The United Auto Workers union has stood as the intermediary between the Detroit three and its hourly workers since the 1930s, but unless the union begins organizing workers at foreign automakers’ U.S. assembly plants, its president is unsure of its future.
Over the past several years, an influx of production facilities from foreign automakers has flooded the United States, particularly in several southern states. While these plants continue to add American manufacturing jobs, the majority of those employed at the facilities aren’t part of the UAW — something union president Bob King believes could damage the union’s future viability.
“If we don’t organize these trans-nationals, I don’t think there’s a long-term future for the UAW. I really don’t,” King told an audience at a political action conference in Washington D.C.
The UAW reached its record-high membership figure of 1.59 million in 1979, but as plants have closed and automakers downsized, that figure has dropped to just 400,000 active members. As the UAW’s percentage of U.S. autoworkers continues to slide as compared to non-union workers, its power is continuously diminished. Unless it is able to represent a larger number of workers at multiple companies, its leverage begins to shrink.
The UAW has previously attempted to organize facilities owned by foreign automakers, but typically walked away from each venture with its goals unmet.
“Because [the automakers] didn’t want us to be able to succeed in our organizing drives, whatever we did with the Big 3, they would run out and give it — in some cases even more — to workers before we got there to keep us out,” King noted.”
King believes this trend has changed, however, as automakers continue to locate plants in economically-depressed locations, allowing companies to pay less to those simply excited at the prospect of a steady, paying job.
True to his prior rhetoric, King announced at his conference in Washington that the UAW intends to organize a single automaker by the end of 2011 — although at this point, it’s completely unclear as to which automaker the union is focusing on. King noted the union has asked foreign automakers with U.S. assembly plants to agree to a so-called “fair bargaining” set of principles.
The UAW plans to protest one of the conflicting automakers at random should they fail to comply within 90 days. As of now, none have responded to the union’s request.
Source: The Detroit Free Press