The Truth About Cars » Bob King The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 » Bob King UAW Raises Member Dues For First Time Since 1967 Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:58 +0000 UAW President Bob King Speaking At 36th UAW Constitutional Convention

Automotive News reports the United Auto Workers have approved a dues increase to 2.5 hours of pay per month during the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit. The increase, the first since 1967, is expected to bring in nearly $50 million annually to the newly renamed International Strike and Defense Fund. Though a majority supported the increase through a show of hands after a voice vote proved inconclusive, the move was hotly debated prior to voting.

During the debate, where 40 of the 1,100 delegates representing all of the regions where the UAW has a presence offered both views for and against the dues increase, long-shot union presidential candidate Gary Walkowicz of Dearborn, Mich. held that the vote should have been put forth before the 390,000-plus rank-and-file instead of the delegation. Walkowicz claimed an increase would cause some members to stop paying dues to the UAW once current contracts with the Detroit Three expire in September of 2015, thanks to a right-to-work law passed by Michigan in 2013. On the other hand, outgoing president Bob King said that the increase would ultimately give the union the power to merit a fairer outcome for its members from employers in the automotive industry, and to continue organization efforts among the transplants.

Detroit Free Press‘s Tom Walsh says that whomever will fill King’s shoes beginning Thursday will need to learn from past mistakes and defeats and establish a “more compelling case for the value proposition of union membership” should the UAW move forward overall. Though King was able to boost rolls up to 22,000 and save/create 28,000 jobs in his four-year term, the union also suffered setbacks among the transplants, particularly with the February 2014 election held at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Walsh adds the UAW will have a tougher road still to travel, from the aforementioned right-to-work legislation Michigan that could see some members cease paying dues, to the contract bargaining with the Detroit Three in 2015, all to show “how workers’ lives will improve, [and] how unions will help communities grow more jobs,” lest they go “extinct.”

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First Day Of 2014 UAW Convention Emphasizes Continuance Of Southern Strategy Tue, 03 Jun 2014 10:00:44 +0000 2014 UAW Constitutional Convention

Automotive News reports Volkswagen Global Works Council General Secretary Frank Patta addressed the 1,100 attendees in Cobo Hall during the first day of the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit. Through a translator, Patta urged the union to wage a new fight for the VW factory in Chattanooga, Tenn. — where both unions lost the right to organize workers in a close election back in February — proclaiming the election “was stolen” by outside anti-union politicians and political groups. Finally, he vowed that his works council will continue to back the UAW in all of the latter’s efforts to organize non-union shop floors throughout the Southeastern United States and elsewhere, believing the efforts will see both parties ultimately prevail in their respective goals.

On the sidelines, outgoing union president Bob King was looking for “great, open discussion and debate,” as well as “a unified UAW to come out and fight for the best” for the union’s membership of 390,000. King will be leaving a lot of unfinished business behind once the delegates choose their new president later this week, including particularly among organizing the transplants in the South. The union will also have to navigate successfully through collective bargaining with the Detroit Three next year, where wages and two-tier systems promise rough seas.

Speaking of wages, King took the podium to make the case for increasing dues to help recharge the union’s strike fund, currently sitting at $630 million from its peak of $930 million in 2006. The due increase — the first since 1967 — will add a half-hour of pay per month to the two hours of pay devoted to the union, bringing less than $50 million annually if implemented. The vote to increase dues will take place Tuesday, and will only be voted upon by the convention attendees.

Finally, The Detroit News says the likely future president of the union, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams, will continue the fight in the South for organization. Williams plans to send Gary Casteel to meet with workers at the Daimler plant in Vance, Ala. — assuming UAW representatives haven’t been evicted by then — to discuss concerns over the slow pace toward holding an election at the plant. While the union may be on shaky ground among the transplants, Williams said the UAW will remain the South for the long-term, and for those who believe otherwise to “get used to” the union’s presence.

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UAW Prepares To Choose New President Ahead Of Internal, External Challenges Mon, 02 Jun 2014 13:00:57 +0000 /

This week, the United Auto Workers will select a new president to take up where outgoing president Bob King will be leaving behind in the wake of a crushing loss in Tennessee, low but growing membership rolls, and dwindling budgets.

The Detroit News reports that the 1,100 delegates meeting at Cobo Hall in Detroit for the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention will likely choose union secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams as the UAW’s new president, which would make him the first president not to have worked in an automotive factory if chosen.

Whomever the president will be, they will inherit the work King has put into protecting the union while fighting to expand its presence in the United States, particularly in Southern states such as Tennessee and Mississippi. Though membership is nowhere near the peak of 1.5 million in 1979, the outgoing president boosted current rolls 11 percent to 391,415 during his four-year term through recruiting workers in auto supply, gambling and higher education. King also focused on bringing more jobs and capital investments to the auto industry as a whole, shoring up the future for the next president.

