After the UAW threatened to start 2011 with a bang by going after foreign-owned “transplant” factories and accusing uncooperative firms of human rights violations, the union’s campaign suddenly went quiet earlier this year. With the union’s fate apparently hanging in the balance, all we’d heard was a polite “no thanks” from Honda and a more subtle message from Hyundai, and little else. Was the war still on, we wondered? UAW boss Bob King tells Reuters that yes, it definitely is… sort of.
To our pleasant surprise a lot of companies have agreed to confidential discussions with us. What they’ll lead to, I don’t know. Some days I’m worried, some days I’m frustrated. Are we putting too much hope into these discussions? I don’t know, but we’re continuing them and we feel like we’re making some progress
And that’s not all…
While not identifying any of the companies, UAW secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams said this week the union was making “great inroads” in its organizing efforts.
“You’re going to see before the end of the year a campaign or a plant being organized,” he said.
Oh, that’s an “or”… which means it’s actually a step back from King’s earlier position that he “expects to organize at least one non-union automaker this year.” So now the union will either successfully organize a plant by the end of the year… or try to organize one and fail.
King probably thought the transplant organizing campaign would make the union look strong going into negotiations with the Detroit automakers, but at this point the transplants will probably wait to see how those play out before even considering letting King’s organizers in (if they’re even considering it). After all, if the UAW is reasonable with the Detroit 3, the transplant workers will see no reason to join up… and if the union fights hard, the transplant managers will feel justified in barring them the door. A Catch 22 to be sure… and King’s already signaling which way he’ll be leaning, telling the AP [via Google]
Our members deserve a fair share of the upside more than, in my opinion, what the current profit-sharing formula would pay out. If we’re willing to take more flexible compensation instead of just putting in fixed costs, we should do better than we would have done [under the current profit-sharing plan]
We have said very strongly and very consistently that there’s no justification for further concessions. There’s got to be a program that’s viable, that allows our members their fair share of the upside.
As the UAW-Detroit Three negotiations kick off, you can bet that transplant managers and workers alike will be watching the proceedings with some interest.