Which Side Are You On, UAW? Detroit's?
Earlier this year, UAW President Bob King said that if the union didn’t organize foreign auto plants, “I don’t think there’s a long-term future for the UAW, I really don’t.” Now why would he say such silly things if chances for success on that front are slim to none? Currently an intricate plot unravels. The goal: To lower expectations in the rank & file for big breakthroughs at the Detroit bargaining sessions. After all, the UAW still holds a lot of stock in certain Detroit companies, and they don’t want to shoot themselves in both feet in that regard. But what does that have to do with unionizing the foreigners?
The Freep is peeling a complicated onion of arguments that brings us to tears.
- Unionizing foreigners is a matter of life and death for the UAW, says King.
- To do that, the union must go easy in Detroit.
- “To woo workers at foreign plants, the UAW needs to prove it can win more of what they want.”
- “And to avoid scaring off management of the foreign companies, which can put up a fierce anti-union front, it needs to reach a deal in Detroit without major conflict, such as a strike.”
Interesting. This Cro-Magnon reporter mistakenly thought that to impress workers down south, the UAW had to win large pay raises up north to show them what they are missing. But I seem to be mistaken.
“The union has to prove it is not a job killer … and that it can get along with management,” said Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research union lobbying arm think tank. “I think a harmonious, noncontentious agreement is what King is looking for organizing purposes.”
According to the Freep, “McAlinden said he thinks the UAW could strengthen its hand at the bargaining table with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler if it were to launch an organizing campaign during contract talks. The union could pressure automakers such as Hyundai or Volkswagen, which have operations in Alabama and Tennessee, to raise wages and benefits.”
In other words, by making the life of the transplants unpleasant, the UAW hopes for brownie points from Detroit.
This sounds more and more like the unions working on behalf of the Detroit 3. As I said, they own chunks of them. Along with the government.
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There is nothing wrong with the UAW going after everything it could in each session of contract negotiations - including health insurance with minimal or no copayments. But when those benefits begin to imperil the competitiveness of the parent company, the union needs to face reality and accept that the company can no longer afford paying for the benefit at this level. Part of union leadership's job is to explain these cold, hard financial facts of life to membership. I don't care how much UAW members make. If the company can afford it, I don't care if they make $400,000 a year with four-day work weeks. But, it would seem to me that union leadership needs to continually educate members on the fact that they have a job because the CUSTOMER is willing to part with hard-earned cash to buy a vehicle that they have made. Lineworkers don't have a job because of the union; they have it because customers want the product. Reading Solidarity, I used to get the impression that the UAW felt that we had some sort of obligation to buy a Chevy instead of a Honda, just to ensure that no union member ever lost his or her job. The entitlement mentality was alive and well...and, interestingly, it matched what was coming out of the executive suite. Union and management aren't all that different, in the end. Just as I don't avoid UAW-made vehicles, I don't go out of my way to buy one with the union label, either. It just doesn't matter to me one way or the other. What matters is the final product.