The Truth About Cars » Union News http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:18:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Union News http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/union-news/ Analysis: Toyota Digs In, As Union Vote At Canadian Plants Put On Hold http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/analysis-toyota-digs-in-as-union-vote-at-canadian-plants-put-on-hold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/analysis-toyota-digs-in-as-union-vote-at-canadian-plants-put-on-hold/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 11:45:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787033 kojiqv858rlto26haud9-7407123

Unifor has put their union certification vote on hold for Toyota Canada’s manufacturing plants, amid claims by Toyota that the size of the bargaining unit is much larger than expected – derailing Unifor’s assertion that they have met the required threshold for a vote.

According to the Windsor Star, Toyota submitted the names of 7,550 workers that would be eligible for to vote on the union. Unifor initially estimated that 6,500 workers would be part of the bargaining unit, and its claims of being able to produce signed union cards for 40 percent of Toyota’s workforce (the minimum number required by the Ontario Labour Relations Board) were based on this figure.

But Toyota’s new figure now means Unifor has to regroup. According to one labor expert interviewed by the paper, Unifor can challenge that number. Unifor President Jerry Dias said that the company will verify that the workers named are eligible to cast a ballot. The Japanese Automobile Manufacturing Association claims that Toyota employs about 7,400 people at its two plants in Cambridge and Woodstock Ontario, though Dias said that based on the fact that 15 to 20 percent of those workers aren’t eligible to be part of a bargaining unit, Unifor arrived at their number of 6,500.

Prior attempts to unionize Toyota plants, by the CAW and another union, both failed when they too learned that they underestimated the size of the bargaining unit. Tony Faria, co-director of the Office of Automotive Research at the University of Windsor, told the Star that Toyota may be fattening the ranks to get to a higher number.

“I would have to say Toyota is including people who don’t work anywhere close to an assembly line. I presume it could be legitimate. Those people could be part of a bargaining unit.”

Speaking to ReutersToyota spokesman Greig Mordue said that Toyota had hired 1,000 new contract workers and transferred 1,000 to “permanent” status since 2013.

While Dias said that there is “no timetable” for a vote, the move comes as the opening shot in what is likely to be a protracted battle to keep Unifor out of Toyota’s plants. The battle between Toyota and Unifor will not attract the attention and fanfare that the UAW did in their efforts to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant, the stakes are just as high.

No Canadian transplant has ever been organized, and past efforts at Toyota and Honda have been unsuccessful. Honda in particular has waged a major campaign to shut out organizing efforts. Other sources tell TTAC that Honda is simply better at keeping their hourly workers happy.

During our look into Honda’s dealings with the CAW, one industry observer we spoke to (on the condition of anonymity, due to their ongoing work in the Canadian auto industry) explained the importance of keeping Unifor out, from the perspective of Japanese plant managers

“It runs counter to the Japanese concept of loyalty,” our source said. “The whole idea is that if you’re loyal to the company, they’ll look out for you and your best interests. The workers shouldn’t need a union for that.” Honda also doesn’t want an outside force interfering in the way their plants are run. As our source put it “…[Organizing] interferes with the management structure of the plant itself – which is unacceptable to them.” As for what would happen if Alliston, or another Honda plant unionized? “Well,” said my source “remember what happened to Wal-Mart in Quebec?”

Apparently, that same mentality – including a willingness to shut the plant down – is still in play. Toyota’s opening move is to launch a challenge to Unifor under Canadian privacy laws. As Reuters explains

Mordue said the company would ask Unifor to return the information it now has on Toyota workers, and may challenge the process under privacy laws.

“As part of the process under the Labour Relations Act we’re obliged to provide a full list of every team member in the bargaining unit,” said Mordue.

Mordue said the list included the names, work locations and positions of all of Toyota’s production and maintenance workers, whether they are on leave and the last day they worked.

“More concerning is that Mr. Dias has indicated that he fully intends to use this list in his ongoing unionization efforts,” said Mordue. “We think this is a serious privacy issue and one we’ll be taking up under privacy legislation.”

While Dias told Reuters that Unifor is entitled to the information by law, it is indicative of the kind of battle that Toyota is prepared to wage to keep Unifor out of their plants. Mounting a legal challenge like this, even with its own in-house counsel, is a costly and complex effort – but one that Toyota feels is worth pursuing.

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Leaked Documents Link Anti-Union VW Incentive Offer To TN Governor’s Office http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/leaked-documents-link-anti-union-vw-incentive-offer-to-tn-governors-office/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/leaked-documents-link-anti-union-vw-incentive-offer-to-tn-governors-office/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:15:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=786417 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

Leaked documents linked to the United Auto Workers battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. point to a connection between Governor Bill Haslam and the German automaker regarding a $300 million incentive in exchange for over 1,300 jobs at a proposed SUV plant within the state.

WTVF-TV reports the incentives were contingent “to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.” By the time Volkswagen entered into election talks with the UAW in January, however, the Haslam administration formally notified the automaker that it was withdrawing the offer, citing that it had kept the offer on the table past the 90-day window normally reserved for incentives when the incentive in question had no such expiration date.

Though Haslam has denied any such connection to the incentive — dubbed “Project Trinity” — U.S. Senator Bob Corker claimed as early as February of this year that the offering would be made should the workers at the Chattanooga plant vote against representation by the union.

As for the UAW, organizer Gary Casteel stated the following in response to whether the now-public documents were a game-changer in the union’s appeal to the National Labor Relations Board over the election results:

To me, it puts pressure on the state to do what they should have done in the first place — and that’s give the incentives with no strings attached, just like they would any other company, union or non-union.

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UAW Sees Fourth Consecutive Increase In Membership http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uaw-sees-fourth-consecutive-increase-in-membership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uaw-sees-fourth-consecutive-increase-in-membership/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:58:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785185 Bob King

Under the leadership of outgoing president Bob King, the United Auto Workers have seen their rolls increase to 9,000 members in 2013, marking the fourth consecutive year of increases for the union.

Automotive News reports the current total membership holds at 391,415, up 2.3 percent from 2012. The increase can be attributed to recruitment drives at IC Bus, Flex-a-Gate and Faurecia, as well as casinos in Ohio and Las Vegas.

