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UAW Recalibrating After VW Defeat

Union may challenge results at Chattanooga plants.

by on Feb.17, 2014

Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga turned their back on an organizing bid by the UAW.

Reeling from its loss in a representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United Auto Workers Union is taking a look at its strategic options in the wake of the bitter defeat.

UAW leaders said they will review all of their legal options – following the loss by a margin of just 866 votes — and will consider mounting a legal challenging the results which cost the union a chance to represent workers at the VW plant. The election was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

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The stinging setback underscores a decline for unions in general, according to Gary Chaison, a labor law professor at Clark University in Massaachusetts, who told Bloomberg it “seems as if it’s just a continuing spiral of decline for the American labor movement.”


German Unions May Open Doors to UAW at Mercedes’ Alabama Plant

Desperate to organize “transplants,” UAW may finally get help.

by on Apr.11, 2013

Workers at the Tuscaloosa Mercedes plant celebrating the production of the millionth M-Class. Will they vote for the UAW?

Daimler AG is facing new pressure about opening its Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Alabama up to the long-stalled organizing efforts of the United Auto Workers Union. The big difference is that the maker’s German unions seem ready to throw their hefty support to their struggling U.S. colleagues.

The UAW has been increasingly desperate to organize the so-called “transplant” assembly lines since Honda first landed in the U.S. a quarter-century ago. It has been an all but fruitless challenge complicated by the expansion of those non-union foreign-owned facilities while the organized operations of Detroit’s Big Three have steadily declined in size and employment.

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Cracking into the transplants has become the top priority for Bob King, the current UAW president – and could be a make-or-break effort for a union losing both political clout and cash.  But until recently, most of the emphasis has been on Japanese-owned plants, Nissan in particular. Now, however, the Germans are in the spotlight.


UAW Targeting Nissan’s Mississippi Plant

Pitting worker against worker?

by on Jun.12, 2012

The first Nissan Altima rolls off the automaker's Canton, Miss. assembly line.

The deeper you go into the South the less friendly it has traditionally been to unions.  But the United Auto Workers Union is hoping that by targeting Nissan’s big assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi it finally can crack the door and get a foothold into the growing network of foreign-owned automotive assembly plants.

Since taking the helm at the once all-powerful UAW in 2010, President Bob King has made it a top priority to organize the so-called “transplant” assembly lines, a goal his predecessors have failed to achieve since Honda opened its plant in Marysville, Ohio three decades ago.

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The union has reportedly been looking at several possible targets that show signs of being more willing to consider an organizing drive, including the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But it appears leaders see their brightest opportunity in Canton and may take the unusual step of pitting workers there against employees at Nissan’s other assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.


UAW’s King Joins Opel Supervisory Board

An ulterior motive?

by on Mar.30, 2012

UAW President Bob King.

Bob King, the President of the United Auto Workers Union, is taking on a new role as member of the supervisory board of Adam Opel AG, General Motors’ principal European subsidiary.

King was appointed Wednesday by IG Metall, the German’s metalworkers union, to serve as a representative on Opel AG’s Supervisory Board as a labor representiative – unions typical hold such seats in Germany but bringing onboard an American labor labor is a unique move. King’s appointment is effective June 1, UAW spokeswoman Michele Martin confirmed.

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King’s appointment to the supervisory board, which under German law has the authority to hire and fire Opel’s management and challenge its strategy, thrusts him into the middle of complicated negotiations between GM and Opel on one wide and IG Metall on the other.

After losing over $700 million last year, compounding a decade of losses, Opel is readying a turnaround plan expected to call for the closing of one, and possibly two of its assembly plants.  One is, in turn, likely to be in Germany.


Ford Contract Near Approval

Late votes overcome early resistance.

by on Oct.17, 2011

Rouge workers have given thumbs-up to the new Ford contract, likely preventing its defeat.

A big ‘”yes” vote by workers at the Rouge manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan appears to have saved the United Auto Workers Union tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co. and removed the potential for a strike against the automaker had the contract been rejected.

The threat of a strike had become increasingly likely, last week, as voting moved ahead on the 4-year settlement, workers at several key plants turning thumbs down in the hopes of sending negotiators back to the bargaining table for an even more lucrative offer from the most profitable of the Detroit Big Three automakers.

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The Rouge was seen by some as the make-or-break plant since it is one of the centers of dissent over the new contract.  That sent UAW leaders scurrying to try to curry support.  Their lobbying appears to have paid off and Local 600 reported that the yes votes favoring the contract totaled 3255, or 62%, while 2027, or 38%, voted to rejected the proposed agreement, according to information supplied by the union.

With the suburban Detroit complex voting in favor, the Ford contract now appears headed for ratification despite some fierce resistance.


UAW Breaks With Labor Allies

Union endorses S. Korea free trade pact.

by on Oct.14, 2011

UAW President Bob King breaks with labor colleagues over new U.S. free trade pact.

