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New UAW President Challenges Transplants

King says union can help makers become more successful.

by on Aug.02, 2010

The new president of the UAW is calling on non-unionized auto companies in the U.S. to offer to their employees the opportunity to join the union.

Bob King says union can help automakers become more successful. Not all will agree.

Making his first public remarks since ascending to the presidency in June, Bob King said at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City that the United Auto Workers wants to see workers across the world have the right to organize to obtain better working conditions, pay and benefits. To do that, he wants to start at home, focusing on transplant automakers, all of which are currently not unionized.

The UAW of course has been spectacularly unsuccessful in doing so for generations now, and in fact has just lost its only unionized plant with an offshore maker, a joint venture in Fremont California between General Motors and Toyota.

“We want workers to have a free, democratic choice,” King said. “That doesn’t happen in America today.”

King said he would prefer to work cooperatively with employers to offer unionization to companies. But he repeatedly said that if the companies won’t work with the union, the UAW won’t be afraid to fight. The question is how?

“We offer respect and we expect respect in return,” King said.

If employees turn down unionization in a fair election, the union will respect that, King said.

Fighting to build the middle class is at the core of what the UAW has done since it was founded 75 years ago, King said.

King said that the UAW has shown a willingness to work cooperatively with the Detroit Three automakers, making the controversial decision to accept concessions. Now, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have all shown signs of sustainability. Additionally, quality scores show that UAW workers are helping to build quality products, he said.