By on March 29, 2011

The WSJ gets a little closer to the truth about the UAW’s incredible disappearing transplant organizing campaign, reporting

On Tuesday, UAW leaders meeting here described plans to reach out to foreign unions and consumers in what would be their first major campaign since failed efforts in the last decade at Nissan Motor Co. and auto-parts supplier Denso Corp. They hope to be more successful by reaching out to foreign unions at the auto makers’ overseas plants and bringing pressure from prayer vigils, fasts or protests at dealerships.

A person familiar with the matter said the union is now planning to target one foreign auto maker and has narrowed its list to three or four companies. Inside the union, much of the talk centers on targeting the now-struggling Japanese auto maker Toyota or Korea’s Hyundai, this person said.

The UAW has set aside tens of millions of dollars from its strike fund to bankroll its campaign. International actions are to be coordinated with foreign unions and run by some three dozen student interns recruited globally, UAW officials said. When the interns return to their home countries after learning about the UAW efforts in the U.S., they’ll be expected to organize protests against the auto maker, UAW officials said.

OK, so it’s a little bit strange that the UAW is entrusting a campaign that UAW President Bob King calls “the single most important thing we can do for our members ” to a bunch of interns. Still, with “tens of millions of dollars” allocated towards the campaign, some automaker somewhere will be feeling the union’s hot breath on its neck in due course. So, which automaker will the UAW target? Which automaker should they target? And with the UAW apparently refusing to fight the two-tier wage structure, will any transplant or foreign workforce want to join up?

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39 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Which Automaker Will The UAW Target?...”


  • avatar
    Jimal

    My guess is Hyundai. Toyota has bigger things to worry about, like destroyed factories and countless workers missing and presumed dead. Methinks this would be in incredibly bad taste.

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    If Toyota is weakened, that would only make them a more appealing target for the UAW.  They won’t rest until every auto manufacturer has been bankrupted, multiple times in some cases. Then China will be the only place where cars are produced.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You do know that autoworkers in just about every first-world country save for the US and Canada are all unionized, right?
       
      The reason they’re not in North America has everything to do with the adversarial-by-default labour/management relations culture we have, and that has everything to do with how management approached collective bargaining, and (in the US moreso than Canada) rampant anti-communism that “poisoned the well”.  The UAW and CAW don’t do themselves any favours, but they’re really a symptom, not a cause.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I would say that decades of coziness between the UAW/CAW and management were factors in the collapse (near collapse in the case of Ford). For example, after the big strike against GM in 1971, management decided it was better just to give the UAW what it wanted instead of losing production.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I wouldn’t call the relationship “cozy” by any stretch of the imagination.  Towards the end you could say it became ritualized, but it’s never been cozy in the way that, say VW & IG Metall are (I’ve never had the time to sort out how Japan’s work; they’re per-company locals and the federation structure is pretty complex)

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    On an unrelated note: Does anyone know anymore about this story?
     
    http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/28/autos/vw_jetta_horn_recall/index.htm

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Well, Toyota has shrunk its fulltime work force in North America manufacturing and R&D from about 34K employees in 2008 to about 25K employees in 2011.  One could say that the 25K remaining are ripe to go after about concerns of shrinking ranks; on the other hand the UAW didn’t do a good job on protecting the 4.5K union workers at NUMMI.

    Nissan is expanding US production even further, moving vehicles like the Rogue to North America for full production here. Where there is expanding employees there is opportunity.

    Obviously Hyundai is growing so they could be a target.

    Who SHOULD they target? Well – none of them – that’s a different issue. It’s not like I’m hearing about people getting sucked into machinery at Toyota plants, minimum wage workers at Nissan doing highly skilled labor jobs, or Hyundai management bringing in hired goons to break the knee caps, literally, of whistle blowers.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Let me make myself clear…..This is just MY opinion.

    I might have been out of the plant for awhile,but I believe I have a better grasp of the rank and file thinking than most.

