By on December 22, 2010

Ever since being hand-picked to succeed Ron Gettlefinger as President of the UAW, Bob King has made it clear that his focus would be on organizing transplant factories, the US-based assembly plants operated by foreign automakers. And why not? Having been given ownership stakes in GM and Chrysler during their bailout, the UAW can’t even protect the wages of its existing members, let alone lobby for higher wages. As a result, this year has been marked by UAW protests against Toyota (for pulling out of a joint venture that GM had already abandoned and getting caught in a media circus), and Hyundai (for getting caught up in a convoluted Korean union spat), and threats of organization campaigns against Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen. Now, King tells Automotive News [sub] that it’s time for the transplants to batten down the hatches: UAW organizers are coming to town…

But before mounting his Winter offensive, King looked in the mirror to see if he had in fact been been naughty or nice this year. And it turns out that he had something of an epiphany: ugly protests against Toyota weren’t helping the “brave new UAW” storyline. King admits

We said we were going to be the UAW of the 21st century and didn’t feel like that was accomplishing that goal,
But, as usual, there’s a more prosaic truth behind King’s rhetoric: with pro-union “card check” legislation apparently dead in congress, the UAW needs to get some kind of cooperation from the plant owners, many of which have policies to keep outside organizers out of the workplace. By releasing today’s letter, King is seeking to shame transplant automakers into signing onto its”Rules for Fair Campaign” ahead of a January press conference launching the organizing campaign. The message is clear: transplants can either sign on the dotted line and be guests at King’s January press spectacular, or they can be on the menu. But will any of them agree to King’s 7 Theses? Decide for yourself:

UAW Rules for Fair Campaign

In the spirit and traditions of American Democracy, the workers and the management of XYZ Company agree to respect the right of each worker to make a decision to vote in an atmosphere free from fear and intimidation. Toward that end, both parties agree to the following:

1.         Because the primary purpose of XYZ is to produce the best quality product, both the union and company pledge to remember that the primary purpose of this company is to produce the best quality product possible.

2.         The election campaign will be free from fear, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, surveillance, interrogation and any other activity which interferes with free exercise of election rights.

3.         To further protect the company and its need for productivity, there will be no campaigning that interferes with work. No one will be taken off his or her job or away from his or her duties to discuss the campaign, either pro or con.

4.         All meetings about the election – either individual or group – will be strictly voluntary. If the employer chooses to hold meetings on company time union supporters shall be granted a meeting of equal length to present the union’s position. Equal time, equal representation to match the employer’s presenters and/or guests.

5.         The union supporters shall be granted equal posting rights. This means that if the employer can post any material in opposition to employees having a voice, then the union supporters may post material of equal size and length.

6.         In the event an anti-union consultant is hired or continues to be retained by the company, the name of the consultant will be made public, and a full and public accounting will be made of all money paid or committed to the consultant (as provided by the U.S. Department of Labor).

7.         None of the supervisors will be punished or discriminated against by refusing to campaign against the workers wanting to form their local union.

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45 Comments on “UAW: The War On Transplants Begins In January...”


  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Bob King and the UAW leadership are the worst kind of thugs.  This is a shameful attempt to shame corporations and employees into supporting them, just so they can grab more power.
    This is exactly why people hate unions.  I hope the employees of these plants overwhelmingly reject them, just as they have for decades.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    With OSHA, and widespread information availability today online, you’d expect to hear stories of how downtrodden the workers are at the transplant facilities, yearning for UAW representation to help with their concerns about safety, pay, and benefits.
     
    Message to Bob King: That outcry is not happening.  The UAW has outlived its utility by several decades.

  • avatar
    namelocbob

    I have been a UAW member for 17 years.. The leadership is a disgrace. Our favorite motto with all 1800 employees is “The UAW was formed to protect us from unfair practices, NOT practice it on us” The only thing left that the UAW has bargaining power over anymore are seniority rights. Guess what? They don’t respect those either. The union has created such a hostile atmosphere in our facility by ignoring the basic tenants of their own Constitution. Mike Oblak, Bill Johnson and Brock Roy are a disgrace to its membership. We don’t call the UAW headquarters Solidarity House anymore…It is referred to as Sold Our Dignity House. I pray all of you stay away from these corrupt thugs! Unless you want them to create great jobs at $14 dollars or less an hour. Good Luck!

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      Why are you still a member?

    • 0 avatar
      EEGeek

      He likely has to stay in the union to keep his job.  My guess is that he works in a closed shop state like Michigan, unlike most of the transplants in Right-To-Work states.  It’s also possible that he works for a company where the UAW has a contractual stranglehold over all employees.

      I just don’t see this effort doing anything for the UAW.  They have nothing to offer the transplant employees, and the noisy but useless effort will only show how impotent the leadership really is.

