By on November 21, 2011

With a tough negotiating session with its traditional employers now complete, the United Auto Workers are turning their focus back to the year’s primary goal: organizing the transplant factories. 2011 was supposed to be the year in which the UAW took down “at least one” foreign-owned auto plant, with the union’s boss even going as far as to say

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

But as we found, the UAW is not welcome in the South, where most of the transplant factories are found. And with Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and VW all rejecting the UAW’s advances in some form or another, the union’s options are fairly limited. So instead of taking on the factories directly, the UAW is bringing back a questionable tactic from the days when it was misleadingly bashing Toyota for “abandoning” the NUMMI factory: they are taking the fight to dealerships.

Bloomberg reports

The United Auto Workers union, whose leader has staked its future bargaining power on organizing U.S. plants of Asian and European automakers, plans to start pressuring the companies through dealership campaigns.

Regional UAW representatives trained members about how the campaign will work at UAW Local 2209 on Nov. 19, said Mark Gevaart, president of the local in Roanoke, Indiana. The union hasn’t selected the automaker it will target and didn’t discuss when the drive will begin, he said in a phone interview.

The problem: as mentioned earlier, the UAW has already tried this on Toyota. And at the time, Toyota fired back with a pretty legitimate complaint, arguing

I still don’t understand why they are picketing our dealerships when the dealerships have nothing to do with the workers. Our workers make the ultimate decision if they want to unionize or not and for the past 25 years they have said no… Our team members want to make cars for people to buy. They don’t like it when people try to stop you from buying.

And here’s the funny part: the UAW has admitted that the dealership-picketing tactic didn’t help its cause, as President Bob King put it when he called off the last round of Toyota dealer protests

We said we were going to be the UAW of the 21st century and didn’t feel like that was accomplishing that goal

But hey, why not try it again? What’s the worst that could happen?

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59 Comments on “UAW: The War On Transplants Is Still On, Dealers On The Front Lines...”


  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Good idea there, UAW get consumers pissed at you and they avoid the domestic brands and there go your jobs, brilliant!!

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I’m convinced any union member’s outlook on life extends to the next 20 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Let their track record stand on its own merits. The UAW successfully and collectively bargained many of their members out of their jobs AND drove two of their employers into bankruptcy. A record of accomplishment unequaled in history!

      I should hasten to add that last week I bought a UAW-built 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit V6 4X4 for my wife. It was imported from Detroit, of all places. I would never buy a UAW-made vehicle for myself. But if mama ain’t happy…. you know the drill.

      A bitter pill to swallow for me, but we’ll have at least three years to test the viability of their warranty coverage. So far, no problems yet.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @highdesertcat….Nice truck. IMHO for what its worth, the Grand Cherokee is the best value in its class.

        I can’t see you joining me in a chorus of “Solidarty Forever” but you won’t regret buying a UAW built vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        So the UAW had the authority to make poor design and material choices, and to allow millions of customers eat bad intake gaskets instead of standing behind their products and allow designs to rot on the vine? Wow, I bet even mikey didn’t know the power of his union.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Here’s a little story….A few years ago management was concerned with the slipping market share numbers. So some commitee ,or task force,whatever, decided to ask the workers for possible solutions.

        They would random pick people to attend “diagonal slice” meetings. I attended a few,and some good points were brought up. Many folks mentioned that a few of the materials/parts given to us were not up to snuff. The answer was a fifteen minute line of corporate speak, A.K.A bs.

        One meeting in particular, everybody had a dealer horror story. The jist of it was,that the Honda, and Toyota, dealers were bending over backwards,to help solve customers issues. At the same time the GM dealers couldn’t give a -hit.

        So a visiting mega big shot from the U.S. was invited to attend one of our diagonal slice meetings. We were coachedtold by our management that we were not to be negative, or to bring up crappy material issues or percieved dealer problems. The idea was to make Mr big shot, believe that we were a happy, and dedicated bunch, and were totally upbeat,all the time.

