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.