In the present, the UAW will also vote on whether to increase dues for the first time since 1967 to 2.5 hours per month to help replenish the union’s strike fund, currently holding at $630 million from a peak of $930 million in 2006. The members will also face a battle at the ballot box in November as many pro-union Congressional legislators are up for re-election, and may need to join up with social justice activists on a global scale to show those casting a dim eye that the UAW is more than an industry-focused organization.

As for King, who has been in a leadership role with the union since the early 1980s, he plans to remain active in the labor movement, though has no current post-UAW plans at this time.

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VW, UAW Consider Options Surrounding Chattanooga Plant Mon, 28 Apr 2014 12:30:33 +0000 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

After backing out from its appeal over results of the February 2014 organization election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant, the United Auto Workers is considering options to organize the plant, just as Volkswagen itself is considering several options outside of Tennessee for its new SUV.

The Detroit News reports VW attorney Alex Leath sent an email in late January 2014 to Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development during negotiations over incentives to build the SUV in Tennessee that, while there were “non-deal” issues delaying “the TN solution,” the automaker had been successful in “reaching agreement on terms” at a number of unidentified locations. Leath also had been drafting a memorandum of understanding which included proposed incentive figures from several months prior. Amid opposition toward the UAW establishing a presence in the plant by Republican politicians and affiliated outside parties, and in response to the memorandum, the agency withdrew the $300 million in incentives it planned to offer VW in exchange for for the seven-passenger SUV.

Moving ahead to this week, UAW president Bob King stated the biggest factor in backing down on its appeal before the National Labor Relations Board was to help VW and the workers in Chattanooga land the deal for the SUV. In the meantime, the union is considering options to bring organized labor to the plant, including a private vote to be held sometime this year. King added that the UAW still had representatives working with the workers on the floor in Chattanooga, vowing the union would continue to push for representation.

As for the deal that had been cast aside, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam hopes to quickly reestablish talks between the state and VW for the SUV, though Mexico has made an offer to bring the product into one of its factories.

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Volkswagen Leaves Door Open For “Co-Determination” In Chattanooga Fri, 25 Apr 2014 13:00:57 +0000 2012-volkswagen-passat-front-three-quarters-chattanooga

Though the United Auto Workers recently backed down from challenging the results of the February 2014 organization election held at Volkwagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant before the National Labor Relations Board, Volkswagen has opted to leave the door open for representation via a variation of the works council model used elsewhere.

Just-Auto reports the automaker welcomed the UAW’s withdrawal from the fight, proclaiming that it could now move forward with its tasks of building cars in Chattanooga, securing jobs in Tennessee, and establishing a new form of what it calls “co-determination” within the United States:

Volkswagen Chattanooga is seeking to establish good opportunities for consultation and representation for all its employees, opportunities that are normal practice for the Volkswagen team all over the world – that applies for those employees who voted against the UAW – just as it applies for those who voted in favour.

As for the UAW, outgoing president Bob King said the union was finally ready to “put the tainted election” behind it, while Senator Bob Corker proclaimed the challenge to the results and subsequent withdrawal as “nothing more than a sideshow to draw away from their stinging loss in Chattanooga.”

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UAW Ends Fight For Organization Of Tennessee VW Plant Mon, 21 Apr 2014 20:30:02 +0000 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

The Huffington Post reports the United Auto Workers has withdrawn its petition with the National Labor Resources Board challenging the results of the February 2014 election regarding organization of the workforce at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

UAW President Bob King said the decision to withdraw was made “in the best interests” of all parties involved, citing the “historically dysfunctional and complex process” such a challenge before the NLRB would entail. King added that resistance met by both Tennessee governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker regarding the union’s effort to subpoena the politicians also factored into the decision to stand down:

The UAW is ready to put February’s tainted election in the rearview mirror and instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga.

Though the challenge — which would have led to a new election at the factory had it been successful — has been withdrawn, King said the challenge did shed light on the election by “inform[ing] the public about the unprecedented interference by anti-labor politicians and third parties,” such as the number of documents gathered by Nashville, Tenn. CBS affiliate WTVF-TV linking Gov. Haslam’s administration to incentives made to VW for a new factory on the alleged stipulation that the Chattanooga plant remaining unorganized.

Had the UAW stood firm with their petition, the first hearing would have been held Monday.