        The meeeting didn’t quite go as well as our local mamagement had planned. Actually the American was a nice guy,and not the least bit condecending. More than I can say about some of the management dwelling a lot lower on the food chain than him.

        He made a point to tell us,that they were very much aware of dealer issues, and were adressing them? He also told our management that he wanted to be informed when workers complained about lousy material.

        The meeting were cancelled after that.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Mikey, thanks! My wife loves it and that’s all that matters. I won’t be driving it.

        We we’re on our way home from Phoenix, AZ, in her 2008 Highlander and she saw this glittering 2012 JGC on a flatbed in Chandler.

        To make a long story short, she loved the styling and loved the color even more. Didn’t even test-drive it. Said she wanted it.

        The dealership begged me to trade her 2008 Highlander Limited AWD but I wasn’t ready to part with it yet. So they made me a deal I could not refuse anyway, around 10% under MSRP before tt&l.

        A record sale for both the dealership and for us. It took under an hour, and we were off in two vehicles, back on our way home to New Mexico.

        She’s happy and I have her old Highlander to drive around in when I don’t need to drive my Tundra.

        So you see, I AM open-minded in spite of being candid about the US auto industry and the UAW.

        Now it is up to this Fiatsler product to prove to me how good it really is.

        I’ll settle for it being AS GOOD AS her old Highlander that has not been back to the dealer for anything in over 60K miles on the odo.

        Only time will tell because history is rife with recalls and fixes for all Chrysler products, including Jeep.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    Again with those giant inflatable rats. The “go to” union protest prop. Have those giant inflatable rats really helped the union cause?

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      Yeah they brought the rats out for the Connectiv strike in Delaware and it looked very childish. Seems to be a standard union thing, the construction workers union had one on a CVS store site which had the nerve to build with non union workers. Imagine the horror.

      I don’t know anyone that responds to a large inflated rat in a positive pro-union way. Someone should tell these knuckleheads it looks stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I want to have an inflatable cat custom built that says “Cheaper Labor, Cheaper Prices, Same Quality” and rent it out to businesses that have the rat out front. Mass profits.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Nothing wrong with using a rat as their mascot. I mean, ever since the multi-billion bailout, a rat became the personification of UAW.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The rat is the defacto standard for union labor issues. After getting into an argument with a “hard hat” about his Japanese Honda generator that was used to power the rat – I called him a hypocrite – I sprayed the back of the rat with orange construction marking paint and the bolted into our building…

  • avatar
    OhMyGoat

    “Law Breker”?

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      See, not having unions means the locals don’t learn how to spell. Do your part for literacy and buy a GM.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        -1. Buying a Neo-GM was the worst decision I have ever made. I won’t go into what went wrong with my Epsilon-platform Malibu, but let me just say, it’s S***.

        Intelligence would be buying a newer Camcord or anything else.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    It just doesn’t make sense. The domestics (or at least GM and Ford) now have the competitive products, and the Civic and Corolla are tired old crap. Let the product speak for itself. Don’t picket their dealers, improve YOUR dealers.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Over the past twenty years, auto manufacturers have been focusing on customer perceptions. So, the Union has had twenty years to focus on how they enhance the perception a customer has on their work – and they have failed miserably.

    The Union has given customers no reason to select an automobile manufacturered by the UAW. They have not shown that a union made automobile is a better vehicle. As a matter of fact, domestic auto manufacturers have had to work around the Union.

    Union leaders don’t seem to get it. They are unwilling to understand that if Americans are unwilling to choose the Union to make their cars, then the Union has no support outside the plants it is already located. Once the Transnationals discovered customers willing to overpay for their products, there was no reason to include the unions.

    Unions are not enhancing automobile quality, so they have become unnecessary in the eyes of most auto shoppers.

    It is remarkable how many supposedly pro-union, pro-working class people are driving around in non-UAW foreign cars. You cannot have it both ways.

