After the Second World War, unionism in the Japanese auto industry was company-based, with separate unions in each auto company. Most company unions played no independent role in bargaining shop-floor issues or pressing autoworkers' grievances. In a 1981 survey, for example, fewer than 1 percent of workers said they sought union assistance for work-related problems, while 43 percent said they turned to management instead. There was little to distinguish the two in any case: most union officers were foremen or middle-level managers, and the union's role was primarily one of passive support for company goals. Conflict occasionally disrupted this cooperative relationship--one company union's opposition to the productivity campaigns of the early 1980s has been cited as such a case. In 1986, however, a caucus led by the Foreman's Association forced the union's leadership out of office and returned the union's policy to one of passive cooperation. In the United States, the potential for such company unionism grew after 1979, but it had difficulty taking hold in the auto industry, where a single union represented workers from all companies, particularly since federal law prohibited foremen from joining or leading industrial unions.
The Japanese model was often invoked as one in which authority decentralized to the shop floor empowered production workers to make key decisions. What these claims failed to recognize was that the actual delegation of authority was to the foreman, not the workers. The foreman exercised discretion over job assignments, training, transfers, and promotions; worker initiative was limited to suggestions that fine-tuned a management-controlled production process. Rather than being proactive, Japanese workers were forced to be reactive, the range of their responsibilities being far wider than their span of control. For example, the founder of one production system, Taichi Ohno, routinely gave department managers only 90 percent of the resources needed for production. As soon as workers could meet production goals without working overtime, 10 percent of remaining resources would be removed. Because the "OH! NO!" system continually pushed the production process to the verge of breakdown in an effort to find the minimum resource requirement, critics described it as "management by stress."
The passage is primarily concerned with
(A) contrasting the role of unions in the Japanese auto industry with the role of unions in the United States auto industry after the Second World War
(B) describing unionism and the situation of workers in the Japanese auto industry after the Second World War
(C) providing examples of grievances of Japanese auto workers against the auto industry after the Second World War
(D) correcting a misconception about the role of the foreman in the Japanese auto industry's union system after the Second World War
(E) reasserting the traditional view of the company's role in Japanese auto workers' unions after the Second World War