    • 0 avatar
      namelocbob

      @EEGeek is correct. I am strong-armed to stay in the union contractually. I MUST be a dues paying member in good standing in order to keep my job. I am at Local 900 in Wayne Michigan. He is also correct in his statement that the UAW has nothing to offer the transplant employees.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I wonder if the UAW would sign this document considering what item number 2 says about “fear, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, surveillance, interrogation”.

    Methinks not.
     

  • avatar

    The worst of it is that there are unions that are worse than UAW, like SEIU and government employee unions.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Unions shifted their attention to organizing government employees because they had too much success putting all their other hosts out of business.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I can’t think of a more dangerous union than the teacher’s union.  The AFT has 1.5 million members (5X bigger than the UAW), and their hands are directly on the taxpayer’s wallets.

      And the worst part is, every demand is accompanied by the plea “it’s for the children”, even though the AFT Mission Statement does not mention children or teaching:
      The mission of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, is to improve the lives of our members and their families; to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic and social aspirations; to strengthen the institutions in which we work; to improve the quality of the services we provide; to bring together all members to assist and support one another; and to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world.

    • 0 avatar

      Let’s try to ease up on the OT union-bashing, please. There are good unions and bad unions and plenty more that fall somewhere in between.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Ed,
       
      Please name a ‘good’ union.  Unions as a whole played a vital, historical role in passing legislation for safe work environments, child labor laws, wage and hour laws, etc., but since those are now canonized into law, the other law has kicked in… the law of diminishing returns for the unions.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      EN – Calling out teacher’s unions and other government employee unions is hardly off topic.  The headline reads “UAW: The War on Transplants…”.  Teachers unions constantly wage war against privatized schools, voucher plans, and teacher standards.  The UAW’s war on transplants is quite similar.

      As for a “good union”, perhaps the pilot’s union is an example.  The airlines are willing to overtax pilots, understaff airplanes, underfill fuel tanks, etc.  Since public safety is at stake, and with virtually no visibility into what goes on in the cockpit or in pilot scheduling, I’d wager that the pilot’s union is a worthy check on airlines’ attempts to push too far.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    This is a big reason why these companies put their plants primarily in the Southeast.  They don’t have politicians bought and paid for by the Unions.  You also have a populace that is wisely hostile of organized labor.  These are high paying jobs in safe environments that most people would kill for right now, the UAW is not needed, it’s all about raw power and dues for the benefit of the Union, not the workers.
     
    You can’t make a competitive product with the UAW calling the shots (that’s why the government had to bail out GM and Chrysler, and nearly Ford)  So the UAW figured out the best way to keep their fiefdom is to try and ruin all the other car companies.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    Does the new third-year extension apply to the newly unemployed?
     
    If they let the UAW anywhere near their workplaces and wallets, the workers at the transplant factories had better hope so, ’cause the one thing that the UAW does well is to cause its members to eventually become part of the long-term unemployed!

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Toyota, Honda, Hyundai etc are net job/wealth creators.
     
    GM, Chrysler and to a lesser extent Ford, have been net job/wealth destroyers.
     
    I’m all for a fair living wage and unions can play a part in ensuring it, but don’t give us this “foreign-devils” crap. Those who wave the flag hardest are the ones denigrating it.

    • 0 avatar
      daga

      So attracting or keeping a GM/Chrysler/Ford plant is a job destroyer or wealth destroyer for a state? (not considering stock price wealth)
      If you’re not for “foreign-devlls” then hopefully see that an auto job for any OEM is pretty attractive.

  • avatar
    dancote

    Sorry to offend all you anti-union types. I was too as a Boeing engineer belonging to SPEEA. We historically considered ourselves apart from those lowly IAM hourly workers. Sooner or later though, the grand awakening happens: Management does not have your interests at heart (with some notable exceptions – Lincoln Electric comes to mind).
    Not saying the UAW isn’t part of the problem. Just that knee-jerk reactions to unions/unionizing is misplaced. Companies that respect their most valuable asset have nothing to fear from unions. Unions that over-reach are as bad as the Jack Welch(es) of GE who are enjoying a fabulous retirement as a result of outsourcing. Feel better now?

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      And the Jack Welch “outsource everything” philosophy is making the Dreamliner an epic failure.
       
      http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2013713745_dreamliner19.html

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Outsourcing is done because the consumer doesn’t want to pay more.  And when you increase the cost of labor via union demands, the only option is to outsource in order to stay in business, even after applying every possible technological innovation to make manufacturing more efficient.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The problem with outsourcing is that it’s a big part of the race to the bottom.
       