    • 0 avatar
      getacargetacheck

      “They have not shown that a union made automobile is a better vehicle.”

      Really? Did you know that a BMW 7-Series is a union-made car? Most people would say that car is “a better vehicle.” In fact, every car made in Europe, Japan and South Korea is a union-made car. Only in the American South, where workers are expected to shut their mouths and keep their heads down, are unions paradoxically viewed as the enemy.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        every car made in Europe, Japan and South Korea is a union-made car.

        Now you’re trying to confuse him with facts. This could be a problem…

      • 0 avatar
        Yeah_right

        Southerners view unions as the enemy quite logically. BMW, VW, Toyota, etc. came to greenfield sites and brought thousands of high paying jobs where few existed and where the cost of living is low. Southerners on average are grateful for the work and the companies are good to employees. What does a union accomplish other than extracting cash from your paycheck and messing up a good situation?

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        getacargetacheck, there are unions and there is UAW.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Talk about missing a point.

        Th Union has not sold itself to US consumers as a plus within the auto manufacturing production system.

        Americans are not caring if their cars are union made, and that is a huge problem for the UAW.

        Silly.

  • avatar
    machinegear

    UAW has decided they cannot survive on their merits. So out comes the giant inflatable rat leading the union charge of a rabble of overweight bald guys wearing baseball hats holding up mass-printed pro-union signs believing they can convince the passing public that they are anything other than another pain in the a** to buying a car at a dealership.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    +1 @OhMyGoat. “Law Breker”?

    Reminds me of the bit from the movie ‘The Substitute’ with a young Marc Anthony having to write ‘I’m Sorry’ 100 times on the chalk board spelling it ‘I’m Sorey’.

    The useful idiot who wrote that sign is probably just as intelligent.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The “LAW BREKER” sign is a nice touch.

    At some point, these guys are going to need to figure out that lashing out at competitors and their customers is a waste of time. The best way to improve sales is to offer a better product.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Still blaming GM over the NUMMI shutdown when by and large the output was Toyota products?

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      I believe it was GM that pulled out of that JV, not Toyota. So yeah, I think they should blame GM despite owning a chunk of it now.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Look at the production numbers from NUMMI. The small amount of Vibes that were produced there meant nothing really. GM moving out didn’t really effect Toyota. Toyota decided to close it because they had too much production available in North America. People claiming it was GM’s fault are using it as a scapegoat.

      • 0 avatar
        GarbageMotorsCo.

        What about the GEO’s before it? or the Chevy Nova? There’s a hell of a lot more history than the Pontiac Vibe.

        NUMMI was also the site of a former GM plant that was closed in the early 80′s and then re-opened to TEACH, yes teach the “former” General Motors “lean manufacturing” (KAIZEN) techniques.

        They upped and walked away when they filed Ch11. If anything, these clowns should be pissed at Government Motors for abandoning the effort after 25 years of investment.

  • avatar
    morbo

    I wonder is the inflatible rat is made by non-union labor in China?

    Funniest thing I saw with the rat was in South jersey, the construction trades use it whenever a building is going up with non-union labor. They were protesting the construction of a new fast food joint (Wendy’s, I think) that was non-union (Carpenters, electrical, plumbing). The union guys had their cars and trucks parked behind the rat. Tacomas, Frontiers, Accents, etc.

    To be fair, there were some Blazers and Rangers and such, but at least half were ‘furren’ cars and trucks.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    As a whole, the unions seem hellbent on confusing their supporters.

    For instance, Unions have avidly supporting the camp-out-in-public-parks movement. Yet, the unhappy campers have yet to realize that the unions don’t keep their money in large ceramic piggy banks in Kansas. No, when they need to invest their money, they go with the experts! And the experts happen to be who the unhappy campers seem to be angriest about.

    It’s a good trick, actually, and I gotta hand it to the unions. They’ve figured out how to obfuscate their motives.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Now you’re trying to confuse him with facts. This could be a problem…

    Do the German, Korean and Japanese unions have a history nearly as ignorant and self-defeating through action as the UAW? Hardly.

