The Truth About Cars » uaw http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:08:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » uaw http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com UAW Aiming For Works Council In Tennessee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/uaw-aiming-for-works-council-in-tennessee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/uaw-aiming-for-works-council-in-tennessee/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:22:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871474 0

The UAW’s new “voluntary” union local at VW’s Tennesse assembly plant will be aiming for the first Works Council at a North American plant.

Just-Auto reports that Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer, told the outlet

“The commitment of this Local is to form the first works council – we intend to negotiate the first German-style works council.”

The announcement comes on the heels of VW global works council head Bernd Osterloh being appointed to the board of directors for Volkswagen Group of America. Osterloh, who has previously made waves over any moves that would harm union organization, will be a powerful ally for the UAW, and their union allies in Germany.

Osterloh’s appointment to the board could very well have been a concession to the powerful IG Metall union, which has ties to both Osterloh and the UAW. Having exhausted all other options, including a plant vote on organization and an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board, Osterloh’s board seat and the “voluntary” union are the last options the UAW likely has in their arsenal.

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Volkswagen Group Of America Names German Labor Leader To Board Of Directors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-names-labor-head-to-us-board-of-directors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-names-labor-head-to-us-board-of-directors/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 14:12:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865921 Bernd-Osterloh

The horse-trading between Volkswagen, the UAW and IG Metall that eventually led to both the UAW’s “voluntary union” and the new crossover’s production at Chattanooga isn’t quite over yet. Buried deep in VW’s announcement is the news that Volkswagen’s board member in charge of their global Works Council Bernd Osterloh will join the Volkswagen Group of Amerca’s Board of Directors.

Osterloh has long been a thorn in the side of anti-UAW forces, suggesting that without UAW representation, the crossover would not come to Chattanooga – something that Osterloh, as a member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, can set into motion if he feels vengeful enough.

In the end, the UAW lost and the crossover came to Chattanooga, but presumably, something had to give so that IG Metall took some kind of victory, real or perceived.

VW’s official announcement states

“We are pleased that Mr. Osterloh has declared his willingness to play a concentrated role in shaping our US strategy in the future. He will represent the views of the workforce. This is in line with the codetermination culture of Volkswagen, which is one of our key success factors,” Prof. Dr. Winterkorn said.

Osterloh stated: “It is important for us that our colleagues in the U.S. know that we also care about the production site and the employment in Chattanooga. I am looking forward to my work on the Board. I am determined to uphold the interests of Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga. The North American market offers considerable opportunities; in my opinion, these have not been pursued with sufficient consistency in the past. With today’s decision to produce the midsize SUV in the USA, we are taking a key step.”

The natural response to this is, why does a German union official care about the interests of American workers? From where I sit, it seems that this was a concession made to get Osterloh and IG Metall to acquiesce to the production decision – something has previously been threatened if union demands weren’t met. Even though the UAW is gaining little traction with their own organization campaign, they now have an ally in IG Metall, able to influence decisions at Volkswagen Group of America.

This isn’t the first time a cross-continent trade has happened. Outgoing UAW President Bob King was chosen by IG Metall to sit on Opel’s board, and the two unions have been moving towards deeper ties in recent years.

 

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UAW To Form Union Local For Volkswagen Chattanooga Workers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/uaw-to-form-union-local-for-volkswagen-chattanooga-workers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/uaw-to-form-union-local-for-volkswagen-chattanooga-workers/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:23:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863049 Click here to view the embedded video.

The UAW will apparently form a new local in Chattanooga, Tennessee to represent workers at Volkswagen’s assembly plant. But things will operate a little differently than in traditional union representation setups.

According to The Tennessean

Participation will be voluntary, and there will be no formal recognition of the union by the German automaker until a majority of its workers have joined, UAW officials have confirmed.

“We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees,” UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel of Ashland City said this morning.

“It’s dependent on the employees and what they want to do.”

The arrangement is a bold step towards gaining representation – as well as a UAW foothold in the South – even after the UAW lost a vote held by plant workers to decide on representation. But it makes one wonder why the vote was even held in the first place. To further make matters complicated, a local news outlet is reporting that the end goal of the arrangement would be the creation of a German-style works council.

An official announcement is likely to come this afternoon, but the timing of the move is close to VW’s decision on whether to build their new three-row crossover – a vital product for the American market – in Tennessee or in Mexico.

VW’s supervisory board, where labor organizations have a say in matters, does not want Chattanooga to get the new crossover without some kind of arrangement regarding organization of the plant’s labor – and IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, has deep ties to the UAW. VW conveniently left some wiggle room in the matter, and we may be seeing that manifesting in the “voluntary” union, which has the possibility of being recognized by VW, even though that doesn’t appear to be confirmed.