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UAW Subpoenas Haslam, Corker To Appear At VW NLRB Appeal Hearing Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:30:50 +0000 Governor_Bill_Haslam

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker are just two of the 20 prominent Tennessee witnesses subpoenaed by the United Auto Workers to appear at the union’s hearing before the National Labor Resource Board later this month, where the UAW will appeal the results of the organizing election held at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga back in February of this year.

The Detroit News reports the 20 witnesses subpoenaed are ordered to bring emails and documents related to a state government incentive made to VW in the aim of bringing production of a planned midsize SUV to Tennessee. Outgoing UAW president Bob King defended his union’s decision:

The purpose of the NLRB’s investigation is to determine the truth concerning the third-party interference in the February election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. The NLRB’s rules call for the use of subpoenas as part of this truth-seeking exercise. The UAW hopes that all parties who receive subpoenas will fully comply by providing the NLRB with the requested documents and with their testimony.

The action comes on the heels of an exposé conducted by Nashville CBS affiliate WTVF-TV regarding documents linking the Haslam administration to an incentive proposal made to the German automaker on the alleged condition the plant in Chattanooga remain unorganized; the proposal was withdrawn in January ahead of the election.

Among the others subpoenaed by the UAW include Tennessee house speaker Beth Harwell, economic development commissioner Bill Hagerty, and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

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UAW Hopes For Swift Southern Unionization Victory ‘Overly Optimistic’ Mon, 20 Jan 2014 20:28:25 +0000 Bob King

Outgoing United Auto Workers president Bob King admitted that his timetable for a swift unionization of one of the auto plants in the Southeastern United States was overly optimistic.

Though the UAW is still slogging through efforts at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. and Nissan’s Canton, Miss. plants, King hopes that the VW workers will become card-carrying members before union rules bring his four-year term to a close in June 2014. King believes the only thing holding back the assimilation is the process in which to bring UAW membership to a vote, stating that a “strong majority” of the VW workers have submitted cards in support of joining the union.

In his speech at the Automotive News World Congress last week during the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, King said that while workers in European and Japanese auto plants throughout the United States were not opposed to UAW membership, past organizing efforts have been hampered by employers through intimidation tactics and threats of unemployment. King further claimed that without the current push to bring the workers under their umbrella, jobs in the automotive industry would come to consist of “low-wage, temporary labor working under unsafe conditions” in the 21st century.

On the other side, Volkswagen and Nissan — the latter specifically called out by King for their alleged anti-unionization efforts — both stated that they would respect the wishes of their factory employees in whatever they decided to do regarding the UAW.

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UAW Dues Hike Supported By Membership According to Union President Fri, 17 Jan 2014 15:15:23 +0000 Bob King

The United Auto Workers will, for the first time since 1967, ask their membership to pay a 25 percent increase in dues to the union in order to shore up their strike fund and fight for better contracts, a move outgoing UAW president Bob King believes the membership will overwhelmingly support.

The increase will be voted upon during the UAW’s Constitutional Convention this June, which is also when members will vote for a new president to lead the union in their effort to unionize autoworkers at foreign-owned plants throughout the southeastern United States. Currently, union members pay two hours’ worth of their wages every month; the increase would tack on another 30 minutes of earned income to the strike fund, which has $600 million at the ready, down from a peak of $1 billion.

Speaking of unionization of the South, King believes the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. will soon join the UAW rank and file once an election process is agreed upon. Though the union claims to have received signed cards from a clear majority of the plant’s autoworkers, critics dispute the idea that the UAW has such a majority in place, nor would the plant be unionized without an election.

Volkswagen says they will respect whatever decision their Chattanooga plant makes, with Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn invoking the values of American democracy in a statement made at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show January 13 regarding the eventual vote to either join the UAW or remain non-union.

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UAW Likely to Select Dennis Williams to Replace Bob King as President Mon, 21 Oct 2013 14:10:42 +0000 636-406-fit-con61610_bobdennisWith United Auto Workers president Bob King restricted by union bylaws from being reelected, the union is preparing to select his replacement. Industry watchers expect UAW secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams to be selected next month at a meeting of the UAW’s administrative caucus. Since all but one UAW presidents have been selected by the administrative caucus, the move will likely pave the way for Williams to succeed King, whose term ends in nine months. Before taking the national secretary-treasurer position Williams was the union’s Chicago area regional director.

UAW insiders view Williams as the likely choice because of his work as regional director, the respect he’s earned at Solidarity House since taking a national office and because he has ties to the Obama administration.  In 2007 Williams had a key role in Mr. Obama’s upset win in the Iowa caucuses that propelled him eventually to the White House. Williams role in trying to organize transplant operations owned by German and Asian automakers is also cited as a factor.