    IMHO….I think that Mr king has forgot who he works for. Sending interns running around Asia and Germany to generate support for the UAW? Using money earmarked for the strike fund,no less. WTF is he thinking? 36 years on the floor,and I’m have a hard time believing that the membership is just swallowing “two tier…… {I read the link to the NYT piece}

     I would love to spend  fifteen minutes sitting around a break table,at a UAW repesented plant. I would certainly be better informed.

    Maybe because I didn’t work in the U.S. Or maybe I’m just out of touch.

    Me thinks, that 2011 won’t have a happy ending for Bob King.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I’m more interested in your opinion than anybody elses. 

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

       @ Dan……..In a nut shell, I think that Mr King has a whole different agenda, and a warped idea of his mandate.

      There is a huge list of expectations from the rank and file this fall. I personally don’t see organizing Hyandai as being real high on the list.

      Leaders that lose touch with thier electorate generally have  a short lifespan.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      King is in a bad spot, much like Ken Lewenza is: both of them are, arguably, the ones left holding the bag after their predecessors spent their years legacy-building and their opposite numbers spent decades going full-throttle into the iceberg.  Now they’re stuck trying to appeal (or pay back) their core supporters or somehow try to grow the ranks.  They can’t do either well, and the repercussions for choosing only one or the other could be fatal.
       
      Were it me, I take the risk, but instead of growing domestically, I would trying to go transnational and partner with the more stable labour unions in other developed countries.  I’d also push a more progressive agenda and try to leverage the anti-corporatist platform that liberals in government and the media have walked away from, and that the Tea Party has managed to partially yoke.
       
      There is absolutely no voice for syndicalism in North America, and there really should be, but you can’t blame them for taking the more well-trodden path, even if it leads off a cliff.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @psar…..I agree with your thoughts,however “ya gotta dance with the girl ya brung” King, and Lewenzas number one priority should be catering to the needs of those that elected/finance them.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Good info, mikey.  I have a difficult time believing these guys are serious. Do they have a sense of reality? Look how many people are out of work. It baffles me that considering the economic climate, the union would even consider heavy-handed tactics on any automaker. Regardless of one’s opinion of the powers-that-be at any company, auto or not, they can, have and will move manufacturing wherever they can get the best deal.

      Several years ago I was in a meeting with a major customer when I worked for a different company, and pricing for our packages was under discussion. A young, arrogant, thinks-he-knows-it-all “snot” at the customer actually came out and stated with all seriousness: “I don’t believe we should even have to pay for our packaging!” For a moment, the room went silent!   How does that fit in with the subject here? I think it shows just how too many people think nowadays. Entitlements, anyone?

      Give us more, mikey!

    • 0 avatar

      mikey, I have to say… we’re absolute polar opposites when it comes to the existence of the UAW, but you do have a very fine bead on its internal machinations. I think King and his lackeys could use some of your wisdom.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I have a difficult time believing these guys are serious. Do they have a sense of reality? Look how many people are out of work. It baffles me that considering the economic climate, the union would even consider heavy-handed tactics on any automaker.

      I think they have a sense of reality, but no plan above “do what we always do”.  They know that labour, especially unorganized labour, has comparatively little voice in government or the media.  As a “pillar of society” they’re riddled with cracks.

      What’s wrong is how they’re not expanding their message.  The current climate of “How come than banks get billions, while I get a benefits cut/wage freeze/perpetual six-month contract/gutting of welfare” would play very well amongst the population in general, but the Unions are showing a suicidal level of myopia.  Worse, they’re letting people who really don’t care about the working populace and hate organized labour with a passion “own” the message that they should be preaching while defining them and their members as “elites” when Union guys might be doing, at best, 1.3-2x average.  The people who “stole” their message are solidly in the “orders of magnitude” category.

      I’ve mentioned this book often, but it’s worth repeating: Chris Hedges’ “Death of the Liberal Class” really describes this state of affairs well.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    It would be really amusing if they were to target Hyundai. The UAW is a bunch of old fat white guys. Compared to the Korean unions, they are not at all scary. Korean management are very tough.
     
    They will probably go after Toyota. They have already lost at Honda — a couple of times. My guess is that with the troubles at home, Toyota will probably just stonewall them.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    “the single most important thing we can do for our members ” Translation: ‘the single most important thing I can do to keep my job and justify the existence of this sclerotic union.’  Whatever they do it will be shortsighted and hurt the members in the long term. 

