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UAW May Skip Strike Deadline in Talks With Detroit Big Three

“Creative problem solving” is goal, says union boss Bob King, not confrontation.

by on Apr.26, 2011

The UAW is seeking "creative" solutions, said Pres. Bob King during a meeting with reporters.

The United Auto Workers Union will put the emphasis on “creative problem solving,” rather than confrontation as it reopens contract talks, this summer, with Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

Intent on putting aside the traditional hardball tactics that have defined automotive labor/management relations over the last 75 years, UAW President Bob King said union negotiators may not even set a strike target as they approach their mid-September deadline.  But that would be a limited option anyway, he acknowledged, as terms of the government’s 2009 bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler mean that only Ford could even be threatened with a walkout this year.

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During a meeting of the Detroit Automotive Press Association, the UAW president meanwhile offered both a carrot and a stick to companies like Toyota, who have managed to so far avoid union organizing efforts.  Give workers a fair chance to vote, King promised, and the union will accept the results, win or lose.  But resisting calls for an election, he asserted, could lead to a global boycott.

“Creative problem solving,” said King, “is the ideal we’re both striving for.”  Confrontation, he insisted, was a thing of the past.


Toyota and UAW Headed for Battle?

Union could target Japanese giant in bid to organize “transplants.”

by on Jan.20, 2011

Organizing the transplants could be critical to the UAW's survival, warns King.

The long-stalled bid to organize foreign-owned “transplant” assembly lines has become the single over-riding priority of the United Auto Workers Union.  And it could be leading to an epic battle between a weakened union and a “damaged” automotive giant.

Two decades ago, the transplants were little more than an after-thought, but these days, with foreign brands controlling more than half the American car market – and a major share of the “imports” actually being built in the U.S. – the organization drive could be essential to the UAW’s survival, acknowledges the union’s new president, Bob King.

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Earlier this month, King fired a warning shot at an automotive conference in Detroit, alerting industry leaders that the UAW will ramp up its recruiting drive – and likely focusing on one key manufacturer to spearhead that effort.  While the choice of a target may take another 90 days, King broadly hinted that Toyota may find itself in the crosshairs.

“This is about whether we survive as a meaningful force in America or not,” said King, during a conference in Washington, D.C.


Toyota VP “Invites” UAW To Organize Plants

Executive claims the choice is up to plant workers. Really?

by on Aug.06, 2010

Try if you'd like, Toyota VP Steve St. Angelo tells the UAW.

The United Auto Workers Union is welcome to try to organize Toyota’s U.S. assembly and component plants, a senior corporate executive said – if the UAW can convince those workers there’d be a benefit to the deal.

Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s North American chief quality officer, reminded reporters after his presentation at the Management Briefing Seminars, in Traverse City, Michigan that the UAW has tried to organize its plants before but has so far been unsuccessful.

“It’s up to the team members,” St. Angelo said, as a top executive of the Japanese company that just shut its only UAW plant in California, its largest U.S. market.

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Earlier in the conference new UAW President Bob King called on all automakers to follow a set of principles aimed at giving workers the freedom to choose a union. King said that his goal was to work as partners with the automakers and promised that if they agreed to work with the UAW, they would become stronger for it. But the new autoworkers chief added that the union would use every resource available to it to fight any automaker that denied workers’ rights.


UAW Taking Aim at Toyota

New union chief sets organizing import leader as top priority.

by on Jun.18, 2010

As he takes over from Ron Gettelfinger (l), new UAW head King turns up the heat on Toyota.

Bob King, the newly-elected president of the United Auto Workers, is vowing to take on Toyota on multiple fronts and accused the Japanese auto giant of deliberately abandoning unionized workers in California.

One of the top priorities for the UAW is organizing the rest of the growing Toyota manufacturing network in the U.S.  Until now, the only facility represented by the union was the NUMMI plant, near San Francisco, which Toyota decided to close after the break-up of its joint venture with General Motors.

“We’re not going to wait” for proposed legislation that could impact organizing efforts, said King, who was chosen by UAW leaders during their national convention, this week.  In a fiery speech in which he vowed to return the union to its roots, the UAW President declared, “We’re going to whatever is necessary to ensure that Toyota abandons its anti-union efforts.”

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King invoked the legendary Walter Reuther, who led the union for 24 year until his sudden death in 1970, telling UAW leaders, “We’re all in this together.  We will fight for reform. But let us remember the UAW of the 1930s and 1940s didn’t wait on government legislation. The strike that changed the world, the Flint sit-down strike, was illegal,” said King, referring to the long confrontation with General Motors that effectively created the modern UAW.


Battle Over NUMMI Escalates

UAW aiming to rally support to keep CA plant open.

by on Jul.28, 2009

The UAW is firing the first salvo hoping to prevent the closure of the 26-year-old NUMMI venture, near San Francisco.

The UAW is firing the first salvo hoping to prevent the closure of the 26-year-old NUMMI venture, near San Francisco.

The United Auto Workers and its union allies have quietly launched a campaign aimed at pressuring Toyota not to close the NUMMI plant in California now threatened by the break-up of a long-standing joint venture between the Japanese maker and General Motors.

The e-mail-based campaign is urging supporters of the UAW to call their Congressmen and encourage them to keep the plant in Fremont, California open.

The factory, originally a GM plant, has been running for a quarter century as part of an alliance between the two erstwhile competitors.  Toyota originally saw the joint venture as a way to test the possibility of producing cars in the U.S., while GM hoped to learn about Japanese manufacturing techniques.

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The U.S. maker decided to abandon its position in NUMMI after emerging from bankruptcy since it is dropping the Pontiac brand and the marque’s Vibe is the only GM model now made at Fremont.  Without its U.S. partner, Toyota has said it had little interest in retaining NUMMI, its only unionized American factory.