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. Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:05:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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, Political Leaders Uniting To Keep Wrangler In Ohio http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933842 With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio. Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, […]

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With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio.

Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, and Toledo mayor D. Michael Collins joining the group of workers, local leaders and members of the community to launch a campaign to keep the Wrangler at the Chrysler Assembly Plant, where 1,700 (out of a total of over 6,000) help assemble the icon with the help of 800 employed by neighborhood suppliers.

The campaign is set to begin as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne warned that should the next-generation Wrangler be based upon an aluminum unibody, it would be built elsewhere:

If the solution is aluminum, then I think unfortunately that Toledo is the wrong place, the wrong setup to try and build a Wrangler, because it requires a complete reconfiguring of the assets that would be cost-prohibitive. It would be so outrageously expensive that it would be impossible to try and work out of that facility.

UAW Local 12 president Bruce Baumhower invited 40 elected officials and local businessmen to the gathering, with the intent of establishing a task force set to address the issues that would take the Wrangler out of Toledo.

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Ford Hires 850 To Build New F-150 Ahead Of 2015 UAW Negotiations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ford-hires-850-build-new-f-150-ahead-2015-uaw-negotiations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ford-hires-850-build-new-f-150-ahead-2015-uaw-negotiations/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 11:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930842 In anticipation of high demand for the 2015 Ford F-150 — as well as covering its bases ahead of negotiations with the United Auto Workers in 2015 — the Blue Oval is hiring 850 employees to help assemble the reborn king of Truck Mountain at the automaker’s Dearborn, Mich. plant. Bloomberg reports the new hires […]

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In anticipation of high demand for the 2015 Ford F-150 — as well as covering its bases ahead of negotiations with the United Auto Workers in 2015 — the Blue Oval is hiring 850 employees to help assemble the reborn king of Truck Mountain at the automaker’s Dearborn, Mich. plant.

Bloomberg reports the new hires bring the total of hourly employees brought into the fold since 2011 to 14,000, 2,000 more than pledged to the UAW three years ago, when it promised to hire 12,000 by 2015. The 850 will be split up, with 500 headed for assembly, nearly 300 to stamping, and over 50 allocated to Dearborn Diversified.

The hiring spree is in part due to the two-tier system put into place seven years ago, with new Ford employees making just over half of the $27/hour wage veteran employees are paid. The system will likely be on the table when the UAW begins negotiations with the Detroit Two and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles next year.

The total number of employees working for Ford stand at 84,000 in North America, up from 75,000 in 2011, when the pledge was made.

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UAW Local Publishes Spring Hill Scab List http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-local-publishes-spring-hill-scab-list/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-local-publishes-spring-hill-scab-list/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 10:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930202 Over 40 workers at the General Motors facility in Spring Hill, Tenn. recently found themselves on a list of “scab workers” published by United Auto Workers Local 1853, a list one anonymous employee says kicked-off an effort to pressure and intimidate into joining. The Washington Free Beacon reports the list notes not only the names […]

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Over 40 workers at the General Motors facility in Spring Hill, Tenn. recently found themselves on a list of “scab workers” published by United Auto Workers Local 1853, a list one anonymous employee says kicked-off an effort to pressure and intimidate into joining.

The Washington Free Beacon reports the list notes not only the names of the 40 workers employed at Spring Hill, but where on the floor each worker performed their task. The list also included the following call to arms:

The following individuals are NON-dues paying workers. They have chosen to STOP paying Union Dues and still reap the rewards of your negotiated benefits. If you work near one of these people listed please explain the importance of Solidarity and the power of collective bargaining.

Soon after, the anonymous employee said they were approached by three UAW members, two of whom were openly hostile, one going so far as to call the employee a scab to their face. The employee was a member until recently, having paid dues to the union for three decades before quitting due to the UAW’s predilection toward nepotism, and defending employees who would have otherwise been fired if the union weren’t there. Being on the list has all but guaranteed the employee won’t ever return, and has a warning for those at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga:

What they do behind the scenes is harass non-members, those who choose not to belong. The workers [in Chattanooga] can look forward to seeing their names on a list just like this one.

Local 1853 president Tim Stannard admitted to publishing the list, but claims it wasn’t meant to put the hammer down on non-union employees, but to “explain the importance of collective bargaining and solidarity,” adding that those who aren’t members “weakens” the union overall.

Meanwhile, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorney Glenn Taubmann countered the president’s assertion. He warns that employees working at the VW plant who go against the UAW could soon find themselves on a similar list, especially with the establishment of so-called “voluntary” locals springing up nearby and in Alabama, where the union is attempting to organize the Mercedes plant in Vance.

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UAW Establishes New Local Near US Daimler Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-establishes-new-local-near-us-daimler-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-establishes-new-local-near-us-daimler-plant/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926489 Just as in Chattanooga, Tenn., the United Auto Workers has established a local in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for those working on the floor of the Daimler AG-owned MBUSI plant in nearby Vance. Reuters reports Local 112, like Local 42 with Volkswagen AG, will work to prove to Daimler that its U.S.-based employees support the UAW, with […]

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UAW Local 112 Signing

Just as in Chattanooga, Tenn., the United Auto Workers has established a local in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for those working on the floor of the Daimler AG-owned MBUSI plant in nearby Vance.

