If Carlos Ghosn is serious about using closed General Motors plants to build Nissans or Renaults, it will alter the labor landscape in North America.
There are those who think Ghosn is just dangling a long shot in front of anxious workers, trying to get their support for his plan. But Ghosn is a serious man who must realize that jerking around workers would be a bad thing. So let's assume he's not just jerking us around.
To some, plant closings and rumors of plant closings make it seem as if The End is nigh. So laid-off workers and politicians in struggling local economies might see a Nissan-Renault deal as their only hope for salvation.
But it won't be that easy.
Even if Ghosn finds a GM factory he wants, whom will he hire to work there? Obviously, there will be a ready-made, experienced work force available. You can almost hear the interviewing process.
Nissan HR: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the UAW?"
Job candidate: "Yes, of course. I worked for the plant when GM ran it."
Nissan HR: "Thank you, that'll be all."
Job candidate: "Wait, wait! I deserve a chance -- I'm a good worker. I need a job. I've got a family."
Nissan HR: "Are you willing to take a pay cut, forfeit your benefits and give us the names of your friends and neighbors who know the words to 'Solidarity Forever'?''
Job candidate: "Hell, no!''
Nissan HR: "Next.''
Nissan hasn't exactly been union-friendly, even though once upon a time, UAW members built Nissan minivans at Ford's plant in Avon Lake, Ohio. At its own plants, Nissan has resisted union organizing drives, and Nissan workers have rejected the UAW.
Of course, an alliance with GM might change everything. Ghosn could be a sweetheart and hire the former GM workers, then welcome the union into the new plant and the current Nissan factories.
Sure. Just after he gives up baguettes for a Big Mac.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]