Annual membership last declined in 2009, when 355,191 remained from 2008′s 431,037 figure after the Detroit Three fended off declining sales and production amid the onset of the Great Recession. 2008′s figure, however, pales in comparison to the UAW’s peak roll of over 1.5 million members in 1979.

Despite the increase in membership, the UAW is still battling over plants in the south, including the high-profile fights in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Canton, Miss., the former of which resulted in a loss at the polls earlier this year.

Spending is also down for the union — $214 million in 2013 vs. $260 million in 2012 — due to falling dues and low membership. A dues increase is expected to be put to vote at the UAW’s June convention, where King’s replacement will also be elected.

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Ford: Gettelfinger Should Be Credited For Saving Company http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-gettelfinger-should-be-credited-for-saving-company/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-gettelfinger-should-be-credited-for-saving-company/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:45:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782865 King + Gettlefinger - Ford + Mullaly

Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford, Jr. told CNBC this week that former United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger “doesn’t get enough credit for helping save Ford.

Automotive News reports the UAW worked closely with the Blue Oval to avoid the fates that befell Chrysler and General Motors in the run-up to the Great Recession, as Ford Jr. explained in a live interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”:

When our times were darkest in the ’07, ’08, ’09 time frame, the UAW helped our industry get back on its feet, helped Ford get back on its feet. Ron Gettelfinger, the former president of the United Auto Workers, doesn’t get enough credit for helping save Ford.

The chairman went on to say that in the automaker’s darkest hour, he turned to Gettelfinger to “save the Ford Motor Co.” For Ford, this meant concessions by the union, including two-tier wages, overtime pay after 40 hours of work, and giving up vacation time. In turn, the Blue Oval lowered labor cost to $58/hour per employee.

When asked why the UAW was turned away from the South — specifically the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. — Ford, Jr. noted the region’s attitude toward organized labor in general, as well as how the automaker views its workers in comparison:

Surprised? No, because there’s a long history of organizing that didn’t go well in the South. I would say this. We’ve had a great relationship with our workforce. I don’t look at them as union and nonunion but as Ford workers. … We have a lot of second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and even sixth-generation workers at Ford in our company.

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UAW Will Appeal NLRB Decision Giving Anti-UAW VW Workers Voice http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uaw-will-appeal-nlrb-decision-giving-anti-uaw-vw-workers-voice/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uaw-will-appeal-nlrb-decision-giving-anti-uaw-vw-workers-voice/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:39:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770945 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

Angered by the decision made by the National Labor Relations Board to allow anti-UAW Volkswagen workers to defend the results of an election held last month at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. on whether or not to be represented by the United Auto Workers, the union has vowed to appeal.

Reuters reports the union believes the NLRB discarded its own precedent by allowing the workers — supported by both the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation and Southern Momentum, two of the outside groups that had campaigned against organization by the UAW — a formal role in the dispute, and expressed their displeasure in a statement:

It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce, will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing.

Though it was the regional office in Atlanta who signed-off on the decision to allow the anti-UAW workers a valid voice in the dispute, the UAW plans to appeal directly to the five-member NLRB board in Washington, D.C. The office is overseeing the main dispute over the election results — whose decision could lead to a new election if all is found in favor of the UAW — and is planning an investigation regarding the outside interference alleged by the union to be the main cause of their loss.

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IG Metall Warns Against Yellow Union For Chattanooga VW Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ig-metall-warns-against-yellow-union-for-chattanooga-vw-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ig-metall-warns-against-yellow-union-for-chattanooga-vw-plant/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:12:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766121 IG Metall

While Volkswagen works to find a way to establish a works council at their Chattanooga, Tenn. plant in the wake of the failed United Auto Workers election and subsequent appeal to the National Labor Relations Board, German union IG Metall is warning against the establishment of what it calls a “yellow” union at the plant, or one that has been established by Volkswagen.

Just-Auto reports IG Metall international department director Horst Mund, though disappointed with the outcome of the UAW election, believes the only way to a works council is through unionization, while also warning against any diluted form of representation at the plant:

From my talks and contacts with unions in the US, I can tell there is scepticism against house unions. We have seen attempts throughout the world [when] yellow unions are installed. I am not saying Volkswagen is anywhere near contemplating this – on the contrary they are definitely not.

Regarding the UAW appeal, Mund says the fight “was never fair,” citing the outside interference alleged by the union in their appeal as the cause of their defeat, and supports the union’s appeal. He also found the entire controversy around the election absurd, especially with its “life [and] death” tone:

This is not about life and death. It is about simple choice.

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Volkswagen Mum On Alleged Expansion Of U.S. Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volkswagen-mum-on-alleged-expansion-of-u-s-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volkswagen-mum-on-alleged-expansion-of-u-s-plant/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=760105 Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept SUV

Though United States Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee claimed Volkswagen would announce an expansion of the plant in his native Chattanooga — slated to build a midsize SUV based on the CrossBlue Concept from this year’s Detroit Auto Show — if the workers rejected the United Auto Workers in last month’s attempt to organise the plant, the German automaker has remained silent as of this weekend.

The Detroit Free Press reports Corker believes the delay is the result of an appeal made by the UAW to the National Labor Relations Board, citing the senator’s comments and those of outside anti-union interests as the chief causes in the election’s failure. He also dismissed the idea VW would decide to build the new SUV in either Tennessee or Mexico no matter the election’s outcome:

There is no way I’d put out a statement like I put out unless I was 1,000% that it was accurate in every way.

Meanwhile, VW is moving forward with a plan to install a works council in the Tennessee plant, though where the automaker may build its next U.S. plant depends on the success of the campaign. VW Global Works Council head Bernd Osterloh warned that the “massive antiunion atmosphere” surrounding Chattanooga could prompt the company to take their ball out of the South should future expansion be considered.

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Corker: Labor Board Should Not Silence Lawmakers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/corker-labor-board-should-not-silence-lawmakers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/corker-labor-board-should-not-silence-lawmakers/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:45:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757161 Senator Bob Corker

Former Chattanooga, Tenn. mayor and current United States Senator Bob Corker urged the National Labor Relations Board not to silence him or fellow lawmakers opposed to unionization as the NLRB considers an appeal by the United Auto Workers over the results of the three-day election recently held at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga.