Reuters reports Local 112, like Local 42 with Volkswagen AG, will work to prove to Daimler that its U.S.-based employees support the UAW, with the aim of being recognized by the automaker, followed by the union’s ultimate goal of organization. The local will also have support from German union IG Metall and Daimler’s own works council, the Daimler World Employee Committee.

While VW claims neutrality — yet unofficially welcomes the union’s efforts to organize — Daimler holds firm on its neutral stance, proclaiming “that the culture… established is [the] best path forward for a successful future.”

As for how many workers have joined the new local, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel says the local has more than half of the members of the Volkswagen local. UAW opponent and MBUSI employee Sonny Hawthorne — who was barred from attending the official press conference, yet invited to speak outside to the press — says the union has the support of 25 percent to 30 percent of the floor.

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UAW Prepares For Autumn 2015 Detroit Three Negotiatons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-prepares-autumn-2015-detroit-three-negotiatons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-prepares-autumn-2015-detroit-three-negotiatons/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926465 Autumn 2015 will be a big moment for the United Auto Workers, as the union prepares to negotiate new contracts with the Detroit Three, with the aim of improving pay for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 members under conditions that weren’t there in the year prior to the Great Recession. The Detroit News reports […]

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Autumn 2015 will be a big moment for the United Auto Workers, as the union prepares to negotiate new contracts with the Detroit Three, with the aim of improving pay for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 members under conditions that weren’t there in the year prior to the Great Recession.

The Detroit News reports the UAW wants the Detroit Three to give Tier 1 employees the first raise since 2007, as well as add more jobs to the factory floor. Meanwhile, the union is also facing pressure to improve the financial state of Tier 2 employees, who earn less than those grandfathered by the 2007 contracts, with benefits to match.

On the other side of the table, the Detroit Three want to reduce pension costs among those on the floor as they had with those who retired. GM and Ford offered buyouts for employees who agreed to forgo future benefits, while Chrysler froze its plans for 8,000 salaried employees in 2013.

Outside the conference room, Michigan’s right-to-work law will give current union members and new employees the right to not be a part of a union. That said, UAW president Dennis Williams says members in other right-to-work states have remained members despite the option to opt-out, and won’t focus all of his energy on this issue.

As far as striking is concerned, Williams want to avoid using that option “unnecessarily,” but does want the Detroit Three to know that his membership “have sacrificed,” and that new members “want a higher standard of living.” The union recently raised dues 25 percent to replenish its strike fund — having fallen to $600 million — to remind companies how serious the threat of work stoppage can be.

Finally, the UAW will continue to bring aboard transplants in the Southeastern United States, like those working for Volkswagen, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz, as well as suppliers, employees in the gaming industry, and those in higher education.

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UAW, IG Metall Working To Jointly Organize Chattanooga VW Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-ig-metall-working-jointly-organize-chattanooga-vw-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-ig-metall-working-jointly-organize-chattanooga-vw-plant/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:04:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921489 While former EICs Schmitt and Niedermeyer documented the increasing co-operation between the UAW and IG Metall, recent developments have taken the relationship to new twists and turns. First there was the appointment of IG Metall bigwig Bernd Osterloh to VW of America’s board of directors. Now, Reuters is reporting that the two unions, along with the […]

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While former EICs Schmitt and Niedermeyer documented the increasing co-operation between the UAW and IG Metall, recent developments have taken the relationship to new twists and turns. First there was the appointment of IG Metall bigwig Bernd Osterloh to VW of America’s board of directors. Now, Reuters is reporting that the two unions, along with the VW global works council, have signed a letter of intent to represent VW workers at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant.

Since the UAW lost a 2013 vote to represent the plant’s workers, various machinations have occurred. A “voluntary” union local was established by the UAW in an attempt to organize the plant’s labor force, only to be met with another outfit that was distinguished by its anti-UAW stance.

Despite the “voluntary” nature of the UAW’s Local 42 (as its known), the bargaining unit could be recognized by VW if a majority of workers decide to join it. This would be a major coup for the UAW, which is desperate to make headway in organizing a foreign plant, as well as IG Metall, which would further solidify its influence in Volkswagen Group affairs, after causing a stink at the massive Wolfsburg assembly plant, where VW is experiencing labor unrest amid a bumpy rollout for its new MQB based cars.

Osterloh’s appointment to the VWoA board and the organization of Chattanooga workers under the auspices of the UAW may simply be the price that Chattanooga has to pay for getting the new 7-seat VW crossover. VW, ever careful not to piss off IG Metall, has never adopted an anti-UAW stance despite insider reports claiming that unionization was not a desired outcome. But in the spirit of “Solidarity Forever“, IG Metall appears to determined to bring their UAW brothers into the plant, even if they have to let them in via the side door.