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    If the UAW is looking for dealerships to picket and disrupt as part of their union-building support efforts, I suggest any Hummer, Pontiac or Saturn retail location.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I’ll 2nd that.  I find it ironic UAW will picket abuse and violations of greed.  Maybe their management should have a very close look at themselves too. When they do picket – someone needs to confirm the pickters are actually UAW employees and not at will employees hired by the union with no benefits!

  • avatar

    Given how loony-tunes some of his pronouncements have been, I am sure Bob King will vehemently advocate kicking the Japanese while they’re down; in language mad enough to give old Joe Stalin himself a chuckle or two.

  • avatar
    anchke

    >>>They hope to be more successful by reaching out to foreign unions at the auto makers’ overseas plants and bringing pressure from prayer vigils, fasts or protests at dealerships.<<<

    OMG!!!

  • avatar
    tparkit

    This is not about getting plant workers in the southern US to sign union cards. For the unions that would be a nice-to-have, but not a necessity for success.

    To understand what’s going on here, let’s drop back a bit to when the UAW worked in tandem with Ray DaHood and the rest of the Obama administration to extort $260 million from Toyota at NUMMI, and beat up Toyota for tens of $millions of fines. That’s the blueprint for how the UAW intends to achieve gains: by working politically, through governments. The purpose of the foreign missions is to enlist DaHood’s counterparts abroad in a coordinated campaign to coopt and coerce automakers into granting concessions. By working together, they hope to help (say) Toyota discover the strategic wisdom of sourcing parts from UAW plants. Not a single new card needs to get signed. Weapons against the foreign automakers will include the usual environmentalist-style demonization, supplemented by threats to imports, profits, and capital mobility.

    Now, why did the UAW decide to work through students? The Fair Trade movement provides the model. Fair Trade began as (and still largely is) a garment workers union scam aimed at mobilizing useful-idiot university students to combat inexpensive imported clothing by pretending to be concerned about working conditions abroad. Fair Trade has been highly successful at forcing firms like WalMart to bow to the need to make demands on its foreign suppliers that inevitably make these suppliers less competitive with the US-based unions.

    That’s why we read, “When the interns return to their home countries after learning about the UAW efforts in the U.S., they’ll be expected to organize protests against the auto maker, UAW officials said.” The student leaders and their dupes are the foot-soldiers, and they’ll put boots on the street to perform for the TV cameras while using platforms and leverage provided by the universities, the Marxist professoriate, and interlinked NGOs and foundations to fabricate new concerns about the targeted automakers and their products.

    Look for the unions to work indirectly, too. For instance, they’ll put pressure on foreign-based non-automakers, in order to intimidate foreign governments into leaning on their automakers to purchase political peace by appeasing the UAW and its allies in Washington. And as Senator Bluestate might put it, “Want to sell Korean dockside equipment to US ports being refurbished with federal money? Well, what have the serial oppressors at Kia and Hyundai done for my friends at the UAW lately?”

    http://getinvolved.transfairusa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Stories_Fair_Trade_On_Campus

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Yeah, it so horrible to demand that people working in sweatshops make a reasonable wage and work reasonable.  How dare they interfere with Walmart’s divine right to gross margin?!
       
      Though I do agree that the UAW should consider acting in cooperation with it’s international counterparts, rather than in competition.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The problem with using the Fair Trade model to attack the transplant operations is that Fair Trade model can use images of children making clothes in a factory (located outside the U.S.) to stir American sympathies. Child labor is a “hot button” issue, and most Americans have a vague feeling that conditions in those foreign plants aren’t always the best for adults, let alone someone who is 12 or 14 years old.

      The facilities of Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota are located here, in the good old U. S. of A. They don’t use child labor, and working conditions are very good – easily equal to that of any unionized plant. So why, exactly, should I get upset over companies that are bringing very good paying jobs to American communities? And if those workers don’t want union representation – so what?

