By on November 30, 2011

At the beginning of this year, the United Auto Workers pledged that it would launch a campaign to organize the foreign-owned, non-union “transplant” factories in the US, threatening to tar uncooperative automakers as “human right abusers.” The campaign initially lost steam, but the UAW stuck to its pledge, re-iterating on several occasions that it would organize “at least one” transplant factory by the end of 2011. With one month left to accomplish that goal and no signs of progress in sight, the UAW has officially called off that goal. In fact, the UAW now hopes to simply pick an automaker to target by the end of 2011. Spokeswoman Michelle Martin tells Bloomberg

At this point, our hope is to make a decision about who we’re going to target by the end of the year. But obviously, we won’t have the organizing campaign completed by the end of the year.

This is not too surprising, considering the UAW announced last week that it would be focusing on dealership pickets initially rather than factory organizing. And sure enough, the first dealership picket has begun, targeting Hyundai dealerships. And yet, says Martin

This has nothing to do with the domestic organizing campaign. Hyundai is not the target.

Huh? If the UAW is not committing to organizing Hyundai’s assembly workers, why picket Hyundai dealerships?

The Freep explains that the union is targeting 75 Hyundai dealerships, in order to show international solidarity, a recurring theme in the presidency of UAW boss Bob King. Says King

The UAW has embraced a global vision of social justice and will mobilize its membership to defend labor rights here and in other parts of the world

So, what is the UAW picketing in solidarity with? Martin tells the Freep that Hyundai’s Korean unions are picketing across Korea to protest the firing of a worker whistleblower. According to Martin

The worker, who is employed by a Hyundai subcontractor, was fired after she reported the sexual harassment in 2010 to Korea’s National Human Rights Commission… The commission ruled in the worker’s favor and ordered the subcontractor to pay damages and rehire the worker, but the subcontractor has refused.

A UAW statement adds

Holding banners that read, “Stop Sex Discrimination at Hyundai” and “Reinstate Ms. Park,” UAW members from Los Angeles to New York, at more than 75 different dealerships, informed American auto buyers about an injustice to an autoworker on the other side of the globe.

“Though we may work for different companies and in different countries, as workers, we support each other’s struggles and know that one of the best ways to hold our employers accountable is through consumer action at dealerships,” said Mike O’Rourke, an 33-year employee and president of UAW Local 1853 at General Motors’ Manufacturing Facility in Spring Hill, Tenn.

Hyundai Motor America’s response: the worker was an employee of a subcontractor at Glovis, a Hyundai “affiliate,” therefore

the issue has nothing to do with Hyundai Motor Company

In other words, the UAW will be alienating itself from Hyundai’s US workers and dealers over one person who doesn’t even work for Hyundai. Standing on principle is great, but trying to block sales of cars will not exactly endear Hyundai’s assembly workers to the union. Meanwhile, similarly to the UAW’s last protest against Hyundai, there doesn’t seem to be as much moral clarity on this issue as the UAW would like it to appear. Of course sexual harassment has no place in the workplace, and  the circumstances of this case in particular do not sound good, but by hammering on the treatment of contracted employees, and by associating the contracter “affiliates” with the automakers they work for, the UAW opens itself up to criticism along the same lines.

The Freep is also reporting today that the UAW has called off a protest that was planned at GM’s Orion Assembly plant, over contract negotiations with a supplier at that plant. Workers at the GM affiliate supplier LINC, who organize and deliver parts for the Orion plant, make ten dollars per hour, less even than the “Tier Two” wages that most Orion assembly workers make. And yet, with GM’s stock (which funds part of the UAW’s VEBA account) remaining weak, it seems unlikely that the union will actually protest, let alone strike, over the LINC wages. Which raises a tough question for the union: why are they so concerned about transplant workers making $14.50 per hour and up when they are working alongside folks making $10 per hour? And if workers at a Hyundai supplier are Hyundai’s responsibility, why isn’t the UAW livid at GM for allowing LINC to hire workers for such low wages? And in light of these fundamental contradictions, a single case of apparent injustice half the world away seems even less relevant.

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20 Comments on “UAW Backs Off Transplant Organizing Goal, Attacks Hyundai...”

  • avatar

    this photo you use is of my friend Diane. she was protesting against the International UAW for cutting pay and benefits with second tier workers. she really has no issue with other manufacturers or dealerships. for her it’s all about how her union leadership has violated it’s own Constitution and stabbed members in their collective backs.

