Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Neal Boudette writes on page one of today's Wall Street Journal that a rule restricting employment applications at a new Honda plant in southeastern Indiana looks suspiciously like a union-avoidance tactic.
Honda's new plant in Greensburg IN (roughly equidistant from Indianapolis and Cincinnati) will be hiring about 2000 workers over the next year. Honda is refusing to accept applications from anyone living outside the 20 counties surrounding Greensburg. Honda explains that it "wants workers to live within an hour's drive of the plant so they can get to work on time even in bad weather." But that explanation -- when challenged legally -- will almost certainly be found pretextual, because Honda refuses to accept applications from outside the 20 counties even from applicants who express a willingness to move into one of the 20 counties upon starting work. If Honda was truly concerned with employee travel time, then Honda should happily accept applications from folks willing to relocate to Greensburg.
Honda's rule instead appears to be an effort to exclude applications from UAW workers laid off from auto plants in towns like Muncie and Anderson -- towns just north of Indianapolis and just outside of the 20-county boundary line. Evidence of this can be found in the pay scales Honda is offering. Boudette explains:
[I]n Greensburg, basic wages will start at just under $15 hourly . . . . In Big Three assembly plants, UAW workers get about $26 an hour. Until recently, nonunionized plants owned by foreign auto makers have paid close to that -- about $24 an hour -- which helped damp worker interest in unions.
Paying union scale has long been an effective -- and accepted -- union-avoidance strategy. Honda, however, appears to have adopted this geographic restriction to avoid paying union scale by deliberately excluding UAW applicants -- and that's a NLRA no-no.
In addition, because the 20-county zone is 80% white, the geographic restriction rule is likely to have a disparate impact on minority applicants. I cannot imagine Honda prevailing on a business necessity defense if it refuses to accept applicants willing to move to Greensburg.
For more, see Honda and UAW Clash Over New Factory Jobs.