      What did the union fight for a few years ago at GM plants? The right of lineworkers to smoke while on the job. That’s great for quality, and really sends a message to workers employed by a company was, at that time, staggering under the burden of providing health insurance coverage. So why, exactly, should I get upset that transplant workers are not unionized?

      (And let’s not repeat the myth that nationalized health care is the answer – companies pay just as much in taxes to support government health care in other countries as they pay for employee health insurance coverage here. The key is to make sure that the level of coverage provided is affordable. Note that the transplant operations of BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota have no problem providing health insurance coverage for employees here in the U.S. And, really, why should I support the right of anyone to smoke at work, even if he or she is covered by a nationalized plan? It’s not my responsibility to pay for the ultimate result of his or her deadly habit.)

      The UAW is also hindered by the fact that virtually everyone is familiar with the products its members make, and the products made in transplant factories. Americans realize that having workers represented by the UAW has not resulted in improved quality or better products. If anything, union representation brought about a cost disadvantage to GM, Ford and Chrysler that has only recently been overcome.

      Getting more money for the same or less work is nice – we’d all like to enjoy that bonanza. But that isn’t feasible in the auto industry anymore. The UAW needs to find some other reason for it to exist…perhaps it can help ensure that workers are properly trained? If “UAW Trained and Certified” actually meant something (good), then perhaps the union would not be fighting for its life.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      Wal-Mart’s “gross margin” is incredibly thin.
       
      Even among Democrats, unions are, at best, tolerated. Their day is done.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      The US is about the only country with an auto industry that isn’t totally unionized. The only other country is probably the UK so training the student leaders won’t be that difficult

  • avatar
    jkross22

    “Even among Democrats, unions are, at best, tolerated. Their day is done.”

    That’s not how this story appears to be playing out.  Unions support a large percentage of the funding of Democrat party candidates in local, state and federal elections.  Unions representing school teachers, prison guards, grocery workers, SEIU, UAW, etc.  That support buys influence, and that is one of the key reasons why states are treating public employee pension programs like the third rail in politics.  That is a key reason why the UAW owns chunks of automakers.  Pay to play.

    Simple solution though – pay politicians 200k/yr and make accepting campaign donations a felony that earns a 1 yr minimum sentence in jail, forfeiture of all salary earned and reimburse all perks.  In other words, “drain the swamp”.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Corporate donations to political candidates are far higher than union donations.  At least with union donations they are coming from real people with at least some say in what happens to the money.  Corporations can now act as persons and donate as such.  Corporations are tyrannies that have no democratic representation.  I agree with your idea to have publicly funded political campaigns but not because of union donations.  I know the popular propaganda today is to paint unions as greedy and lazy, but have you seen what CEOs and corporations are getting away with?  No comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Untermensch, the 1920s are over and have been for a long time. Get over the evil corporation and virginal union thing. Corporations are tyrannies? Come on, people are free to leave them, people in them are both good and bad, they are neither evil nor virtuous. Marx was wrong, you are wrong, give up you lost.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Ah, red bating.  The 1950′s are over as well.  Corporations ARE tyrannies in structure, orders are given from above and trickle down and employees have no say on how they are run unlike more democratic institutions like unions.  Corporations are not evil, only sociopathic, and are legally required to be that way.  Corporations are legally required to seek profit at the expense of all else, including human and environmental welfare.  As such corporations are not people and should not be given those rights.  I’m no Marxists, but I would say that capitalism seems to be on the ropes these past few years and has shown it needs to be heavily regulated.  We should not be letting immortal, immoral, and unaccountable corporate persons have ANY say in our political process. Yeah, I lost, we ALL lost.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Ubermensch: Corporate donations to political candidates are far higher than union donations. 

      This is incorrect. In the most recent federal elections the biggest donors to political candidates were unions. 

      Ubermensch: At least with union donations they are coming from real people with at least some say in what happens to the money. 

      Then I guess unions will stop fighting efforts to make the check-off voluntarily, or increase  transparency regarding the purposes for which member dues are used? The idea that the money unions use for political purposes is in not obtained in a compulsory manner, and is coming from “real people” who give with full knowledge is a fantasy at best.