Union rules prohibit anyone older than 65 from taking an elected office. King is 67. The UAW’s vice president in charge of the union’s General Motors department, Joe Ashton, once seen as a possible president, is also now too old.  Jimmy Settles, vice president of the union’s Ford department, who had once expressed interest in to job apparently has changd his mind. “I am not a candidate,” Settles told the Detroit Free Press last week. “At one time I was interested. I am not now.”

The head of the union’s Chrysler department, General Holiefield, was also thought to be a possible replacement for King but rumors about his future have emerged since one of his top aides, James Hardy, suddenly retired.

Cindy Estrada, another UAW VP, is considered to have a bright future with the union but it would be a longshot for her to become the union’s first female president. Regional director, Gary Casteel, who has been involved with trying to organize Volkswagen and Nissan plants in the U.S. has also been mentioned for consideration.

It’s possible that a dissident candidate could emerge, but because of the way the union selects its officers, it’s unlikely than such a candidate could win.

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VW’s Labor Leader To Meet With Chattanooga Workers Wed, 02 Oct 2013 15:28:08 +0000 2012-volkswagen-passat-front-three-quarters-chattanooga

The head of Volkswagen’s Works Council may soon be paying a visit to workers at Chattanooga to discuss the prospect of a works council. Reuters reports that Bernd Osterloh will be headed down south for a “dialogue” about representation. The UAW will not be present at the talks, but representatives of both VW and IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, will be in attendance.

Despite the UAW’s absence, the union and IG Metall have their respective ties, with UAW head Bob King acting as IG Metall’s labor representative on Opel’s supervisory board. The meeting is also occurring as the anti-union camp digs in its heels with a campaign aimed at thwarting the UAW’s organization drive.

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Bob King To VW: No Works Council Until Chattanooga Workers Get Representation Wed, 03 Apr 2013 18:49:13 +0000

No works council without representation. Those are the words of UAW President Bob King, in an interview with Autoline Detroit, when asked about a possible works council at VW’s Chattanooga assembly plant.

The Detroit Free Press quotes King as stating

“In the U.S., you can’t do a works council without the workers being in a union,” King said during the Autoline interview. “So if those workers want to have a works council in Chattanooga … then they would first become UAW members and then would bargain in a works council system.”

The full interview is scheduled to air on May 10. TTAC has previously covered the idea of a works council, and the interplay between the UAW and German union IG Metall.Feel free to brush up, because this is something we’ll be hearing a lot more about in the coming months.

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What Is The UAW Doing In Geneva? Wed, 06 Mar 2013 17:52:24 +0000

The UAW is stepping up their organization efforts at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi plant by taking their campaign to…Geneva?

Automotive News took a look at the UAW’s bizarre effort at flying Nissan workers from Canton, along with members of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), which is apparently “…an organization representing clergy, elected officials, civil rights activists and students”, to help hand out leaflets and raise awareness about the efforts to bring collective bargaining to Canton.

Rather than brand the campaign as simply a UAW organizing drive, MAFFAN is engaging in some serious hyperbole, with MAFFAN member Reverend Melvin Chapman describing the campaign as

 “…the civil rights fight of our time – the right to have a free and fair election process, one without fear. We are bringing Mississippi to Geneva to let Nissan know that what is happening in Mississippi is unacceptable.”

Aside from the myriad causes that one could conceivably argue as being “the civil rights fight of our time”, depending on one’s political leanings, the UAW’s attempts to organize Canton are ultimately a local issue, particular to American labor relations. Yet the UAW decided to spend what must be an excessive sum (and I know this having gone to Geneva to cover the Auto Show in the past. Bertel and others who have gone can also vouch for this) to send UAW staffers, union organizers and “…a small number of Canton, Miss. employees…” to Geneva to engage in a protest that is inconsequential to nearly everyone attending the show. Meanwhile, the cost of flights (expensive), hotels (insanely expensive, if one can even be found), meals (a cup of coffee will run $7-$8 alone), rental cars and any other expenses incurred will undoubtedly add up to a hefty bill.

This may not be the last of it either. According to AN the Geneva protest “…underscored how the union intends to hound Nissan at international venues…”, suggesting that jet-set junkets under the guise of social justice campaigns may be the new normal for the UAW and their allies. Then again neither is it UAW President Bob King’s first foray into silly publicity stunts or international labor matters. I can’t imagine that many UAW members are too thrilled about where their dues are going, nor is a world tour for King and his cronies a great recruiting tool to organize transplant employees.

But as one of TTAC’s chief union sources has long maintained, the union leaders are ultimately politicians. And we all know that profligacy, entitlement and indulgence come with that territory.

