EASY READING CULTURE OF LIFE NEWS: US AUTO WORKERS: POOR AS JAPANESE AUTO WORKERS? « Culture of Life News 2
US auto workers are being reduced to the same level as Japanese auto workers. The US leadership considers this a good thing. So do many Americans who are jealous of US autoworkers getting good pay via unionization from 1930-1980. But many union members voted GOP because they hated hippies. So now, they live in a world set up by union busting corporate powers. And don’t understand how their betrayal of the communist/socialist left has left them all high and dry. And what about Japan? The unions there have even less power and the workers, less rights. GM is buying out as many union workers as possible and replacing them with cheap labor. This has been going on in Japan, too. Time to look closely at all this.
General Motors is offering buyouts to virtually all of its remaining hourly workers, becoming the latest automaker to try to cut labor costs by giving nervous workers an incentive to leave the company.
The move follows a similar move by Chrysler LLC, which made an offer to its hourly workers on Monday.
The GM (GM, Fortune 500) offer, which takes effect Friday, is less lucrative than the deal proposed by Chrysler, or even offers that GM has made to its hourly staff in the past. The automaker will give most of its 62,000 U.S. hourly workers $20,000, as well as a voucher good towards the purchase of a GM car worth $25,000….
If more workers take the latest offers from GM or Chrysler than the companies want to cut, the 2007 labor deal allows them to hire new workers at a significantly lower pay scale, and with far less lucrative benefits than those who were on staff when the 2007 deal was struck….
Under terms of the loan, both companies must show progress towards bringing its labor costs in line with those at the nonunion U.S. plants of Asian automakers such as Toyota Motor (TM) and Honda Motor (HMC), or risk having the federal loan recalled.
Toyota is now the world’s biggest automaker. Therefore, they set the standards for everyone else. This corporation is based very much on heavy exploitation of both labor and foreign workers. The people in the deep south who welcomed this corporation got somewhat decent pay due to Toyota competing with US auto industries. But now that GM and Ford are making themselves more like Toyota and as the unions here die rapidly, the condition of workers here will mirror the condition of Japanese labor. And they have utterly miserable conditions.
The Russians struck in 2007, demanding Western wages. I believe their wish will be granted: western wages will drop to meet Russian wages.
First, let’s compare Toyota and GM stock performance:
GM stock: 2.85 -0.04 (-1.38%)
GM stocks are penny stocks. Toyota stocks are very high. American investors love Toyota stocks and hate GM stocks. Look at Ford:
FORD MOTOR CO stock: 1.96 0.08 (4.26%)
Ford is also penny stocks. Both are basically bankrupt. US auto unions still have enough political power to get Congress to bail out these two corporations. But of course, both are busy building state-of-the-art factories overseas, not in the US. If all businesses in the US were to destroy all unions and then drop all wages to Chinese or Japanese levels, why, our corporations will be as rich as the Japanese ones!
Except there would be virtually no one around able to buy anyone’s output. This is the harsh reality of modern manufacturing technology: it can easily crank out lots of stuff. It is designed to crank out lots of stuff. But if anyone can buy this stuff, they need to be able to capture the profits from production and labor and then use it to buy the stuff! This sounds simple and is nearly impossible to do except via two methods: taxing profits of production by 90% and using it to redistribute wealth to the workers or for workers to unite and have powerful unions capable of shutting down factories in strikes. Or have violent revolutions.
It is being described as Japan’s deepest, darkest recession since World War II.
The world’s second-largest economy is contracting significantly, demand for its exports is plummeting, and the country’s premiere car and electronics makers are shedding staff and cutting production.
The hardest hit region is the home town of the world’s largest car-maker. Toyota City rides on the fortunes of the big auto-maker, but the company is facing its first operating loss in its 70-year history.
And the city’s poorest workers, mostly Japanese-Brazilians who fill the factory floors, are feeling the squeeze.
I watch Japanese TV. There have been a number of anime in the last 10 years featuring these half-Brazilian Japanese. It is no surprise to see they are discriminated against. Japan still will not confront serious racism. Aso, the Prime Minister, has been outed for talking racist about a political rival who was descended from the Japanese lowest classes, the ‘untouchables’ of Japan. Toyota imported these Japanese transplants from South America because they wanted to exploit their labor. For they were ‘outsiders’ and therefore, would be unable to unite with racist union members and have a united front.
