As the UAW heads into what are likely to be difficult negotiations with the Detroit 3, can we take an irony-filled walk down memory lane?
Here’s why: In January 2009, UAW members were forced — at political gunpoint — to surrender the controversial Jobs Bank job security programs that had kept thousands of laid-off auto workers paying their mortgages and car loans as the Great Recession grew.
“There is no other business in this country where that would be tolerated,” an exasperated Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., famously declared to the Detroit 3 CEOs and the UAW’s president during the congressional bailout hearings in November 2008.
But Corker was wrong, because just a few months after that declaration, Toyota Motor North America would quietly run one of the most successful jobs bank programs in industry history.
And you know what? Even a decade later, Toyota’s top executives in North America still insist that not only was it the right thing to do at the time, but it also saved Toyota money. And notably, not only would they likely do it again today, they’ve already done it a second time — in 2011, when a devastating tsunami in Japan wreaked havoc on Toyota’s operations worldwide.
“The last recession, our belief was, while it was fairly deep, we didn’t think that it was going to last for a protracted period of time, so it would have been crazy to lay people off, only to bring them back and retrain them,” recalled Jim Lentz, now CEO of Toyota Motor North America. “We felt it was best to do a lot of training, and once we’ve done all the training we could do, have people work in their communities to keep them on. I think that would always be our first direction.”