Paradise Lost Revisited: GM and the UAW in Historical Perspective
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de Gier, Erik
Purpose Analysis of historic relationship between GM and Union of Automobile Workers (UAW) from 1936 through the moment of bankruptcy of GM in 2009. How can this historic relationship be explained from the viewpoint of evolving labor and industrial relations in the US? Design/methodology/approach Historical and comparative analyses. Secondary analysis. Findings Over time the relationship has been a dynamic and flexible one. In the first decades the most important objective of the UAW was the recognition of the union by GM. From the second half of the 1940s until the 1970s the main attention of both parties shifted towards a dynamic wage policy. Finally, from the 1970s onwards the safeguarding of job security became the main objective of the UAW, whereas GM tried to maximize its room of maneuver to transform its Fordist production system into a more flexible one. Research limitations/implications The present study provides a starting point for further in-depth research towards the historic relationship between GM & the UAW. Originality/value Longitudinal approach of development of labor-management relationship between two opposite parties in differing economic and technological contexts.
Labor and industrial relations; business history; US; automobile industry; political economy; historical research