On the other hand, the Tennessee state government is offering significant incentives to Volkswagen, but is vehemently opposed to the presence of the UAW.

For some time, it seemed as if the UAW’s defeat, as well as the crossover’s production in Chattanooga, was a slam dunk. But now, things have gotten a little more complicated. We’ll have more as the story breaks.

H/T to Jalopnik 

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UAW Will Spend Less On Transplant Organization Campaigns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-will-spend-less-on-transplant-organization-campaigns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-will-spend-less-on-transplant-organization-campaigns/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 13:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840466 UAW + UniteHere Protest June 2014

Though the United Auto Worker’s fight for organization of the transplants in the Southeastern United States rages on, the union will not be taking as much from its war chest to fund the fight than in previous years.

The Detroit News reports UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel informed reporters at the end of the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention that there would be news this week of the union’s plan to organize the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. despite the lack of support for the UAW. He also says he will remain in Tennessee to help with the renewed fight for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, where the union lost in a contentious election back in February amid allegations of anti-union interference.

As for what those plans entail, or how much less the union was willing to spend on them, Casteel did not offer specifics; the UAW spent $15 million under the term of former union president Bob King, whose term ended with the election of new president and former secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams. He also said his union would not be affected by Canadian labor union Unifor’s efforts to organize Toyota’s plants in Ontario, nor did he believe if Chattanooga had been won, all of the remaining transplants would soon follow:

I don’t really believe in the domino effect. If Volkswagen had been successful, I didn’t see this domino effect with the other transnationals and vice-versa.

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Williams: Union To Focus On Detroit Three, Transplants, Elections http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/williams-union-to-focus-on-detroit-three-transplants-elections/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/williams-union-to-focus-on-detroit-three-transplants-elections/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 11:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838345 Dennis Williams

Automotive News reports new United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams let it be known before the 1,100 delegates at the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit that the union’s focus will be on contract negotiations with the Detroit Three in 2015, and the national elections of 2014 and 2016. Regarding the former, Williams proclaimed that the time for making concessions had come to an end, vowing to fight on for workers’ rights and social and economic justice. He also addressed the leadership history of the union, providing examples of the challenges each president has had to face during their term, even if the answers left the membership confused at first.

After the convention closed, Williams gave a press conference detailing what the union will specifically do during his tenure as president, including an intensified focus on organizing the transplants in the Southeastern United States. That effort will be led in Tennessee — where the union lost a contentious election to organize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga in February of this year — by new UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel. The president also hinted at pushing the union toward economic efficiency with its organizing budget, and vowed to take down the two-tier wage system holding a quarter of the 390,000 members working in on the floors of the Detroit Three underneath the rest of the rolls. No specifics were given for either strategy.

Finally, Detroit Free Press reports after Williams finished his speech, he led the delegates out of Cobo Center to join UniteHere Local 24 members on their first day of protest at the Crown Plaza Hotel across the street. Recording secretary Janee Ayers claimed the hotel had hired temporary employees and paying “poverty wages” instead of the $14 per hour average hotel employees make in Detroit. Williams added that no one from the UAW or any labor union would not “do any business” with hotel until its management allows the workers to organize.

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TTAC Matinee: Final Offer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ttac-matinee-final-offer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ttac-matinee-final-offer/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838273


Friend of TTAC Michael Banovsky sent along this link to Final Offer, a documentary about the 1984 negotiations between the Canadian arm of the UAW and General Motors.

Told from the perspective of both union brass and rank-and-file members, the doc explores both the labor-management relationship, as well as the strife between the UAW’s Canadian and American arms, which led to the eventual creation of the separate Canadian Autoworkers Union – which is now Unifor, an amalgamated private sector union which came about through a merger between the CAW and other unions. Looking back, it’s easy to see that Final Offer was made at a pivotal moment in the history of the auto industry in North America, and gives us a look at a world that most of us (save for commenter Mikey) will never see: that of an hourly assembly line worker.

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UAW Elects Secretary-Treasurer Williams To Union Presidency http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-elects-secretary-treasurer-williams-to-union-presidency/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-elects-secretary-treasurer-williams-to-union-presidency/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838097 UAW President Dennis Williams

Automotive News reports the United Auto Workers has elected secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams, who served in the role under now-retired president Bob King, as the union’s new president in a 3215 to 49 vote during the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit. Williams, who came from the agricultural wing of the union, is the first union president not to have worked in the automotive industry.