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The UAW’s Recipe Against Losses: Spend Some More Sun, 20 May 2012 09:08:09 +0000

It’s said that people do resemble their dogs. The UAW surely looks more and more like the GM of old. For years, the UAW has spent more than it took, forcing it to live off its savings. Once again, the UAW wants to change this – two years from now. Until then, it will happily go on making losses.

Said Bob King to Reuters:

“We are spending a lot of money, and we’re investing money in organizing. And we’re investing money in rebuilding the ability of the UAW to win good contracts and win good legislation for our membership.”

King told Reuters that in two years, the UAW wants to be cash-flow positive by adding members and managing costs.

In the five years from 2007 to 2011, the UAW sold $264 million in assets. In 2011, the UAW increased its membership by 1 percent. According to Reuters calculations, the union would have to increase its membership by 50 percent to break even, assuming the current rate of spending.


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UAW’s Bob King Will Fire 7,000, Close Two GM Plants Wed, 28 Mar 2012 13:46:42 +0000

Today, the Supervisory Board of GM’s ill-fated Opel division is meeting. For the first time, the unions are in the majority on the board. In addition to half of the seats in the boardroom being occupied by representatives named by labor, UAW boss Bob King is taking part in the meeting. It is unlikely that King’s vote will strengthen the labor side. King comes as an emissary of GM, where the UAW, through VEBA, owns 10 percent of the stock.  Representing the capitalist side of the equation, King will have to vote for job losses and plant closures. If not today, then soon.

Says Reuters:

“The gathering is expected to last into late afternoon. It is not clear whether management will submit a mid-term business plan, which would include plant closures, or focus on less sensitive issues such as the appointment of a new sales chief.

“All signs point towards escalation regardless,” said one source close to the board, who said plant closures would be the elephant in the room even if they weren’t discussed.”

Another UAW sympathizer is the chairman of the supervisory board: Steve Girsky. Girsky came on (the) board at GM as representative of the UAW’s VEBA trust. As the chairman of the supervisory board, his vote counts twice in case the board is deadlocked.

Sending Girksy and King into the battle in Europe was a smart move by Akerson et al.  Forced to vote against labor, Girsky and King will end up as cannon fodder in the intricate European labor dealings, which will weaken the position of the UAW.  German auto executives watch this with great amusement. One anonymous exec said today on the phone:

“With these guys pushing for plant closures, the UAW has become enemy number one with the European unions. They will be treated as traitors. There goes their last chance for IG Metall help in the South.”

Other moves are not so smart. GM leaked too early that Bochum and Ellesmere port will be closed. 7,000 jobs will be lost. A smart tactician would have known to keep this option open as long as possible. A seasoned source close to Bochum labor leaders told Reuters:

“GM won’t announce any plant closure today anyway, since they’d be crazy to give up their trump card. The moment they say which plants are safe, they can no longer play them off against each other in the hopes of extracting concessions.”

The trouble is: The closures of Bochum and Ellesmere Port have already been leaked, galvanizing the union side into a united front.

PS: 48 hours later, it was announced that Bob King will take the seat for the labor side.

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UAW: Romney Trying To “Rewrite History” Over Bailout Sat, 18 Feb 2012 16:31:45 +0000

Days after Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in the Detroit News over his thoughts on the bailout, UAW President Bob King is firing back.

In a statement released to the media, King said that

 “He’s trying to rewrite history and attack President Obama and the UAW for successfully saving the auto industry. He is misleading voters about the president’s bold and decisive rescue of the auto industry and about sacrifices made by workers. But voters deserve the truth.”

Romney is hardly the only Republican candidate who has come out against the bailout; 2008 nominee John McCain spoke out publicly against it, and Rick Santorum, a candidate in this year’s race, has also come out against it, but placed the blame largely with President George W. Bush. Nevertheless, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder endorsed Romney this past Thursday.

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UAW Planning A “Movement For Social Justice” – Is It Time For A UAW Death Watch? Mon, 13 Feb 2012 17:16:08 +0000

With their campaign to organize foreign auto plants seemingly in the toilet, UAW President Bob King is embarking on a new task – creating “a movement for social justice”.

The goal of the movement will be to wrest control of America from King’s foes, “right-wing Republicans” and “one-percenters”. King made the speech at a gathering for UAW Local 651 while commemorating the anniversary of the 1937 Sit Down Strike (or clutching onto the last instance of the UAW being relevant to American society).

King urged the UAW and others to target General Electric, with the Detroit News reporting on this delightful scene

“It is morally wrong — it is absolutely wrong — that they make billions and billions and billions of dollars and pay not a single penny in taxes,” King said, his veins bulging as his voice grew hoarse from shouting. “Enough is enough. We’re the 99 percent who want 100 percent fairness for everyone.”

