By on March 15, 2011

Do you recall the UAW’s last-ditch bid for relevance, its campaign to organize the transplant auto factory workers of America? The union’s campaign against the Hondas, Toyotas, BMWs and Hyundais of the world was supposed to begin in earnest in January, but all they have to show for it thus far is a perfunctory slap-down from Honda. So what happened? Where’s the confrontation, the picketing, the accusations of human rights abuses? Remember, the UAW has all of its skin in this gambit, now that its President has confirmed that

If we don’t organize the transnationals, I don’t think there is a long-term future for the UAW.

But based on the dearth of media reports on either the campaign’s success or failure, it would seem that the UAW has given up on the effort and is hoping everyone just forgets about it…

But the union hasn’t forgotten about its transplant offensive… it’s simply focused on its traditional format for confrontation, the quadrennial contract negotiations with the Detroit Three. And it seems the union president Bob King is so focused on sticking it to the union’s bailed-out hosts, he’s gone and dialed back all expectations of success on the transplant front. According to Bloomberg

King has said he expects to organize at least one non-union automaker this year.

“At least one?” Seriously? After all that bluster, that’s the best King and his allies can muster? Meanwhile, which transplant is the “at least one” that King thinks he has in the bag? And how did he make that sale? Until the UAW publicizes a successful organization, it sounds like the Great Transplant Organizing Campaign of 2011 is dead on arrival. Good thing there’s always the Detroit companies to kick around…

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32 Comments on “UAW Transplant Organizing Campaign DOA?...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Hope he lets us know ASAP which company, so I can add it to the list of “Obama-like quality” and never purchase anything from them again.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @ Da Coyote..I think at one time you mentioned that you taught enginering at some level? So I guess there is no need for me to point out to you how little impact the assembly line worker has on quality.

    • 0 avatar
      MoppyMop

      And Obama has far less impact even than that.  Compared to their prior 30 or so years of private ownership, bailout-era Detroit build quality is actually pretty good.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      What? Obama like quality – talk sense and if you want to talk politics I recommend you go to redstate.com or something suitable for you.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      Is Obama now an assembly line worker building bad cars? the fact that UAW brands build bad cars for many years can’t be blamed on the president, especially not Obama (remember when he came in office?). Last I heard from your Glenn Beck s is that Obama is a Muslim and Muslims build bombs all day, not cars.
       
      As much as I hate the unions the way they are now, I don’t follow your argument.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I am no fan of unions or President Obama, but Da Coyote’s post makes no sense.

      @mikey: As a design engineer (portable electronics, not cars), I agree with you.  Line workers usually do the best they can with what they’re given, and a poor design results in assemblers being forced to take shortcuts or pass bad work down the line.  An employer that discourages quality feedback only makes things worse.  People generally want to take pride in their work, and good attention to detail by both the designer and the assembler makes everyone happy.  Management has a way of imposing other ‘more important’ criteria on both the designer and assembler, namely cutting costs and schedule, to everyone’s detriment.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    They could try at Mitsubishi, which is already slip-slidin’ away, and simply hasten Mitsubishi’s exit.  Oh wait, the UAW’s already in there.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I bet it’s the old NUMMI factory that Tesla is now using.  One that was already poisoned…err I mean unionized.

  • avatar
    SpinnyD

    I never saw anything here at TMMK, I’m not even sure that they are even using the office they rented down the street anymore. Not even any talk about it in the plant. Let’s say its dead.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ SpinnyD  TMMK..?

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Surely in this internet age, workers at the transplant auto makers know what kind of pay and benefits the UAW (er older, grandfathered tier 1) workers receive.
     
    If they were so motivated, the transplant workers would be demand-pulling unionization toward themselves and Bob King would have an easy sell.

  • avatar
    mikey

    As I see it. The most optimistic amongst us never counted on the domestic auto industry turning around as quick as it did. Bob King and the UAW included.