The new president will have a number of challenges before him, including organization talks among the Detroit Three in 2015, political elections this year and 2016, and a new attempt at organizing the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. after a major loss in the February 2014 election held at the plant; Williams was involved in the first organization attempt. UAW regional director Gary Casteel will take Williams’ place as the union’s secretary-treasurer.

In other union news, the UAW has signed a new contract with supplier Dana, covering 2,500 members in its 11 plants within the United States for the next three years. The supplier also announced expansion plans for its headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, which will add 40,000 square feet to the 191,000 sq-ft facility at a price of $7 million to $10 million by 2015. Once complete, 200 additional employees will be employed in the expanded building, some 175 of whom will have relocated from a nearby facility two miles away.

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UAW Raises Member Dues For First Time Since 1967 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-raises-member-dues-for-first-time-since-1967/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-raises-member-dues-for-first-time-since-1967/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836770 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/first-day-of-2014-uaw-convention-emphasizes-continuance-of-southern-strategy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/first-day-of-2014-uaw-convention-emphasizes-continuance-of-southern-strategy/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 10:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836025 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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Mercedes-Benz Employees Tell The UAW To Get Packing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mercedes-benz-employees-tell-the-uaw-to-get-packing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mercedes-benz-employees-tell-the-uaw-to-get-packing/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 13:46:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=835657 28_Millionth_Vehicle_at_Plant_Tuscaloosa

Frustrated by the lack of results brought by the UAW, a group of Mercedes-Benz employees located at their Alabama factory is seeking to replace the UAW as their partner in organizing the plant.

AL.com is reporting that two Mercedes employees who are leading the push for unionization have come out publicly against the UAW, after a long organization drive failed to produce any results. According to AL.com, as many as 30 percent of hourly workers had signed union cards, but the number was insufficient for the UAW.

Mercedes employee Jim Spitzley was critical of the union, stating

“It’s all about the image with the UAW, and it’s not about the workers,”

Spitzley and colleague Kirk Garner are courting other unions, including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, but the AFL-CIO has granted the UAW with exclusive jurisdiction over the Alabama facility, which means that other unions can’t take over the UAW’s organization drive. Both Spitzley and Garner have asked for a change, but have received no response.

According to the two men, the UAW’s efforts have been mismanaged, but they remain committed to organizing the plant – without the UAW. After failing to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant as well as other Japanese-owned plants in the South, this development is hardly a vote of confidence for the UAW, even though the desire to organize may be alive and well.

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UAW Prepares To Choose New President Ahead Of Internal, External Challenges http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-prepares-to-choose-new-president-ahead-of-internal-external-challenges/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-prepares-to-choose-new-president-ahead-of-internal-external-challenges/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=835609 /

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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QOTD: Skin In The Game http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-skin-in-the-game/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-skin-in-the-game/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 14:07:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828754 chrysler-jnap-5-millionth-suv

With negotiations between the UAW and the Big Three set to open next year, FCA head Sergio Marchionne has already fired the first shots, calling for an end to the two-tier wage system and a new pay structure, tied to profit-sharing.

Speaking to Reuters, Marchionne discussed his plan to eliminate the two-tier structure, replacing it with a yet-untested system

“The way you do this is you grandfather the Tier 1s,” Marchionne said of the veteran workers. “You make them a dying class and you build a Tier 2 structure that sets the wage mechanism for the next generation.

“When you have a bumper year, you pay them as much as a Tier 1 would make if not more,” he added of the lower-tier wage scale. “But if I’m in the toilet because the markets are down or GM is successful, or Ford, and then we go down in earnings, then I think at the end of the day you share the pain with the company.”

While the UAW did not comment on Marchionne’s proposal, the UAW has historically been against two-tier wages as well. In my view, Marchionne’s proposal is interesting, in that it lets the hourly workers have some “skin in the game” when it comes to their own financial success, as well as a feeling of pride and accomplishment when FCA succeeds. Given that FCA’s American units like Jeep and Ram are practically carrying the company, the intangible elements would be a strong motivator – of course, it also leaves workers exposed to managerial incompetence, the prospect of other business units dragging down overall performance or both. Let us know what you think in the comments.

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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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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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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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VW Workers Reject UAW By Narrow Margin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-workers-reject-uaw-by-narrow-margin/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-workers-reject-uaw-by-narrow-margin/#comments Sat, 15 Feb 2014 04:09:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=742345 2012AerialfromWest

Workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga rejected the UAW in a vote that ended Friday night. 712 workers voted “No” to being represented by the UAW while 626 voted Yes. 89 percent of eligible workers turned out for the vote. The UAW failed to secure representation despite Volkswagen’s neutrality towards the UAW and their support of a German-style Works Council.