What do you say B&B? Is it time for a UAW Death Watch? With the UAW’s attempts to unionize in the South seemingly going down the toilet, a sequence of embarrassing publicity stunts and a dwindling base to collect union dues from, it might be the beginning of  the end for America’s most annoying labor union.


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UAW President Bob King Endorses 54.5 MPG CAFE Rules Tue, 17 Jan 2012 19:52:32 +0000

UAW president Bob King endorsed the 54.5 MPG CAFE standard for passenger vehicles while testifying at CAFE related hearings in Detroit. Automotive News quoted King as saying “The proposed rules are sensible, achievable and needed.” The standards would have to be met by 2025 and work out to about 40 mpg in the real world.

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The Sound And The Fury: Marchionne Letter Stirs Up Tensions, But Talks Continue Fri, 16 Sep 2011 15:53:49 +0000

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s petulant letter to UAW President Bob King sounded to me like a man angry with being kept waiting after a long flight, but according to the Detroit News, it has “derailed” the “carefully crafted timeline” for contract negotiations. To wit:

Sources close to the negotiations told The Detroit News that a deal was imminent with General Motors Co. when Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sat down at his Mac computer and fired off a sharply worded letter to UAW President Bob King at 10 p.m. Wednesday, accusing the union leader of violating their gentlemen’s agreement to sign off on a deal by the 11:59 p.m. deadline.

Shortly after the letter was sent, talks stopped at both companies.

Chrysler and the UAW agreed to extend their current contract for one week. Talks resumed Thursday between the two sides, but nothing of substance is being discussed at the bargaining table, according to people familiar with the talks.

Actually, that’s not exactly what everyone is reporting…

For example, the latest word from the aces at Reuters‘ Detroit Bureau has it that

General Motors Co and the United Auto Workers union have made “good progress” toward an agreement, a person familiar with the talks said on Friday as negotiations resumed.

Talks also continued at Chrysler Group LLC on Friday morning.

The UAW has chosen to attempt an agreement with No. 1 U.S. automaker GM first, before then reaching a deal with Chrysler and finally with Ford Motor Co, those close to the talks have said.

Bloomberg seems to agree, quoting the UAW’s favorite labor expert, Berkeley’s Harley Shaiken, saying

What we’re looking at right now isn’t a breakdown in the process, it’s the process working it’s way through to an agreement. Going over the deadline has become more routine than not.

But while the big wire services emphasize business-as-usual in the UAW negotiations, the Detroit papers are losing their heads over Marchionne’s provocative letter. The Freep reports that the UAW could skip past Chrysler and go straight to Ford after securing a deal with GM… or, not.

The letter, while dramatic and emotional, probably won’t trump the logic of completing talks with Chrysler before Ford, said Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, dean of labor studies at the University of Illinois.

Meanwhile, the Freep also spoke to Chrysler workers who blame Marchionne for an inability to compromise and King for standing up the CEO and failing to communicate with the union rank-and-file. And once again, the lesson is the same: the letter stirred up tensions, but…

“I would not fixate on the letter,” said Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, dean of the University of Illinois school of labor and employment relations. “The UAW will be judged on the agreements that it reaches.”

U mad, Freep? Because this is starting to look a little like what we in the “online journalism” business call “trolling.” Luckily the Detroit-area media, the DetN has Dan Howes on hand to provide a more measured analysis of events.

Could both sides — namely, those directly bailed out by taxpayers — cut a deal by the deadline of midnight Wednesday without public rancor?

That was the plan, but the answer to the last question is no: An existential crisis, the harsh glare of national attention and the specter of presidential politics apparently are not enough for bargainers to hit a date that has loomed for four years. Meaning some things in this town never change.

Incidentally, I hear editors at the Detroit papers enforce strict rations on the phrase “some things in this town never change”… and Howes picked a good opportunity to cash in his chit. He concludes

For the UAW, a successful conclusion to these talks — and a coming showdown with Ford, whose members are not barred from striking by terms of a federal bailout — represents a down payment of sorts on King’s vision for an extreme makeover of the union of Walter Reuther, the Sit-down Strikes and the Battle of the Overpass.

Binding arbitration at GM or Chrysler or a strike by Ford’s cranky members would fatally undercut King’s long-shot strategy to rebuild the union’s dues base with new members working down south for foreign-owned competitors. Either development also could ding the re-election prospects of the president whose intervention in Detroit effectively saved the UAW.

Better for union members slowly coming to terms with Detroit’s predicament today would be deals that promise richer profit-sharing, fresh investment and more jobs in existing plants, starting with GM’s idled assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Ford’s Auto Alliance International operation on Flat Rock, to name two.