Reuters reports Sen. Corker issued a statement during the election, where conversations led him to believe that if the workers rejected UAW representation, then VW would build a new midsize SUV in his state. He adds that when Democrat politicians voiced support for unions in the past, the NLRB ruled they properly expressed their free speech rights, a ruling Corker hopes will run for the opposition, as well:

I hope that the NLRB will understand and realize the magnitude of what they are going to be deciding and in no way will try to muzzle public officials who are community leaders from expressing their point of view.

Corker said he spoke out against the UAW in order to counteract misinformation about the SUV’s arrival being tied to the plant’s unionization, an allegation the union denies making while consistently stating the vote would not affect where the SUV would ultimately be produced.

Though mum on where his information regarding the rejection originated, Corker stood firm on his criticism of the UAW and its main reason for showing up in his state in the first place:

I think it was very apparent the UAW was in Chattanooga for one reason – dollars.

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VW Chattanooga Workers File Against UAW Recount http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-chattanooga-workers-file-against-uaw-recount/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-chattanooga-workers-file-against-uaw-recount/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 21:52:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=755345 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

Five workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board against the United Auto Workers’ challenge to invalidate the outcome from this month’s three-day election, which saw the union fail to win the right to represent the plant’s workers in a close fight.

Automotive News reports the quintet are aided by attorneys for anti-union organization National Right to Work Foundation, who believe if the NRLB doesn’t hear the workers, then no one might be able to resist the UAW, a belief NRWF President Mark Mix further explained in a statement regarding the petition:

Based on Volkswagen management’s actions leading up to this point, these workers are concerned that VW will not actively defend their vote to remain free from union boss control. That’s why these workers have filed a motion to intervene.

Meanwhile, the UAW’s argument for their filing is based upon alleged interference from anti-union forces, such as United States Senator Bob Corker, who said if workers voted against the union, the plant would find new funding to expand around a new midsize SUV set to be built in 2016. If allowed to stand, however, the results would be a major setback for the union in their battle to organize the South’s automotive industry.

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UAW Money Woes Worry Detroit Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-money-woes-worry-detroit-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-money-woes-worry-detroit-three/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 12:30:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754881 Bob King

With declining membership and fees paired with a defeat in a close election recently held at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., the Detroit Three fear the United Auto Workers not only have no future, but their replacement would bring back the days of turmoil settled over a decade before.

The Detroit Free Press reports the three Detroit automakers worry the UAW could be absorbed by another, more hostile union not as willing to keep labor costs competitive with overseas competitors, as well disrupting the brokered peace which set lower wages for new hires and health care concessions that brought United States production costs on parity with Japan.

Meanwhile, the UAW continues to weaken, as annual dues fell by 40 percent to $115 million over the period between 2006 and 2012 with membership falling by 30 percent to 382,000 in the same period, having peaked at 1.5 million members in 1979. The union’s assets totaled $1 billion in 2012, making the UAW the wealthiest union the U.S., though $300 million in assets were liquidated in the six-year period to pay operating expenses while spending was cut 15 percent; $47 million in assets were sold in the last year alone to balance the union’s budget. Further, with lower wages from new workers unable to fill the coffers fast enough to make up the difference, the UAW may raise dues for the first time in 47 years.

In UAW president Bob King’s view, the union has no future without an organized South, where transplants such as VW and BMW have expanded in the region over the past decade as more and more factories in and around Detroit closed. King’s potential successor, secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams, has vowed to fight on, from higher wages for new hires to more organization battles in the South; the UAW recently filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board over the outcome of the Volkswagen vote.

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VW Labor Leaders Fight To Establish U.S. Works Council http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-labor-leaders-fight-to-establish-u-s-works-council/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-labor-leaders-fight-to-establish-u-s-works-council/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:30:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753737 2012-volkswagen-passat-front-three-quarters-chattanooga

While the United Auto Workers take their battle to bring their brand of organization to Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. before the National Labor Relations Board, VW’s labor leaders are regrouping in their fight to establish a works council in the U.S. plant.

Automotive News reports two top officials from VW’s global works council, secretary generals Gunnar Kilian and Frank Patta, are in the United States for the next two weeks consulting with labor law experts as to what steps will need to be taken to establish a works council at the automaker’s Tennessee plant, an idea popular with a number of the plant’s workforce, especially those who voted to keep the UAW out of their floor during the three-day election held two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, UAW supporters believe a U.S. works council would need the legal force of a union contract for a council to work at all. A few options would include talking with a different union, moving forward without a union, or — as both U.S. Senator and former mayor of Chattanooga Bob Corker and American University professor Steve Silvia have suggested — establishing their own union.

Whatever the decision, future expansion into the U.S. market depends on a positive outcome; VW works council chairman Bernd Osterloh told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that labor leadership would “hardly be able to vote in favor” of expansion by VW executives so long as Chattanooga remains unorganized.

Finally, the UAW has also vowed to fight for organization of the plant, filing a 58-page brief with the NLRB last weekend citing outside interference as reasoning for holding a new election. Dennis Williams, possible successor to the presidency of the UAW when outgoing president Bob King steps down in June, may have to wait a year before attempting to organize the plant again, but he doesn’t mind:

We’re not leaving Chattanooga. It took seven years to organize Ford, and I will be around for at least another five.

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QOTD: How Can the UAW’s Damaged Brand be Fixed? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/qotd-how-can-the-uaws-damaged-brand-be-fixed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/qotd-how-can-the-uaws-damaged-brand-be-fixed/#comments Sun, 23 Feb 2014 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752201

Click here to view the embedded video.

We talk a lot about brands here at TTAC. For example, Porsche comes in for a bit of criticism for moving away from their image as a maker of purist sports cars. We’ve discussed how brands can be burnished and also be diminished. Do today’s Cadillacs live up to “the standard of the world” and is the Lincoln Motor Company a dead brand walking? Back when GM was busy melting down financially and the future of brands like Pontiac were uncertain, I even checked with a businessman who specialized in bringing back old brands, to see how he would go about reviving GM’s distressed brands. Even a badly damaged brand can be revived. Which brings me to today’s topic, is the UAW’s brand damaged and if so, how can it be fixed?

