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Open Letter to the President of UAW Local 599

27 June 2011

Mr. Bill Jordan, President
UAW Local 599
812 Leith St.
Flint, MI 48505

Dear Mr. Jordan:

The blog Carpe Diem today features a photo of a sign in the parking lot of (what I assume to be) your Michigan headquarters.  That sign reads: “Only American-Union Made Automobiles, Trucks & Motorcycles Are Allowed In This Parking Lot.  Violators Will Be Towed.”

You seek to punish those who, by purchasing substitutes for the vehicles that your members currently are employed to produce, reduce the demand for unionized autoworkers and, thereby, destroy some jobs in unionized U.S. auto plants.

Of course, you may exclude from your parking lot whomever you wish, for whatever reasons you wish.  But I’m curious: do you not also threaten to tow away old American-made automobiles?  The person who drives, say, a 1991 Buick Regal – whether he bought it new 20 years ago or bought it used yesterday – opts, no less than does the person who drives a 2011 Toyota Camry, not to buy a newly made American automobile.  Both persons spend their money now in ways that keep demand for new American-made automobiles lower than it would otherwise be.  The spending choices of the owner of the 1991 Buick harm your members no less than – and for exactly the same reasons as – do the spending choices of the owner of the 2011 Toyota.

In light of this reality, do you and your members want Uncle Sam to impose a special tax on Americans who buy used cars?  How about a tax on each American who keeps the same automobile for, say, more than five years?  After all, someone who keeps her car in good repair and, as a result, lets many years pass between the time she bought her last car and the time she buys another, contributes to the decline of the U.S. auto industry in precisely the same way as does the most fanatical buyer of shiny new Volkswagens or Hondas.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030