The challenge in the hours and days ahead will be for the union and company bargainers — particularly at post-bankruptcy Chrysler and GM — to close the deal, to demonstrate to politicians and investors, customers and themselves, that there really is a New Detroit.

Or they’ll take the blame.

True that. Which is why Marchionne’s little outburst doesn’t matter nearly as much as some think. Just as Bob King has taken Sergio’s rebuke on the chin, the UAW rank-and-file will accept whatever’s on the table. Even the appearance of confrontation with the only automakers willing to do business with the UAW will shatter King’s vision of transplant factory organizing and global alliances backed by friends in the White House. And he and everyone else who has believed his “21st Century UAW” rhetoric will be stuck in the nightmare of “Old Detroit”… forever.

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UAW In Top Secret Talks With “Vast Majority” Of Transplants Wed, 03 Aug 2011 17:10:13 +0000

Despite the fact that no transplant automaker has admitted to being in direct talks with the UAW, union boss Bob King told the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminar [via Reuters]

The vast majority of the assemblers here in the United States have at least agreed to confidential discussions. We’ve had productive discussions. The last thing we want is confrontation.

So, the issue isn’t that the transplants are all responding to the UAW’s overtures like Honda, which has said

Honda has had no dialogue with the UAW and has no interest in a discussion with them.

No, talks are happening with the “vast majority” of transplants… they just happen to be secret talks (which, at least in the case of VW, appear to be going nowhere). That in itself is strange, considering the UAW’s previous, highly-public approach to naming and shaming non-union transplant manufacturers. More likely: secret talks keep the union from losing face and the transplants from looking like “human rights abusers.” My how things change fast…

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Quote Of The Day: UAW’s Bob King Connects Republican Extremists With Hitler And Mussolini Wed, 27 Apr 2011 02:29:03 +0000

At a meeting of the Automotive Press Association at the old-money, establishment Detroit Athletic Club in downtown Detroit, a stone’s throw from GM’s headquarters, UAW President Bob King warned Detroit auto journalists not to listen to “extremists in the Republican Party,” just like people in Germany and Italy should not have fallen for Hitler and Mussolini.

“The attacks by what I would call extremists in the Republican Party should be of concern…to everybody who believes in a democracy. We know that anybody who looks at history, looks at any developed nation in the world, the only way that middle classes were built in the United States or Canada or Europe or anywhere else, was because of a strong labor movement and a societal understanding of the importance of the institution of collective bargaining. That workers should have the right to a voice at the table.”

“Can a Hitler be more efficient? Can a Mussolini be more efficient? Can a dictatorship be more efficient than a democracy? Yeah, maybe short-term it is. But for the destruction of the society, the destruction of human rights and the destruction of the democracy we believe in, it’s catastrophic. I hope the press really stands up to defend the people’s democratic right to elect their local elected officials and nobody should have the power, in my opinion, to come in and unilaterally wipe them out and put somebody in there who has no accountability to that citizenry. That’s the antipathy of democracy.”

Nobody invoked Godwin’s Law when King said it. So we won’t either.

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UAW Boss: “People Want To Reward Our Members” Thu, 18 Nov 2010 18:44:51 +0000

Let me say this as clear as I can, I do not think there will be any concessions in 2011. People want to reward our members and it will be a key component of the 2011 bargaining. When the industry comes back, just like we’re sharing in the downside we’re going to share in the upside. That’s a key foundation of what we’re doing in 2011.

UAW President Bob King gives his best “we will fight them on the beaches” impression, telling Reuters that his union has sacrificed enough, thanks. And though the people who want to reward UAW members are notably absent from public debate, that assertion wasn’t nearly as double-take-worthy as King’s opinion that

There’s no competitive gap between Ford, GM and Chrysler right now


If that is the case, it’s only because Ford is selling a ridiculous number of cars right now, a fact that can probably be tied to the fact that, unlike GM and Chrysler, the Blue Oval isn’t owned by the UAW. After all, the uneven treatment shown by the UAW towards Ford is well-proven… as are its effects. It makes sense that the UAW wouldn’t give back anything to GM and Chrysler… they already have no-strike clauses, and GM has been cramming existing workers into the second wage tier. But claiming that Ford isn’t at a competitive disadvantage compared to the automakers that the UAW owns stakes in is just ludicrous.
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UAW Sells Out Members, Holds On To Black Lake Resort Thu, 19 Aug 2010 19:32:02 +0000

Since taking office in June, UAW President Bob King has ramped up the rhetoric level at Solidarity Hall considerably, as he seeks to portray the union as a defender of the American middle class. But, as the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words… and King’s actions this week couldn’t paint a clearer picture of the UAW’s priorities.