I ask that not just because the autoworkers’ labor union lost an important certification vote at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN assembly plant. You can see negative attitudes towards the UAW by consumers as well, people insisting one reason why they won’t buy a car from the three domestic American car companies is because they question the quality of cars built in UAW shops. Sure, some of the negativity comes from general anti-union attitudes, but I think the UAW would be well served to pay attention to the possibility that their brand is indeed considered damaged by both consumers and potential UAW members, and to consider what the union can do to restore some luster to its brand. Denying that the UAW brand is damaged, or saying that it’s all the fault of anti-union activity is akin to a line worker at GM’s Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant whistling Solidarity Forever as he strolls past the folks resting forever at Beth Olem.

One of the more common comments following the UAW’s failing to win the vote at VW was that workers there weren’t rejecting the idea of a union so much as they were rejecting a specific union, the UAW. Certainly a factor in the vote was the involvement of outside groups, like the one headed by Grover Norquist, that bought billboard space in Chattanooga targeting VW employees. Those billboards didn’t really address ideological issues surrounding the labor movement, they attacked the UAW. Those billboards wouldn’t have gotten traction with VW employees if the UAW’s image with those workers was pristine.

My own position on the UAW is that while I have my criticisms, a measurable percentage of the things that I see attacking the UAW are unfair. For example, calling the union “communist” is just silly in light of the history of Walter Reuther fighting hard to keep communist influence out of his union. I’m a small L libertarian and I have my differences with the labor movement but I think that the U.S. Constitution, which protects freedom of association and contract rights, provides a sound basis for saying that Americans have the right to form labor unions and try to negotiate collectively, at least in the private sector. This, however, is not about my political or ideological stances, it’s about consumers and workers looking at the union label and saying, “no, thanks”.

Part of the UAW’s brand image problem is tied to “Detroit”, the city and the industry. At the same time that “Detroit” evokes a symphony of images and feelings, many of which are not exactly warm and fuzzy, there are at least a couple of examples of Detroit brands being turned around. While it still has a long row to hoe, Cadillac today is a much more respected brand than it was in the late 1990s, and under Alan Mulally’s leadership Ford has gained a great deal of credibility with consumers and industry observers alike. If those companies’ brands can go from not even being on consumers’ short lists to now being found on their driveways, there’s no reason why the UAW can’t improve its image.

So if you were Dennis Williams, who is slated to replace Bob King as president of the UAW, what would you do to improve the UAW’s brand?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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UAW Files Rejection Of Chattanooga Election Results http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-files-rejection-of-chattanooga-election-results/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-files-rejection-of-chattanooga-election-results/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 21:49:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=751521 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

The United Auto Workers union has filed an appeal this day with the National Labor Relations Board over the results of the three-day organization election at Volkwagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant held last week, citing outside intimidation from anti-union groups and individuals.

In the 58-page filing, the UAW goes into detail over the anti-unionization campaign, including references to United States Senator and former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker’s threat/promise over Volkswagen’s plan to build their BlueMotion Concept-based mid-size SUV in 2016.

Union president Bob King reaffirmed the union’s commitment to organizing the VW plant in the filing, while also having this to say about the anti-union forces who campaigned against the workers’ right to join the UAW:

It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee. It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product.

The NLRB will now investigate the results for potential interference. If found in the UAW’s favor, the board will throw out the results and hold a new election at the plant.

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Haley, Norquist Vow To Block Organized Labor From The South http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/haley-norquist-vow-to-block-organized-labor-from-the-south/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/haley-norquist-vow-to-block-organized-labor-from-the-south/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 18:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750929 Nikki Haley

Days after the United Auto Workers found themselves outside the gate at the Volkswagen plant in Chatanooga, Tenn., South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist have vowed to do all they can to ensure that the Southeastern United States will never see unionization in the region’s auto industry and beyond.

The Greenville News and Reuters report Norquist outlined an anti-union strategy meant to empower fellow Republicans, such as Gov. Haley, in their ongoing war with unions with the ultimate outcome resulting in lowered campaign financing for their opponents running for office.

His group, the Center for Worker Freedom, battled the UAW’s efforts to unionize the VW plant in Tennessee for nearly a year before finding victory in the worker’s rejection of representation during the National Labor Relations Board-overseen three-day election last week. In turn, Norquist is directing the group toward other targets for unionization throughout the South using rhetoric — and funding from unknown sources — to drive the point home:

Everybody who wants to steal your guns is funded by the unions. Everybody who wants to raise your taxes is funded by the unions. Everybody who wants to borrow too much money is funded by the unions. Whatever center-right issue you care about, the unions are on the other team. Unions aren’t good at anything.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Haley’s goal for labor relations in South Carolina is to head off the unionization drive at the pass, shutting out companies with organized labor as well as those who would “taint the water” with organization for as long as she remains governor:

They’re coming into South Carolina. They’re trying. We’re hearing it. The good news is it’s not working.

You’ve heard me say many times I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement. It’s because we’re kicking them every day, and we’ll continue to kick them.

Haley’s statement reflects a battle between her state and the NLRB in 2009 over Boeing’s desire to build a factory for the aerospace company’s Dreamliner in North Charleston, which the NLRB believed was done in retaliation over past union-led strikes in the company’s native state of Washington; the complaint was later dropped.

South Carolina is home to non-union transplants, including BMW, Michelin and Boeing, though Haley’s Democratic opponent in this year’s gubernatorial race, State Senator Vincent Sheheen, would welcome companies such as Ford and General Motors — and their organized labor — if it meant more jobs for the state:

We need good, high-paying jobs in South Carolina. Part of leadership is putting ideology and partisanship to the side when there’s something that could be good for South Carolina.