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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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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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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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NLRB Rules Against Anti-Union VW Employees http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nlrb-rules-against-anti-union-vw-employees/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nlrb-rules-against-anti-union-vw-employees/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 19:01:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707778 2012AerialfromWest

Reuters is reporting that the office of the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board has recommended that allegations brought by employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant be dismissed.

The latest chapter in the ongoing saga involving the UAW’s attempted organization of the plant involves eight VW’s hourly employees alleging that

“…the UAW coerced them and misled them to sign cards approving the union’s representation of them. Also, four workers alleged that VW, through a German union representative who sits on the company’s supervisory board, threatened them by linking approval of the UAW as union representatives to future work at the plant.”

According to Reuters, the recommendation to dismiss the allegations will now go to a regional panel, but the workers are planning on appealing the ruling. The allegations stem from an incident that the workers allege involved duplicitous practicing regarding union cards. Observers say that if the ruling is upheld, it could pave the way for a worker vote on UAW representation.

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UAW Hopes For Swift Southern Unionization Victory ‘Overly Optimistic’ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-hopes-for-swift-southern-unionization-victory-overly-optimistic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-hopes-for-swift-southern-unionization-victory-overly-optimistic/#comments Mon, 20 Jan 2014 20:28:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=703914 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-dues-hike-supported-by-membership-according-to-union-president/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-dues-hike-supported-by-membership-according-to-union-president/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 15:15:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=701994 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 Sets Up Organizing Committee At Tesla Motors’ Fremont Assembly Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-sets-up-organizing-committee-at-tesla-motors-fremont-assembly-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-sets-up-organizing-committee-at-tesla-motors-fremont-assembly-plant/#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 16:27:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693745 Workers at Tesla's Fremont plant celebrate the 1,000th Model S body built, 2012.

Workers at Tesla’s Fremont plant celebrate the 1,000th Model S body built, 2012.

United Auto Workers president Bob King has said that the labor union is interested in organizing Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, California and that a group of workers at the site have set up an organizing committee for the UAW. That factory is where Tesla assembles the battery powered Model S. Tesla has prided itself in being different from Detroit and its headquarters’ location, the Silicon Valley, is not exactly a labor hotbed.

While under King the autoworkers’ union has been more collaborative than confrontational with automakers, should the UAW organize Tesla that would undoubtedly affect the corporate culture at the EV startup. “Elon [Musk]‘s attitude was always, ‘We’re going to Silicon Valley-ize the car business,’ ” Karl Brauer, with Kelley Blue Book told the SFGate.com. “If he goes union, he’s going to take a huge step toward falling in line with the industry that he used to make fun of.”

It’s a testy subject. Despite King’s comments, when contacted by the San Francisco Chronicle, the UAW’s public relations director would not comment. Neither would Tesla, nor many of their employees. For Musk’s part he seems ambivalent. When Tesla purchased the Fremont facility from Toyota (which had formerly operated it with General Motors as the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (Nummi) plant) Musk said, “on the question of the union, we’re neutral.”  However, Tesla Motors’ last annual financial report listed possible union activity under business “risks”: “The mere fact that our labor force could be unionized may harm our reputation in the eyes of some investors and thereby negatively affect our stock price. Additionally, the unionization of our labor force could increase our employee costs and decrease our profitability, both of which could adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.”

In August, King told WardsAuto that Musk had repeated his neutral position at a meeting with union representatives, but that other Tesla executives were less open to the idea of an organized labor force. Musk, King said, was “very open and said he would respect what the workers wanted. But his operating management has done the opposite.”

Tesla’s Fremont plant is the only remaining car assembly plant on the West Coast. When it was called NUMMI, it employed 4,700 workers, most recently building Tacoma pickups and Corolla sedans. Current employment is estimated to be about 2,000, many of who are experienced autoworkers, having worked at the facility under prior management.

Employee reviews of Tesla posted online mention a fast pace and long hours. That’s typical of many Silicon Valley startups, which typically focus more on engineering than manufacturing. While work hours are a traditional wedge issue that labor unions use to rally workers onto their side, the frenetic pace in Silicon Valley is part of the culture there. “Engineering lends itself to a different style of self-starters, independent-minded people, survival of the fittest,” said Art Pulaski, head of the California Labor Federation labor union. “Manufacturing is different.”

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