      Ubermensch: Corporate donations to political candidates are far higher than union donations.  At least with union donations they are coming from real people with at least some say in what happens to the money.

      And unions, in the real world, strive to obtain as much money and benefits for their members in exchange for the least amout of work as possible. That is what members expect. The union will pursue this goal until the employer is almost bankrupt (see the history of GM from 1970 until 2008).

      Ubermensch: Corporations ARE tyrannies in structure, orders are given from above and trickle down and employees have no say on how they are run unlike more democratic institutions like unions.

      A true tyranny is one in which the subjects cannot leave to escape the wrath of their leaders. Employees are free to leave the employment of any corporation. The exception, ironically, is the top executive, who will often have a no-compete clause in his or her employement contract, forbidding him or her to work for a competitor for a certain period of time after leaving.

      If other employees are unhappy, they are free to leave. In the case of many unionized companies, they don’t WANT to leave, because they cannot get the same wages and benefits for their skill level at other employees. This is why UAW members will rant about GM or Chrysler or Ford being a tyranny, but then look at you dumbfounded if you suggest that, if they are unhappy, they seek employment elsewhere. That’s because their employers really aren’t tyrants – they are more like mommy and daddy, providing pay and benefits that they could never get at another job, so it’s easy to wail about tyrannies while cashing those paychecks and counting the weeks of paid vacation.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This is incorrect. In the most recent federal elections the biggest donors to political candidates were unions.

      No, he is correct.  I have no idea where you got that figure, but it’s highly cherry-picked.  Both the government’s own records and opensecrets.org show union contributions were dwarfed by non-union donations for most Democrats, even in Michigan.  Only the most liberal (Kucinich) see appreciable donations.

      They’re not even in the same league, and this was before donations could be obscured.

      Oh, and this goes without saying, but Republicans raise more funds that Democrats in the majority of election cycles (they only lose out when the Republicans are known to be going down in flames as in, eg, 2008) and that none of those are union.

      And unions, in the real world, strive to obtain as much money and benefits for their members in exchange for the least amout of work as possible. That is what members expect. The union will pursue this goal until the employer is almost bankrupt (see the history of GM from 1970 until 2008).

      That’s what unions in North America have done, true, but much of that is because management played hardball by default (which doesn’t happen in Europe or Japan).  You’re also ignoring that GM et al more or less dug their own grave without union assistance during that time period.

      Management in North America, quite frankly, has the unions they deserve.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    watching that video I thought it was  a trailer for Atlas Shrugged, the movie. So much populism,  so little time.

  • avatar
    geeber

    psarhjinian: No, he is correct. I have no idea where you got that figure, but it’s highly cherry-picked.  Both the government’s own records and opensecrets.org show union contributions were dwarfed by non-union donations for most Democrats, even in Michigan.  Only the most liberal (Kucinich) see appreciable donations.

    He is not correct.

    Here it is, straight from October 22, 2010 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

    The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending. (emphasis added)

    The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

    “We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.” (emphasis added)

    No cherry-picking here. These are the straight facts, and the final quote is straight from the horse’s mouth.

    psarhjinian: That’s what unions in North America have done, true, but much of that is because management played hardball by default (which doesn’t happen in Europe or Japan). 

    Japanese unions are basically company unions, and have been ever since the more militant unions were broken during a very long and bitter strike at Nissan in the early 1950s. That type of union is illegal in the U.S. 

    European unions at the French and Italian automobile companies have been pretty militant from what I’ve seen. But management hasn’t been too willing to take them on directly.

    The Germans do operate more by consensus. But one can’t help but note the number of VWs sold in this country that are manufactured in Mexico (or, previously, Brazil). For that matter, VW is building its new Accord-Camry-Fusion-Malibu-Sonata competitor here in the U.S., at a brand-new plant it is constructing in Tennessee. And it will likely be non-union – as are virtually all of the other transplant operations at this point.

    psarhjinian: You’re also ignoring that GM et al more or less dug their own grave without union assistance during that time period.

    I never said that management was blameless. But to ignore or minimize the role that the UAW played in GM’s downfall is as inaccurate as blaming everything on the union. There’s plenty of blame to go around here.
     


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