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VW Works Council May Block New Southern U.S. Expansion Without Unionization http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-works-council-may-block-new-southern-u-s-expansion-without-unionization/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-works-council-may-block-new-southern-u-s-expansion-without-unionization/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 16:15:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749889 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08 (1)

Should Volkswagen’s workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. not be allowed to unionize — with or without the United Auto Workers — the automaker’s works council may veto any plan to expand VW’s presence in the Southeastern United States.

Reuters reports VW Works Council head and supervisory board member Bernd Osterloh said his council would be wary to vote on expansion “if co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place”:

I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again.

The recent UAW vote in VW’s Chattanooga plant failed by a close margin under anti-union campaigns led by Tennessee conservative politicians such as U.S. Senator and former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, whose comments regarding the automaker awarding the factory a mid-size SUV upon rejection of the UAW brought President Barack Obama into the fray.

In spite of the voting results, the works council will press forward in bringing about organization to the factory, one of the few VW factories in the world without the labor relations structure.

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Guest Post: Jamie Kitman On The Battle Of Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/guest-post-jamie-kitman-on-the-battle-of-chattanooga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/guest-post-jamie-kitman-on-the-battle-of-chattanooga/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=743201 VW-Gesetz-IG-Metall

TTAC welcomes Jamie Kitman, of Automobile Magazine, NPR’s CarTalk and other international outlets, as he presents his analysis of what went wrong at Chattanooga, and the next steps for the labor movement’s efforts in the auto industry.

With all the clamorous back patting and joyous trills of laughter attending the defeat of the UAW’s unionization drive at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, one has that nagging sensation, increasingly common these days that the whole 20th century never happened.

I am not here to defend everything that has ever been done in the name of the United Auto Workers or any other union, because their list of wrongdoings is long. There has been corruption, laziness and greed, none of which I, or most union members, for that matter, would endorse. But the list of mean, corrupt and otherwise heinous acts committed by manufacturers through the years in the name of unfettered profit is undoubtedly greater. Profits are swell and all that, but the business of manufacturing is most beneficial to communities and society as a whole when all stakeholders have a seat at the table.

Anyone who can remember or has read of the days when a worker without a college education could support a family, buy a house, go on vacation, put three kids through braces and college, ought to think about the good unions have done. Ironically, many who lament the passing of middle class prosperity oppose one of the main instrument s of its creation.

Now there are those whose official position is to go blindly on the side of organized capital, no matter the cost, including apparently enough Republican politicians in Tennessee to fill a basketball arena, and that is their right. Less certain is whether terrifying workers about the parade of horribles that might ensue from a vote to certify the union – based on conversations they claim to have had with VW management – will withstand legal muster; if VW had told workers they’d close down a line on account of a pro-union vote, they’d be in violation of the law. If local politicians with their television pulpits were knowingly doing the company’s bidding, the law may well have been broken, too.

Then again, these are the same politicians who tell their constituents that climate change is a myth, that President Obama is a communist traitor and demand that their children be taught in public schools that the world was formed over a mere 144 hours, 6000 years ago. The people keep electing them, so maybe the non-union South is simply getting what it’s paid for.

What rankles are those who claim to be looking out for working men and women and oppose unions anyway as bad for labor. Where is their proof? That the American auto industry went wrong after 100 years on top? Er, actually, the years of the industry’s greatest prosperity coincided with the years of the UAW’s greatest prominence.

What rankles still more are the so-called journalists covering this story as if somehow the future of capitalism depended on their penning love letters to management. They seem to have forgotten that there were good and honest reasons for autoworkers to unionize in the 1930s. That there were reasons employees tithed a portion of their weekly wage packets to the union, and reasons that laws were enacted to protect the right of workers to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. And there were reasons that, yes, car companies, like Volkswagen, grew to value their union relationships.

Well, folks, those reasons didn’t all go away. Do you honestly believe that no one at any of the southern car factories wants to be in a union? Would that be because life on the shop floor has gotten so pleasant and they feel like they’re getting paid so much and that their work rules and grievance procedures are now so fair that they have no complaints? If so, ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, why aren’t you actually reporting that story on the ground, rather than inferring it from the lack of successful union drives in the South? Or perhaps you might have to start reporting the story of how Nissan and other U.S. transplants spy on and thuggishly seek to disrupt the would-be organizers in their midst, as anti-union managements have always done. That is, of course, how unions were kept down in their early days, all across America, all across the world. Other times, when their movements started becoming too successful, workers were killed for their union activity.

But let’s ignore that part of the ugly history and stay in the moment. Assaying the wholesale death of middle-class factory jobs in this increasingly non-union country, the value of union associations to workers seems kind of obvious. And now as union membership dwindles, we see more auto industry jobs that don’t pay enough for people to even approximate what was known for more than half a century as a decent, middle class life. Instead, we increasingly see workers hired in the non-union, transplant carmakers – Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota, BMW and Honda—not only as non-union employees, but as temporary workers, with few if any benefits to go with their new, lower wages. The auto industry is not alone here, but without a viable middle class, one must wonder who exactly is going to be buying all those cars and trucks our factories can make. If people had more money, maybe they wouldn’t need 80-month loans and all that cash back.

Low wages aren’t as bad as no wages because you have no job, it’s true, but they’re not as nice as good wages and that’s not the choice, anyway. Commentators and pundits lashed out at Henry Ford for paying his workers a living $5 a day wage when half that was the national standard but the move, if anything, helped his company. And the unionized American industry proved for much of the 20th century that you could have both jobs and good wages, with the German automobile industry out there still, continuing to prove the same thing. Not too unsuccessful a manufacturing economy last time I looked, Germany pays its autoworkers the world’s highest industrial wages. And indeed Volkswagen’s 61 other factories outside the US are union shops, excluding China.

So what’s that I hear, Sen. Corker? You think the deal the Chinese workers get is good enough for the hardworking people of Tennessee?

Evidently. For those who weren’t paying attention, the senator was so exorcised by the fact that a UAW preliminary card count showing a majority of workers at Chattanooga supporting the union, that he publicly told VW workers that the SUV the company was saying it might build in Tennessee would go elsewhere if the union was certified.

“I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga,” Corker announced, ominously. Of course, his statement also admits of the possibility that they might have also said they’d build it either way, but clearly that was not the impression he meant to give.