This is why US corporations exploit racism and language barriers and why they encourage foreign labor to come here to make it harder to organize. Back in the beginning of US union organizing, many people from central Europe came to America, all fired up by communism and socialism and were big supporters of unionization. This is why industries with many immigrants were the first to organize unions. Now, it is the reverse. Due to one big, big difference: the foreign labor here is either on a special passport easily withdrawn or they are ‘illegal aliens’ and can’t do a thing about anything but hope, no one sees them.
Toyota, incidentally, builds strictly in the countryside wherever they build factories. This way, they control the workers much better since they have to leave the area entirely if they are fired or laid off due to slowdowns. Then, when things get better, a different group is brought in. This keeps everyone from organizing. And Toyota has a faux union that is really a branch of the corporation, itself.
Mitsuhiro Masumoto goes to a working-class bar in Toyota City to drown his sorrows. He has lost his job at a parts maker for Toyota and he has just received an eviction notice for his apartment.
He is another Japanese-Brazilian, one of thousands of immigrant workers out in the cold as the recession deepens.
More than half the Japanese-Brazilian community in Toyota City has been laid off and Mr Masumoto has no savings because he has been sending money back home.
Hotlines set up around Japan have been flooded with calls from people sacked from their jobs. Many have also lost their company accommodation….
Like an increasing number of Japanese, home for Takemitsu Karitachi is a cubicle in an internet cafe.
“It is the same as renting a normal apartment, it is just that the room is small,” he said. “I don’t mind because there are many things to do if you just walk outside.” Mr Karitachi’s home measures just 1 metre wide and 1.8m long. It is the size of a decent wardrobe.
The utter indifference of the LDP elites is obvious: these are viewed as disposable people. Imagine forcing workers, trucked in from poorer countries, living in dormitories here in the US! Well, this is our future! Unlike the Japanese who, like the Jews in Palestine, have a very racist group theology, isolating ‘other people’, the US is made up of immigrants of every type. So the corporations can’t isolate people in dormitories, knowing they can’t live elsewhere.
Below is a screenshot of Toyota City in Japan. It is in the exact center of the country, far from anything else. The city, itself, consists of many factories, all of which are associated with Toyota, lots of low houses with no back yards or much of any open spaces and open fields all over the place for farming. There is no ‘downtown’ as far as I can see. Lots of Circle Ks and 7/11 stores, though.
Toyota headquarters is at Number 1, Toyota-cho (town), Toyota-shi (city), about fifty minutes by train from Nagoya in central Japan. The city was once called Koromo, a beautiful name that evokes priestly robes, but the Toyoda family that founded the company had it changed to the very commonplace Toyota. This is the only place in Japan where a city took on the name of a family, and where a town took on the name of a company….
Thirty-one years ago, I dragged my tired legs through that gate every day for six months. I worked as what they call a “term laborer,” assembling transmissions, and wrote about it in a book called Jidosha zetsubo kojo–Aru kisetsuko no nikki (Auto Factory of Despair: The Diary of a Seasonal Worker).
Just glimpsing the layout of the plant from the street brought back memories of my exhaustion during those days. Nonetheless, I also felt a certain nostalgia for the place, and I wanted to take a look around inside, but where there once had been free access from the public road, a large gatehouse like a freeway toll booth has been erected and public access is restricted.
Back then my total wages, including overtime and night shift allowance, amounted to 79,000 yen ($720 at today’s exchange rate) a month. Today, the large newspaper ads Toyota runs for “term employees” promise a monthly wage of 254,430 yen ($2300), a threefold increase in thirty-one years…
One would think that chairman Okuda, who is also chairman of Nippon Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), might feel some embarrassment at utilizing term employees, the epitome of insecure employment, to the fullest extent, while reaping the highest profits in the world. Even more so, given that seventy percent of these profits are generated in North America and elsewhere overseas, as this world corporation boasts.
Below is a satellite photo of the Toyota main factories and their race track. Note that there are open fields right next to it.