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to a General Motors Assembly plant outside Detroit to sign a new free trade pact with South Korea, the United Auto Workers broke with other unions by endorsing the new agreement.

“The UAW is pleased with congressional approval of the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement,” the UAW said in a statement issued on the eve of the President’s visit to the Detroit area. The Orion plant was apparently selected for the signing ceremony because it is building a car that had been imported into the U.S. from South Korea up until this summer.

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“The revised agreement,” said UAW President Bob King, “creates significantly greater market access for American auto exports and contains strong, auto-specific safeguards to protect our domestic markets from potentially harmful surges of Korean automotive imports.”

The UAW has been critical of U.S. trade policy and practices for more than 30 years but King said he is satisfied with provisions of the new deal with Korea.


Chrysler May Push UAW into Arbitration

Union makes push but talks may be deadlocked.

by on Oct.06, 2011

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne may push contract talks with the UAW into arbitration.

With negotiations at Ford wrapped up, the United Auto Workers Union is turning its attention to what is potentially its most difficult target — Chrysler – but after faltering shortly before the original September 14 deadline there are growing concerns that the two sides may be deadlocked, forcing them to turn to binding arbitration as required by Chrysler’s 2009 federal bailout.

Hoping to push past the current impasse, UAW president Bob King has finally joined the negotiations, which are underway at Chrysler headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, setting the stage for several days of intense bargaining.

Chrysler has been threatening the union with arbitration – which was set as a requirement since the bailout barred a strike over economic issues.

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The union, however, tried to defuse the threat by going to Ford for the second contract after setting a tentative pattern agreement at General Motors, last month.

Complicating matters, the company and union have yet to agree on an arbitrator. Arbitration ultimately could take several months to resolve, postponing a final settlement until sometime next year.


UAW Ratifies GM Contract by 2-1 Margin

Talks pick up pace at Ford, Chrysler.

by on Sep.28, 2011

UAW President Bob King confirmed the GM contract had been ratified by a 2-1 margin.

The United Auto Workers Union’s rank-and-file has approved a new four-year contract with General Motors by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

The new four-year contract is effective immediately and also is expected to lead to the creation of 6,500 new jobs over the next couple of years at GM plants in the U.S. – perhaps more as it may prompt GM to bring work back to the U.S. from Mexico and Canada.

The final vote tally was 65% in favor of the agreement among production workers, and 63% in favor among skilled trades workers. Retirees, many of whom were angered by contract lack of pension improvements, were not eligible to vote.

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The vote in favor of the contract while more than enough to ensure passage was actually  low by historical standards, indicating a sizeable number of union members were dissatisfied with the pact.  And it suggests the union could face rugged ratification votes after it settles contracts with Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC


GM, UAW Reach Late Night Deal; Chrysler Next?

Workers make modest but significant gains.

by on Sep.17, 2011

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King shaking hands at the start of the latest round of contract talks, in July.

The United Auto Workers Union and General Motors said Friday they had reached agreement on a new labor contract late Friday night that includes a new profit-sharing formula and other modest gains for workers – but which also appears to promise improvements for the automaker.

Details of the settlement were being withheld, pending ratification meetings with local union leaders. The UAW’s existing contract with the GM expired Wednesday but the union was barred from striking under the terms of the $49.5 billion federal bailout of GM in 2009.

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“We are proud of this tentative agreement,” declared UAW President Bob King.

The UAW will now have to work out settlements with both Chrysler and Ford.  Talks with the latter maker were put on hold earlier in the week.  A settlement with Chrysler seemed imminent, several days ago, before a clash between union President Bob King and the maker’s CEO Sergio Marchionne became public.


Commentary: Will Common Sense Prevail at the Auto Talks?

Maybe not, if the dust-up at Chrysler is any indication.

by on Sep.16, 2011

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

I have been hoping that the United Auto Workers and the Detroit car companies would reach quick, amicable agreements in their current round of contract negotiations.  Even though Chrysler and GM – where the union seems to be initially focusing its attention – can not be struck under terms of their 2009 federal bailouts, no one needs the drama of an impasse.

But that may be precisely what we’ve got.  As first reported earlier this week, leaders of the United Auto Workers Union have put on hold talks at Ford, where a quick settlement seemed unlikely.

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But more worrisome, UAW Pres. Bob King appears to have created a real dust-up by missing a key appointment with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne – who canceled a European meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to return to Detroit. A letter from Marchionne suggests that the UAW chief only hurt his workers in the process.

It is, to my mind, one more example of the union’s increasingly questionable way of doing business, especially in a recession, especially in the Age of Wal-Mart.  Simply stated, no one gives a damn about organized labor’s notion of “solidarity,” which is why Wal-Mart remains the world’s largest retailer.