Did Right to Work Bring 500 American Axle Jobs to Michigan?

A recent article in Industry Week announced that American Axle would be stepping up its investment in Michigan and creating 500 jobs in the process. Some of us remember when the labor unions in Michigan seemed intent on chasing American Axle and other auto jobs out of Michigan to warmer climes in the south.

In 2008, About 3,650 United Auto Workers at American Axle went on strike halting the flow of parts to GM and resulting in the idling of an additional 42,000 hourly and salaried workers at nine more plants around the country including plants in Michigan at Willow Run, Ypsilanti, Flint and Grand Rapids. The strike went on for 87 days.

While claiming that the strike resulted in less wage and benefit concessions than originally proposed, as is so often the case, organized labor won the battle and lost the war. Not long after the strike was settled American Axle began shifting jobs south to plants in Mexico culminating in the closing  of its Detroit plant (where there were once more than 2,000 workers) in 2012 and laying off the remaining 300 employees.

So what has changed? While the resurgence of the auto manufacturing sector (with much help from the taxpayers) may be the primary reason for the return of some Michigan jobs to American Axle, one can’t help but wonder how much the favorable change in Michigan’s labor climate, including passage of a Right to Work law, has figured into the move.

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About Charles Owens

Charles Owens has been advocating the interests of small business in the Michigan Legislature for over 25 years, beginning with his tenure at the Michigan Institute of Laundering and Dry-cleaning and currently with the National Federation of Independent Business / Michigan. As the State Director of one of Michigan's most respected small business organizations, Owens is responsible for directing the NFIB in its mission to maintain the viability of small business in the face of expanded legislative and regulatory challenges. Owens has been an active participant in the legislative debate over numerous landmark Michigan issues including: the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, inheritance tax, tort liability reform, Unemployment Insurance reform, Workers’ Compensation, and Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Act (MIOSHA) issues. Owens and the NFIB spearheaded the efforts of other small business groups in the fight for fairness and equity for small business in the debate over the repeal and replacement for the Michigan Business Tax. Owens is a 25 year member of the Capitol Club, a dedicated group of association executives committed to the advancement of legislative advocacy for their respective organizations. In 2005 he was elected by his peers to be President of the organization. In 2006, Owens was ranked as number five of the top ten single interest individual lobbyists in Michigan by Inside Michigan Politics. Under his leadership, NFIB was also ranked in the top twenty lobbyist organizations and top ten single interest lobbying organizations by the same publication. Originally a native of Rockford, Illinois, Owens graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelors Degree in Finance and Business Administration. follow on twitter: @OwensNFIB
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