      Everyone likes cheaper goods and higher margins, but when you erode people’s ability to pay for those goods, you end up have to do things like leverage credit more often, which makes consumers more vulnerable to downturns, which in turn puts more cost pressure on the producer.  Eventually, you’ll destroy your market.  With any luck, you’ve managed to create one elsewhere, but you’ll probably abandon that, too, as is happening in China (you’re seeing certain jobs flee China to lower-cost producers in, eg, Vietnam).
       
      Unions are supposed to be a thumb on the other side of the scale to prevent this from happening, but they’re miserably inept and/or stupidly adversarial at getting this message out.

    • 0 avatar
      Slocum

      The problem with outsourcing is that it’s a big part of the race to the bottom.
      The problem with the idea of a ‘race to the bottom’ is that it just doesn’t fit the evidence.  By ‘racing to the bottom’, hundreds of millions of Chinese have left abject poverty and joined the global middle class (like all the Japanese and South Koreans before them).  The same process is well underway in India.  During the time that China has been booming (roughly since 1980), the U.S. has grown *richer* not poorer.
      The recent past has been rough on unionized autoworkers accustomed to being paid wages far FAR above the market value of unskilled labor.  But the Detroit cartel broke down, the UAW lost its monopoly pricing power being the sole source provider of auto labor, and the rest of us are *much* better off now that we are no longer stuck paying inflated prices for crappy products.
       

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      The article on the Dreamliner reinforces the “race to the bottom” idea of outsourcing too much in initial development of a product where human lives are at stake. I would not want to be one of the test pilots (or first passengers) on a “flying Frankenstein”, no matter how much “high tech” it has.
      Outsourcing has its place in future product revisions to keep costs in control, and even to increase profits, but only after suppliers are completely vetted in that their components are fully compatible with, and equal to or superior in their performance in the application.
      Attempting to incorporate too many suppliers at a design inception is simply a corporate “cash grab”, trying to make as much money as possible on a design as it’s just released – with the eye on underbidding the competition – that justifies the “race to the bottom” comment for me, with the initial customers becoming the beta testers, possibly at their own peril.

  • avatar

    So much material here, I don’t know where to begin.
     
    However — this being the holiday season and all — I’ll defer my usual snarkiness against Bob King and his merry clan. Instead, let me say that I’m genuinely impressed and surprised by that worker’s ability to spell correctly.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The UAW does a fine job of brainwashing folks in the plant that they actually work for the union, not the company.  That’s what led to the implosions at the Big 3 and a lot of their unionized suppliers.
    That approach won’t work at the transplants, the workers have already been educated about capitalism.  Of course locating most of their plants in right to work states was pretty smart too.
     

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    My disgust with unions is why I moved south a few decades ago.
    Meanwhile, in all fairness, an organization vote should be taken, with the caveat that the issue can’t be revisited for 10 years.
    That said, I can’t wait for King to get his ass handed to him.
    I do plan on buying a US-made vehicle next, but only will consider those made in non-union shops.

  • avatar
    dakota_scott

    @ Psar,
     I agree with you in so far as outsourcing does create a race to the bottom. In my opinion too many offshore suppliers building the same part for the same customer in hopes of slashing each others throats create a quality disaster and makes supplier accountability that much difficult. One of Dr. Demings 14 points of quality control was not to award business based only on price. Other factors must be considered like the quality of the finished goods, service after the sale, and delivery performance. For example, look at the threads, laser ectching, coating, and knurling of a Maglite flashlight. Review those same characteristics against a Chinese made knockoff and just look at the difference. One is a durable well made product that will last decades, another has poorly tapped threads, spots in the coating and may not last very long. Thankfully there are still people out there who consider these things when purchasing goods. This country just needs more of said people.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Good point about quality materials, but it is nice to be able to choose between high cost/quality and low cost/lower quality.  Your flashlight example is great:  if I used a flashlight regularly (like a cop does) I would want the high quality Maglite.  However, for the flash light that sits in the kitchen cabinet for 6 months at a time and is only used to find something lost under the couch, the $1.99 Chinese knockoff is fine.  For a tool that I use all the time I’ll buy the high quality name brand, but if I need to use a tool once a year or so the Harbor Freight version is more than adequate.  Same with tools that are likely to be stolen (shop tools or tools in a service truck); might as well buy the cheap version since they are likely to disappear long before they wear out.
       
      That’s the beauty of having choices.

  • avatar
    forraymond

    For the last 40 years, the United States Government has been chipping away to Unions in the United States.  With the main-stream media (read corporate owned) reporting only news friendly to “BIG BUSINESS” it is not a surprise that so many “journalists”have been hood-winked into believing that Unions are the EVIL ones.
     