And what Volkswagen was thinking isn’t exactly clear, either. Their union at home in Germany is very powerful, but that doesn’t mean they like it.

Of course, Volkswagen Chattanooga’s chairman and CEO Frank Fischer dismissed any linkage between the vote and the decision to build the new SUV in Chattanooga . But there is good reason to believe Corker’s scare tactic was enough to scuttle the UAW’s drive; just 44 additional people would have had to vote in favor of union affiliation for it to have prevailed.

There’s also ample reason for VW’s Chattanooga work force to question the overall sincerity of its employers, which already reneged on a pledge to build Audis there, so long as the launches of the Jetta and New Beetle (built in Mexico) were successful, which they claimed were. So who knows what the truth of VW’s involvement is?

If they really wanted the UAW in place so as to be able to set up their works council, surely they could have countered Corker’s intemperate remarks. Or perhaps they have another way around U.S. labor laws. Who knows?

What we do know is that the company certainly knows how to sweet talk Tennessee politicians, having received the most generous state grant of any American corporation looking to set up shop anywhere ever – a package that included $577 million in tax breaks, over $40 million in training assistance and over 1,500 acres of land, gratis. All for 1,550 jobs, in a city which can’t afford to update a sewage system that is 100 years out of date, causing the town to reek many days of the year. That’s close to half a million dollars per job.

The really upside down part is that Detroit still pays union wages to some of its employees. So actions like Corker’s are in essence a gift to big conglomerates from Japan, Germany and Korea when they come to America. Until, that is, the moment when the low wages paid in transplant factories fully kill decent wages for the home team. At which point they will have sown the seeds for a union fight as ugly as any ever seen.

Because the harder the workers get stomped on, the sooner and clearer the need for unions will be. Because left to its own devices, big money always races to the bottom. It is the nature of the beast.

So the battle of Chattanooga may be lost. But the larger war is hardly over.

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UAW, VW Works Council Regrouping Under Voting Fallout http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-works-council-regrouping-under-voting-fallout/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-works-council-regrouping-under-voting-fallout/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=742985 2012AerialfromWest

Following the 712 – 629 decision against representation by the United Auto Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., the union may be forced to throw in the towel on foreign-owned auto factories as the automaker’s works council vow to press forward with plans to establish their brand of representation in the plant.

Bloomberg and Reuters report that though the UAW may have been thwarted in their recent organizing efforts at the plant by third-party organizations and local and state politicians opposed to the union, Volkswagen’s works council remains undeterred, according to council secretary general Gunnar Kilian in a statement:

We have always stressed that the decision over union representation lies in the hands of the workers in Chattanooga. The result of the election has not changed our goal of creating a works council in Chattanooga.

Kilian and VW Global Works Council Secretary General Frank Patta are expected to travel to the United States in the next two weeks to meet and consult with labor law experts to determine the next steps needed to bring a works council to the U.S. plant.

Meanwhile, the UAW remains optimistic in the face of the Chattanooga vote for the time being, with support from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

The closeness of the results and the courage and tenacity of union supporters prove that this election is a minor setback, and not a permanent defeat. The ferocity of the anti-union forces only reinforces the fact that there is a powerful new form of organizing emerging.

The union faced opposition by anti-union groups, including one with ties to anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, and Tennessee Republican political leaders such as Governor Bill Haslam and former Chattanooga mayor and current U.S. Senator Bob Corker.

In the long-term, and with membership hovering around 400,000 after falling 75 percent from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979, the UAW may be forced to extend its hand to workers outside of the automotive industry, such as motel maids and university assistants, while walking away from the effort to represent transplant factory workers.

Clark University labor law professor Gary Chaison noted that representation at the VW plant would have bolstered efforts to unionize other Southern plants, such as Daimler AG’s MBUSI plant in Vance, Ala. However, the roadmap may need to be redrawn:

This is a time for soul-searching at the UAW and within the American labor movement. This was the ideal situation and they know that. They might just give up on transplants.

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QOTD: UAW Vote At Chattanooga Ends Tonight, What’s Your Prediction? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/qotd-uaw-vote-at-chattnooga-ends-tonight-whats-your-prediction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/qotd-uaw-vote-at-chattnooga-ends-tonight-whats-your-prediction/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:26:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=741705 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08 (1)

The historic vote scheduled to take place at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant. 1,570 workers will vote on whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers so that a German-style Works Council can be formed.

If the UAW is successful, it would be their first victory in a long history of failing to secure organization at foreign-owned auto plants. If they fail, it will be a serious blow to the UAW and the American labor movement. For the definitive report on final day of the vote, The Detroit News has a great take.

Personally, I think that the final vote will result in the workers rejecting the union. But I am curious to hear your take.

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UAW VW Road Map Guiding March To Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-road-map-guiding-march-to-mercedes-benz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-road-map-guiding-march-to-mercedes-benz/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=741377 MBUSI

Following the same road map that led to the ongoing organization efforts at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., the United Auto Workers have allied with German union IG Metall and Daimler’s works council on their march toward Mercedes-Benz’s MBUSI plant in Vance, Ala.

Reuters reports the UAW are doing card checks and distributing propaganda at MBUSI with help from the two German organizing bodies in the former’s ongoing march to unionize the South; other efforts include those at two Nissan plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Furthermore, the UAW has gone after Daimler via the National Labor Relations Board over allegations of interference and intimidation of MBUSI workers in exercising their right to organize; the hearing is scheduled for April 7.

Leading the Southern march, UAW regional director Gary Casteel explained how the union was paying attention to globalization and its effect on workers’ rights:

“The companies globalized a long time ago, and workers’ rights didn’t follow suit. It’s time that the workers’ rights caught up, and that’s the reason you see all the interaction between international unions and a global strategy.”

Said interaction comes as the result of the UAW gaining representation with Daimler’s World Employee Committee, whose role is to “strengthen and deepen the dialogue and information transfer between the various employee representatives and unions” according to Daimler in a statement.

