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Contract Talks Drag as Deadline Approaches

Will union dig in for battle at Ford?

by on Sep.07, 2011

Workers on a GM assembly plant in Flint. The domestic giant could be targeted first as contract talks come down to the wire - but a strike is barred by law.

Talks between the United Auto Workers Union and Detroit’s three automakers have slowed in recent days even as workers at Ford voted in favor of a strike and UAW officials brushed aside reports it has elected to focus on General Motors as its target as its contracts expire Sept. 14.

Michele Martin, UAW spokeswoman, said in an e-mail the union had not picked a target to focus on yet after several reports surfaced indicating the union had decided to concentrate on GM in a bid to win a contract that could then be used as a pattern for a settlement with Ford and Chrysler.

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Meanwhile, negotiations with all three automakers are moving slowly, according to those familiar with the talks. Sources at the three automakers indicated the negotiations are bogging down and in places have not gotten much beyond the subcommittee level.

UAW President Bob King, however, said in a television interview over the weekend he thought the talks were going well. The negotiations involve new contracts covering more than 112,000 workers at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

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Bob King Elected UAW President

Show down at Ford Motor Coming?

by on Jun.16, 2010

Bob King, incoming UAW president, inherits a union that is less than a quarter of its size three decades ago.

A tired looking Bob King was overwhelmingly elected to succeed Ron Gettlefinger as president of the troubled union.

Gettlefinger retired after two terms, which saw the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler and an unprecedented  downsizing of union jobs.

King prevailed in a roll call vote against challenger Gary Walkowicz, 61, a Local 600 bargaining committee member at Ford Motor Co.’s Dearborn Truck Plant.

The 63-year-old King, has been a UAW vice president since 1998 and headed the UAW’s National Ford Department since 2006. He played a major role in both the UAW Ford 2007 National Agreement and the 2009 modifications to the agreement, which is now a source of contention among members.

Delegates also elected by acclamation UAW Region 4 Director Dennis Williams to the post of secretary-treasurer, the union’s number two post.  He succeeds retiring UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn.

Williams was elected director of UAW Region 4 at a special convention in 2001 and re-elected in 2002 and 2006 at the UAW Constitutional Conventions in Las Vegas. Region 4 includes Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Convention delegates re-elected by acclamation incumbent UAW vice presidents James Settles Jr., and General Holiefield, as well as new vice presidents Joe Ashton and Cindy Estrada. Ashton is director of UAW Region 9, which covers western and central New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Estrada is director of the union*s National Organizing Department. She becomes the union*s first Latina vice president.

Also by acclamation delegates elected UAW 863 President Phyllis Blust to serve a six-year term as an International trustee. She fills the position vacated by Tito Sanchez.

New UAW Leaders Facing Loss of Clout

“We’ve had our share of disappointments.”

by on Jun.14, 2010

“We’ve had our share of disappointments," acknowledged UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, as union leaders prepared to elect his successor.

The United Auto Workers Union will select new leaders this week as it holds its 35th Constitutional Convention in Detroit as it struggles with a sharp decline  in membership, a battered public image and fading clout at the bargaining table.

“It’s a union that has a glorious history,” said Mike Smith, chief archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University said Monday.  But one whose future is anything but certain.

What is clear is that the new leadership team will be trying to halt the steady erosion of both the union’s clout and the gains made its membership since the UAW was born out of the sit-down strikes that helped organize General Motors more than 70 years ago.

Ron Gettelfinger, the union’s outgoing president,  has faced some of the most serious challenges to confront the union since those early days.

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“We’ve had our share of disappointments and setbacks,” said Gettelfinger, but, he quickly added, “we have also had major victories. Workers at Tenneco have been on strike for over five years and we have three additional strikes under way. We saw the impact of downsizing and the pain associated with the Peterbilt, NUMMI and other closings,” Gettelfinger said.

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UAW Strongly Objects to GM’s U.S. Factory Closings

Negotiation deadlock spills over into public lobbying by union.

by on May.18, 2009

Kevin Melton, UAW Local 602, courtesy UAW

The implication is the Auto Task Force has told the union the closings will proceed.

With the 31 May deadline approaching for GM’s revised plan, the United Autoworkers Union on Friday sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress objecting to the centerpiece of GM’s Viability plan – closing 16 plants in the U.S. and importing vehicles from low-wage, non-unionized countries.

The factory closings are not new, they have been in various versions of the plan since GM went to the U.S. government for bridge loans late, last year, but in bringing the argument over the closings public, the union is attempting to prevent some of them through political pressure after apparently being shut down at the bargaining table. The implication is that the Auto Task Force has told the union that the closings will proceed.

Alan Reuther, UAW Legislative Director, wrote Congress that “As the discussions continue concerning the restructuring of General Motors, the UAW wishes to restate our strong opposition to the company’s plan to close 16 manufacturing facilities in the United States, while at the same time dramatically increasing the number of vehicles it will be importing from Mexico, Korea, Japan and China for sale in this country. We urge Members of Congress to join with the UAW in urging the Obama administration to insist, as part of any further government assistance, that GM should be required to maintain the maximum number of jobs in the U.S., instead of outsourcing more production to these other countries.”

The Chrysler restructuring plan now being worked out in bankruptcy court in New York City also closes U.S. factories and turns the company over to off-shore based Fiat. The factory closings, though, are smaller in number and the small cars and engines that will be supplied by Fiat will be built in the U.S., Canada or Mexico. Furthermore, by getting access to Fiat’s overseas distribution system, exports of Canadian or U.S. made vehicles could increase, preserving or creating UAW jobs.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe core issue the union is raising – U.S. jobs — is an aspect of industrial policy debates that politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties have ducked for decades. With unemployment at record levels and increasing, our lack of industrial policy is glaringly obvious. Every major nation in the world has policies, laws, tariffs and non-tariff regulations that protect jobs and encourage the export of goods and services into the large, profitable and unrestricted U.S. market.   

U.S. employment continued to decline in April as another 539,000 jobs evaporated to total 13.7 million out of work people, and the unemployment rate rose from 8.5% to 8.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.7 million jobs have been lost. In April, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major private-sector industries. Overall, private-sector employment fell by 611,000. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 6.0 million, and the unemployment rate has grown by 3.9 percentage points. 

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