Goodyear runs two factories in Amiens, France. One, the northern factory, has been up for sale by Goodyear after several years of failed negotiations when unions refused to disband per corporate demands. To punish the unions, Goodyear shut down production lines in an attempt to pressure them into accepting inhumane working conditions, where shifts would be on a rotating schedule. A person would work a morning shift one day, an afternoon shift the next, an overnight the third, and the cycle would continue. There is no logical reason for such a bizarre shift design; it is there only to hurt workers. After the latest offer was withdrawn, Goodyear decided to shut down the factory. The French government then reached out to Titan International, another tire manufacturer based in Illinois, to see about them taking over the factory. The response they got in return was nothing less than an insult.
Titan’s CEO, Maurice Taylor, put it simply:
Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs.
The only thing which appears to matter to Mr. Taylor is how cheap labor is. This is a common thought, but it is very, very misplaced.
Elsewhere in the letter, Mr. Taylor claimed that the French workers only worked 3 hours a day and were sitting around talking. He claimed it was “the French way.” He called this lazy, and a deciding factor for him in not stepping in.
Well, if this is the French way, if this is how the French work everywhere, then it is time the United States started doing it. Because the only country which is more productive per-worker in the world is…. France. French work fewer hours, as Mr. Taylor claims (while exaggerating) but produce more per-capita than every other nation on the planet. A “less than one euro per hour wage” worker in India or China, on the other hand, is not only less productive, they are dramatically less productive. In effect, you need to hire ten times as many Chinese workers too simply match a single French worker. And the median salary in China has been on the rise for over a decade; Mr. Taylor would be looking at 7 euro or more.
7 euro per worker, needing 10 workers to replace 1 French worker, then add in quality control issues, transportation costs, and the moral issues of slave labor, and Mr. Taylor is everything that is wrong with corporate America today. There is far more to workers’ value than the simple dollar signs over their head. That Titan would take this position shows the rot of culture at its heart, and a willingness to not do what is best for the stockholders long-term financial stability. Mr. Taylor should be ashamed of his embrace of slave labor. And we all should be ashamed of Mr. Taylor and Titan International.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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