While union leaders on both sides of the Atlantic want to see representation at MBUSI, not all of the plant’s 3,000 workers are on board. Elizabeth Kelly, who works as a team leader in quality control during the plant’s overnight shift and is opposed to the UAW, sees no link being what the union is doing with VW and Mercedes:

“The UAW supporters believe that if a union is voted in in Chattanooga, it will help their cause here. I tend to believe that it doesn’t really affect us one way or the other. It’s two totally different companies.”

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Tennessee Lawmakers Threatening To Kill Subsidies If UAW Wins VW Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tennessee-lawmakers-threatening-to-kill-subsidies-if-uaw-wins-vw-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tennessee-lawmakers-threatening-to-kill-subsidies-if-uaw-wins-vw-plant/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 16:40:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739385 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

Should the United Auto Workers win the upcoming election to represent workers at Volkswagen’s Chatanooga, Tenn. plant, the automaker may find itself shunned by state lawmakers as far as further subsidies are concerned.

Volkswagen is seeking a new site this year to build their CrossBlue-based mid-size SUV in 2016, wooing both powers that be in Tennessee and Mexico for subsidies. However, Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature are threatening to back down on $580 million in state and local incentives the government offered to the automaker in 2008.

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and state senator Bo Watson both said VW would have “a very tough time” attracting anymore tax dollars from the coffers should the UAW win representation, and while they were happy to have the automaker in their backyard, it didn’t mean they were ever given a “green light” to force unionization into the plant. They also criticized VW for giving union supporters an unfair advantage against anti-unionization lobbyists, a charge the automaker denied in a statement supporting the workers’ right to be approached by union supporters and opponents prior to the upcoming election.

Furthermore, VW also stated they would have recognized the UAW through a card check in lieu of an election, but insisted on the workers voting for representation to reflect the automaker’s belief that “democracy is an American ideal,” according to vice president of human resources Sebastian Patta.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Governor Bill Haslam warned that the legislature would play a huge role in approving incentives to help fund the project — being too large for the state’s FastTrack incentive program as it is — and that the impact of UAW representation would affect the state’s ability to recruit other companies to the state.

Longtime UAW critic United States Senator Bob Corker originally remained mum on the upcoming vote, but after the union’s regional director Gary Casteel offered his praise of Corker’s statement by prompting other politicians to do the same in respect of the upcoming vote, the former mayor of Chattanooga felt the union was attempting to stifle other voices from commenting on the issue before stating that he would “return home [to] ensure [his] position was clear”: that the UAW would make VW “the laughingstock” of the automotive industry. Casteel fired back, calling Sen. Corker a flip-flopper prone to being swayed by special interests before restating his belief that UAW representation at the plant would improve the quality of life for both workers in the VW plant and everyone in Chattanooga.

Other critics weighed in on the election, such as the group called Southern Momentum, who quoted a factory worker leading the anti-unionization coalition at the plant as saying, “A vote for the UAW is a vote against the expansion of the plant, plain and simple.”

The election will take place from Wednesday to Friday of this week under supervision by the National Labor Relations Board. Around 1,500 workers will be eligible to vote during the three-day period.

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Volkswagen Workers To Vote On UAW Representation Starting February 12th http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/volkswagen-workers-to-vote-on-uaw-representation-starting-february-12th/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/volkswagen-workers-to-vote-on-uaw-representation-starting-february-12th/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 18:28:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=732106 Volkswagen-Chattanooga-Plant-500x333

An article on the UAW’s website claims that workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant will vote on representation by the UAW from February 12th-14th via a secret ballot. Previously, the union had pushed for a “card check”, but it now looks like the matter will be taken to a vote.

Per the UAW

Together, Volkswagen Group of America (VWGOA) and the UAW will set a new standard in the U.S. for innovative labor-management relations that benefit the company, the entire workforce, shareholders and the community in general. From Feb. 12-14, Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., will decide the issue of union representation in a secret ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. If the majority of workers vote for UAW representation, workers would then elect a bargaining committee from among VWGOA workers in Chattanooga to negotiate an agreement with the company, including how a works council would operate in the Chattanooga facility based on the principles of co-determination

 

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GM Agrees to Keep Three Opel Plants Open Through 2018 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-agrees-to-keep-three-opel-plants-open-through-2018/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-agrees-to-keep-three-opel-plants-open-through-2018/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=731010 Opels being assembled in Eisenach, Germany

Opels being assembled in Eisenach, Germany

Just a few days after new GM CEO Mary Barra visited Opel’s headquarters in Ruesselsheim and said the company’s plant there will be assigned a new vehicle to build, General Motors’ Opel unit has come to an agreement with the company’s labor unions to extend until the end of 2018 a no-layoff guarantee at three German plants. According to Reuters, the Ruesselsheim factory, plants at Kaiserslautern and Eisenach will remain open. Opel also announced that the Eisenach assembly plant will build the next generation Opel Adam and Corsa models. Approximately 7,150 employees work at the three factories.

Production ends later this year at Opel’s fourth German factory in Bochum.

The agreement is a hopeful sign of better labor relations at Opel. Management and labor have differed in the recent past about how to return GM’s European unit to profitability.

“For the company and its employees this is an important step toward securing our future,” Ulrich Schumacher, Opel’s head of personnel, said in a statement.

In the labor deal, Opel promised to add another model for Ruesselsheim to build, to continue making the Adam and Corse in Eisenach and to keep the Kaiserslautern component operations going.

GM has lost an estimated $18 billion on its European operations over the last 12 years. The company says that it’s on track to break even in Europe in 2015 after a redesigned Corsa subcompact is launched late this year, and a redesigned Astra concept is introduced next year along with new gasoline and diesel engines.

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NYT: Chattanooga is a Lobbyist Battleground http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nyt-chattanooga-is-a-lobbyist-battleground/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nyt-chattanooga-is-a-lobbyist-battleground/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 12:30:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=727834 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

On Tuesday, the New York Times published a look at the ongoing feud between pro- and anti-union forces at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It paints a picture of a political battle fought mainly by outside forces, utilizing the deep pockets of some of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups.

