When Does Union-Management Cooperation Work? A Look at NUMMI and GM-Van Nuys

by Clair Brown, Michael Reich



Spurred by the Japanese model, the U.S. automobile industry has been restructuring its industrial relations practices along lines that aim to build upon union-management cooperation. This new organization of work changes local work rules by replacing numerous detailed job classifications with only one to three broad classifications. Team work, job rotation, and continuous improvement programs are introduced to replace direct supervision as the mechanism for obtaining high productivity and quality. Greater employee involvement in decision making is supposed to improve worker satisfaction and increase productivity. This article examines the advantages and problems of implementing union-management cooperation by comparing the experiences of the NUMMI (Toyota-General Motors joint venture) automobile assembly plant in Fremont, CA, with that of the GM plant in Van Nuys, CA. The article identifies the factors that facilitated cooperation in one case (NUMMI) and that seemed to block it in the other (GM-Van Nuys) and discusses the policy instruments that might enhance coooperative outcomes.

California Management Review

Berkeley-Haas's Premier Management Journal

Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

Learn more
Follow Us