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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.”


UAW Loses Bid to Organize VW Plant in Chattanooga

Devastating setback for union.

by on Feb.14, 2014

Hourly employees at Volkwagen's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee working on a Passat sedan.

Workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant have voted against union representation  in a stinging defeat for the United Auto Workers, which left the union no closer to its goal of organizing auto workers in the Southern part of the United States.

On Friday, following three days of secret balloting, Volkswagen workers voted against joining the union by a margin of 712 to 626, according to a count conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

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The decision follows a bitter campaign in which conservative groups and Tennessee’s Republican political establishment mounted an intense push to defeat the union – including warnings from state government officials that they would withhold further incentives promised to VW.


Transplants Face Union Drive on Both Sides of Border

Canadian union targeting Toyota.

by on Jan.21, 2014

The popular RAV 4 is one of the products assembled at Toyota's two plants in Ontario.

Foreign-owned “transplant” assembly lines now produce a major share of the vehicles sold in North America but only a handful have ever been organized, a fact that rankles union leaders on both sides of the border.  And that’s something they’re aiming to change.

While the Detroit-based United Auto Workers Union is targeting Nissan and Volkswagen’s U.S. assembly plants, Unifor, the Canadian union that grew out of the merger of the Canadian Auto  Workers and communications, energy and paperworkers unions, is mounting a major drive to organize employees at two assembly plants operated by Toyota In the province of Ontario.


The lines in Cambridge and Woodstock, which employ nearly 5,000 workers, are responsible for building a range of vehicles widely sold in North America, including the Lexus RX350, Toyota Corolla and Toyota RAV 4.


Tennessee Senator Blast Both Volkswagen and the UAW

VW moves forward with plant to create “works council” at US plant.

by on Sep.11, 2013

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has blasted the United Auto Workers Union’s bid to organize employees at the Volkswagen AG assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. in remarks also highly critical of the company’s German managers.

VW executives said last week in a letter to workers at the Chattanooga plant they are in talks with the UAW about the U.S. union’s bid to represent workers at the factory using an “innovative model,” which would be a milestone in the UAW’s long-running – and so far unsuccessful — effort to organize foreign-owned auto plants.

Corker told Reuters that VW executives at the Chattanooga plant were “forced” to sign the letter.

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In a separate interview with the Associated Press, Corker said Volkswagen would become a “laughingstock” if it goes through with a deal to have the UAW represent workers at its Tennessee plant. Corker also said he was dismayed when VW last week sent a letter to employees regarding its discussion with the UAW about creating a German-style works council at the Chattanooga plant.


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 May Get Chance for Vote at VW Plant

Move could prove critical for union’s future.

by on Apr.05, 2013

Workers at the new VW plant in Tennessee may soon vote on union representation.

The United Auto Workers appears to be edging closer to an up or down vote on union representation at the new Volkswagen AG manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee thanks to support from the German Metal Workers union, IG Metall.

IG Metall representatives at Volkswagen, including a member of the company’s supervisory board, have come out in favor of United Auto Workers representation in Chattanooga in a letter that was distributed to workers at the U.S. plant. Union representatives sit on the supervisory boards of German companies and have a critical role in setting company policy.

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With VW’s top American executive also showing a willingness to consider a union bid this could be a breakthrough moment for the struggling union. It has seen membership shrink massively in recent decades due both to downsizing by the Detroit-based Big Three and its inability to organize at foreign-owned “transplant” assembly lines.


Actor Danny Glover Leading Protest Against Nissan

Group hopes to pressure maker to unionize Mississippi plant.

by on Jan.14, 2013

Actor and activist Danny Glover aims to lend some star power to the protest.

Actor Danny Glover spoke at a demonstration outside the North American International Auto Show today, but attendance was sparse, so leaders of the protest planned to try again this afternoon.

The group is protesting what they allege to be the poor treatment of workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss.

The protest is paired with an organizing drive launched last spring at Canton by the United Auto Workers union which has struggled for decades to try to represent the growing number of foreign-owned “transplant” assembly plants in the U.S. The UAW is laying the groundwork to line up community support for a vote among the plants 5,000 production workers and has reactivated an old alliance with civil rights activists in the Mississippi Delta.

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“With Nissan, you have to look beneath the shine. Nissan builds great vehicles, but the company should respect the rights and dignity of its Mississippi workforce,” the Rev. Isiac Jackson, president of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi, said in a statement released Friday.


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.


Will Nissan Be UAW’s First Target?

Organizing “transplants” critical to union’s future.

by on Dec.08, 2011

UAW President Bob King knows it will be difficult to organize the transplants.

As important as it was to win new contracts from Detroit’s Big Three over the summer, United Auto Workers Union President Bob King has made it clear that the “most important” goal during his tenure will be to begin the long-stalled process of organizing the foreign-owned “transplant” assembly lines that now dot the American landscape.

In the more than quarter century since the first, a Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio, opened, only three have voluntarily accepted the UAW – all because they were U.S.- Japanese joint ventures, one of which has now closed. Efforts to organize the other foreign-owned factories have failed, so far.

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Now, it seems, the UAW is ready to try again, and while King told the Associated Press there’s no deadline nor official target, the wire report says it is “crystal clear” to union leaders that they need begin by targeting Japan’s second-largest automaker, Nissan.

It wouldn’t be the first time.  But an earlier drive at the maker, which operates assembly plants in Mississippi and Tennessee – the latter near its U.S. headquarters – fell flat when workers voted the union down. This time, the UAW appears to be hoping to tap worker frustration at the Canton, Mississippi plant where it claims the company is committing what the union described as both civil and human rights violations.