    Accepting “two tier” was at best a Hail Mary play. Now if you fast forward a couple of years,”two tier”,  sucessfull as it is, is today, taking large bites out of the UAW’s/Bob Kings collective a$$.

     The UAW can not afford to waste time, or money on what is ..for now anyway, is a lost cause.

    The UAW needs to focus it efforts on the new agreement. One that meets the needs of the first tier,and the second tier,and the still hurting domestic industry. Oh yeah..and at the same time. try to keep the US taxpayer happy.

     No easy task….My advice to King…..pick your battles dude.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Judging by the beginning of your post, King already has picked his battle, the next agreement. He doesn’t want to harm GM’s chances of selling more cars and recalling furloughed members back into dues-paying status, and his VEBA owns 63.5% of Chrysler.  He’s got a complicated dance ahead of him, avoiding harming the two bailouts and at the same time satisfy working members who want to get back the “giveaways”. The plan to conquer the transplants isn’t dead, it’s just on the back burner.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’m not sure how the ‘two tier’ system can be counted as successful, since it’s infuriated a lot of people.  Its success is that it has kept some people working, I suppose, but its existence reveals the UAW’s management to be the cannibals they really are.

      The UAW should focus on issues like working conditions, training, profit-sharing, unemployment policies – with mutually beneficial outcomes for them and their employers – rather than angrily trying to evangelize the union in places that obviously don’t want it.

    • 0 avatar

      The argument against tiered wages fall flat when you consider that the UAW has had wage tiers ever since they negotiated job classifications. I don’t really see any moral distinction between paying someone more because they’re an “electrician” and paying someone less because they’re a new hire.
       
      FWIW, the UAW is the only union out of the 10 largest unions in the US that isn’t paying a bunch of officials more than $200K/yr.

    • 0 avatar
      Shipwright

      @ Lorenzo, with the UAW having a financial stake in both GM and Chrysler I would imagine that they would go after Ford. But that would put them in a conflict of interest particularly if the UAW breaks with the tradition of pattern negociations to cut GM and Chrysler some slack, in effect creating a two-tiered system with Ford getting the shaft. Does anyone have any ideas of what would happen then? 

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      A series of lawsuits (not by ford mind you) but by thier large institutional shareholders, that would break the UAW’s ability to represent Ford’s employee’s (the first federal judge in deleware) at which point I imagine just about everyone of the tier one employees would be fired (as they would be striking without a valid contract), the tier two employees would re-unionize (with ford’s encouragment), sign an agreement that is more favorable to them but nothing like what the current tier one’s have (+) there’s more than just a few people looking for a job right now.  It would reach the supreme court in about 5-7 years at which point “One Ford” will have been fully implemented and if it comes down to it Ford will have no need for any US manufacturing facilities at all.  People look at GM like it’s in a positition of strength and Ford as weakness, remember GM’s current unfunded pension obligations are now greater than Ford’s BANK debt (bank being very important). 

      The UAW may talk a big stick, but they have to know what kind of situation they’ve put themselves into.  If they try and screw with Ford they will finish digging thier grave. 

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Re the comment on the assembly line worker’s ability to affect quality.
    True enough…but, what about those workers who bragged about putting coke bottles in doors, etc?  The engineers at GM were talented and knew their trade (I am acquainted with some who used to work for GM.)  They were embarrassed by what came out of the lines.  The UAW workers had multiple chances to aid Detroit during the awful 70s to the present.  They didn’t.  AND, they managed to convince our corrupt president to STEAL $$ from investors who were dumb enough to think that GM could actually compete with Japan.  I’ll not tell you stories about my multiple GM cars, NONE of which managed to get beyond 18 months or so without 1) major malfunctions or 2) paint falling off.   So, the UAW can shove it up their smelly butts, I’ll never purchase one of their shoddy products, EVAH!

