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Latest News - May 2011

May 14, 2011
Autoworkers’ union takes aim at “transplant” carmakers
Source: Post and Courier

There has been plenty of discussion concerning the (our) government’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) demanding the closing of the not-yet-completed Boeing plant in North Charleston and opening a second assembly plant in Washington state.

Several auto “transplant” companies now face threats of pressure from the United Auto Workers union, mostly in right-to-work states.

President Bob King of the once powerful UAW is warning the transplants not to interfere with anticipated union recruitment efforts. “Transplants” include Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda and BMW.

So, potentially, our wonderful right-to-work state could face two major threats to two great companies, Boeing and BMW, both related to union pressure.

King warns the transplants they could face “a bloodbath” from a consumer boycott if the companies “violate UAW’s election guidelines.” In one of a series of Automotive News articles covering the UAW’s intention to use a $60 million budget to unionize transplants, King said:

“The union will launch global demonstrations and publicity aimed at punishing offending carmakers, including convincing sympathizers in the civil rights, church and environmental communities to not buy vehicles.” Further, King said, “The UAW will respond aggressively to any transplant automaker that interferes with union organizing at their U.S. assembly plants and engine plants in the coming months.”

Apparently it will be no problem if the union intimidates or coerces workers to join the union.

King also has asked transplant executives to sign a pledge agreeing to allow fair union campaigns at their plants “free of management interference or intimidation.”

According to David Cole, chairman emeritus at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., “Organizing drives at the transplants will boil down to whether workers feel they can get more from collective bargaining than without it.”

Compensation at the transplants is close to the $55 an hour UAW members earn in wages and benefits at the Detroit auto plants.

The union has failed in numerous previous attempts to organize the transplants, which are located predominately in right-to-work states in the South.

Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said Toyota would look at the list of election principles sent by the UAW. But he said the carmaker’s 20,000 hourly workers at 10 U.S. plants are already paid and treated well and work with a commitment that they will not be laid off.

“We’ve kept all our team members,” Goss said, “even during the downturn.”

A letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal is an interesting rebuttal to the UAW: “One of UAW President Bob King’s 11 ‘principles’ is that during any organizing campaign of the foreign-owned ‘transplants,’ both sides will have equal access to employees for campaign purposes. Another is that both sides agree there will be ‘… no disparaging the other party.’

“Management at the transplants won’t have to disparage the UAW. All it needs to do is show a photo of downtown Detroit with the caption, ‘Brought to you by the wonderful people who want to organize you here.’”

My unsolicited suggestion to the transplants: Continue your unique ways to reward workers — a nice, clean workplace; empathetic management — and continue building vehicles customers want to buy. In my observations of the transplants, workers have much to lose by joining the union.

With unions representing only 7 percent of the workforce in the U.S., transplant workers should ask, “Why?”



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