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UAW, Unifor Strike Out Against Two-Tier Wages http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-unifor-strike-two-tier-wages/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-unifor-strike-two-tier-wages/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913690 Last weekend, 760 UAW workers at the Lear facility in Hammond, Ind. — where Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant receives its seats — went on strike against two-tier wages, winning a tentative contract that eliminates the system. This, in turn, may be a sign of more such actions to come as the union seeks to end […]

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UAW Lear Strike

Last weekend, 760 UAW workers at the Lear facility in Hammond, Ind. — where Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant receives its seats — went on strike against two-tier wages, winning a tentative contract that eliminates the system. This, in turn, may be a sign of more such actions to come as the union seeks to end the two-tier system throughout the industry.

Automotive News reports the last time a strike occurred was in 2007, when workers at General Motors gently applied the brakes on production for 41 hours after a concessionary contract that introduced two-tier wages to all of the automaker’s U.S. facilities. Since then, a hard recession and rough recovery have kept striking off the table.

In 2014, however, economic conditions have improved to the point where both UAW and Unifor are more than willing to throw down to get what they want. Unifor president Jerry Dias went so far as to threaten supplier Johnson Controls and GM with production stoppages and strike actions if the supplier went through with its plan to close an interior plant in Ontario. In turn, Johnson Controls kept the plant open and gave workers some additional bonuses.

As contracts between the Detroit Three and the unions come up for negotiation beginning in January 2015, the elimination of the two-tier system will be on the table. Whether striking will come into play depends on how willing the automakers are on keeping the system in place.

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UAW Quietly Building Southern Strategy For Organizing Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-quietly-building-southern-strategy-organizing-mbusi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-quietly-building-southern-strategy-organizing-mbusi/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912746 Inside a small strip mall in Coaling, Ala., the UAW is quietly at work in its fight to organize the Mercedes-Benz facility in nearby Vance, using similar tactics as those employed in the ongoing battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Detroit Free Press reports the union has been in its latest push for […]

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Inside a small strip mall in Coaling, Ala., the UAW is quietly at work in its fight to organize the Mercedes-Benz facility in nearby Vance, using similar tactics as those employed in the ongoing battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Detroit Free Press reports the union has been in its latest push for Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama factory for the last two years, building enough support to establish a local, with the end game of organization in mind. The tactic is already in play in Chattanooga, where a local was put in place after the UAW lost a close election in February of this year, whose results were briefly contested before the National Labor Relations Board before the union withdrew the complaint.

However, while Volkswagen outright desires to have a works council in its sole U.S. facility, Mercedes and parent company Daimler AG aren’t too interested in buying what the UAW is selling. As recent as July 2014, the NLRB ruled against the automaker on accusations that it was prohibiting distribution of union materials in team center areas and the plant’s atrium during off-work hours. On the other hand, the ruling also verified that as far as organization is concerned, the two entities remain neutral.

Meanwhile, stronger resistance is building within the state, as interest groups prepare to fight back against the UAW’s Southern Strategy, which also includes the Nissan plants in Canton, Miss. and Smyrna, Tenn.

Further up the chain, Governor Robert Bentley proclaimed earlier this month that he doesn’t see a reason for workers in any company to sign on with the union, “as long as a company does what they should do with their workers” by treating them well.

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How The UAW Could End Up Representing Volkswagen Workers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/uaw-end-representing-volkswagen-workers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/uaw-end-representing-volkswagen-workers/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:57:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=894162 Despite losing a vote on organizing workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, the UAW could end up representing Volkswagen workers through its newly formed Local 42, with the end goal being the establishment of a works council at Chattanooga. Local 42 was formed by the UAW as a voluntary union that workers could join. Representation […]

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Despite losing a vote on organizing workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, the UAW could end up representing Volkswagen workers through its newly formed Local 42, with the end goal being the establishment of a works council at Chattanooga.

Local 42 was formed by the UAW as a voluntary union that workers could join. Representation for the workers would only come from a majority of them joining Local 42.

Now, Reuters is reporting that the UAW appears to be close to hitting the majority threshold needed for representing workers at Chattanooga, though the UAW wouldn’t give specific numbers. Also unclear was whether the UAW would be recognized as the exclusive bargaining unit for Chattanooga workers.

UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel told Reuters that the two entities “have a consensus” on whether the UAW could exclusively represent workers, but a little reported development is likely to ensure that this goes through. Bernd Osterloh, VW’s global works council chief, was appointed to VW of America’s board of directors just over one month ago. Osterloh has been a major player in increasing cooperation between the UAW and IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, and has been fond of meddling in affairs at Chattanooga.

The establishment of a works council was previously held as a condition of VW’s supervisory board – which includes labor leaders and representation – approving the upcoming three-row crossover for production at Chattanooga. And for a works council to happen, workers need union representation. Who better to fill that role than the UAW?

 

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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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