The American auto industry has gone through massive change over the past four decades, with the gas-guzzling vehicles of the past now seen with disdain in favor of fuel-efficient cars that are more economically practical. Such changes have helped turn once-obstinate car manufacturers into believers, even if the ensuing carnage has helped change the image of Detroit from the Motor City into the poster child for urban decay.
That city has hemorrhaged jobs because of auto unions demanding to be paid high wages in exchange for performing monotonous assembly-line work. Such edicts have sent those companies in search of other areas willing to perform the same tasks at a cheaper price, a group that includes countries like Mexico and southern cities within the United States.
While that’s meant jobs for those areas, it’s also meant that the lower rate of pay also comes with increased inattention to things like employee rights and safety. Forced overtime for months on end isn’t an uncommon practice, while severe injuries have been suffered at companies that provide auto parts.
In the latter case, such issues develop because of companies have to often promise more than they can deliver. That can result in rushed jobs in which safety is an afterthought or from something as simple fatigue. Either way, the list of employees who have lost fingers and, in certain instances, their lives.
The level of concern in this area only figures to be heightened in the next few years, since the new presidential administration of Donald Trump has focused on eliminating what are seen as job-killing regulations. That business-friendly approach will no doubt help the bottom line for a number of companies, though the workers tasked with making that happen will largely become a simple and disposable commodity along the way.