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Latest News - January 2011

January 3, 2011
UAW reveals ideas to try to level playing field
Source: Detroit Free Press
By: Brent Snavely

The UAW released a set of principles today that it plans to use as it renews its effort to organize assembly plants in the U.S. operated by Asian and German automakers.

The document, called “UAW Principles for Fair Union Elections,” outlines 11 ideals that are designed to level the playing field between the UAW and an employer during a union campaign and election.

By signing the principles, both the union and the employer would “demonstrate their openness to change by agreeing to the framework established in these principles,” the UAW said in the document released today.

The principles include an agreement that the ability to join a union is a “fundamental human right.” In addition, they say that during a campaign both the union and the employer would agree to refrain from intimidation or threats and commit the employer to allowing equal access to employees to discuss union representation.

UAW President Bob King said last August that the union planned to develop the principles and told the Free Press in December that the union’s board of directors approved them.

Also, the Wall Street Journal reported today that King is willing to tap the union’s $800-million strike fund for its push to organize hourly factory workers at foreign-owned car plants.

In December, King told the Free Press the union plans to begin with a friendly, cooperative approach to non-unionized automakers, but has made preparations for resistance.

“If an employer lives by the rules for a fair election and the workers decide they don’t want to come into the UAW …we’ll move on to other places,” King said. “But we’ve really built up capacity to really take direct actions to expose any employer who threatens workers fires workers threatens to close a facility, or puts any pressure on workers not to join a union."

The union’s effort to ramp up its organizing activities coincides with the expiration later this year of its four-year contracts with the domestic automakers and with a decline in membership over the last several decades.

UAW membership dropped to less than 400,000 in 2009 after reaching a high of 1.5 million in 1979. Last year, union members agreed to concessions that lowered the labor costs of the domestic automakers and made them more competitive with the labor costs of Asian automakers.

The pay of workers at import and domestic factories are “inextricably tied together,” King told the Free Press in December. “You can’t disadvantage the Big Three by having labor costs higher than the people they compete with.”

For years, the union has been blamed for forcing domestic automakers to pay workers high wages and provide cushy benefits that cut deeply into their profits.

Now, King argues that the domestic automakers are thriving and profitable again, in part because of UAW sacrifices.

“The winning team today is the UAW and American employers,” King said. “With GM, Chrysler and Ford, we are building the best vehicles, and have the most productive workplaces.”



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