Steven Greenhouse’s story “Outsiders, Not Auto Plant, Battle U.A.W. in Tennessee” is mainly focused on the lobbying efforts of anti-union groups, including the freshly minted Center for Worker Freedom. The CWF is a subsidiary of Americans for Tax Reform, the well-known anti-tax group led by conservative titan Grover Norquist. Conservative commentator Matt Patterson heads the CWF, and has made it clear that he wants the UAW out of Chattanooga, telling the NYT

 “Unions are a big driver of government. Unions are very political, the U.A.W. is one of the most political. If they help elect politicians who pass huge government programs, that requires taxes.”

Mr. Patterson has serious resources to call upon in his crusade. In a piece for conservative blog The Daily Caller, Mr. Patterson lambasted the UAW as a “left-wing ATM machine.” He also criticized the recent rejection by the NLRB of a worker complaint alleging misleading solicitation by the UAW at Chattanooga, labeling it as politically motivated. Mr. Patterson’s CWF is just one of a number of conservative lobbying groups making their presence known in the region. Previous efforts by the UAW to organize the transplant auto factories have widely been dismissed as moribund. However, the level of spending and lobbying action of anti-union groups suggests otherwise, at least in this case.

Greenhouse’s full piece is well worth a read, if only because it shows how high the stakes at Chattanooga have become (or at least are perceived to be). It also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how “pro-union“ and “anti-union“ have been constructed as all-or-nothing categories in post-bailout America. That new politics of exclusion has turned what would originally have been a fairly small-scale regional controversy into a national issue.

The fear of (or hope for) a domino effect of widespread unionization of the Southern auto industry is palpable amongst groups with a national reach.  Even so, the level of concern may be overblown. Every plant is unique, and with manufacturing subdivided between an ever-larger number of OEMs and locations, the chance of unionization automatically spreading is slim. VW’s well-publicized sales difficulties in North America coupled with major layoffs last year have undoubtedly contributed to an exceptional climate at the plant, one unlike the other transplant factories. The future still holds many uncertainties for the friends and foes of organized labor.

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NLRB To Conduct Hearing on Alleged Worker Intimidation at Mercedes-Benz Plant in Alabama http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nlrb-to-conduct-hearing-on-alleged-worker-intimidation-at-mercedes-benz-plant-in-alabama/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nlrb-to-conduct-hearing-on-alleged-worker-intimidation-at-mercedes-benz-plant-in-alabama/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 16:19:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=726914 28_Millionth_Vehicle_at_Plant_Tuscaloosa

The National Labor Relations Board will conduct a hearing to discuss allegations regarding management conduct at Mercedes-Benz’s Vance, Alabama plant. The reports filed with the Board allege that Mercedes violated worker’s rights by forbidding discussion of unions during working hours, as well as threatening termination of employees that solicited for the union.

The UAW accuses Mercedes of suppressing efforts by employees to organize, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Mercedes claims it has pursued a policy of neutrality regarding the unionization of its workforce. The NLRB dismissed one complaint filed against the company in August of last year. But two other complaints filed in the fall were accepted by the NLRB as possible violations of labor law. The hearing, to be conducted on April 7, will allow both sides to present their case before a judge. The recommendation of that judge will influence the final ruling by the NLRB. A ruling against the complaint would strengthen the position of Mercedes and the union’s political opponents, but if the NLRB finds a violation of the law, it could be a major coup for the UAW.

This is the latest development in an ongoing campaign to unionize the plant, which builds the M, R, and GL Class near Tuscaloosa. Pro-union employees cite stagnating wages and reduced benefits as part of their reason for considering unionization. This leaflet issued by the UAW organizing committee alleges that since 2007, Mercedes has slashed healthcare plans for retirees. Supposedly, employees hired after 2009 will not be eligible for any retiree health benefits whatsoever. Employees have also voiced concern over the increased use of temporary workers at the plant. Still others point to a general decline in the relationship between labor and management, with complaints about inconsistent application of company policy. Others dismiss the need for a union, pointing out that high-paying jobs were scarce in the area before Mercedes arrived. They fear that the UAW may damage Mercedes’ recent run of success in the US. This includes an expansion of the plant to build the new C-Class later this year.

Although it has not yet succeeded in organizing the main Mercedes plant, the UAW has had a measure of success with Mercedes’ suppliers. The parts makers Faurecia, Inteva, ZF, and Johnson Controls in nearby areas have been organized for several years. It’s possible that the UAW may be able to leverage this success with plant workers in Vance. Even so, the unionization of a major transplant automaker in a right-to-work state remains a daunting task.

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GM May Slash 1,100 Korean Jobs As Chevy Pulls Out Of Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/gm-may-slash-1100-korean-jobs-as-chevy-pulls-out-of-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/gm-may-slash-1100-korean-jobs-as-chevy-pulls-out-of-europe/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=724778 gm-chevy-cruze-assembly-plant-gunsan-south-korea-worker

Reuters is reporting from “a source with direct knowledge of the matter” that General Motors plans to reduce shifts at its South Korean factories by half as it aligns its global manufacturing. The move could eliminate 1,100 jobs. GM had announced last month that it was discontinuing the Chevrolet brand in Europe by the end of next year and GM Korea produces many of the Chevy branded cars sold on the continent.

According to the report, GM Korea has already approached the union representing its production workers about reducing the current two shifts at the Gunsan factory to a single shift. That plant employs 2,200 manufacturing employees. It’s not clear if the surplus employees will be laid off, offered voluntary retirement or relocated to other facilities.

A GM Korea spokesperson declined to comment in detail, but confirmed that talks are under way about the Gunsan facility. That factory, one of four GM Korea assembly plants, currently produces the Chevy Cruze compact sedan and Orlando SUV. It has an annual production capacity of 260,000 units.

“The Chevy pullout would have a direct blow to the Gunsan factory. GM expects its production in Gunsan to shrink to 100,000 this year and 120,000 next year… The union wants to maintain two shifts, and instead cut the number of cars produced per hour,” the source said.

Mounting costs and labor unrest has caused GM to reconsider its reliance on South Korea for 20% of its global production.

While GM Korea’s operations will be used to supply the Australian market following the planned 2017 closure of GM’s Holden subsidiary’s assembly plants, analysts say that volume would not be enough to offset the production losses caused by pulling the Chevy brand out of Europe.

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