    Methinks if there was a clean slate organization available, it might have a decent chance of successfully organizing. But never the UAW.

    I will never buy a UAW made car, but I will support American workers by buying a US made car. Thankfully I have plenty of options, and quite a few of my friends are like-minded.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Do the German, Korean and Japanese unions have a history nearly as ignorant and self-defeating through action as the UAW? Hardly.

      You must be joking. Hyundai has a long history of dealing with various strikes and labor disputes. Prior to 2009, the union in South Korea went on strike against Hyundai every year but one: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-11-18/hyundai-s-new-union-leader-demands-end-of-overnight-shift.html

      Meanwhile, the Germans union workers are better paid and enjoy protections than do their American counterparts (which is one reason why companies such as VW are moving more production out of Germany.) The situation is not what you believe it to be.

  • avatar
    George B

    Thought experiment: Suppose some US factories for the same manufacturer were UAW organized and some were not. Would consumers prefer the vehicle the UAW built or the one built by Americans who are not in the UAW?

    Over the last decade my attitude about the UAW has gone from negative leaning indifference to Oh Hell No! boycott and active opposition. I believe that organized labor has become an enemy that absolutely positively must be defeated for the USA to survive.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “Would consumers prefer the vehicle the UAW built or the one built by Americans who are not in the UAW?”

      I suspect most customers choose vehicle’s based on their merits, their own personal brand experience, what they think will impress the neighbours, etc.

      While some may care about UAW / non UAW labour, I suspect they are in the minority. Even those who claim to care about such things will probably end up buying what they perceive to be the right car at the right price when push comes to shove. While there may some who let politics dictate their choice of car, I suspect they are a small minority.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        PenguinBoy, you have missed two factors:

        1) Yeah, I don’t want to be political and want to choose a car based on its merit. But certain UAW horror stories just cast too much doubt on that merit, if there is any.

        2) Prior to the bailout, people may not actively go against UAW products. But post bailout, a significant percentage don’t buy GM/Chrysler because of it. The sales gained by Ford is not enough to offset GM’s loss. If you look at the market share, even with all the recovery happening at GM, its market share didn’t really go past 18%.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I disagree. Other than here, I really don’t hear much grousing about the bailout. In most people’s minds this is ancient history. The banks and other financial fat cats readily bellied up to the bailout feast and they still get plenty of business. I personally thought that the financial bailout was more reprehensible than the automaker bailouts, but I understand the logic of what our economy would be like if nothing was done at all. I firmly believe that the Second Great Depression would be in force right now.

  • avatar
    clutchrider

    The UAW may have been a good idea during it’s inception and early years. However, with new regulations, government, state, environmental, etc.; it seems the need for them to be around is dwindling. I see no benefit to the UAW anymore and think people would be better off competing for jobs based on skills and being graded, promoted, receiving higher wages, on their merits than becuase their contract stipulates X dollars every year with the benefits and pensions that are non-existent in todays world.

    I have no plans to buy a UAW car ever, each year I hear more about their crap I just get more surefooted about my decision. This time I picked up a nice Mexo-German mobile from VW. Engine, drivetrain from Germany and assembly in Mexico.

  • avatar
    areader

    “The UAW may have been a good idea during it’s inception and early years. However, with new regulations, government, state, environmental, etc.; it seems the need for them to be around is dwindling.”

    Wake the hell up. Have you forgotten, or were you not aware, of the disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in WV in 2010? 29 miners died. Just one of many collapses, explosions and poisonings that continue. One might conclude that the regulations you cite are not quite adequate.

    If unions were responsible for the decline of the middle class, it would seem that that middle class would be doing great given the reduction in union membership and influence over recent decades. Could it be that the BS from the ruling class is wrong? For the corporates, it’s about the bottom line. Labor is an expense and is to be minimized on a continuing basis. Meanwhile the ignorant public continues to be distracted by issues such as religion, birth control and ‘excessive regulation’.