On Tuesday GM announced that it would close its Indianapolis stamping plant next year, after workers there voted against a UAW-sponsored contract that would have sold the plant to Chicago-based Norman Industries and cut worker pay by as much as 50 percent. Local union members were so incensed by the UAW’s efforts to make them accept pay reductions, they shouted representatives down at angry meeting last Sunday (starting at 2:45 in the video above).

And if you think they were angry on Sunday, imagine how pissed the members of Local 23 were on Tuesday when the partially UAW-owned GM announced that the plant would cease production next June, and close by the end of 2011. Especially because they have no recourse, as the UAW agreed to a no-strike clause (ending in 2015) in exchange for its equity in GM and Chrysler.

To get the bitter taste of squelched brethren out of his mouth, UAW President Bob King took the union’s $33m Black Lake golf retreat off the market. Priorities.

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Quote Of The Day: Jobs, Justice And Peace Edition Mon, 12 Jul 2010 21:49:23 +0000

We have made a decision at the UAW that to do the best job taking care of our membership we’ve got to be out there in the streets fighting for social and economic justice

Newly-minted UAW President Bob King kicks off a “Jobs, Justice and Peace” campaign with Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, by feeding the Freep some seriously idealistic rhetoric at a news conference announcing a march commemorating Martin Luther King’s Freedom Walk. But, as King confirms to Automotive News [sub], the best way to live up to these high-minded ideals is to demonize Toyota.

Confirming his decision to target the best-selling foreign brand in America, he says “bannering” of Toyota dealers is taking place in California and New York… despite the fact that the UAW has been going after Toyota, since 2007, and has had access to at least one Toyota plant since December of last year. Meanwhile, the facts that GM first doomed the NUMMI plant (while Toyota footed the bill) that inspired the California protests, and is generally turning away from the UAW for coveted “green jobs” is allowed to go unprotested, because the UAW’s VEBA account needs to make money on the GM IPO. For more of King’s breathtaking ability to wrap venal self-interest in the cloak of unselfish ideals, check out this recent interview with Democracy Now.

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UAW Turning To Ford Negotiator? Mon, 14 Dec 2009 16:08:58 +0000 King (left), Gettelfinger, and Ford's leadership team

UAW Boss Ron Gettelfinger plans to retire next year, and the search is on to replace the man who led the union through the political minefield that was the auto bailout. But the union’s support for Bob King, who led negotiations with Ford, could open up divisions within the union, reports Automotive News [sub]. King followed the Gettelfinger line, offering Ford many of the same concessions it granted GM and Chrysler during the government bailout that transferred large stakes in those companies to the union’s VEBA fund. Those concessions to Ford, which would have preserved the UAW’s decades-long policy of treating the Detroit automakers equally, were rejected by the same union rank-and-file that must now ratify King’s nomination.

The UAW membership rarely questions presidential candidates who enjoy the support of union leadership, notes AN [sub], but then there’s little at the UAW that is operating as normal. The lines are drawn between a leadership that knows it has drawn down most of its reserves of political capital, and members who see the union leadership as having overseen a major erosion of benefits. “With King, there will be no change in direction of the union,” Labor Notes Commentator Tiffany Ten Eyck tells AN [sub], underlining the conflict within the union.

Ultimately though, the UAW is fairly lucky to have survived the bailout backlash, and had it not been led by a pragmatist (albeit a reluctant one) like Gettelfinger, it might well have been legislated into complete irrelevance. In this sense, King’s commitment to platform bargaining and moderation are good for the union and its employers. But the major element lost by the UAW over the last year is a sense of normalcy. Having been forced into concessions placing it near parity with non-union transplant employees, the UAW rightly lost a lot of legitimacy with its own members, and the rejection of Ford concessions could well have been the first signs of a membership push-back.

But UAW leadership won’t be sitting still on the divisions within its membership. But with few options remaining on the automotive front, the union might just be saved by turning away from automobiles altogether. The head of Flint’s UAW local tells MLive that new UAW leadership could seek to shore up the union’s relevance by emphasizing clean energy manufacturing jobs over the auto industry, diversifying the UAW against the inevitable lean times ahead. But in any case, the UAW is hardly free to determine its own future. The union’s VEBA retiree benefits fund currently holds 55 percent of Chrysler, and a 17.5 percent stake in GM. Those stakes must be monetized post-haste, so the union leadership will continue to face pressure to grant short-term concessions as the automakers move towards IPOs that the union’s fate rests upon. Expect divisions within the UAW to deepen over the next year, as the UAW’s new leaders walk the fine line between its needs as owners and employee representatives.

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