Two times, the UAW tried to unionize the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Twice, the Union received a black eye. The UAW is trying a third time, this time counting on the fact that “an estimated 70 percent of the workforce is black,” says Reuters in a feature story on the UAW’s last ditch effort to gain relevance in the South.
Says Reuters: (Read More…)
More than 70 percent of Hyundai’s 45,000 strong worker’s guild voted in favor of job actions, including a walkout planned for Friday. The guild is building up towards Hyundai’s first labor strike since 2008, as they seek better wages and reduced hours.
If you believe Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, the CAW is well on its way to organizing Honda’s Alliston, Ontario assembly plant. Lewenza told Ward’s Auto that “We’re getting some enthusiastic and strong support, but we’re not there yet.” The biggest problem for Lewenza is that the CAW has been in that position for almost two decades with respect to Alliston and hasn’t made any progress.
Contract negotiations are looming for the Canadian Auto Workers, but that hasn’t stopped some union members of a Chrysler plant in Windsor, Ontario from wading into the abortion debate, something settled long ago and unlikely to ever be re-opened in Canada.
Tennessee is so 2011 for the UAW. The hot new locale for foreign plant organizing campaigns is Mississippi, where the UAW is trying to organize workers at a Nissan truck plant.
Looking for a way to stop the chronic bleeding of money at it notoriously loss-making Opel division, GM has been crunching numbers to see what it would cost to close one of its European plants. Bad news for GM stockholders: Relief won’t come cheap, and it won’t come soon. (Read More…)
The UAW today released its complete “Principles For Fair Union Elections” [full PDF here], the document that it wants every transplant auto manufacturer in America to sign ahead of its organizing campaign which kicks off later this month. With so-called “card check” legislation dead in congress, the UAW hopes to shame foreign automakers who manufacture vehicles in America to guarantee certain concessions to the union that, having helped kill off its Detroit “partners,” now owns large stakes in the bailed-out successors to GM and Chrysler.
In the past the UAW has failed to organize a number of transplant factories, including Nissan’s Tennessee plants and Toyota’s Kentucky factory, and the introduction of these principles ahead of the next organization attempt signal’s the UAW’s perspective that “manipulation” by management prevented UAW organization in transplant factories. If bosses from Nissan, Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes don’t sign onto these principles, they will be on the menu for the UAW’s new campaign… but are the principles worth agreeing to? Let’s take a look…
The House Oversight Committee has obtained a 2006 memo from the “All Toyota Labor Union” (ATU) which alleges quality declines due to “a fall in the number of experienced staff in favor of contract workers, longer working hours and an aggressive pursuit of cost cuts” according to Automotive News [sub]. The letter was originally addressed to then-Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe, and was written during a Japanese criminal investigation of Toyota, in which the automaker was eventually cleared of all charges. In the letter, the 20-member ATU (curiously, only two members of the union work for Toyota Motor Company proper) demanded
a seven-point action plan from management including an explanation of the criminal probe, a review of the length of vehicle development period and a review of cost reduction methodologies
Toyota acknowledges receiving the letter in 2006, and says its response was “to quickly develop a program for the reduction of total working hours, to 1,800 hours a year, and improve the working environment.” Other concerns raised by the ATU did not fall under the purview of labor concerns, according to Toyota. What the House Oversight Committee wants with the memo isn’t immediately clear, as there is no shortage
that Toyota has cut costs and quality steadily since the 1990s. Though the memo might help paint a picture of Toyota as secretive and under-responsive to labor and quality criticisms, it certainly won’t shed any light on the causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota cars.