    • 0 avatar

      Wasn’t trying to associate her with the Hyundai protests, photos of which are not online yet. I used this photo (from a protest in front of last year’s NAIAS) to highlight the union’s self-serving use of “solidarity,” which it regularly ignores when it is in its interests to do so.

      • 0 avatar

        I see Ed, was just commenting about my friend who I know from Soldiers of Solidarity. she is one of the good ones. she really does care about her fellow workers/retirees, and puts forth tremendous effort striving for equality and fairness. she is what unionism should be about.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Reynolds

      I think any of us would resent doing the same job as a coworker for less money. Equal pay for equal work. The two tier system is a UAW concession that will damage Union solidarity. It’s a good thing there are people like your friend Diane.

  • avatar

    You couldn’t make this stuff up. End organized labor.

    • 0 avatar

      What an ignorant opinion. What the UAW needs is leadership that isn’t completely devoid of intelligent thought. Yeah, Bob King is a clown and a complete joke but organized labor has it’s place. Get rid of organized labor and you get rid of any rights the worker has in the workplace.

      We are seeing this happening before our eyes in many states today and yet there are still people who believe unions shouldn’t exist, that the common man shouldn’t have any say in their workplace or their own personal safety, and that the rights of the few outweigh the rights of the many. Incredible.

      You folks can say whatever you like in reply to this message, chances are I won’t be around to read it.

  • avatar

    These people are desperate or mentally-ill, perhaps both.

  • avatar

    Yeah know….This used to be a place of civilized debate. Comments like the above would have been deleted,and or banned.

    So basicaly anybody with a disenting opinion isn’t welcome here. The anti union, domestc bashing pieces,will be followed by 40 comments, all agreeing.

    I pesonally find it kind’a of a big yawn.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I think it’s awesome that UAW pensions are dependent on GM stock price.

    I’m thinking that unions should be forced to have their retirement and health portfolios invested in the industries that their workers work in. That would give them a seat at the board and a healthy respect for profitability.

    Unless, of course, they go off crying to uncle Barry for mo money mo money mo money..

  • avatar

    As long as there’s a huge supply of capable applicants for the Tier Two domestic or “regular” transplant positions, I don’t see the union having any leverage at all. All the UAW brings to the party is the “opportunity” to pay union dues every check.

    They can dream about driving up costs at the transplants (theoretically making the domestics more competitive) but it’s unlikely to happen. The Dems failed to pass card check when they controlled govt in 2009/2010, and that was the UAW strategy to organize the transplants.

  • avatar

    Dr Noisewater, can you explain how the UAW pensions are dependent on the stock price? I thought it was the health care benefits via the VEBA. My understanding was the pension fund is a totally separate entity.

  • avatar

    I sincerely feel for displaced auto workers, no matter how out of touch with reality they are. They are Americans after all.

    But the UAW has been, and continues to be, its own worst enemy.

    Its like a bad joke that won’t end. I’m out of adjectives with these clowns.

  • avatar

    So they’re (the UAW) backed into corners, see no way of ever reaching their former status and stature, are mad as hell, and now are attacking anyone with the slightest connection with their cause? Next they’ll be protesting in front of WalMart or your local supermarket for low worker pay.

  • avatar

    Picketing dealerships can only be successful if it inflicts economic pain on those businesses. So now the UAW is out to hurt relatively small firms that have nothing to do with Hyundai’s employment practices. Well, a bully always prefers to target the weakest victim.

  • avatar

    The meeting that resulted in the Hyundai picketing must have gone something like this:

    Bob King: We have absolutely no strategy for organizing any transplant company. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!”

    Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

  • avatar

    The UAW is no longer relevant – thanks to its leadership. They have sold their rank and file workers down the river, and they’re inching closer and closer to Niagara Falls – without a barrel….

  • avatar

    “Stop Sex Discrimination at Hyundai?”
    “Reinstate Ms. Park?”

    How convenient the victim of this discrimination on the far side of the globe has a non-Asian surname! Defaming random American-owned franchises by suggesting engagement in discriminatory practices to their local communities is much easier when the iota of truth upon which the house of cards is built isn’t something like Huáng or Chén.

    What a crock.

  • avatar

    There is no justice in Picking dealers of any Vehicle, if a Union wants to be recognized then the membership drive should be in the Workers work place or close to otherwise it’s a huge waste of peoples time imho!

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