The United Auto Workers plans to focus its unionizing efforts on organizing workers at American factories owned by two German automakers: those of Volkswagen and Daimler. Reuters reports that the UAW expects it will “easier” to organize VW and Daimler subsidiary Mercedes-Benz than Japanese or South Korean automakers.
Reuters reports that the UAW is now focusing its efforts on convincing Mercedes and Volkswagen management to allow its workers to join the longstanding autoworkers’ union. The group reportedly believes the German executives will “surrender” and allow UAW representatives to work with factory employees directly. Efforts to organize in factories owned by Japanese automakers, like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda; and those of South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia, may come at a later date.
After completing the renegotiation of labor contracts with Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, the UAW announced this fall it would resume its attempts to unionize “transplant” factories — plants on American soil that are owned by foreign automakers. At first the union planned aggressive tactics like picketing dealerships and executive offices, but later backed down. More recently, the UAW said it believed it would try diplomatic measures, and claimed it was in talks with “almost all” of the German, Japanese, and Korean automakers with U.S. factories on unionizing efforts.
The move to unionize foreign autoworkers will likely be an uphill battle; UAW factories have seen more job losses in the past three decades than non-union car assembly plants over the same period. Reuters also says that residents of southern states, where many transplant auto factories are located, are traditionally more hostile to union-building efforts.
The UAW currently represents about 390,000 workers in the U.S. The group has previously organized a German automaker’s factory: in 1977, workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, joined the UAW. The VW plant was later closed in 1988.