This January, Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers union, plans on launching an initiative to unionize transplant factories run by Asian and German automakers, adding that he could call on the help of a number of allies should he feel it necessary.
The idea to try and unionize the transplant factories in the South officially received approval from the UAW’s board of directors last week and the official campaign will kick off sometime in January at a press conference. Once it’s officially underway, the movement will give the transplant factory workers a chance to join the UAW through an election.
According to King, the UAW has already mailed letters to global CEOs of the transplant automakers. King declined to identify which automaker the union is going after first.
In the past few decades, the UAW has tried to organize factory workers a number of times and failed. Nissan noted that its factory employees voted “overwhelmingly against organizing” every time a UAW effort has led to a union vote. A Nissan North America spokeswoman said that the company’s factory wages are fully competitive, that it has never laid off a factory employee in 27 years of manufacturing in the U.S., and that it fully complies with the National Labor Relations Act.
“We feel the best way to interact with employees is through direct, two-way communication as opposed to involving a third party,” Nissan spokeswoman Katherine Zachary wrote to Automotive News in an e-mail. “This approach to employee relations has been very successful resulting in a healthy and positive work environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas.”
Toyota noted similar statistics to Nissan in that because its wages are fully competitive and it has never laid off a factory employee in 25 years. Employees never felt the need to unionize, despite earlier pressure from the UAW.
Now King says the UAW has more to offer as a “21st century” union. King says the UAW can now tout that it was instrumental in improving the quality of the Detroit Three’s vehicles over the last several years and that it was also first to the negotiating table, making concessions for the Detroit Three that helped them emerge from the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
In the face of renewed organization attempts from a 21st century union, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota say they will leave it up to their factory workers to decide if they want to join the union or not. Despite reassurances from Toyota and Nissan, King says the UAW is asking target automakers to sign principles promising they won’t interfere in the factory elections. If the union is voted down fairly, King says the UAW will simply walk away. If the UAW doesn’t believe the vote was fair, however, King will call on his numerous allies to make sure the workers receive a fair vote.
“Bob [King]’s got the troops,” Baldemar Velasquez, president of the migrant farm workers union based in Toledo, Ohio, told AN. And King certainly does with no less than 900,000 retired union members, 400,000 active members, and a number of other unions and influential civil rights activists ready and waiting. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, and Baldemar’s union are just a few who have already pledged their help should King request it.