Thanks to the unionization of the US auto industry, its politics (and accordingly, those of the state of Michigan) tend to be of the center-left persuasion. This tendency was doubtless aggravated over the last year, as a congressional bailout of the industry was denied by southern Republican senators. But even in Michigan, the union-industry alliance isn’t strong enough to counter the trend towards ever more divisive politics, as two recent stories show some of the ideological cracks forming in this now highly politicized industry. First,according to the Freep, the National Tax Day Tea Party will re-open last year’s political wounds by staging a rally outside the RenCen during the Detroit Auto Show this year. The idea behind the rally is to “make a peaceful yet clear statement against government takeover of America,” specifically the government ownership of General Motors. Though it’s clearly an empty gesture intended to rally political support more than change anything, it will be a jarring contrast to the usual convivial mood at the NAIAS. And it’s just one of several ways in which the politicization of the industry is becoming steadily less containable.
Ford has wrapped up some much-needed financial wrangling today, as it struggles with with its monstrous pile of debt. According to Automotive News [sub], Ford transferred $13.2b in debt and about $4b in cash to the UAW-run health care trust fund, completing a long-awaited liability consolidation. $1.4b of the transfer was a scheduled payment on a $6.7b note, while $500m more was a prepayment on that note. Ford paid $610m (cash) on another $6.5 billion note, transferred $620m from a temporary account and $3.5b from an internal VEBA fund and handed over warrants to purchase 362 million shares of Ford common stock at $9.20 per share. All together, the move reportedly adds $7b in debt to Ford’s balance sheet.
Whitacre is a completely different type of manager than what you saw at GM in the past. It’s refreshing to talk to someone that gained his experience outside of the company. He truly wants our cooperation, he doesn’t want any confrontation at all. Just the opposite, he says that only together can we make GM, Opel and Vauxhall successful.
Opel union boss Klaus Franz expresses sudden enthusiasm for working with GM’s new leadership. And that’s a hell of a turnaround from his previous opinions on GM management, including (but not limited to) his assesment that “GM does not enjoy any credibility or faith in the eyes of the public or the (German) government.”
UAW Boss Ron Gettelfinger plans to retire next year, and the search is on to replace the man who led the union through the political minefield that was the auto bailout. But the union’s support for Bob King, who led negotiations with Ford, could open up divisions within the union, reports Automotive News [sub]. King followed the Gettelfinger line, offering Ford many of the same concessions it granted GM and Chrysler during the government bailout that transferred large stakes in those companies to the union’s VEBA fund. Those concessions to Ford, which would have preserved the UAW’s decades-long policy of treating the Detroit automakers equally, were rejected by the same union rank-and-file that must now ratify King’s nomination.
Responding to calls by Volvo’s unions for an investigation of Geely, Volvo management is calling the unions’ statements “almost xenophobic.” CEO Stephen Odell, and Personell Manager Björn Sällström of Volvo Cars have sent out letter to their empolyees, urging to modify their attitude towards their potential new employer, Geely. The letter is a response, not only to the unions’ public demand for a Geely investigation, but also the fact that these statements have sparked quite an anti-Chinese-business-methods campaign in readers’ letters to Swedish medias.
Well, the “what makes an American car American” debate just got a little more interesting (and a lot more interesting than the “who ‘won’ the CTS-V Challenge” rigmarole). Automotive News [sub] reports that Ford’s Oakville, Ontario plant and GM’s Delta Township plant have ceased production of Flex, Edge, MKX, MKT, Acadia, Traverse and Enclave as supplier Rico Automotive is unable to supply key transmission components. The reason for the parts stoppage: labor violence… in India. Turmoil at Rico’s plant in Gurgaron (30 miles from New Delhi) came to a head on the 18th, when clashes between temporary workers and factory staff left an employee dead. Now GM stands to lose 7,200 units of production, while Ford admits “several thousand” units won’t be built over the next week. This striking illustration of how globalized the auto industry is, is causing some analysts to question the wisdom of using Indian suppliers. They argue that labor unrest like this is common in the subcontinent, compounding already-challenging logistical and shipping-cost issues. But GM and Ford aren’t exactly about to stop investing in Indian firms and production capacity either, since that market shows more growth potential than the US. One thing is for sure: there’s no such thing as an “American car,” let alone an “American car company” anymore. Government ownership notwithstanding.