expand could be at risk. That’s because the United Auto Workers (UAW) has openly discussed plans to attempt to unionize outside of the Big Three in Detroit, which could impact these jobs and cause a real concern for the future of Mississippi. Right now, international car manufacturers employ nearly 3,500 workers in our state and provide our local economies with millions of dollars in economic benefit.
The UAW has a long history of creating unreasonable demands and pushing the members it “represents” out of work. The union has threatened to “pound” non-unionized global auto manufacturers such as Nissan and Toyota, which spells trouble for Mississippi. These companies already provide a productive, safe and rewarding work environment for their employees. Neither the companies nor the workers need the UAW getting in their way.
The UAW may claim it’s looking out for the best interests of Mississippi workers, but it isn’t. The 75-year-old organization simply wants to help subsidize its lagging membership rolls, this time through employees of international car manufacturers. UAW membership has plummeted over the last few decades, from 1.5 million at its peak in 1979 to less than 400,000 today, including hundreds of thousands lost in the last few years.
The UAW continues to conduct business as if it were the 1980s, trying to bully automakers and making demands that have a history of crippling the auto industry. Just look at what happened to Detroit over the last decade. Jobs at Ford, GM and Chrysler have dwindled, leading to record unemployment in Michigan.
Gov. Barbour understands the critical impact that global automakers have on our state’s economy: “America’s openness and its reputation for fairness are what have made our economy so attractive” to global investment, he stated in a 2010 Washington Post op-ed, noting that this type of investment “will surely aid in our recovery.”
This investment could be at risk if the UAW comes to Mississippi and does the same thing it did to Detroit’s Big Three. Economists estimate that our state’s economy will grow in 2011. And with global automakers planning to increase production in our state, we cannot afford to allow the UAW to get in the way.
We don’t want this to happen to Mississippi, and we certainly do not want the UAW trying to tell successful international auto manufacturers how to do business. Not at a time when these companies have the potential to add thousands of new jobs for Mississippians.
These companies do more than just create jobs. They also contribute to our communities. Millions of dollars are given to local towns and counties in Mississippi through volunteer work and donations directly to local school systems. Global auto manufacturers have followed through on their commitment to America, despite the economic downturn. This is something that cannot be said about UAW, which saw tens of thousands of its members laid off during that time.
Mississippians need to make it clear to the UAW that the auto union is not wanted in our state. Companies that provide jobs and growth are what we want. And we already have that.