    • 0 avatar
      Slocum

      The main way that the UAW affected quality was not directly (by doing crappy work or acts of sabotage), but indirectly by demanding above-market wages and obstructing innovations through inflexible work rules so that their employers had a built-in cost disadvantage compared to the transplants.  The cost disadvantage was what gave the companies little choice but to cut corners and try to keep milking old, outdated (but cheaper and fully amortized) technology.
      The domestic companies knew how to make aluminum block, overhead cam engines with variable valve timing and 5-speed automatics, etc for a long time and they put them in their luxury cars, but unlike the transplants they didn’t put them in their mass-market cars.  Why not?  Were they just stupid?  No, they couldn’t afford it.
       

  • avatar
    mikey

    @Da Cayote …Find me a place in a door panel of a vehicle built after 1960 where you could fit a Coke Bottle.

    As far as the rest of your post????? After reading it I’m fairly confident your one of those that would be  convinced,and willing to remind others, that  yours doesn’t stink.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      The coke bottle story is too dated to mean much.  But it wasn’t even 6 months ago that dozens of Chrysler’s slob workers at the JGC plant in Detroit were caught on camera pounding beers and smoking joints in the parking lot.
       
      It wasn’t even 6 weeks ago that the same plant was in the news again.  Because more of their slobs were caught doing the same thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Mikey, what are you talking about? There’s plenty of spare room inside of 1960s and 1970s vintage cars to fit at least a 12 oz pop bottle. Also, doors aren’t the only place in which autoworkers could leave surprises for the cars’ buyers. In the bad old days of the early 1970s, when the UAW members and the car companies were at each others’ throats, you’d be lucky if it was only something that rattled. Some cars made it out of the plants with human feces stuffed in behind interior panels.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @Ronnie……36+ years on the floor and I can tell you such incidents, 30 years ago were extremly rare, but not unheard of.

       My experience has taught me that about 10 percent of the population regardless of age,race or education background, would qualify as a$$holes. On the shop floor make that 15%. Factor that into 5000 people……..and what have you got?

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Aspade,
       
      Dozens? Really? Is that the new math? “Fifteen workers at the plant in Detroit were caught on hidden video…”.
      I’m no friend of the unions but exaggeration and painting with a broad brush (“Chrysler’s slob workers”) doesn’t help you make your point.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    If I were a worker at a non union auto plant I would have no desire whatsoever to join the UAW.  Competing against them is better job security than being them. With the two tier wage system, the pay isn’t much better. And they know that if they join the UAW they’ll just be setting themselves up for a long, slow decline.  They’re the ones who have been eating the UAW’s milkshake for 40 years; I imagine they’d be leery of joining them when they are fighting for bare survival.  I’m just not seeing the appeal.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Labor shot its wad in Wisconsin. They have nothing left for the UAW.

    • 0 avatar

      On my drive home yesterday from my merit-based, right-to-work job, I passed a line of picketers outside Corrales Elementary School. Their signs had such messages as “We stand in support of Wisconsin teachers” and “I don’t make $250,000, I need help!”

      If I actually thought their protests were doing any good, I would have perhaps stopped and engaged them (respectfully!) on the issue. The “I need help!” sign struck me as particularly insipid. Didn’t you know that coming in, and did you not make your choice instead to make less? Is it anyone’s fault but yours that you don’t make $250K?

      In the end, I decided I’d rather go home and enjoy the financial perks of not being an elementary school teacher.

      What it comes down to is, unions are done. They’re dying. We all know it, even the unions know it. Leaders in the government are against them, the general public is increasingly against them, their own memberships are increasingly against them.

      What’s left? Sheer and utter irrelevancy.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    I wonder which transplant workers want to have 2-tier wages unless all current workers get first tier :-)
    Even if I didn’t have an opinion on unions, why do they need to “conquer” other workers. If unions are so great, then the workers in the transplants would come up with that idea on their own.
     
    I’m not saying unions are completely useless. If nothing else, they give management some stability. But, the way they are organized now is completely ridiculous and if they don’t change they will disappear.
     
    Hope at some point all states have freedom and “right to work”. Nothing against unions, but forced membership just is not good, no matter how good the intention is.


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