In Japan, despite the property market decline of the last 15 years, housing is very expensive. This is why people are forced to live in tiny cells in ‘internet cafes’ which are nothing of the sort but are actually tenement housing of the worst sort. I renovated brownstones in NYC that were turned into tenement housing during the Great Depression. The Victorian rooms that were 16’x16 feet were subdivided by thin walls less than half an inch thick with a 3’x3′ square taken out by the previous doors and replaced by two doors going to each half. so the rooms were only about 140 square feet which is about twice as big as these Japanese tenements.
The horror is, these tiny, subhuman tenements are spreading and growing in size! And the public housing is virtually nonexistent and Toyota’s vicious owners know this and want this. It keeps the workers under their thumb. Below is a story from 2004, by a former Toyota wage slave who became a reporter:
Toyota has always suffused the workplace with a crisis consciousness in order to suppress wages. While I was working there, managers would regularly address the daily morning assembly, warning that Nissan was catching up, we’ve got to penetrate the American market, GM is powerful, don’t let us end up like Mitsubishi. Toyota used this kind of manipulation to keep wages at average levels and to steadily increase its internal cash reserves.
The result: manufacturing plants in twenty-six countries, total assets of 22 trillion yen ($200 billion), and 2.2 trillion yen ($20 billion) cash-in-hand in the “Toyota Bank.” Annual wage negotiations amount to getting together with the labor union to talk about “the priority of competitiveness,” and the workers and subcontracting companies are left to suffer.
With a thoroughly defanged company union and no countervailing power within the company, Toyota has been afflicted with a series of scandals that are astounding for the home company of the chairman of the Business Federation. The Labor Standards Bureau ordered Toyota to desist from unpaid overtime, the Nagoya tax office discovered 5 billion yen ($45 million) in underpaid taxes, the company was accused of leaking test questions for the national auto maintenance certification exam–all petty, stopgap mess-ups, unworthy of a world-class corporation. In its mind, Toyota is still a provincial company.
The conversation among my friends turned to an accident one early morning in May, where a 33-year old worker was crushed to death in a metal press, followed by talk of suicides, some from overwork, among elite technicians in the development division and among leaders of the labor union. Over the last decade, they said, they’ve seen a dramatic increase in depression among their coworkers.
Workers urged: Go home and multiply – CNN.com Articles about mental health care have begun to appear frequently in the labor union newspaper. One report of a November 27, 2003 labor-management council meeting noted that, “the company sees the high incidence of psychological disease as a grave situation.” The report, printed in bold type, amounted to a declaration of emergency.
I am not surprised to see rising depression in Japan. The workers there were savagely repressed with the blessings of the LDP who managed to cling to power nearly nonstop since WWII. The present prime minister is the son of a war criminal who worked to death military prisoners of war as well as Korean and Chinese slave labor. He is vastly disliked in all of Asia and sharply reminds everyone about WWII crimes which Japan didn’t have to pay for at all.
Many Japanese corporations relocated to the rest of Asia in search of cheap labor. But they should kid themselves. The politicans there itch to take away power over these factories. Isn’t it horrible that Toyota knew, in 2003, that the workers were unhappy? But did nothing at all. For the two things that make workers happy, higher wages and better working hours, are exactly what Toyota won’t give them.
Japan is in the midst of an unprecedented recession, so corporations are being asked to work toward fixing another major problem: the country’s low birthrate. Tell us what you think
At 1.34, the birthrate is well below the 2.0 needed to maintain Japan’s population, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Keidanren, Japan’s largest business group, with 1,300 major international corporations as members, has issued a plea to its members to let workers go home early to spend time with their families and help Japan with its pressing social problem. Watch more on this story
This is how the LDP deals with gross abuse of working conditions. Instead of passing laws forbidding near-universal ‘free labor’ at the end of the day, they simply call on the vicious men who work people to death, to stop doing it, once and a while.
This is why we have laws and regulations! The sort of conditions workers in Japan endure are due to lax government and no voice in the election process by which the workers can wrest some power from the bosses. Whatever goofy things unions get over time, this is still much better than working under Japanese-style anarchy. One of the racist parts of this business is, the factory owners don’t want the Japanese-Brazilians to reproduce. They don’t want anyone but the upper tier of Japan to reproduce! And they are getting it in spades.
It is hard to have children while living in a 3’x6′ coffin.
