With a tough negotiating session with its traditional employers now complete, the United Auto Workers are turning their focus back to the year’s primary goal: organizing the transplant factories. 2011 was supposed to be the year in which the UAW took down “at least one” foreign-owned auto plant, with the union’s boss even going as far as to say
If we don’t organize the transnationals, I don’t think there is a long-term future for the UAW
But as we found, the UAW is not welcome in the South, where most of the transplant factories are found. And with Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and VW all rejecting the UAW’s advances in some form or another, the union’s options are fairly limited. So instead of taking on the factories directly, the UAW is bringing back a questionable tactic from the days when it was misleadingly bashing Toyota for “abandoning” the NUMMI factory: they are taking the fight to dealerships.
UAW members protest a Modesto, CA Toyota dealer, as part of the union’s wider effort to punish Toyota for its decision to shut down the NUMMI factory in nearby Fremont [via the Modesto Bee]. “We are not telling people not to buy Toyota products,” explains one worker. “We’re telling people that Toyota needs to be a responsible corporation and keep jobs in California.” And though there couldn’t be a better time to blame Toyota for just about anything, the NUMMI plant was closed because GM ditched the joint venture during its bankruptcy and government bailout. Toyota, like GM, was faced with overproduction in the US market, and because GM had pulled out of NUMMI, the plant was an obvious candidate for closure. So really, these protesters would have some sinister version of GM’s logo on their sign if they were really interested in fairly assigning blame for the NUMMI shutdown. However, their UAW pension fund owns 17.5 percent of GM, so simply blaming Toyota is a lot more convenient. Especially since Toyota is already attracting so much well-deserved (if wholly-unrelated) negative media attention.