    Keep supporting big business and Fox News and see where you end up.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I’ve been a member of a union. I’ve been responsible for trying to get union members to do their jobs. I’ve been seriously involved with members of the teachers’ union for almost a dozen years. I’ve followed the auto industry closely for almost 35 years. You don’t have a clue.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      That’s what I call living in an alternate reality when you say that the government has been against unions for decades when it ‘s the government that now has the biggest percentage of  union jobs. And then equating  the mainstream media and Fox News.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No, he is right.  The media and the government in the United States, and much of the west, have been much more corporatist in the last two decades.  And yes, this means that trade unionism doesn’t get much positive spin.**
       
      At least Europe and Canada have non-corporate political parties to balance the scales.  The US, since the Democrats started chasing corporate dollars in an attempt to catch Reagan, though the rot really set in under Carter.  The result is that modern Democrats are more corporatist and generally more right-wing than Nixon, and every Democratic candidate since Mondale has been a kind of socially-liberal Reagan clone.
       
      What’s really funny, though, is watching the American right go into hysterics about so much as a whiff of socialist agenda.  Half the country, if not more, has absolutely no perspective.
       
      ** Granted, they suck at it when they try.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      “Corporatist” is not synonomous with “pro free market,” “conservative” or even “anti-union.” The mainstream media has not exactly been hard on unions, particularly government unions. For example, it treated the UAW with kid gloves during discussions over the bailout.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Corporatist” is not synonomous with “pro free market,”

      I never said it was and, indeed, a large part of the problem is that much of the right (and the left, if you could call it that) has successfully equated the two in the minds of the population.

      The US political spectrum is currently bracketed by (relatively) socially liberal corporatists and relatively socially conservative corporatists.  There’s a few libertarians kicking and screaming within the Republican party (I’d give them a year or two before reality chews up their idealism and spits them out) and Ralph Nader, who the Democrats are doing their damndest to kneecap.

      The mainstream media has not exactly been hard on unions, particularly government unions

      Mostly, unions are ignored or cast in an adversarial “have/have not” light.  It’s funny that so much intellectual capital is expended about how some people make 5% more and get decent benefits.  A better question would be “Why don’t most people get decent pay and social support?”

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Ralph Nader is, in many ways a corporatist. He just wants them heavily regulated by the government.

      And no one would care how much people get in pay and benefits, except that, in the case of the UAW, those benefits and work rules handicapped the ability of the employers to compete for decades, while in the case of government employees, many local and state governments are going broke trying to pay for those benefits.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Ralph Nader is, in many ways a corporatist. He just wants them heavily regulated by the government.

      Stuff like this is why I thoroughly enjoy our discussions.  Sure, they’re circular and we rarely if ever agree, but this one really made me go “Hmmm…”

  • avatar
    caboaz

    “Let’s try to ease up on the OT union-bashing, please. There are good unions and bad unions and plenty more that fall somewhere in between.”

    Yeah, sort of like there are good drunk drivers and bad drunk drivers and just a bunch of ‘buzzed’ drivers that fall somewhere in between.

  • avatar
    AndrewDederer

    No need to get in an uproar. This is nothing but talk, the UAW couldn’t get anything going at the plants when the big 3 were still on top (heck, they hardly even called any votes.

    Worse for organizing hopes, what former UAW members that were working at the transplants (yes, some of the crew at the transplants are ex big-3, mainly machine maintenance and such) may well have retired by now (one of the big organizers at Honda could have played Santa with little prep, this was in 1998).

    So why beat the drums of organization now? Because they can’t do much about the current big-3 situation and they’d rather not have it brought up. Time to “Busy their minds with foreign adventures.”

  • avatar

    The UAW is far from the worst private sector union, though Bob King shows that not all UAW members & leaders really understand the global auto industry.

  • avatar
    vettefan427

    Note the old Camry in the background

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Mr. King & Company: You guys should follow the job growth, not the jobs. The US auto market is shrinking. The auto market and job growth for people who make automobiles, trucks and related products is elsewhere.
    Now take a bow. You guys have done your work here. The unions have successfully pressured the government to assure fair pay and safe places to work.
    If you’re really concerned about the well-being, fair wages, and safety of workers, the go East. Far East.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    King has missed the most obvious point; there is a reason the transplants aren’t in Michigan. For the most part, they are located in the right-to-work South, places like Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi & South Carolina and they are there for a reason. The UAW has tried to organize Nissan @ Smyrna, TN many times and has continually failed and I believe they will continue to fail. A decent job is impossible to find these days and I doubt that workers in these transplant factories will ever take a chance on mucking it up at the behest of an anachronistic, malevolent organizer.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    Somebody please tell Bob King it’s 2010, not 1936.

  • avatar
    Invisible

    Note to any car company.

    If you allow that Detroit Mafia to infiltrate your company, you will be added to my list of UAW boycotted products!

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Here’s my tip for the UAW: hire good looking organizers.  If you send the typical 50-something UAW member down south, the 1% chance you have for success just went out the window.  If your organizer isn’t good looking, they won’t even listen to the pitch.


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