UAW looking beyond Big 3 for survival, president says

By Ken Thomas
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The future of the United Auto Workers union is directly tied to its ability to sign up workers at U.S. plants owned by foreign-based car companies, the union's leader said Monday.

In a speech to union members, UAW President Bob King laid out in stark terms the importance of the union's work to organize a plant owned by a Japanese, South Korean or German competitor to the Detroit Three. King said the UAW would decide in three months which company it would target but said the organizing plans were critical to the union's outlook.

"If we don't organize these transnationals, I don't think there's a long-term future for the UAW, I really don't," King said in a speech at the union's legislative conference in Washington.

During the past three decades, the UAW has had little success in organizing workers at U.S. factories owned by foreign carmakers, which have built plants mostly in Southern states that are generally not as union-friendly as the industrial Midwest.

Many of the foreign car companies pay wages comparable to UAW-represented factories owned by Detroit automakers, but the foreign companies have avoided UAW rules that owners say can make plants less efficient.

King said that after years of declining membership, the union needs to represent a larger share of workers in the auto industry to strengthen its position at the bargaining table. He said the UAW had picketed about 50 of the largest foreign auto dealerships in the United States and planned to increase the number to 300 or 400 dealerships across the country.

King said the union would need to mobilize all of its 1 million active and retired members in the organizing push.

- Associated Press


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