I visited the head of the city tax office and asked him what percentage of local taxes were paid by Toyota. I was told he’d never thought to calculate that figure. One can only conclude that he can’t say anything without the permission of the lord of the castle. Thirty-one years ago, Toyota accounted for 81 percent of corporate taxes paid in the city. In 1997, it was 68 percent. And now it’s a secret.
Perhaps it’s become the “city of secrets.”
Just like here. The GOP is demanding more tax cuts in the spend-spend-spend bill. Our corporations are great at tax evading and ditto in Japan. What is going on here? A rush to the bottom? To see who will be worse than communist China under Madame Mao?
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s most recent report on the state of Japan’s labor force is not encouraging. According to the report, 6.2% of Japan’s workers are satisfied with their current pace of pay increase, compared to 15.7% in 1990. We also see that since 2001, the proportion of Japan’s workforce categorized as part-time workers has increased from 38% to 44%.
Those reporting seeing an increase in salary fell from 23.7% in 1978 to 6.2% in 2005, while those who found their jobs to be meaningful fell from 30.5% to 16.6% over the same time.
For those workers who are lucky enough to be on salaried status, this summer’s average bonus will be down on the average for the first time in six years, though the decline is only 0.08% to 909,519 yen. In the food industry, however, bonuses are projected to fall 5.38% to 781,057 yen. This might give something of a clue as to how food companies are managing to avoid passing on the full costs of increased production directly to consumers in the form of higher prices.
How sad is this? The despair of living in a grinding system that makes it increasingly impossible to buy a home—no banks will lend anything to any ‘part time’ workers, just for example—start a family or live a normal life! In normal countries, the people would be storming the Parliament and taking over the streets! But not in Japan. They are, instead, killing themselves or sliding into deeper fantasies. Some even refuse to leave their rooms while others join online group suicides.
According to data released today by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan’s “core” consumer prices rose just 0.2% in December as declining oil prices continue to add deflationary pressure. December was the fifteenth month in which core consumer prices rose….
The only category to move out of positive range was “Miscellaneous,” which went from +0.2% in November to flat in December. It’s also worth noting that fuel prices have declined sharply, backing well off from the 8-9% increases seen in August, September and October. Food prices, on the other hand, have been in the 3% increase area for the past six months.
And up until this month, there was inflation in Japan! The Bank of Japan has conspired to keep the interest rate well below the rate of real inflation. The faux depression is now a real depression. Japan’s workers, instead of leading the world out of depression by buying things, are being shoved down this black hole of more work, less pay and less job security. Credit has been utterly withdrawn from them even as it is lent to their oppressors at a ridiculously low rate. And food prices are rising!
This is classic in any peasant society. Food is the main expense after housing. No discretionary income means, slight rises in food and rent to landowning upper elites cause great distress. Real inflation in Japan is raging while wages drop. In the US during the Great Depression, money was hard to get but food was cheaper and cheaper.
In Japan, money is hard to get and food is expensive.
It is important to look at what’s actually happening in terms of data. In December, wholesale prices rose 1.1% year-on-year, a drop off from the 2.8% seen in November, according to data released this week by the Bank of Japan. Wholesale prices rose 4.6% for all of 2008, showing an increase for the fifth consecutive year and the largest yearly increase since 1980.
Where were the rises seen in 2008? Petroleum and coal products saw a 23.6% increase, while steel prices shot up 20.0% and prices for scrap and waste increased by the same amount. In other words, it’s looking as though 2008 was the peak of a boom in wholesale price increases and we are very unlikely to see anything resembling a repeat in 2009. December’s 1.1% increase in wholesales prices was the lowest seen in the past four years, while wholesale sales were down 13.9% last month, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Prices for petroleum and coal products fell 19.1% in December. The strong yen continues to hurt: export prices were down 14.9% in December.
The Japanese elite hate having a strong currency. When they travel, they use US dollars which they have in great abundance. But Japan’s food relies on imports and certainly, oil is imported. The drop in energy prices kept the depression afloat in Japan but prices are now rising again. The Japanese want dearly to have the old system back with well-paid US workers buying goods from poorly-paid Japanese and Asian labor.
Alas, the US is trying to go down the same road to hell.
P.O. BOX 483
BERLIN, NY 12022
Make checks out to ‘Elaine Supkis’