    • 0 avatar
      SpinnyD

      Um, Weren’t the miners in the UMW? How did being in the Union help them again?

      • 0 avatar
        kkt

        The Upper Big Branch mine was non-union. See:

        “The story of Upper Big Branch is in a sense a story of Massey in microcosm,” says Shnayerson. “It was a union operation, as really all the mines were in the coal fields at one time, but soon after Massey got a hold of it in the early ’90s, Don Blankenship — the Chairman and CEO of Massey — made it his personal campaign to break the union at the mine.”

        According to Shnayerson, Blankenship broke the union and after that, mine workers found themselves working longer shifts. “Now they work 12-hour shifts because that way the mine, which operated 24 hours a day, only had two shifts — so only two shifts’ worth of health insurance, and fatalities occurred.”

        http://www.pri.org/stories/science/energy/upper-big-branch-mine-disaster1945.html

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      areader, have you heard about the story where union mine workers planted an explosive device in the mine during a strike that killed a replacement worker?

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    We bought a union-made vehicle, even thought I don’t support them. In fact, our house-hold is fairly anti-union.

    My wife use to work under the Teamsters. The situation she worked in was so screwed up, so ridiculous. Many of her co-workers were absolutely worthless, making near $20/hr, and doing nothing. Couldn’t get rid of them though, as the union would just step in and save their jobs.

    One time a few busted the snack machine open. Company fired them, union brought them back, then it turns out the Vending Machine company was unionized, their union went to the Teamsters, and those employees were again terminated.

    The company I work for has union shops up north. I hear the stories, and see first hand the condition their equipment is in when they pass through our location.

    If you’re a smart, hard working individual you can go a lot of farther if you don’t have a union holding you down. If you’re stupid, lazy, and want something for nothing then a union is your best bet for success.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So a large stakeholder in GM and Fiatsler holds demonstrations in front of the competitions dealerships. How about Toyota workers go down to the local Chevy dealers and hold up signs reminding people we lost 27 billion dollars so far on this outfit and handed the UAW a big chunk of the company. Or Honda workers head over to a Chrysler dealership and hold rallies about the billions we spent handing this company over to FIAT for a song.

    But they don’t need to do that because they are too busy making cars for a company that is doing just fine.

  • avatar
    suedenim

    I think the key to this situation is determining who has the giant inflatable rat concession. Follow the money!

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    VanillaDude is correct in stating that the union hasn’t provided a good reason why a union made car is better for the customer. But perhaps they don’t need to: what if they can show that some people belonging to unions makes all workers in the US better off, even those that don’t belong to unions? That’s not a reason for non-union autoworkers to join the UAW, but it’s a reason for people to support unions, because they think in the long run they will be better off if there is a concentrated, rather than diffuse, voice for the working person. We know our political system is designed to focus on concentrated voices, and until that political system puts its thumb on the scale for the working person, and keeps it there as a default position, the union is the working person’s only focused voice, even if the working person does not belong to a union. I support unions because of this, even though I am salaried and in the top 1.2%.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    You know you’re in trouble when your union president doesn’t know what century it is.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I’d say union affiliated manufacture might be a positive for 10% of buyers (primarily in great lakes states), a negative for 30% of buyers (anti-union and/or bailouts), and a non-event for the rest.

    This is definitely a losing card for the UAW to play.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The UAW is not known for its braintrust. ANY union that drives its employer into bankruptcy deserves exactly what they collectively bargained for.

      I say let the buyers decide what products to buy. My bet is that the buyers will decide to buy the best products out in the market place regardless of who builds them.

      If the past is any indication of what the future will be like, the transplants will continue to outsell the domestics in sedans and Ford will lead the pack in trucks.

  • avatar
    wsn

    If UAW really cared about the welfare of auto workers, they should establish new membership base in China. It’s a perfect match. UAW needs the membership growth, and the Chinese workers can use better working conditions.


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